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A Savage Attack

Redefining Bullying



A few days ago, Americans got a lesson in hypocrisy -- and of how dangerous it can be to redefine words.

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Eric Metaxas

It all began when the National High School Journalism Conference invited a gay rights activist named Dan Savage to speak to students in Seattle about the need to prevent bullying. But it turned out that this was a lesson Savage badly needed to learn himself.

To the shock of the students, Savage launched a vicious attack on the Bible and Christian beliefs. As he put it, “We can learn to ignore the [BS] in the Bible about gay people.” Of course he didn’t say "BS." As Savage continued his attack, some students broke into tears. Dozens of offended students walked out of the auditorium. As they left, Savage heckled them with vulgar words I can’t repeat on the air.

One of the teachers present — Rick Tuttle of Sutter Union High School in California — said the speech “took a real dark, hostile turn ... It became very hostile toward Christianity.”

Savage later apologized for using vulgarity to describe the students. But he refused to back down on his other comments —including his offensive comments about the Bible.

Now, what are we to make of this conundrum?

First, I think we can safely assume that the term “bullying” has gone the way of “tolerance.”

Tolerance used to be defined as a willingness to put up with the beliefs or practices of those with whom we disagree. Today, tolerance means we must accept the beliefs and practices of others as correct — or risk being called a bigot. It's interesting that this redefinition of tolerance almost always involves debates over homosexuality — and it always seems to be people on just one side of the debate calling those with whom they disagree “intolerant.”

I mean, when was the last time you heard a Christian accusing a gay-rights activist of intolerance because he refused to acknowledge that biblical teachings about homosexuality are correct?

And now we're seeing the same kind of redefinition going on regarding the word bullying. If you so much as whisper that you believe that true marriage can take place only between one man and one woman, you're accused of bullying.

You and I need to be aware of changes in word definitions that are used as weapons against Christians. But we need to do a couple of other things, as well.

First of all, whatever the subject, we must always take care to make our case winsomely, and with great civility. No one should ever be able to truthfully accuse Christians of bullying, including the kind of verbal bullying Dan Savage demonstrated last week.

This insistence on graciousness and civility for those on the other side of these issues was the hallmark of what Chuck Colson believed, and let it be ours as well.  As for intolerance towards homosexuals, Christians ought to be — and often have been — the first to volunteer at AIDS hospices, to demonstrate kindness to the children of same-sex couples, and otherwise display the love of Christ to those with whom we have such different views. In other words, we should demonstrate love and true tolerance. In this way, as the Bible teaches, we heap ashes upon the heads of those who dislike us for our views.

Second we need to pray for people like Dan Savage — so filled with anger and hurt — that their eyes would be opened to God's love and mercy, just as we pray for our own loved ones.

Finally, three cheers for those high school students who refused to sit still and listen to attacks on their faith. We should never be bullied into silence.

Further Reading and Information

Dan Savage accused of bullying
Nina Mandell | New York Daily News | May 2, 2012

Doing the Right Thing DVD
DoingTheRightThing.com


Comments:

Anger
This is what sin, especially justified sin does to a person. I'm not just talking homosexuals, I'm talking everybody, Christians included. I believe in Jesus and I do not support same-sex marriage. I've prayed on it, meditated on it and searched my soul. I cannot be for this because God does not approve of homosexuality. I've said it before and will say it a million times, God LOVES everybody. There isn't a soul on the face of the Earth He does not long to be near. We are His special creation, and there is no way He would berate, belittle, attack or condone violence towards anybody. But Jesus made it clear,"Go and sin no more." Homosexuality is a sin because it's not God's plan for human life, and it's also not healthy, constructive, joyful or given to a lifestyle that produces all the good things God wants to give us. I've lived that life and it is miserable. I feel for people that are in it and angry or bitter against God. I felt that way one time too - but you can't ever truly see what homosexuality really is until you get away from it. It wasn't until I left it that I could see how rotten it was...When I was in it, however, I defended my lifestyle because to me, it was what I wanted. After it practically destroyed me and God rebuilt my life, I can see why He doesn't advocate it. It's just not a healthy lifestyle, and why in the world should anybody who doesn't agree with it be made to feel like they're an awful person because they don't condone it? Things are getting backwards more and more and more every day. Wake up America - it's not okay to hate anybody, but is adovacting something that is un-healthy love? That's like telling a drunk or a thief that it's okay to drink themselves to death or go ahead and steal, just don't hurt anybody. Sin is sin, and it kills, destroys and perverts, just like this case.
A critique is not an attack
When someone is beaten so badly by their peers, that they wind up in the hospital, simply because they prefer same sex relationships, and their peers have heard (or read in their religious texts) that people in such relationships are worthy of being beaten... that is a savage attack.

