Dan Savage, anti-bullying spokesman and founder of the "It Gets Better" campaign, offended Christian teens and adults at the National High School Journalism Conference by calling portions of the Bible "bullshit." In context, he said,
"We can learn to ignore the bullshit in the Bible about gay people...the same way we learned to ignore the bullshit in the Bible about shellfish, about slavery, about dinner, about farming, about menstruation, about virginity, about masturbation. We ignore bullshit in the Bible about all sorts of things. The Bible is a radically pro-slavery document...We ignore what the Bible says about slavery because the Bible got slavery wrong.
To that point I'd have to agree with him. Most in the crowd did, as there was raucous applause at a few key points, and there was particularly heavy laughter when he suggested the GOP might eventually have state constitutions amended to allow stoning non-virgin girls on their wedding nights. What he did next simply crossed the line. He referred to the "Bible guys" who had left the room, saying they could come back because "I'm done beating up on the Bible." To which he added: "It’s funny, as someone who’s on the receiving end of beatings that are justified by the bible, how pansy-assed some people react when you push back.”
Yeah, too far. You can't be anti-bullying and then call people names, even people who likely have been bullies themselves. Christian teens are no more immune to being the bullies than they are likely to abstain from sex, but that isn't the point. I understand that as a gay man Savage was probably the target of malicious teens repeatedly in his life, especially his school years, and he is right that the primary justification for anti-gay behavior and ideas in America is the Bible, but you can't become the bully, especially when loud applause is the reward, which he received. You've now crossed the line into othering and mocking young people. He should apologize for the pansy-ass comment. Period.
As for the teens who walked out while he was going through his issues with the Bible, they should have sat in their damn chairs and heard him out. It's what journalists do. You don't get to leave an interview because you're offended. You don't get to listen to just the parts you like. I've been writing professionally for 22 years, and before that I did my duty on a high school newspaper, learning the ethics and vocabulary, if not the real rigors of the job. At no point has an editor or teacher ever said, "As soon as he offends you, stop the interview and leave. That'll teach him." No, the entire point is to hear the person out, especially if you disagree.
Savage is right, and the teens need to hear it. I won't say he shouldn't have used profanity. It was very effective in the context, and quite frankly, when discussing the Bible's life lessons on slavery, virginity, women's equality, and sexuality, that word probably works best. He made valid points. Why should we take seriously a book that, as Savage put it, doesn't tell us not to own slaves, but how to own them? He cites Sam Harris in his Letter to a Christian Nation where Harris points out that the Bible gets wrong the easiest moral question in history: should people own people? If it can't get the easisest right, Savage asks, why would we trust it on something as complex as human sexuality? He's absolutely right. Why listen to a book with sexual ethics that were formed when women had no rights and married 30-year old men as soon as they menstruated? It's ludicrous, but Savage won't make his point to the Christians in the room by engaging in the kind of behavior he's worked so hard to eradicate. It was a shameful moment for him, moreso because you can see the pride in his demeanor as he accepts his applause. One thing the Bible can teach Savage is that you don't get to return evil for evil. It's not what the good guys do.