When you disagree, be sure to march right out

About those high school students walking out on Dan Savage when he started talking about anti-gay bullshit in the bible.

They were there for a conference on journalism, a conference for the Journalism Education Association and the National Scholastic Press Association.

Journalists need to be able to listen to things they don’t agree with in order to do their jobs.

That’s one thing. Another thing is that walking out sends a message. What message were these students sending? That harsh criticism of the bible is a bad thing, bad enough to be worth the disruption and message-sending of walking out on a speaker.

But what Savage was saying is true. It is true that the bible accepts slavery as a given. It is true that there is a lot of bad stuff in the bible. It’s true, and it has done harm and it continues to do harm. So why is it bad to say so?

I think it’s mostly because we’ve all been trained to think that religion deserves a lot of deference, and that refusing to pay it deference is shockingly bad; walk out of the talk level bad.

We’ve been trained to think that, but it’s bullshit.

One of the teachers attending the speech with his students told CNN’s Carol Costello on Monday that he was taken aback by the speech and that he supported the decision of some of his students to walk out of it.

“It took a real dark, hostile turn, certainly, as I saw it,” said Rick Tuttle, a teacher at Sutter Union High School in Southern California. “It became very hostile toward Christianity, to the point that many students did walk out, including some of my students.

“They felt that they were attacked … a very pointed, direct attack on one particular group of students. It’s amazing that we go to an anti-bullying speech and one group of students is picked on in particular, with harsh, profane language.”

Ah but they weren’t picked on. They’re not the bible, so they weren’t picked on. No group of students was picked on; no group of students was the object of a very pointed, direct attack by Dan Savage. Those students are not Christianity. People don’t get to consider themselves identical to an organization or institution so that they can consider themselves attacked when the org or inst is criticized.

John Shore takes a dim view of the walkout in the Huffington Post.

I, for one, have no idea what the world has come to, when a person who has made his career out of speaking, in the most unadorned language possible, directly to great numbers of young people about some of the most important issues in their lives, dares to speak in unadorned language directly to a great number of young people about one of the most important issues in American life today.

Besides the fact that he was raised in a devoutly Catholic home and is the country’s leading gay activist, who is Dan Savage to say anything at all about the ages-old Christian condemnation of gay people? So what if his claim is manifestly valid that nothing contributes more to the destruction of the lives of gay people than do Christians falsely and hypocritically using the Bible as an instrument of brutality? So what if he believes that among the most egregious of all Christian sins is daring to proclaim that God’s love ends where their own fear and hatred begin? So what if every day, for decades on end, Dan Savage has dealt with young lives obliterated through violence informed and buttressed by the bedrock “Christian” view that gay people are less than human?

You know, it’s almost like the people who put on this conference, as well as a small but now (thanks, media machine!) significant number of individuals who attended it, don’t even know what the word “journalism” means.

Well, thank you, young people who walked out of Dan’s speech the moment he began talking about the parts of the Bible to which he takes exception, for reminding us of what beats so passionately in the heart and soul of every true journalist. Speaking as a person who for twelve years made his living as a journalist, I admire your dedication to the journalist’s creed: When you personally disagree with something someone is saying, get up and leave.

Well how else are they going to achieve martyrdom in this day and age?


  1. stonyground says

    How about challenging every one of those who walked out to read the Bible for themselves. If they have already read it fine, but if they have not, what on earth makes them think that they have a right to hold an opinion on it?

  2. says

    I find this teacher’s comment very interesting:

    ““It took a real dark, hostile turn, certainly, as I saw it,” said Rick Tuttle…”

    Specifically, the juxtaposition of ‘certainly’ and ‘as I saw it.’ The first suggests that it was objectively true that the talk became hostile, while the latter, which comes directly after, suggests that he knows he is expressing a subjective opinion.

    It’s like his cognitive dissonance is right there, in his speech, being illustrated for us – on some level he knows the speech was appropriate and correct, but he can’t bring himself to feel that way.


  3. jamessweet says

    @christopher moyer — meh, I believe it was a live interview. I certainly have said things just as contradictory when speaking extemporaneously. I’m not sure it’s fruitful to parse words that carefully when somebody is speaking off the cuff.

    OTOH, if people thought Savage’s comments were “dark” and “hostile”, they oughtta here what I have to say about religion. Savage was pretty measured and generous, I thought.

  4. fastlane says

    When the going gets tough, the tough (or, in this case, thick) get going? Maybe they are just misinterpreting that old saying. 😉

  5. says

    Oh I think it’s worth pointing out the juxtaposition of “certainly” and “as I saw it” even in a live conversation. It’s not fair to hold the speaker as responsible as if there had been opportunity to revise, but it’s certainly worth noticing that kind of having it both ways. I notice that sort of thing often in live discussions. I think I do it myself, too – I hear myself expressing certainty and promptly row it back.

