TheReligiousLeft.org

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Savage v. Santorum: Time for Christians to be Radically Inclusive

By Becky Garrison
Originally posted 10/17/11 at The Washington Post

October 11th marked National Coming Out Day, an annual celebration to promote a safe world for LGBT individuals to live truthfully and openly. Ironically, this year’s event came two days after the conclusion of the annual Values Voter Summit, a gathering that the Southern Poverty Law Center urged people to boycott this year because two of its sponsors (the Family Research Council and the American Family Association) demonize members of the LGBT community by spreading false propaganda.
 
Recently, I heard sex columnist Dan Savage speak at Union Theological Seminary as part of “Pro-Queer Life,” a series of conferences on sexual diversity and the Catholic Church. I wish those godly leaders who vilify Dan Savage could turn down the white noise and listen to stories about his childhood faith. They would discover a devout boy who found he could no longer believe in a church that did not accept him after he decided to live out his life authentically as an openly gay man. After hearing Savage speak about the need to combat the epidemic of LGBT suicides, maybe they would watch at least a few of the videos gathered as part of the It Gets Better project. Perhaps seeing LGBT folks in person instead of yelling at them from the picket lines or in cyberspace might somehow open their heart just a little bit until like the Grinch, their love just explodes. 

As can be expected, Catholic Online dismissed Joseph Ward of Intersections’s account of this event by labeling Savage debased and accusing Savage of slander and defamation against fellow Catholic and Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum. They praised Santorum for his courage to confront this “Homosexual Equalizing Movement” by "refusing to recognize a moral and legal equivalency between homosexual partnerships and authentic marriage."

Somehow they conveniently forget to add that this online battle started when Santorum compared homosexuality to incest and bestiality and advanced social policies that will turn the clock back to a 1950s version of Americana Christianity where Father Knows Best and heaven help those who aren’t white, straight and male. 

When asked about this feud, Savage retorted: 
“I love the idea that I’m “bullying” Rick Santorum. All he wants to do is write anti-gay bigotry into the Constitution to prevent me from being at my partner’s bedside in a medical emergency, get in a time machine to prevent me from being able to adopt my son, reinstate Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell--literally destroy my life. I made a joke at his expense. But I’m the bad guy and he’s the victim. All he wants to do is beat us to death. How dare we tease him?”
While most Christian moderates might shirk at Santorum’s aggressive anti-gay rhetoric, Savage describes evangelical Christian organizations like the Marin Foundation as “just the same old hate in a brand new bag. I’ll hug you at a gay pride parade but it’s God Hates Fags with a big smile,” Savage said. While the BBC recently praised Marin for his work with conservative Christians, the Advocate deconstructed many of Marin’s supposed alliances with LGBT individuals and organizations, not to mention his strategy of appearing pro-gay at more progressive Christian gatherings while espousing the “love the sinner, not the sin” rhetoric when speaking at conservative Christian events. 

Along those lines, Savage offered these insights into the dichotomy of the progressive evangelical magazine Sojourners’s decision to accept an ad promoting a shelter for LGBT homeless teens, while rejecting Believe Out Loud’s LGBT welcome ad.
“We will contribute to a culture that beats you down but when you’re down and out, we’ll condescend to scoop you up and play the hero. But we won’t change the culture so you’re winding up homeless. Perhaps as many as 40 percent of homeless teenagers are LGBT kids who were thrown out after they came out or were outed to their families. Most of those kids are thrown out by parents who accept what the religious right feels they should do when their kids came to them Reject them. Be hostile. Make their love conditional upon their recanting or chanting or becoming ex-gay. These guys should take responsibility for the damage they’re creating.”
Since running the LGBT homeless shelter ad and a smattering of accompanying blog posts on this topic, Sojourners appears to have gone into silent mode on social justice issues impacting LGBT people. For example, they never joined other Christian voices in speaking about stories such as the suicide of Jamey Rodemeyer, the battle in North Carolina over the passing of a constitutional amendment to ban same sex marriage or the repeal of DADT. So far, there’s no sign that they will advocate for LGBT rights in the 2012 election or even acknowledge National Coming Out Day. 

This kind of silence is deadly. Savage knows it and that’s why I sense he goes into attack mode against those very Christians who seem to delight in taking select scripture verses out of their specific socio-political contexts while ignoring that according to Genesis, God created all humanity in God’s image and it was “very good.” (Genesis 1:26-31) Lest anyone feels Savage lets well intentioned liberals off the hook, think again. He pushes those Christians who claim to be inclusive and radically welcoming to stand up and make some noise or else they will once again allow anti-gay Christians to control the conversation. Santorum may call this “bullying” but from where I sit, it looks like it’s time to start turning those temple tables once again (See Matt. 21:12-13, Luke 19:45-46, John 2:13-16) and actually try to live out the Greatest Commandment to love all our neighbors as ourselves (see Matt. 22:36-40, Mark 12:28-12:34, Luke 10:25-10:28).

Author's Note: Here is a comment Andrew Marin posted following my reporting on Dan Savage and Mike Signorile's reflections about Andrew Marin. I can confirm that I am one of the three people referenced by Marin in this article. For the record, I spoke with Marin in the days following Sojourners rejection of the LGBT welcome ad to discuss my response to what I now term the Sojourners snafu. Following this conversation, I decided to conduct further research into Marin's claim to be a bridge builder to the LGBT community given some concerns raised about his advocacy efforts. Repeated emails to Marin and attempts to reach his voice mail proved to be unsuccessful. Had I been able to reach Marin, I would have gotten his response to the criticisms I raise in this article.  Based on my findings, I can confirm that Savage and Signorile are accurate in their assessments of the Marin Foundation.

Becky Garrison is a panelist for The Washington Post's On Faith column and contributes to a range of outlets including The Guardian, The Revealer, American Atheist magazine and Religion Dispatches. Her books include Jesus Died for This?: A Satirist's Search for the Risen Christ, Red and Blue God, Black and Blue Church, and Ancient Future Disciples: Meeting Jesus in Mission-Shaped Ministries.

1 comment:

  1. Great article. How Rick Santorum expects sympathy from anyone over his feud with Dan Savage is beyond me.

    ReplyDelete

 
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