Christianity,  News

Who is Dan Savage?

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.


  • Ty

    I agree Denny:

    ‘ 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” ”

    But, I also think that the ‘ Dan Savages ‘ of the world are also those of who Jesus said:

    Matt 18:6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

  • Nathan Cesal

    If you are going to say Dan’s life is garbage, don’t be surprised when he turns around and says whatever you are basing that on is garbage.

    The teens that left should have stayed to hear an opposing idea. Running away probably wasn’t that helpful. How can they give a loving response if they weren’t there to hear what was said?

    Dan is an anti-bully advocate, and he apologized for what he said about those that left. Read it at this link. Be warned, the content of the apology is similar to the content of the video link that Denny provided in the post.

    • Philip

      They hear opposing ideas all the time. They are bombarded with them in the mainstream media and in public schools. I’m proud of them for bravely and silently standing up for their beliefs instead of shouting down hate and profanity from a bully pulpit like Savage.

    • Johnny Mason

      There is a common misconception about this issue of biblical hypocrisy. The argument that goes something like this: “If you eat shell fish, then you are a hypocrite, because the OT clearly forbids it”.

      The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ changed many things in regards to OT law.

      1) The sacrificial system is no longer necessary because Christ is our sacrifice. WE no longer need to sacrifice bulls, sheep, and rams because the penalty for our sins have been paid in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

      2) Dietary laws have been abolished (Acts 10:11-15, Mark 7:18-19). The story in Acts gives us insight into why the dietary laws existed in the first place. It wasn’t because of the threat of disease or other health concerns, it was to set Israel (clean) apart from the other nations (unclean). But when Christ came, the gentiles were made clean through the blood of Christ. The picture that the restriction on unclean food painted was no longer necessary because all were clean through the blood of Christ.

      3) The council in Jerusalem (Acts 15) addressed the issue of what ritual OT laws needed to be observed by the gentiles. The council was brought together to address the issue of circumcision and dietary restrictions, among other things, that were becoming issues between the gentile and Jewish Christians.

      There is still the issue of moral law (sexual immorality, theft, obedience, murder, etc), which is the law Christians see as still applicable today and Paul references in his letters.

      So this idea that Christians pick and choose is not true. There is a reason we no longer sacrifice animals, or are able to eat bacon, or can shave our beards, and it has nothing to do with hypocrisy, but based on Scripture.

      • Don Johnson


        What you claim is simply not true.

        1) The reason Jews no longer do animal sacrifices is because the temple was destroyed in 70AD. Up until that time Jews, including Jewish followers of Jesus, went to temple and participated in sacrifices. One can figure this out from Acts 21 where Paul pays for Nazirite animal sacrifices when understood in context as well as other verses in Acts and elsewhere in the NT.

        2) The meaning of Acts 10 is given later in Acts that gentiles are included in salvation, one should not try to change the meaning to something that is not sanctioned in the Bible. In any case, it was a vision, not a reality, and even then at no time in the vision did Peter eat unclean animals.

        Also on Mark 7, the discussion was about the Pharisees’ additions to Scripture in terms of a specific procedure to wash hands before eating, which they claimed if not done their way made the food unclean; this violated Torah by declaring something that was food (and therefore was already kosher to a Jew) to be unclean and therefore did not properly maintain the categories of clean and unclean found in Torah, thereby violating Torah by adding to Scripture.

        3) Acts 15 is not about what rituals gentile believers needed to keep, it was about whether they needed to be circumcized in order to be saved. The answer is no, they do not need to be circumcized. But to allow table fellowship among Jews and gentiles, gentiles should please avoid doing some things that to a Jew were a total gross out.

        4) A covenant cannot be divided into parts such as supposedly a moral part which remains and a ceremonial part which does not. A covenant is a whole thing, either kept as a whole thing or if one breaks one part, then it is broken with possible consequences.

        • Johnny Mason

          1) Are you claiming that sacrifices would still be required were the temple to still exist? Heb 10:12 says he offered on sacrifice for sins for all time. Was Christ’s sacrifice not sufficient?

          2) Peter ate with the gentiles and lived as a gentile, as Paul recounts in his rebuke of Peter in Galatians 2. Peter clearly understood the dream referred to both unclean food and unclean gentiles. If those foods remained unclean, then the dream would make not reasonable since. Mark 7:19 has this note (“Thus He declared all foods clean.”), refuting yout claim that it only applied to hand washing.

          3, 4) You claim the covenant cannot be divided, but yet it is ok to divide it on dietary laws and circumcision. You cant have it both ways. Hebrews 8:13 says the new covenant has made the old covenant obsolete.