When someone who has been the victim of such attacks tells others that a verse is bullshit if it teaches that people like them ought to be beaten (or stoned). That is not it'self an attack of any sort. It's a critique and a good one.

Being defensive when someone says you ought to ignore commandments to look down on, assault, or kill other people, is in it'self a very telling problem.

Do you think you're supposed to adhere to them Eric? If you don't disagree with Savage, why do you have a problem with what he said?
not be deceived
Hi Jen,

Thank your for the long post. I agree with much of what you say, particularly:

"Christianity isn't about a moral code and list of do's and don't's to live by, it's not about group of people that use religion as a blanket for personal hatred and bigotry (although I understand that that is only face of Christianity many people see); but rather, Christianity is about the worship of one man, Jesus Christ, who is full God and fully man - it is about the revelation of who he is and what he did to offer all of humanity a way to be reunited with the uncreated God, and it's about the transformative effect that a true revelation of the love of God brings to your life."

And that's why it's so important to challenge people who claim to be In Christ when those claims are not totally true. If people bear false witness against their brothers and sisters and refuse to listen to their stories, that is the worst sin because it violates Jesus' greatest commandment. Even Christ himself learned from "the other".

"Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs under the table eat from the children’s crumbs."
The kindness of Christians
I felt compelled to respond to Jonathan's comment about evidence of instances where Christians have displayed kindness to the children of same-sex couples.

My immediate thought would be to point out the obvious; that if you're looking for an unbiased "news accounts" of the terms "gay/lesbian" or "Christian" used with positive connotation, you're not likely to find them. Most of our western news today chooses not to report on acts of humility, but to accentuate the negative in our society, regardless of group affiliation. Anyone who strives to live according to the teachings of Christ and the sermon on the mount lifestyle would not be documenting their good deeds, as that is the opposite of humility, which is at the core of the faith in which they subscribe. And any news source reporting on something positive relating to these two groups (which in and of themselves have become their own catchphrases that take on caricature-like meaning) is most likely from a group that is like-minded; meaning Christian new sources are likely to report on the successes and positivity of their group, likewise gay and lesbian news sources. In short, if someone were to provide you with documented examples of specifically how Christians have shown the love of Christ to children of same sex households, you probably couldn't hold any stock in them because the very idea cancels out the humility needed to carry out these acts of kindness. Are there exceptions out there that cast Christians in a positive light that are not reported from Christian news sources? Sure. But the very idea that Christians must go around documenting the goodness of their deeds for the purposes of convincing others is hypocritical in and of itself.

But the real point here is not to confuse the kindness of Christians with the kindness of Christ. Just as there are a plethora of homosexuals who believe in and act out in perverse ways, there are Christians who do the same. Clumping together ever person who exhorts themselves "Christian" and applying the actions of all of those inclusively would be just as inaccurate and inappropriate as clumping all of the homosexual community together, making each accountable for the actions and words of the worst among them. I am more offended when I see someone use the mantle of Christianity in an un-Christ-like way than I am when I hear of some perverse action or word from someone who is homosexual - because it's personal then, someone is potentially representing ME in ways I don't subscribe to.