  6. eric says

    What “one particular group of students” is what I want to know. There is an anti-gay quote in Leviticus, true. But that’s true for everyone. Heck, the fundies who take a more literalist approach not only admit it, they highlight it. Savage can’t reasonably be thought of as “offending” anyone by pointing out such a fact.

    The only thing that really makes sense is that folk took offense at Mr. Savage’s suggestion that that one verse in Leviticus be treated the same way christians treat practically every other verse in Lev. How dare he, um, suggest that???


    I’m with James on the word choice question. I took the ‘certainly’ to be a response to some journalist’s leading vocal question. As in: “Do you think it turned hostile?” “It took a real dark, hostile turn, certainly, as I saw it…” In that respect, his word could could’ve just meant ‘I agree,’ not ‘I am very sure.’

  7. Egbert says

    Not just a message, but passive-aggressive message. If you disagree, why not heckle? Why not use stand up and shout out a reasonable argument? Because it was unreasonable and likely organized. It was rhetorical and melodramatic, because it was a psychological game, a bully game that we’re all familiar with, as the group rejects the individual.

    We Europeans are even more timid and obedient, and yet the strength of peers and group pressure is still overwhelming.

    Sometimes being right or telling the truth is a lonely experience.

  8. Mr. No says

    So, if the man had been promoting an anti-gay agenda and the kids had walked out, would you be criticizing them?

    Probably not.

  9. Mr. No says

    That’s not the point I was making. The point I was making was that if it’s something on “your” side, you’d not be mocking those kids for walking out, you’d applaud them for taking a stand and making their disgust known.

    But if it’s the other shoe…..

  10. sumdum says

    Also, an anti-gay agenda is aimed at people, while Savage’s speech was aimed at hateful behavior and a hateful ideology, not at people personally.

  11. says

    Mr. No – that depends on what you mean by “your side.”

    If it had been a speaker saying gay students should be bullied, yes, I would applaud students who walked out.

    If Dan Savage had said Christian students should be bullied, I would not be criticizing students for walking out.

    I hope you see what I’m getting at.

  12. says

    You’re right that I don’t think all walking out is bad. That’s why I said “Another thing is that walking out sends a message. What message were these students sending?”

    My point was to consider the particulars of this specific act of walking out.

  13. Mr. No says

    Yes, but that’s the false assumption you make, equating not being pro-gay = telling people to bully. And simply disagreeing with one doth not mean telling people to harass, harm, or incite violence towards them.

    Unless you’re talking about Islam. But no one ever talks about Islam. I don’t see the Imams talking about “it gets better” or heteropatriarchy.

  14. says

    No, I’m not making that assumption at all; I’m saying what kind of speech I would applaud students for walking out on. I’m saying it takes more than simply criticizing a book.

    And as for Islam – you’ve obviously never read a word here apart from this post. What a joke. Try looking around a little before you jump to conclusions.

  15. Egbert says

    Mr No, false equivocation and you know it. Gays aren’t going around in gangs bullying innocent Christians because they happen to develop that way. Neither do they have a ideological book which promotes calling for the death of Christians.

  16. Mr. No says

    The Bible doesn’t call for the death…it simply calls it an abomination.

    You’re mistaking it with Islam.

  17. David says

    The Bible doesn’t call for the death…it simply calls it an abomination.

    That’s strange, because when you look up Bible verses on homosexuality, the following comes up from Leviticus 20:13:

    “If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.”


  18. Anteprepro says

    lol at 21 and 22. Bible-philiacs consistently prove that they don’t know shit about the Bible. Good one, David.

  19. says

    Mr. No:

    Yes, but that’s the false assumption you make, equating not being pro-gay = telling people to bully. And simply disagreeing with one doth not mean telling people to harass, harm, or incite violence towards them.

    Oh, please. The nice, polite disapproval of the “homosexual lifestyle” among fundies fuels bullying by their kids and other people’s kids.

    At the very least, it’s bigotry. There is no scientifically sound reason to be anti-gay. The only “reason” comes from religious indoctrination.

    The Bible doesn’t call for the death…it simply calls it an abomination.

    Another christer who doesn’t know his own scripture. Click on “Homosexuality” at left.

  20. eric says

    Re: Lev 20:13 – perhaps Mr. No is proposing we not give too much emphasis to that Leviticus verse.

    But if he did that, he might have to walk out on himself.

  21. Your Name's not Bruce? says

    How is it that it’s just that bit of Leviticus these people seem to know? They all probably eat shellfish and wear mixed fabrics without a second thought. It’s all in the book but it’s just the gay bit they seem interested in enforcing.

  22. Sili says

    Problem was the Paul ate with gentiles and poo-pooed Peter for not doing the same, so the Christians thinks that’s an out.

    I’m sure that if Paul had been a cocksucker instead of a prawn lover, blowjobs would have been a sacrament.

    (Sadly, I take Secret Mark to be a forgery, so no, there’s no scriptural evidence for Jesus being gay having gay sex.)

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