Challenge Response: Dan Savage’s Anti-Bullying Speech

Posted: May 10, 2012 by Brett Kunkle in Do the Right Thing, God Has Spoken, Weekly Challenge

My response to this week’s challenge, which was Dan Savage’s anti-bullying speech at a high school journalism conference:

Comments
  1. calvoa1 says:

    Great job Brett.Well thought out and respectfully done.

  2. Sam Harper says:

    Just awesome, Brett!!!

  3. On the “bullying” charge against Dan Savage: This was a student journalism conference, an extracurricular activity. Several political and controversial speakers were present, and student journalists could choose which talks they wanted to attend. *Everyone* in that auditorium knew who Savage was and what he stood for, including his opinions on Biblical morality. Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that this was a planned protest. Students of a conservative Christian persuasion would attend, and then when the Bible-bashing started, they would turn their backs and walk out in an orderly fashion. A “captive audience” this was not.

    On another note, I cannot concur with Brett in his definition of tolerance vis-a-vis homosexuality. If I am homosexual, and you believe that I am disordered, not capable of raising children, in need of therapy, etc. then it is reasonable to expect a hostile response from me. That opinion goes beyond a point of academic or philosophical disagreement. The issue is unavoidably personal. I’m afraid you cannot claim “tolerance” if you use my homosexuality to draw conclusions about my moral character, capability for monogamy, ability to parent, or other personal characteristics. All of which very mainstream voices in the Christian community do regularly.

    As I see it, you have only two options:
    1. Be willing to tolerate, not just the existence of homosexuals, but homosexual identity and activity
    or,
    2. Accept the charge of “anti-gay”

    • Mark in Columbia, MO says:

      Phillip — in your response below, I think you might consider the possibility you are over-estimating the awareness of teens in general! Love them, but in my experience one should never be surprised when a teen is unaware of what they’re walking in to — kind of goes with the very essence of being a teen :)

      That being said, I have no idea if the walk-out was planned or otherwise.

      However, regardless of if it was planned or unplanned, how would that change the essence of Brett’s response to Savage? Turning this around, if the speaker had proceeded to bash the writings and message of Dan Savage and Itgetseasier.org as “bull****”, and students had walked out on that and the speaker had subsequently reacted to those students in the same way as Savage did, would that not be bullying? (Sorry for the construction of that sentence!)

      IMO, Brett’s most important point was and is that only from a perspective of the judeo-christian first principle of the imago dei can we have a true foundational objection to bullying and an affirmation that all humans, regardless of our universal affliction by sin, are worthy of respect and tolerance.

      I agree whole-heartedly with Savage that it is objectively wrong to bully — however, I want to always think carefully and be able to give a sound, logical defense of that position, even as I struggle with my own prejudices.

      • However, regardless of if it was planned or unplanned, how would that change the essence of Brett’s response to Savage? Turning this around, if the speaker had proceeded to bash the writings and message of Dan Savage and Itgetseasier.org as “bull****”, and students had walked out on that and the speaker had subsequently reacted to those students in the same way as Savage did, would that not be bullying? (Sorry for the construction of that sentence!)

        No. That would not be bullying. Bullying indicates a persistent condition of intimidation and/or harassment. Dan Savage did neither. Interestingly enough, if Mr. Kunkle’s definition of bullying holds, Mr. Kunkle himself would be guilty of “bullying” Savage simply by calling him a bully and a hypocrite. Would that not offend the poor, innocent Mr. Savage?

        Although Dan Savage is not guilty of bullying, another man named Savage is quite proficient at it.

  4. realbadarguments says:

    Hi Phillip,

    Just curious, but wouldn’t your theory require every single high school student who walked out to keep it secret that they planned it ahead of time? And for what purpose? Since conspiracies rarely work, especially without a unifying larger purpose, it doesn’t seem as likely versus the straight-up reading of events to me.

    Also, is there a third option for me?

    I’m same-sex attracted but don’t identify as gay. I’m confident in my identity in Christ, was bullied and slurred as gay in high school, and am someone who agrees with Brett on his views of homosexuality and tolerance.

    Choice 1 obviously doesn’t fit. And it would be really strange for Choice 2 to apply. It would be an odd form of self-hatred that only professional psychologists are capable of diagnosing. Do I automatically become a bigot by choosing to reject that identity? That seems to be what you are presuming for people of my persuasion. And there’s a lot of us. It is as if you are saying, “Embrace and celebrate this contemporary gay identity construct for yourself and others OR you are an Uncle Tom, a bully, and a bigot.”

    That raises the question of how can you claim to be tolerant of me under your stated criteria? I’m same-sex attracted but reject gay identities. Under your view, you would only have two options.

    1. Be willing to tolerate, not just the existence of non-gay same-sex attracted people, but celebrate and affirm them and their beliefs.

    or,

    2. Accept the charge of “anti-same-sex-attracted-people-whose-identity-is-Christ-centered” (for lack of a better term)

    Choice 1 would make you anti-gay, and Choice 2 would make you a bigot.

    Respectfully, I don’t have any reason to believe you’re either. It seems to me you’re an upstanding human being motivated by compassion for gays. I totally respect that. But we disagree that compassion dictates celebrating and affirming what I take to be a self-harmful and false identity, and that disagreement requires I take offense at your position vis a vis myself.

    @chrisw10 – Twitter

    • Chris says:

      And that *such* disagreement… To clarify, I’m saying I’m not taking offense at your comments. :) Have a nice day.

    • Just curious, but wouldn’t your theory require every single high school student who walked out to keep it secret that they planned it ahead of time? And for what purpose? Since conspiracies rarely work, especially without a unifying larger purpose, it doesn’t seem as likely versus the straight-up reading of events to me.

      Nope. Protests, walkouts happen all the time. No secrecy required. All I’m saying is that they knew Savage and his message and volunteered to attend the talk. This fact precludes the “straight-up reading of events” i.e. that students were innocently surprised by Savage’s comments and were so upset they had to remove themselves.

      “Embrace and celebrate this contemporary gay identity construct for yourself and others OR you are an Uncle Tom, a bully, and a bigot.”

      1. Be willing to tolerate, not just the existence of non-gay same-sex attracted people, but celebrate and affirm them and their beliefs.

      I said tolerate, not “celebrate” or “affirm”. If that’s really what I meant I would have to turn gay just because I respect gay people.

  5. Chris says:

    But aren’t you arguing that the protest was planned and wasn’t unplanned? So far every student and teacher is saying they did not plan it ahead of time.

    You did say ‘tolerate’, but it seems your definition of tolerance differs with mine and Brett’s precisely because it means agreeing that gay-identified homosexuals have entered into a healthy and normalized lifestyle that should be encouraged if one is same-sex attracted. This view of tolerance would be my definition of celebrating and affirming that lifestyle. You don’t have to turn gay yourself.

    Any ideas for where I would fit into your calculus?