The Dan Savage Smokescreen and Religious Bigotry
By now I am sure you are all aware of the controversy surrounding homosexual rights activist Dan Savage. I wrote a post on Friday titled “Dan Savage was Right”. It was important for me to argue that there was nothing inaccurate in Savage’s statements. As this controversy has failed to die down, it now becomes imperative that Savage be supported. It is becoming increasingly clear that the outrage coming from the Christian Right is not only manufactured nonsense, but a smokescreen for a much more nefarious goal. The Christian Right is attempting to use this issue as a means to reduce accurate questioning of religion in public. This is part of the “war by religion” that the Right is trying to rebrand the “war on religion”. It is starting to seem that whenever we speak out against Christianity, we are bullies or bigots. This is false and it is unacceptable. It is time to support Dan Savage…
The Christian Right is earnestly trying to label Savage as a bully. That claim is outrageous. Savage did nothing of the sort. In fact, he did not even trash Christianity. The entire message of the controversial segment of Savage’s lecture was an attempt to reconcile homophobia with the bible. Savage argues that one can still be Christian and support gay rights—all he/she would have to do is to apply the same logic that is used for things like slavery. Savage points out that many Christians “ignore lots of bullshit” in the bible. The same “ignoring of bullshit” can and should be applied to homophobia. The bible is chock-full of things that many Christians do not support/believe. As an atheist I believe the entire thing to be a work of fiction, but let’s put that aside for one moment. Assume that I am wrong and there is a god who inspired the bible. The harshest condemnation against homosexuality comes from Leviticus. Modern Christians ignore almost all of the things that are condemned in Leviticus. Why should homosexuality be one of the exceptions? That is all Savage is stating. This is not bullying. This is the truth.
The current trend is for the Christian Right to label any questioning of its beliefs as bullying and bigotry towards religion. What is alarming is the fact that many people are buying this propaganda. The fact that is being overlooked is that disagreement and questioning are not bullying or bigotry. It is imperative that we not allow fundamentalist Christians to define the terms of this discussion. Savage must be supported.
What needs to develop is a strong campaign supporting the exact opposite view that the Christian Right is propagating. It needs to be clearly demonstrated that religion is no longer “off the table” when it comes to acceptable discourse. When religious people propose religiously motivated laws, such as defining the term of marriage, they have put their religious beliefs in the political ring. As a voter, each of us has the right (and I would argue the duty) to ask the tough questions behind any piece of legislation that is before us. Religions cannot be exempt from this. The Christian Right cannot be allowed to define the terms of this debate. If someone, like Savage, points out the hypocrisy of a religious political belief it is not “religious bigotry or bullying”. In fact, it is incumbent for the religious to defend their position. Savage was accurate in calling those who left the room cowards. If someone is going to stand before you and insist that an entire group of people (say homosexuals) be denied a right that is available to everyone else (heterosexual marriage) based on religion, then they need to defend that belief. They need to defend it in the same manner that other political beliefs are debated and defended. To hide behind concepts of “religious bigotry and bullying” is cowardice. At least have the courage to defend your religious views and the book they are based on. Have the courage to argue that they are valid and not works of fiction.
In my life, I challenge the political ideas of the religious daily. This does not always take a controversial route. I simply ask them to explain why I should agree with them. When they reference the bible, they usually get a response from me that apes Savage’s. I point out all of the other things that they choose to ignore. If they cannot defend their beliefs adequately, and they never can, I inform them that they may want to rethink their position and certainly should stop pestering me to accept it.
I would urge anyone reading this to not be duped by the phrases “war on religion”, “bigotry towards religion”, and “bullying towards religion”—unless that is really what is going on. You will find that true cases of the above are rare in the developed world. In the U.S. the Protestant fundamentalist and Catholic Church have moved religion to the front of many debates. They do not have the right to call “foul” whenever they are treated as a true debating partner. If the Christian religions want to talk about their dogma, doctrines, policies, and beliefs in a national discourse that is great. Then be prepared for those with opposing views to criticize and to highlight the backwardness of your policies.
Lastly, do not fail to notice real bullying and bigotry when you see it. What Savage stated was neither. Criticizing the bible is not bigotry—there is much to be criticized. Questioning the supposed validity of the bible is not bigotry—it is called looking for the truth. You know what is bigoted and bullying? Saying such things as “homosexuals are an abomination”, “homosexuality is not natural”, or a TN law that actually states that children can no longer be found guilty of bullying if their reason for the “bullying” action is religiously based—those are real examples of bigotry and bullying. It is the Christian faiths who are guilty here—not the groups they are railing against. For more on that topic please visit some of my previous posts like here and here. In short, Dan Savage needs to be supported. This issue extends far beyond three minutes of a speech that he gave. The issue at hand is no less than allowing religions a free pass when it comes to their bigotry and bullying. The issue is no less than treating religions the same as any other political actors. If we fail to support Dan Savage, if we fail to fight to treat religion like an equal political partner, then the terms of those discussions will be dictated to us.
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