          There is an argument that can be made that Jews should still follow OT law and gentiles are free from it, but even under that framework, sacrifices have still been abolished and are no longer necessary or efficacious. The idea that the sacrificial would still be in place were the temple still around flies in the face of the completed work on the Cross.

          • Johnny Mason

            one note for my massively typo’d rebuttal. My last paragraph should be in regards to jews and gentiles who are saved.

          • Don Johnson


            1) Animal sacrifices would still be happening if the second Jerusalem temple still existed. We can know this to be true because when the third Jerusalem temple exists, animal sacrifices will be done, per Ezekiel and other prophets. One basic idea of Scripture interpretation is the idea of progressive revelation, that the later books of the Bible build on the earlier books.

            Hebrews 10:12 is comparing and contrasting the sacrifices going on in the second temple with the sacrifice of Jesus. The sacrifices in the temple could never take away sins, that was not their purpose, while Jesus’ sacrifice does do that, so it is a better sacrifice. A basic theme of Hebrews is that Jesus is better than something in the Mosaic covenant, for a list of somethings. For example, Jesus is a better high priest than the Aaronic high priest, but that does not mean that the Aaronic high priest went away until the temple was destroyed, in fact we know he did not as Acts testifies to the fact that the high priest still existed.

            2) Peter understood exactly what the dream in Acts 10 meant, he repeats it in Acts 11, and so that we can know for sure what it meant and he never says it means he can eat pork, he always says it meant that “God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean.”

            On Mark 7, you and I are gentiles. I do not consider a rat as food and I do not think you do either, rather it is unclean to eat. So I read in Mark 7 that Jesus declared all foods clean. Since I do not consider a rat to be clean, I never considered it to be food and I still do not think it is food. This is analogous to the way a Jew would read Mark 7, a rat is still an unclean animal and not food. In other words, one can misread what the text actually says, thinking it says something it does not actually say, that many others do this is still no excuse to misread it after it has been explained to you. If God had wanted to undo the Jewish kosher food laws, he would say something like “a pig is now considered a clean animal.” not “all foods are clean.”

            3) A covenant cannot be divided, Scripture testifies to this. It turns out that circumcision is a part of a covenant with Abraham and the kosher food laws are a part of a covenant with Moses.

            On Heb 8:13 one can look at the Greek and see that the word “covenant” has been added by translators, they do this because they think this is what is implied. But it ain’t necessarily so. One of the basics of prot Bible interpretation is to use the clearer passages to help understand the less clear. Hebrews is a complex theological treatise, from the name one can figure out that it was written to 1st century Jews and it discusses a lot of Jewish things that gentiles have little knowledge about, especially today.

            Jesus did do a completed work, but that does not mean that animal sacrifices were abolished by it, it just means in this case that you were unaware of what Scripture teaches.

          • Don Johnson

            The KJV translation choices made in this case depends on using the Received Text, which is problematical as there are earlier manuscripts. This is covered on p.33 of “Biblically Kosher” by Aaron Eby.

    • Jim Wood

      Who said Dan’s life is garbage? It is, but no one has said that. As has already been said to you, teens hear plenty of opposing views every day. Schools shove it down their throats, TV praises it, so where do you get the idea that they needed to hear hi out? So what if he’s anti-bully? He’s being a bully to those Christians. So, he’s a hypocrite.

  • Jim Wood

    Don Johnson, Johnny clearly said why WE don’t sacrifice, not the Jews. Jesus paid our price, so we don’t have to sacrifice.

    • Don Johnson

      So you do not count Paul as part of “we” that is, believers?

      At first, believers in Jesus/Yeshua were all Jewish and in fact it was considered one of the many sects of Judaism. It is only in Acts that the sect expands to include gentiles.

      Paul, the Jewish believer in Jesus/Yeshua, paid for sacrifices at the temple per Acts 21 when understood in context, as did the other Jewish believers in Jesus/Yeshua, and this only stopped because the temple was destroyed.

  • Kelley Kimble

    The National Scholastic Press Association placed a statement on its web site. Evidently they are not happy about their keynote speaker’s choice of subject matter either. They say it’s not what they expected. Really? He has a reputation for this kind of speech. Why would they expect differently?

  • Don Johnson

    The term “circumcision” in the text refers to becoming a Jewish proselyte, one of the steps of this for a gentile male was to be circumcised and this was the step that was most difficult and so became the term for conversion, even tho not done by women. The phrase “keep the law/Torah of Moses” is a clarifying addition for gentile readers that might not know this. In any case, there is no question about what is meant, it means that the “legalists” in Acts 15 were claiming that a gentile had to become Jewish to be saved.

    One always needs to try to read the text as an original reader would have for the primary meaning.

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