Is It Time For Acceptance In Southern Gospel Music?

cropped-image11I struggled whether I wanted to write this commentary because of the nature of the discussion.  I want to approach it as delicately as possible without alienating my conservative evangelical readership.

Before I begin, let me preface that this commentary is not intended to set an ‘I’m right and your wrong’ tone.  I’m not writing this to attempt to change anyone’s tightly held view on this specific topic.  My intent is to create an open and honest dialogue about the reality of the subject.

It starts with an email I received the last week from an individual who asked if I wanted to break a story.  The story concerned a Southern Gospel artist who reached out to this individual on a gay dating/communication app.

My first thought after reading the email was, ‘why is this scandalous’?  I know the nature of a gay artist in Southern Gospel music seems unthinkable to most of you, but it is a reality.  I already knew about the artist this individual mentioned.

I am not saying that to sound like I am some TMZ gossip site.  If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you know that is not what I do.  I say that because being gay is a reality and that reality exists in Southern Gospel music, whether you choose to believe that or not.

This next statement is one that is not intended to start a religious debate on the nature of homosexuality but one I believe.  An individual’s sexual identity is a trait they are born with; not any different from whether you are born left or right-handed.  And while most conservative evangelicals think the term gay Christian is an oxymoron, it is also a reality.

My reason for this commentary is to ask if there should be acceptance within the Southern Gospel industry to support an artist who is gay.  As it stands now, if the artist mentioned in this commentary were to be outed to the broader Southern Gospel audience, then his and the group’s career in Southern Gospel music is over.

Look what happened twenty years ago when another Southern Gospel artist was outed in the most despicable way possible and then he was ostracized by the Southern Gospel community and his Southern Gospel music career was totally destroyed.

**As delicately as I have tried to approach this topic, I will monitor the comments section.  The comments section will not be used to bash gay individuals.  I will also not tolerate someone trying to out a Southern Gospel artist in the comments section.  I want an open and honest dialogue about whether there should be acceptance for gay artists in Southern Gospel music?

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23 thoughts on “Is It Time For Acceptance In Southern Gospel Music?

  1. Aaaand I just unsubscribed from future articles. Flatly-put, you’re wrong. It is not something that they are born with; a better analogy would classify it similarly to making the choice of purchasing a house or what church to attend on Sunday morning.

    Secondly, to answer your article’s question, honestly, no. Do I have a problem with individuals that are gay? No, not at all. But I do have an issue with the thought of an openly-gay individual attempting to ‘minister’.Because I believe that the Bible’s teaching is that homosexuality is wrong, I do not believe an individual who chooses to adopt the lifestyle of homosexuality and live in that lifestyle can properly portray the Gospel to an unsaved individual.

    And, for the record, to go ahead and address what might be a counter-point, I believe the same about an individual who is a practicing closeted homosexual, though I don’t believe their witness is AS harmed as someone who is “out” and publicly claims the lifestyle.

  2. I was born a liar – nobody taught me how to do it. I was also a born “lust-er” – nobody taught me, I lusted after my siblings stuff – and when I got older, I lusted after women – doesn’t make it right. I also take exception that all gay people are “born” that way – many have changed their orientation, and have pointed back to times of abuse, either physical, mental, or sexual, that drove them into a gay lifestyle. I am not homophobic, I don’t hate gays – but to accept someone who is involved in gospel ministry / entertainment, that continues to live a lifestyle that is unbiblical would be wrong. I don’t even have a problem that they might struggle with that particular sin – I still struggle with sin – but it is not the struggle that is the sin – it is the giving into it, and the condoning of it. That you even have to ask the question that your blog begins with, is enough reason for me to unsubscribe – as I see the person before me did as well.

  3. The question of whether a person is born with his/her sexual orientation is a difficult one. I don’t think it can be proven either way. As the saying goes “Is it nature or is it nurture?” – and even in that statement, who can possibly say it is either one way or the other every time? What I can say, without any doubt, is that gay persons do not choose to be gay.That is absolute fact to anyone who has an open mind on the subject, and particularly to those of us who have had that personal experience in our own lives.

    We can make a choice as to what lifestyle we wish to allow in our own lives as difficult as that can be for many of us. Yes, there are gay Christians and it is not an oxymoron! I often think of the scripture in Romans which is so overlooked: “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.” We have a special relationship because of Jesus’ shed blood for us.

    When it comes to a Southern Gospel artist coming out of the closet, as long as the majority of Christians take the “clobber” verses against homosexuality as literal and inspired by God, I think that will remain difficult. The Bible was written by men (and no women), but most of evangelical Christianity has held the Bible up to be the infallible Word of God. If that is true, I just leave you with a question: Are we different than the Bible writers? If we were to write an inspired article or book today, would it be infallible?

