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A Savage Attack: Redefining Bullying

It all began when the National High School Journalism Conference invited a gay-rights activist named Dan Savage to speak to students in Seattle about the need to prevent bullying. But it turned out that this was a lesson Savage badly needed to learn himself.

To the shock of the students, Savage launched a vicious attack on the Bible and Christian beliefs. As he put it, “We can learn to ignore the BS in the Bible about gay people.” Of course he didn’t say BS. As Savage continued his attack, some students broke into tears. Dozens of offended students walked out of the auditorium. As they left, Savage heckled them with vulgar words I can’t repeat on the air.

One of the teachers present — Rick Tuttle of Sutter Union High School in California — said the speech “took a real dark, hostile turn ... it became very hostile toward Christianity.”

Savage later apologized for using vulgarity to describe the students. But he refused to back down on his other comments —including his offensive comments about the Bible.

Now, what are we to make of this conundrum?

First, I think we can safely assume that the term “bullying” has gone the way of “tolerance.”

Tolerance used to be defined as a willingness to put up with the beliefs or practices of those with whom we disagree. Today, tolerance means we must accept the beliefs and practices of others as correct — or risk being called a bigot. It's interesting that this redefinition of tolerance almost always involves debates over homosexuality — and it always seems to be people on just one side of the debate calling those with whom they disagree “intolerant.”

I mean, when was the last time you heard a Christian accusing a gay-rights activist of intolerance because he refused to acknowledge that biblical teachings about homosexuality are correct?

And now we're seeing the same kind of redefinition going on regarding the word bullying. If you so much as whisper that you believe that true marriage can take place only between one man and one woman, you're accused of bullying.

You and I need to be aware of changes in word definitions that are used as weapons against Christians. But we need to do a couple of other things, as well.

First of all, whatever the subject, we must always take care to make our case winsomely, and with great civility. No one should ever be able to truthfully accuse Christians of bullying, including the kind of verbal bullying Dan Savage demonstrated last week.

This insistence on graciousness and civility for those on the other side of these issues was the hallmark for Chuck Colson believed, and let it be ours as well.  As for intolerance towards homosexuals — Christians ought to be — and often have been — the first to volunteer at AIDS hospices, to demonstrate kindness to the children of same-sex couples, and otherwise display the love of Christ to those with whom we have such different views. In other words, we should demonstrate love and true tolerance. In this way, as the Bible teaches, we heap ashes upon the heads of those who dislike us for our views.

Second we need to pray for people like Dan Savage — so filled with anger and hurt — that their eyes would be opened to God's love and mercy, just as we pray for our own loved ones.

Finally, three cheers for those high school students who refused to sit still and listen to attacks on their faith. We should never be bullied into silence.

Publication date: May 8, 2012

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