Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Savage Bigotry - Brutal Hypocrisy

The other morning I was sitting in a local McD's eating a sausage/egg biscuit while waiting for the van to be serviced before we leave for vacation.  Sitting behind me was a group of elderly men, ranging in ages from mid 70s to mid 80s. Since they were right behind me it was nearly impossible not to hear their conversation but I was ignoring them for the most part while I ate, sipped my coffee and read my email.  They were talking about something in the news (I missed that part, because I was ignoring them) and one of the older men at the table suddenly blurted out the F-bomb in a statement against the person the news report was about.

Now, we live in a day and age where anyone and everyone is using the F word, it seems.  From 6 yr old first graders on the playground, to female newscasters being caught on live tv (when they didn't realize the live camera was still on) to old men in McDonald's.  I suppose I should be used to hearing it but for reasons I can't really explain it just stopped me cold to hear this old man use this word.  Literally, I stopped mid-bite of my sandwich because I couldn't believe what I had just heard.  My immediate thought was reflecting on how in my own lifetime (and I'm only 47) gentlemen in our society used to have class, and would never use language like that in front of women and children.  Apparently, class has gone out the window and it's okay for anyone to use  filthy language in front of anyone else, anymore.  When I told Kevin about it later I told him I wanted to say something to that man.  I really wanted to stand up, turn around and say something along the lines of "excuse me sir, I find your use of such language offensive, disgusting, and it just killed my appetite, you should be ashamed of yourself".  Yes, that's what I really wanted to say. But I didn't.  I didn't say a word and I've been kicking myself ever since then.  I'm not even sure why it is exactly that I didn't say anything.  Maybe it's because I hate being the center of attention (and that certainly would have done it).  Maybe it's because I was afraid he'd cuss me out, or him and his breakfast pals would all laugh at me.  I don't like confrontation so instead of standing up and speaking out, I said nothing.  That was wrong of me to take that course of action.

I told that little story because it applies directly to what I really wanted to write about today, and that is bigotry and hypocrisy. As I'm sure you've already heard or read in your news feeds, a man by the name of Dan Savage (columnist and gay rights advocate) was recently invited to speak at a National High School Journalist Convention in Seattle, sponsored by the National Scholastic Press Association and the Journalism Education Association. In the course of that speech, Savage not only trashed the Bible (using vulgar language) and what it has to say about homosexuality but he mocked the Christian kids at the conference who stood up and walked out, as he began his few minutes of trashing the Bible and what Christianity teaches about sexuality.

Now let me make something perfectly clear here.  Dan Savage is more than within his rights to express his opinion that the Bible is wrong.  He's also within his rights to live his personal life in whatever way he chooses.  I think we'll all agree on that.  But here's where the wheels fall of the bus completely: Dan Savage engaged in the exact same type of bigotry that Christian "homophobes" are accused of all the time. What's more is, he also displayed a surreal level of pure hypocrisy with his conduct at this conference.

Think about it for just a moment as I turn the table and give you the reverse scenario.  Imagine if the speaker was a Christian.  Now imagine there were gay kids in the conference audience and the speaker singled them out and expressed his opinion that the one piece of literature they respect and admire and pattern their lives after was full of "bull****" and was wrong on that one aspect of teaching.  Then as the gay kids got up and walked out (rightfully so, I might add), imagine the Christian speaker laughing about it and then saying "oh, you can tell the gay kids in the hall to come back now, I'm done trashing their book" and then calling them pansy-asses.

We all know the mainstream media would have crucified this speaker and in very short order he'd be out of a career.  No one would have anything to do with such a loose canon.  We also all know that the gay community would be outraged, and RIGHTFULLY so.  To single out any ONE people group and mock them and antagonize them for what they believe is just wrong, no matter who YOU are or who THEY are.

To make it even more ironic and unbelievable that this ever even happened at all, is the fact that Dan Savage is the creator of the It Gets Better project - a campaign designed to give hope and encouragement to homosexual teens who face harassment and bullying.  Could there have been a more glaring example of exactly what bullying and harassment is?  Maybe if he said "don't insult people you filthy little worm" or if he said "never shove someone down" as he proceeded to shove them down.  Which technically, that's exactly what he did.

If you look up the textbook definition of bigot, you will see that it says it's a person who is zealous about their own beliefs to the point of intolerance and no respect for the opinions of others, if they disagree.  If you look up the word bully you'll see that it describes a person who uses various intimidation  tactics (from physical to verbal and anything else they can employ).  That intimidation can come in the form of verbal insults, mockery and public shaming in an effort to get the person to do/say/believe what you want them to do/say or believe.  If you also look up the word hypocrite you'll see that it means a person who does the very opposite of what they teach, preach or claim to believe.  Sadly for the teenagers present at the journalism conference, Dan Savage showed them all exactly what a bigot, a bully and a hyprocrit really looks like.

Here's the kicker though - he essentially got away with it.  Oh sure he issued an apology later, sort of.  You can read what he had to say here on that.  And some within the gay community DID in fact speak out and sort of rebuke Savage for his conduct (and good for them, I think most of us are well aware that this kind of vulgar, insulting attitude doesn't accurately represent the majority within the gay community), and the media did pick up on it because it is pretty in-your-face what he did, but you can be sure this dark little cloud will pass quickly and Savage will still be booked for speaking engagements all over the country.

In this day, in our culture there is a very clear, very MIXED message about bullying and bigotry.  On the one hand our young people are told to stand up against bullying and show tolerance and acceptance and respect for people no matter who they are or how they live.  This is a GREAT message and even more awesome, it encapsulates exactly the same thing the Bible teaches when it says "love thy neighbor".

On the other hand though, it seems like the sentiment to resist bullying and fight back against bigotry only applies to certain people in society.  Rather, it seems like it's bad to be a bully or a bigot unless you're dealing with Christians, then it's perfectly okay to mock, insult, intimidate, harass, deride, and show absolutely ZERO tolerance or respect for the Christian's views.  Further, by calling the Christian the bigot and the bully, you're excused for your own hypocritical, bigoted, bullying tactics.

I know I'm not the only one who sees this in our culture.  In fact, I've had this conversation numerous times with others who see it too, and cannot for the life of them figure out how we got here.  Maybe we got here because people like me who heard offensive things in McDonald's didn't stand up and say something.  Maybe we got here because too many of us DON'T say anything for so long, that by the time we do feel compelled to say something, it's too late and the twisted thinking has already taken a strong foothold in our culture.

However we got here, I stand and applaud the Christian kids who stood and walked out of Savage's speech.  I don't care WHO you are, you should never be subjected to insults or mockery for what you believe or who you are. Gay, Christian, Muslim, handicapped, over-weight, black, white, male, female... it doesn't matter, all people are made in the image of God and deserve at the very least civility and respect.  And those who do engage in such conduct of bullying and hypocrisy, should certainly never be in a position to influence young thinkers and set such a putrid example.

In conclusion, I'd like to make a confession. My confession is this: I'm not even close to perfect and sometimes I'm a real rotten example of the very things I say I believe and say that we should all do.  That doesn't mean I'm a hypocrite, it just means I'm weak and faulty and full of flaws.  I strive to be the kind of person the Bible calls me to be, and will continue to do so until the day I die.  I've done hypocritical things and I've said hypocritical things and I've been called on it, more than a few times.  I will admit that it's embarrassing and it's humiliating and I needed to be called on it because without that, there would never be repentance or a desire to try harder to live a good and godly life.