  4. I’m disappointed that anyone would unsubscribe from the Southern Gospel Backrow because of a difference of opinion. The blog is about Southern Gospel music and everything that pertains to it and that doesn’t change just because someone might have a different opinion about what the Bible teaches about homosexuality or what to take literally as divinely inspired.

    1. This blog is presented as being about Southern Gospel music, but when it veers into the social commentary sector is where I jump off the train. It’s Steve’s blog and his right to publish whatever content he desires to; in the same fashion, it is my decision not to continue to follow along any further.

      I don’t feel that I *have* to justify myself to you or anyone, but I will simply for clarity’s sake — I have not unsubscribed from future articles because Steve and I share different opinions on social issues. I have many friends with whom I disagree socially, and I am a reader of many authors whose views do not line up with mine. My decision not to follow, as I said, is based on the induction of frequent social commentary.

      And if you want to get into a theological debate, it won’t be me jumping into that ring with you. Though I feel you are totally mistaken in your commentary, I don’t feel that the Internet is a reasonable place to have such a debate and properly portray one’s own opinions, as well as interpret those of another.

      Have a good evening.

  5. I don’t think I need to go over what the Bible verses teache about the gay lifestyle. The Bible says no homosexual will enter the Kingdom of heaven. If you take the approach that people are born that way, then you an easily apply that to pedophiles. If there is a gay southern gospel singer, then no they shouldn’t be allowed to be an artist in the industry. The Bible clearly stated that you should not be yoked to an unbeliever. Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 2nd Cor. 6:14. If the christian southern gospel industry should accept an artist for the gay lifestyle, then don’t condemn an unmarried male sleeping with an unmarried female. There is no such thing as a gay christian and if their professing as being one, then they are a false convert. The true Christian needs to acknowledge the flesh, declare its lousy nature, reject its promptings, acknowledge the Lord’s presence, the beautiful nature of the Spirit and affirm one’s total heart and will to the Spirit’s leading. To stay a “gay Christian” only cheapens the Grace of God & what Christ came to do.

    1. Jeff, I understand your viewpooint and that has pretty much been the viewpoint of most evangelical Christians. Dottie Rambo wrote a song entitled “He Sees Me Through The Blood.” What do you do with the myriad of scriptures such as Romans 4:8 – “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.” A lot of things happen that are not God’s will and “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” But since God looks on the heart (that’s grace), there may be people doing things we would never do who are covered by the blood of Christ, and therefore, God does not see their sin. Look how many Christians practice infant circumcision today and the Apostle Paul said: “If you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing.” (Galatians 5:2). It is true, to an extent, that we (as Christians) pick and choose the scriptures we want to emphasize, but all scriptures should be taken in their context and with the realization they were NOT written DIRECTLY by God himself. Inspiration does not always equal infallibility, in my opinion.

  6. To answer the topic question – No.. at least not yet.

    Personally, I hold the truly conservative approach to marriage – one man and one woman for life. Now, why did I answer, “not yet”?

    For the past 25 years or so, Southern Gospel has embraced marriage other than my personal belief. One group that broke that glass ceiling of acceptance and embrace is the Crabb Family. Gerald and Kathy’s known previous marriages as well as their future marriages introduced everyone to the idea of the “blended family” in Southern Gospel music. Now, I’m sure there were several divorce/remarried couples involved in the industry before the Crabbs. However, this brought about that huge acceptance. I also understand that they didn’t promote the group as a blended family to promote the group. What a poor choice of marketing that would be! **The Crabbs were used as an example – not necessarily to spread rumors, gossip, lies, or any other form of stupidity like that.**

    Since the Crabb clan was widely accepted (and other cases, too), several other artists have been shown as having been divorced, remarried, etc. There are numerous cases of this currently in Southern Gospel music. Does that make it right to me? No. I understand traditional view of marriage is becoming more and more rare. However, I still buy music, attend concerts, etc. of groups or individuals that have this “different” form of marriage. A song is a song no matter who sings it or wrote it. The Bible is full of evidence where God took the bad and still brought forth good.

    Because this has been widely accepted, Southern Gospel has to give into the LGBTQ definition of marriage (2 partners of either or same sex/gender marrying). Some of the most outspoken critics of the Supreme Court’s legislation in June 2015 had been divorced or were remarried as well. Having the license to do so makes their arguments incredibly weak. Aside from the SG arena, look at what happened to Kim Davis. Her marriages destroyed her platform very well.

    I personally don’t support the agenda of the aforementioned artists when it comes to promoting their lifestyles. I wouldn’t support the agenda of a person living in an even more liberal lifestyle. Southern Gospel music will embrace this eventually, however. Now, not necessarily. But, given the more liberal shift of today’s generation, the more staunch conservative generation will eventually be outnumbered.