Christianity is represented in our society in so many conflicting ways that many outside are rightfully confused about its true face. But the reality is, is that if you expect to find an example of perfect Christianity in any person on earth today, you are looking in the wrong place and will not be able to find it in its fullness. The knowledge of God as revealed in the bible cannot be attained through intellectual interpretation; but rather, requires spiritual revelation through the third person of the trinity, the Holy Spirit, to understand. Jonathan, there are many people who call themselves Christians who act in ways that do not honor the beliefs they supposedly subscribe to, and there are many who have only an intellectual understanding of and moral obligation to Christianity - but even the most devout and dedicated Christian falls short of displaying the full grace that belief in Jesus Christ affords them. And that is the point. You see, Christianity isn't about a moral code and list of do's and don't's to live by, it's not about group of people that use religion as a blanket for personal hatred and bigotry (although I understand that that is only face of Christianity many people see); but rather, Christianity is about the worship of one man, Jesus Christ, who is full God and fully man - it is about the revelation of who he is and what he did to offer all of humanity a way to be reunited with the uncreated God, and it's about the transformative effect that a true revelation of the love of God brings to your life.

Mankind is fallen and broken as a result of sin; but most importantly, our sin is what keeps us separated from God. It dulls our spiritual capacity to receive love and knowledge from him. Those of us who are able to get a handle on that and in faith, set our hearts to submit to the will of God are able to establish a connection to God. His love and wisdom and knowledge are perfect, and the more he reveals to us, the more overwhelmed and humbled we are by him. But as he begins to reveal his heart to you, you have a choice to set your heart to obey the truths he shows you or not to obey. And the decision you make directly affects your ability to keep that connection open and alive and growing. Notice I didn't say "when you obey perfectly", but when you set your heart to obey. He knows we are unable to keep our commitment to obey without his intervention; but it is only through our willingness to admit our inadequacies and in humility, pray for his help do we succeed in our efforts. And this commitment has to be reaffirmed every moment of every day of our lives. It sounds like a miserable existence, constantly trying to attain a level of perfection that we can't possibly attain in this age - and for many Christians who have committed with their minds and not their hearts - it is. But nothing could be further from the truth; because when you are lovesick for God, your weakness is replaced by his strength and you are able to empty yourself to allow his endless love flow through you to others. Love your enemies. Serve your neighbors. Exalt others, not yourself. Share the good news of the healing and transforming power of God's love. This is Christianity. Hate is not a byproduct of Christianity, but is a weakness of our flesh and a tool of the devil. God's word teaches us to hate the sin, but love the sinner. So if you are the recipient of a Christian's hate of homosexual sin projected in a non-Christ-like way, that is a fault of that individual, not of Christianity. It is in those moments we are called to forgive and love, because we too fall short.

So I cannot and will not attempt to go into detail about where and in what context God's word says that homosexuality is a sin, because I can tell you my opinions all day but what matters is the truth, and that truth can only be revealed by God and through his word. And if you are unable to separate yourself from your natural reaction to assume that God is prejudice of you and therefore must hate you, and attempt to seek out knowledge and truth for yourself, you will never have the opportunity to find out. But the truth of God is still truth whether you or anyone else ever acknowledges it. People who know the truth speak with absolution not out of the arrogance of men, but from the assuredness of God. The only way to dispute that truth is by personally exploring the word of God and praying for wisdom and revelation of it for yourself. If you are unwilling to do that then you cannot speak knowledgeably on the topic of Christian faith and their beliefs toward homosexuality.

But the biggest point of concern Eric makes in this article is that: [Tolerance used to be defined as a willingness to put up with the beliefs or practices of those with whom we disagree. Today, tolerance means we must accept the beliefs and practices of others as correct — or risk being called a bigot. It's interesting that this redefinition of tolerance almost always involves debates over homosexuality — and it always seems to be people on just one side of the debate calling those with whom they disagree “intolerant.”]. Allowing a person or group to have opinions and beliefs that are different from yours is tolerance. But today, Christians that are willing to speak openly about their belief that homosexuality is sin are seen as intolerant, and that's just not true. And in twisting that word and its application, you are actually propagating the intolerance of Christians and their rights to their beliefs and their right to express those beliefs in a respectable, non-violent way. That is the point of this article. The tolerance movement that is mounting right now is a move by society (which is prophesied about in the bible) to institute worldwide, man's version of a "moralistic society" not based on biblical truth but on a false peace and acceptance of all religions and all behaviors. Mankind is putting their wants, desires, and judgement above that of God's; replacing biblical truth with a faith-in-self spirituality that allows for and condones immorality and idolatry. This new tolerance is being used to give mankind permission to tolerate sin and turning the mass acceptance of it into its own religion.

