Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Sorta political: Dan Savage's bad, bad day

When you wind up your "anti-bullying" presentation by calling the people who disagree with you "pansy-assed" you can be pretty sure that something has gone deeply wrong. That's where Dan Savage found himself last week.

That this was a morally stupid thing to do is pretty obvious. But it was also pragmatically stupid in that these remarks have turned people who otherwise supported Savage against him. And if that wasn't enough, it was factually stupid in that the historical basis for the claim that offended people isn't there.

Let's start with the tone. Suppose you were hoping to convince people that Obama's health care legislation is a bad idea and you knew you were speaking to a crowd that included a number of people who not only voted for Obama but who revere the man. Do you think you'd win them over by saying, "Let's ignore the president's bullshit"?

Next, let's consider the audience we are trying to reach. Savage claims this:
"People often say that they can’t help with the anti-gay bullying acts because it says right there in Leviticus, it says right there in Timothy, it says right there in Romans, that being gay is wrong."
What people Mr. Savage? Name them. Don't make a claim like that unless you can back it up.

And notice that we aren't talking about bullies here. No one, not even Dan Savage, is so delusional as to pretend that bullying is inspired by the Bible. Yes, there are people like Fred Phelps but everyone knows that the overwhelming majority of schoolyard bullies are not Bible-believing Christians. (If anything, the people most likely to be bullies are exactly the ones most likely to respond positively to expressions like "the bullshit in the Bible".

So why is Savage bullying Bible-believing Christians? Because he thinks they aren't supportive enough of his anti-bullying campaign.

A cynic might wonder whether he is really trying to reach these people at all. It sounds to me more like fame has gone to his head and he got up in front of an audience and started enjoying listening to his own moral self-righteousness and got carried away.

All of that stupidity, however, is nothing compared to Savage's grasp on history.
We ignore what the Bible says about slavery, because the Bible got slavery wrong. Tim -- uh, Sam Harris, in A Letter To A Christian Nation, points out that the Bible got the easiest moral question that humanity has ever faced wrong. Slavery. What're the odds that the Bible got something as complicated as human sexuality wrong? One hundred percent.
Okay, let's start with the most obvious: If slavery is the easiest moral question society has ever faced then how is it that millions of people got it wrong for centuries? The Greeks had slaves, the Romans, had slaves, the Egyptians had slaves, the middle ages had slaves, Thomas Jefferson had slaves. Boy that Jefferson, flubbed the easiest moral question humanity every faced he must have been stoooopid!

And here is a puzzle Savage may want to think about: when Christianity first spread through the Roman and Greek world it did so because it appealed to the poor and downtrodden including slaves. How did that happen? And when slavery was finally defeated in England and then the USA it was evangelical Christians who led the charge? How did that happen?

(By the way, think through the logic here: X made a mistake about something important in the past therefore the odds that they are wrong about some other thing are 100 percent? Hey Mr. Savage, did you ever get anything important wrong before? If you did then we should all ignore you by your own logic. If the only people we have to listen to are the ones who've always been right about all the important questions then that leaves exactly no one.)

Christianity, like any other culture that aspires to survive has evolved over the years. The Bible says many things and some things have always been emphasized and others de-emphasized. There is a plausible case to be made that Bible-believing Christians should start reading the Bible in ways that would allow them to be supportive of campaigns to protect young gays from being bullied. To do so, by the way, wouldn't even require that they accept homosexuality morally. All you need argue is that whatever the Bible says about homosexuality, it says far more often and more loudly that we need to protect those who are victims of the bullies.

And the over-whelming majority of Christians already believe this. There is no convincing to do. Savage's problem is that he wants more than that. He wants them to also say that there is nothing wrong with men having sex with other men, a move that some Christians are willing to make and others are not. Which is why he is such a bully himself. He has no tolerance for dissent.

No comments:

Post a Comment