    Steve, thanks for asking your readers’ opinions. Also, thank you for posting without preaching. An interesting discussion topic for the future: “How should a fan/listener accept an artist coming out?” For reference – Ray Boltz, Kirk Talley, Marsha Stevens, etc. Some have no problem while others from a staunch evangelical background would balk at the idea.

  7. I realize people struggle with the temptation and sin of homosexuality just like many other sins. As a Christian, I pray for them, love them, and do my best to treat them fairly. However, I don’t think we should accept someone who wants to proclaim that they are living in sin, yet still wants to minister in song, sermon,etc. This would be no different than a southern gospel singer announcing that he/she is having an affair (not HAD and is sorry), but still wants to be accepted by fans while living in this lifestyle. Or a southern gospel singers who announces that he/she is an alcoholic, drug addiction, etc and actively participates in this sin every night after their concerts yet still wants churches to allow them to sing in their services. We need to love them and try our best to help them, but to simply ignore sin in someone’s life and tell them every thing is fine is a disservice to God and that person.

  8. One thing I have come to learn is that there is a big difference between Homosexuality and same sex attraction (SSA). Many fail to make that distinction. A person may have SSA but that does not make the person a Homosexual. A Homosexual man is one who sleeps with other men, which clearly is a sin. Having SSA however does not make one a sinner (for it is not by choise), and I honestly believe people are born with it.

    I don’t believe a man can choose to have sexual feelings for another man and in an instant as if flipping a switch, he loses all sexual desires for women and gains those for other men. In all honesty, how many men could just by the power of choice, be sexually aroused by thought or site of another man’s nakedness? If any man can do that trick, I would question his straightness. Most men with SSA don’t have to work at it, being sexually attracted to other men just happens so naturally to them, and it is beyond their power to “switch it off.”

    Throw a man with same sex attraction in a den of beautiful nude women and his body will not react they way a straight man’s body would. Now if all men could just by choice tell their bodies not to react, and the body obey, would there be adultery, fornication, rape, pedophilia? Yes there would, but not at such high levels as we now see.

    I therefore believe that just as a man cannot be said to have sinned because his body involuntarily (and with no past training) reacted the way it should to some visual stimuli that may have just been passing by, so a man with SSA cannot be said to be a sinner (or a homosexual) because his body involutarily and with no past training, reacted the way it should not to a different visual stimulus. What may be considered sin is the lustful thought or action after such an occurence, and for the man with SSA, the minute he gives in to that sin, he has commited homosexual sin. If he chooses to live by his feelings (whether he was born with them or not), he can then be called gay. A man who lives according to the flesh is not fit for holy work. It may be a heavy cross to bear, but if one cannot live according to the spirit, how can he hope to lead others to do so?

    I also think if a Southern Gospel artist has same sex attraction, he better not tell it to a fan, they will not understand.

  9. A correction
    I have mentioned pedophilia as one of the sins that would be less prominent if men were able by choice to shut down their bodies responses to certain sexual stimuli, visual or non visual. I take that back, because I know so little about pedophilia and cannot make suc general assumptions.

  10. Here is the basic question: is homosexuality sin? If you believe the bible, then yes, it is.

    Now, what sin should any Christian be accepting of? None. I don’t single out homosexuality. No sinners go to heaven (regardless of their religious label). So, SG should absolutely not make homosexuals feel comfortable. Why do we want people who are headed for hell feeling comfortable with their lost condition?

    1. As was implied above, regardless of one’s understanding, homosexuality itself is not sin. HOMOSEXUALITY MEANS HOMOSEXUAL ORIENTATION. Homosexual orientation is NOT chosen PERIOD, even if it develops in very young childhood. What some of you are saying is that you believe HOMOSEXUAL BEHAVIOR is sin, not ORIENTATION. I can testify about orientation FIRSTHAND as can any of us who are gay. In my case, I made a different choice and married a woman over 40 years ago and have a couple wonderful kids that also love the Lord. Although I am glad about the choice I made, I continue to keep an open mind and study the scriptures. I understand the struggle so well, it gives me a completely different perspective that straight men haven’t a clue about. And I do not judge those men and women who love God, but made a different choice. What they did in life was a choice, yes, but their orientation is not a choice in anyway.

      There are verses in the Bible that were used to teach slavery is okay. There is a passage in the old testament that seems strongly to condone RAPE! The Bible is a wonderful book about God’s grace, but it should not be read as if it is God speaking DIRECTLY to us. It must be interpreted within historical context of the day it was written and the understanding that even the Bible writers (all males) “knew in part and were prophesying in part.” (1 Corinthians 13:9). I no longer believe the Bible is INFALLIBLE.

