Over the weekend, I saw the viral video featuring a homosexual activist berating Christian teenagers at a journalism convention. The activist in question is Dan Savage, a columnist and a figure I have written about on this blog before. I won’t embed the video here because it is too foul. If you are so inclined, you can watch it here.
In the video, Savage calls the Bible “Bullsh–” and accuses Christians of hypocrisy for believing what it says about homosexuality while ignoring what it says about shellfish, slavery, adultery, etc. In the middle of his tirade, the video also shows about a hundred Christian students walking out of his speech. Todd Starnes interviewed some of the students here. Joe Carter has an excellent take on the incident here. The Huffington Post is defending Savage here.
For those of you new to this conversation, you may be wondering who Dan Savage is. Here are a couple things you should know:
1. Savage is the founder of the “It Gets Better Project”–a YouTube channel aimed at children to encourage them that they can be happy, gay adults. At this website, homosexual adults can upload videos of themselves talking about how life gets better after high school. It’s aimed to encourage gay children that no matter how unhappy they are now and no matter how much bullying they receive, their lives will be better when they grow up. Many celebrities and politicians have come out of the woodwork to support Dan Savage in this work. Savage’s “It Gets Better” effort has been embraced by that mainstream for a couple of years now. President Obama and many members of his administration filmed their own videos for the effort.
2. Savage is also a purveyor of an unbridled sexual hedonism. This is not a secret, but something that he has written very openly about. Last summer, Mark Oppenheimer profiled Savage in a lengthy piece for The New York Times Magazine. Oppenheimer’s article focuses on Savage’s prescription for healthy marriages—non-monogamy. Savage argues not only that gay marriage should be legal but also that monogamy should be discarded as a marital norm. From Oppenheimer’s article:
Savage has for 20 years been saying monogamy is harder than we admit and articulating a sexual ethic that he thinks honors the reality, rather than the romantic ideal, of marriage. In Savage Love, his weekly column, he inveighs against the American obsession with strict fidelity. In its place he proposes a sensibility that we might call American Gay Male, after that community’s tolerance for pornography, fetishes and a variety of partnered arrangements, from strict monogamy to wide openness.
Savage believes monogamy is right for many couples. But he believes that our discourse about it, and about sexuality more generally, is dishonest. Some people need more than one partner, he writes, just as some people need flirting, … others need lovers of both sexes. We can’t help our urges, and we should not lie to our partners about them. In some marriages, talking honestly about our needs will forestall or obviate affairs; in other marriages, the conversation may lead to an affair, but with permission. In both cases, honesty is the best policy.
“I acknowledge the advantages of monogamy,” Savage told me, “when it comes to sexual safety, infections, emotional safety, paternity assurances. But people in monogamous relationships have to be willing to meet me a quarter of the way and acknowledge the drawbacks of monogamy around boredom, despair, lack of variety, sexual death and being taken for granted.”
The view that we need a little less fidelity in marriages is dangerous for a gay-marriage advocate to hold. It feeds into the stereotype of gay men as compulsively promiscuous, and it gives ammunition to all the forces, religious and otherwise, who say that gay families will never be real families and that we had better stop them before they ruin what is left of marriage. But Savage says a more flexible attitude within marriage may be just what the straight community needs. Treating monogamy, rather than honesty or joy or humor, as the main indicator of a successful marriage gives people unrealistic expectations of themselves and their partners. And that, Savage says, destroys more families than it saves.
Savage believes that whatever sexual urges one feels should be embraced and pursued. Any marital norms that deny such urges are oppressive and unrealistic. Both gay and straight couples need to consider the possibility of non-monogamy—a mutual agreement that allows occasional infidelity.
What Savage reveals is that controversies about sexuality in our culture are not merely about who can visit who in the hospital. The controversy is about deconstructing what nature and the Bible teach us about the meaning and purpose of our sexuality. Many gay activists like Savage are not simply seeking legally sanctioned gay unions; they want to bring an end to marriage as we know it. Pointing this out is not playing the part of the alarmist. It is just a matter of paying attention to arguments that are entering more and more into cultural mainstream.
3. Savage is a human being created in the image of God. He is an enemy of Christianity and therefore probably just the kind of person that Jesus had in mind when he said, “I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:44-45). As Christians, we can do two things at once. We can stand against the dangerous message being delivered by Savage, and we can also pray for him. No matter how hard he tries to suppress the truth, his error will eventually be shown for what it is. Perhaps he will realize that sooner rather than later.