This spring Dan Savage, a leading gay rights and sex positive advocate, spoke at a conference for high school journalism students. He addressed the issue of folks pointing to the Bible to justify the bullying of gays. He did a great job of making his case with two exceptions: he used the words “bullshit” and “pansy-ass”, which weakens the argument- even if he was describing written words and actions (not people). He could have omitted those phrases and his speech would nearly have been worthy of carving in stone; the nation is sick of hypocritical “logic”. Even though I am not a fan of the use of cursing to make a point, I will concede that when people are suffering and dying at the hand of those who supposedly follow God, there is reason to be upset. There is reason to curse and gnash your teeth and pull out your hair. Hate begets hate and last time I checked, Jesus did not advocated hating anyone.
Sexual identity and bullying do need to be talked about at the same time, because the vehemence against gays has been proven to be deadly. Matthew Shepard first opened our eyes to this when he died due to hate for homosexuals. He was tied to a fence in a posture not very unlike that of Jesus on the cross. Today, 14 years later, we are discussing whether or not schools should be able to address the issue of bullying and hate crimes against gays directly with their students. Apparently some religious folks believe that addressing the issue legitimizes being gay and that offends them.
Dan Savage, after a spate of gay teen suicides – due to being bullied – decided to take action and put together the “It Gets Better” campaign. This is a project for kids in isolation (living in a situation where hostility against gay people is common) so that they can view positive videos and take solace that it is worth surviving high school and that there is a big wonderful world out there, no matter their sexual id, and that they can escape persecution someday. The most recent blog post from the site, posted by Gary Nelson, starts off with, “Dear friend, Let me start by telling you that I love you…” in an open letter to gay teens. This is the sort of message I believe Jesus would send today. You do not hear this sort of message coming from religious conservatives.
Christian conservatives have belief systems based in the Bible and often point to particular passages that support their villainization of gays. Their value system puts authority over all else, and for them, the Bible is the ultimate authority, even over personal or modern day divine encounters. You can’t blame someone for their beliefs, but you can speak out when their belief system interferes with someone else’s life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. That’s how it is supposed to work in America. We don’t all have the same beliefs or authorities other than sharing the law of this land. Even if one believes God is on their side, they are not allowed to bother other people about it unless they are willing to accept the legal consequences.
The following is a transcript from Dan’s keynote address at the conference. I have yet to hear anyone using the Bible to justify anti-gay rhetoric explain why only parts of Biblical law are adhered to. I would welcome someone who can explain that point of view. Because we promote civilized discourse, I substituted the two curse words with asterisks.
The Bible, we’ll just talk about the Bible for a second ah. People often point out that they can’t help it – they can’t help with the anti-gay bullying, because it says right there in Leviticus, it says right there in Timothy, it says right there in Romans, that being gay is wrong.
We can learn to ignore the bull**** in the Bible about gay people. [applause] The same way, the same way we have learned to ignore the bull**** in the Bible about shellfish, about slavery, about dinner, about farming, about menstruation, about virginity, about masturbation. [applause] We ignore bull**** in the Bible about all sorts of things. The Bible is a radically pro-slavery document. Slave owners waved Bibles over their heads during the Civil War and justified it. The shortest book in the New Testament is a letter from Paul to a Christian slave owner about owning his Christian slave. And Paul doesn’t say “Christians don’t own people.” Paul talks about how Christians own people.
We ignore what the Bible says about slavery, because the Bible got slavery wrong. Tim — ah, 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? 100% percent.
The Bible says that if your daughter’s not a virgin on her wedding night – if a woman isn’t a virgin on her wedding night, she shall be dragged to her father’s doorstep and stoned to death. Callista Gingrich lives. [applause] And there is no effort to amend state constitutions to make it legal to stone women to death on their wedding night if they’re not virgins. At least not yet. We don’t know where the GOP is going these days. [audience laughs]
People are dying because people can’t clear this one last hurdle. They can’t get past this one last thing in the Bible about homosexuality, um.
One other thing I wanna talk about is — [chuckles] — so, you can tell the Bible guys in the hall that they can come back now, because I’m done beating up the Bible. [applause]
It’s funny, as someone who’s on the receiving end of beatings that are justified by the Bible, how pansy-***ed some people react when you push back. [applause]
I apologize if I hurt anyone’s feelings, but I have a right to defend myself. And to point out the hypocrisy of people who justify anti-gay bigotry by pointing to the Bible, and insisting we must live by the code of Leviticus on this one issue and no other.
Any takers? Why do so many conservative Christians get stuck on the issue of Bible sanctioned hatred of homosexuality and not shellfish?