And Christians really need to heed (what I believe to be) the underlying message here, beyond the simple concept of the changes in these word meanings and their implications to Christians. And that is, that the persecution of Christians and Jews is inevitable, read your bible. We are not called to arm ourselves, strike back, defend ourselves to our enemies (by and through any other means but love) and strong-arm truth to others. We negate the word of God by doing so. But, as Eric stated, we are called to love our enemies, serve our neighbors, stand firm in our faith and display the love of Christ to all. We Christians need to stop reacting in anger and hate to defend our beliefs and prepare ourselves and our children for the mounting intolerance of Christians and Jews that will eventually turn to persecution. If we don't get a biblical perspective of what lies ahead and set ourselves to be diligent students of understanding God's plans for mankind and come into agreement with those, we will not have the discernment needed to stay faithful and to not be deceived.
Funny
Lots of trolls on here. And again, redefining terminology to defend the actions of a neo-fascist. Many of those serving in hospices, and that have ministered to homosexuals. And FYI, GBLT is a lifestyle, not a race. Quit trying to play that card to guilt simpletons into thinking they are wrong for not approving your private time.
Prayer
Id like to thank you Eric for this article. I want you to know that you've inspired my little prayer group and me, and we will be praying.
With kindness like that...
Hi Eric,

Very interesting. Some of Amanda's statements struck me as a wee bit prejudiced. I'll explain if you'd like. Are there other examples?
Jonathan, here's one instance: http://cc.breakpointdev.net/tp-home/blog-archives/blog-archives/entry/4/6028
Kindness to children of same-sex couples
Hi Eric,

Regarding this line from the commentary:

"Christians ought to be — and often have been — the first to volunteer at AIDS hospices, to demonstrate kindness to the children of same-sex couples"

As a member of a same-sex couple and a parent, my family has only experienced hostility and harm when Christians "Break the cycle of silence". Maybe I'm not aware of some good works. Can you provide evidence of instances where Christians have displayed "kindness to the children of same-sex couples"?
Misunderstanding hypocrisy
Apparently Mr. Savage thinks the only way to combat hypocrisy is to engage in an blatant display of it. It wasn't that long ago when homosexuals decried the violation of their free speech rights by those who didn't accept them, not to mention criticizing boycotts and intimidational tactics as infringement on free speech and expression. My, how the worm has turned! It gets back to what I call the rules of power; whoever has the power makes the rules, never mind fighting for justice, free speech and genuine tolerance. It's past time to end the uncivility on both sides and find some real way to express our differences in respectful terms.
Postmodernism
Eric,

Your book on Bonhoeffer is on my reading list. I'd like to see how you treat the fact that Germany was 95% Christian at the time of the Holocaust. May I state that fact without "attacking Christians"?

Would you like to cover the content of Savage's talk? What did the Bible say about slavery in Leviticus 25:44-46 or Ephesians 6:5-9? And why does the issue of tolerance and bullying always come up around the topic of homosexuality? Could it be that gay and gender non-conforming youth are bullied? Could it be that the bullies aren't winsome, or that they rely on primitive reading of the Bible that sums up human sexuality as "God made them male and female and told them to be fruitful and multiply?" Is it possible that bullies justify themselves with the aid of writers who don't acknowledge that there are GLBT *people* (not activists) on this earth.
The National High School Journalism Conference
How sad that a person filled with such vitriol and quickness to use profanity was asked to speak to a group of youth who need the influence of adults with self-control and morals. One can only wonder what the goals of the designers of the conference were? Are not budding journalists to be encouraged to be open minded, civil and unbiased thinkers?
It's worse
I saw the video of this and also read the "apology" by Mr. Savage. In the video you see some students walking out, but you also hear other students cheering when Mr. Savage make his insulting remarks about the Bible. In his apology he stated he was not insulting Christianity just hypocrisy. He does not understand but when you insult the Bible you insult Christianity.
Chen Guangcheng
Join me in praying for Chen Guangcheng that he comes to know Christ's love and that he and his family become Christians!