Columnist and gay activist Dan Savage, speaking at a journalism conference in Seattle, caused quite an uproar by criticizing Biblically-based bigotry against gays. Reader Sigmund draws some lessons about accommodationism from this incident.
Religious accomodationism beyond evolution
The Huffington Post recently posted a video of Dan Savage, the originator of the anti-bullying initiative, “It gets better”, talking about the Bible and its use as moral justification for anti-gay bigotry.
The clip is worth watching for two reasons.
First, Savage, speaking at the National High School Journalist Conference in Seattle, points out the hypocrisy of someone using the Bible as a justification for certain actions while ignoring all the other questionable behaviors it endorses (such as slavery or stoning non-virgin brides to death). Savage says this:
The Bible. We’ll just talk about the Bible for a second. People often point out that they can’t help with the anti-gay bullying because it says right there in Leviticus, it says right there in Timothy, it says right there in Romans that being gay is wrong.
We can learn to ignore the bullshit in the Bible about gay people, the same way, that we have learned to ignore the bullshit in the bible about shellfish, about slavery, about dinner, about farming, about menstruation, about virginity, about masturbation.
We ignore bullshit in the bible about all sorts of things. The bible is a radically pro-slavery document. Slave owners waved bibles over their heads during the civil war and justified it. The shortest book in the New Testament is a letter from Paul to a Christian slave owner about owning his Christian slave. And Paul doesn’t say: “Christians, don’t own people”. Paul talks about how Christians own people.
We ignore what the bible says about slavery because the bible got slavery wrong.
Sam Harris, in ‘Letter to a Christian Nation’, points out that if the bible got the easiest moral question that humanity has ever faced, wrong, slavery. What are the odds that the bible got something as complicated as human sexuality wrong. One hundred percent.
The Bible says that if your daughter is not a virgin on her wedding night, if a woman isn’t a virgin on her wedding night, she shall be dragged to her father’s doorstep and stoned to death.
Callista Gingrich lives. [a reference to the wife - and previously mistress - of the outspokenly religious Republican Presidential contender, Newt Gingrich.]
There is no effort to amend State constitutions to make it legal to stone women to death on their wedding night, if they’re not virgins. At least not yet. We don’t know where the GOP is going these days.
People are dying because people can’t clear this one last hurdle. They can’t get past this one last thing, in the bible, about homosexuality.
Second, look at the reaction the speech receives, both in the hallway—a mass walkout by Christian students, and then on the Huffpo comment section—where it is met with the same sort of responses that Gnus get from religious accomodationists: don’t upset religious people, for we want them as our political allies!
How did this guy think spewing hate would help his cause? He has set gay causes back 20 years with this video. People will hold this up as example of the hatred gays have for straights.
Commenter Rob in Oregon:
I wonder if he would also ridicule other minorities? Anti-Christian bigotry is America’s last acceptable prejudice.
Apparently criticizing the moral lessons in the Bible is equivalent to insulting Christians—and therefore Savage is bullying Christians!
After noting the walkout, Savage commented:
I apologize if I’ve hurt anyone’s feelings, but I have a right to defend myself, and to point out the hypocrisy of people who justify anti-gay bigotry by pointing to the bible and insisting we must live by the code of Leviticus on this one issue and no other.
The incident, as a whole, illustrates an important point in regards to accomodationism.
The right and even the moral necessity to criticize religious teachings, particularly those derived from ancient sacred texts, is not confined to the issue of evolution.
While fundamentalist Christianity impacts the teaching of science in public schools, particularly in those regions where politicians pander towards the faithful, it is primarily the more ‘moderate’ forms of religiosity that affect people’s lives lives. Be it discrimination against gays or denying proper healthcare and reproductive choice to women, religously-based resistance to equality and choice is derived almost entirely from the core doctrines of the major denominations, such as the Roman Catholic church. Such teachings on homosexuality and birth control are based on religious grounds— primarily the revealed opinions of an unquestioned and even unquestionable deity—and are therefore not amenable to secular reasoning.
Accomodationism, insofar as it seeks to dampen criticism of moderate religion in order to foster political alliances, silences action against very real problems perpetuated by these supposedly friendly faiths.