Dan Savage became a hero to gay youth in particular when he founded the “It Gets Better” movement to fight anti-gay bullying. Now the sex columnist is on the other side of the bullying issue after he called some high schoolers “pansy-a----” for walking out of his lecture because of comments he made about Christianity.
Savage, an outspoken gay columnist, argued at the National High School Journalist Conference that Christians ignore things in the Bible they don’t like and should “learn to ignore the b------- in the Bible about gay people.”
Many bloggers and activists responded to the speech in Seattle, and Savage’s sharp comments to some students who got up and walked out:
“It’s funny, as someone who’s on the receiving end of beatings that are justified by the Bible, how pansy-a---- some people react when you push back,” he said to students leaving the lecture in protest.
In a blog post published Sunday night, Savage apologized for using a term he said was “insulting:”
“I would like to apologize for describing that walk out as a pansy-a---- move. I wasn’t calling the handful of students who left pansies (2800+ students, most of them Christian, stayed and listened), just the walk-out itself. But that’s a distinction without a difference — kinda like when religious conservatives tells their gay friends that they ‘love the sinner, hate the sin.’ They’re often shocked when their gay friends get upset because, hey, they were making a distinction between the person (lovable!) and the person’s actions (not so much!). But gay people feel insulted by ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’ because it is insulting. Likewise, my use of ‘pansy-a----’ was insulting, it was name-calling, and it was wrong. And I apologize for saying it.
As for his comments about the Bible, Savage is less apologetic, writing “I did not attack Christianity. I attacked hypocrisy.” You can read his full response here.
Still like so many things related to how Americans talk about religion, there was pointed disagreement over Savage’s remarks. His crude language aside, can a public speaker to a bunch of journalists make the argument that religions are followed selectively?
The executive director of a conservative, pro-gay rights group called GOProud quickly demanded Savage apologize. But the National Scholastic Press Association, who organized the event, said it appreciated the “level of thoughtfulness” that went into the speech and said it’s important for journalists to be able to “listen to speech that offends you.”
Meanwhile there are so many versions of this conversation going on that hit on the collision between civil liberties and religion. Some are the type that would wind up in court, others (like the Savage incident) are not, but the tensions are pervasive today.
A Christian college club recently saw its official status yanked because it requires students to be committed Christians. Catholics in Washington state are divided over whether parishes should be used to organize against the state’s new same-sex marriage law. And of course the country has been debating since February whether the White House’s requirement that employers — even religious ones — provide contraception coverage in their health care plans is fair or a violation of religious freedom.