There’s a piece in The Daily Cardinal, the newspaper of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, about the recent spate of gay teen suicides, where the writer, Lydia Statz, claims that, though she supports her gay friends, Dan Savage is “being a bully” against people of faith and that the Christian Right are the real victims. This is absolutely absurd, and it’s sad to see in Madison’s paper, but let’s look at what she says:
I am horribly dismayed that it has seemingly become entirely acceptable, if not encouraged, to attack the entire Christian faith based solely on the fact that they have unique beliefs. The internet has provided, quite literally, the perfect forum for the name calling and personal attacks geared toward those whose beliefs align with the pro-life and sanctity-of-marriage camp, and it really got out of hand last week when popular sex columnist Dan Savage joined the already heated discussion.
Savage, who is openly gay and the founder of the “It Gets Better” campaign against youth bullying, made a remark during an NPR interview that asserted his belief that the church perpetuates the discrimination. A Christian listener wrote in to tell him he was offended by the comment, and stated that he and many others were deeply saddened to hear of the recent suicides. The letter was well-written, polite, and simply pointed out the hypocrisy of preaching against discriminating based on sexual preference while simultaneously discriminating against people of faith.
Savage’s reply, on the other hand, was a blatant attack on the writer and their faith, complete with references to their “magic sky-friend Jesus,” and expressions like “dehumanizing bigotries” and even, I’m sad to say, a “Fuck you.” While I fully expected him to respond in typical Savage fashion to the listener’s complaint, his full-blown attack on Christianity as a whole displayed just as much disrespect and ignorance as the people he fights against.
His reply was awesome. Back to Lydia:
Though I fully support the rights of my LGBT friends to marry, adopt, and lead full and successful lives, I also grew up attending church and Sunday school. I cannot once recall hearing what Savage calls “the lies about (gay people) that vomit out of the pulpits” or learning “to see gay people as sinful, damaged, disordered, and unworthy.” Instead, the message was constantly one of love and acceptance. While I’m sure those messages are preached in some churches (Westboro Baptist, for instance) the vast majority of Christians are taught that all humans are equal and deserve respect. Moreover, it is entirely possible to be a gay Christian without giving up any part of your identity. Just ask my openly-lesbian aunt, also an ordained minister.
Okay, Lydia, here are the problems with your piece, in order:
1. You may have grown up in a Nice Happy Church that taught love and tolerance, but no, the “vast majority of Christians” are NOT taught that all humans are equal and deserve respect. Indeed, the history of Christianity is replete with examples of churches and religious institutions which have been and continue to be decidedly against the idea of equality for any but their elect. Moreover, Westboro isn’t representative of the average hateful church. Those are found in a number of denominations, but rather than focusing on a band of extremists in Kansas, one might be better served to look at, say, the Southern Baptist Convention or the Presbyterian Church in America. Both are part of the nexus of anti-gay religious hatred in this country.
2. Dan Savage is not a Christian. Why do “People of Faith” always act as if their chosen religions are above criticism when they tend to feel more than free to condemn people of other faiths and those of no faith at all? Because let me let you in on something: Telling a gay child that gay people “go to hell” is a stronger example of bullying and hate speech than any Oh So Mean things Dan Savage could ever say about a Magic Sky God.
3. I agree that we shouldn’t be cruel to each other based on disagreement about each others’ “unique beliefs,” but that does not include any old belief that someone holds dearly, if said belief is hurtful and directly responsible for damaging others’ lives. Then it’s fair game. Fundamentalist Christian beliefs, teachings and actions about LGBT people are harmful to society. Period. Therefore, “It’s mah religion, you be nice!” is not a valid response to criticism.
I appreciate that the writer supports her gay and lesbian friends having equal rights. But she needs to understand that you are either part of the problem or part of the solution. Her personal experience with Christianity may be one of tolerance and love, and that’s great, but that is not the case for far too many millions of people.
And for that reason, Dan Savage’s comments stand.