      I don’t mean to beat a dead horse here, but more Christians are beginning to recognize that Jesus, the TRUE word is what needs to be lifted up. The written Bible is not synonymous with the LIVING word of God. The law (the new covenant) is written on our hearts, no longer on tablets of stone. Too much to go into, but I urge all of us to keep an open mind and see if God will further minister to us the truth of how we judge, serve and honor one another. Divorce is not the unpardonable sin and neither is homosexual behavior. “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will NOT impute sin.” (Romans 4:8).

  11. As a Christian and a fan of SG, I choose to listen to certain groups because of their music and their stand (Biblical & social beliefs, etc). I would be tremendously upset to discover one of my favorite singers was a practicing homosexual. In fact, I would purchase no more of their recordings and would likely destroy what CD’s I might already have.

    In ministry, we rightly have high expectations of those presenting the Gospel. These higher expectations are not unreasonable. I can tell you that a known practicing homosexual cannot and will not be my Spiritual leader or mentor.

    Mercy and Grace is available to all…

  12. First of all thank you so much for your post Steve. I think this is definitely more than just a social question. First of all I am a Gay Christian. I also perform in affirming churches all over the country. But I grew up singing in Southern Gospel music and thinking that was God’s “Plan A” for my life. When I came out at the age of 17 I was basically kicked out of my parents home as well as by the church and felt that because of such harsh treatment by Christians, that God couldn’t possibly love me either. If I told you some of the things “Christians” did to me during this time, it would shock and sadden you. It was a really difficult time, and after several years of researching and educating myself about the scriptures and about God in general, I realized that I had been listening to voices and opinions of preachers and Christians who, instead of examining their own hearts and listening to God, took their own prejudices out on groups of people and used their interpretation of the Bible to back up whatever message of exclusion they had grown up with. What I found in not only my research but also my heart was that God loved me and everyone else where they are. He still had a plan for my life.

    So for the last 16 years what I thought was Plan A in my life, ministering to hurting people, showing them the unconditional love of Jesus, actually was Plan A for my life, it just looked different than what I had imagined. I have a lot of friends in the Southern Gospel industry. I also know its not always an easy proposition to be who you authentically are in the world in which we live. But the world is changing. Hearts are changing. I think what we can all agree on is that we need to spend more time working on the two greatest commandments, instead of seeing who we can exclude because they don’t fit in our little box of what God approves of. We should focus on “loving God with all our heart soul and mind and loving our neighbor as our selves” What that means is loving our neighbor no matter how different they are. Jesus himself didn’t hang out with the self righteous people of his day. He hung out with the people that society called outcasts.

    In reading some of the comments I find it absolutely absurd that people think that there are people who can’t or should not minister the gospel because of who they are. From my own experience I have learned more about God from people who are hurting or people we may label as “Sinners” than I have from any preacher I have ever listened to. Primarily because they are examples of what Grace really means. They know what it feels like to come through rejection and have learned what the sacrifice of Jesus is all about, “For God so loved the WORLD that he gave His only begotten son that WHOSOEVER believeth in Him should not parish but have everlasting life.

    There are a lot of bible verses we could debate or theology we could go into, but at the end of the day Loving God and Loving Each other is exactly what the whole thing is about. Sometimes I think we focus on other peoples “so called sins” for two reasons, one because they don’t apply to us and second because it makes our own sins look less than what they are. Therefore making each of us feel better about ourselves. When I think of sin I think of things that separate me from God. Things like Hatred, Bitterness, unforgiveness, Addiction. All of which many of us struggle with. As far as me being gay, I was born this way, God created me to love everyone and to share the good news of the gospel. That is what I have been called to do as a gay christian. I don’t expect to change anyone’s opinion on this issue but I do hope to at least share my story as an example that you can minister the gospel as a gay christian. When we let God judge the hearts of others instead of taking that job on ourselves, we can step away from the issue and realize we aren’t as different as we think we are. If we truly look at each other with the eyes of someone who is in tune with Christ, we can really have good intentions and do the right thing instead of being conditioned to point the finger rather than lending a hand.

    Lastly Jesus was often with the “rejected”, the “outcasts” and the people society and the well to do church folks considered “less than” He loved them, He took care of them, He ate with them, He shared with them, and most importantly, He loved them. If I am considered a non believer and an outcast because of who I love, I have a feeling I would have been right there at the feet of Jesus with the rest of that motley crew, and you know what, that’s exactly where I want to be. I look forward to learning more together with each of you! I hope we can get past our differences and put that “Love your Neighbor as yourself” thing into action!

      1. Thanks Justin Ryan for your perspective. I just noticed on your website how you’ve worked with some of the finest southern gospel artists in the business. I listened to your song “Different” on YouTube – very well done and thought-provoking. I am also one of those who had that gentle spirit and I can identify with everything you said.

        I am fully convinced that Jesus is exactly who he said he was, our divine Savior and redeemer, but some of the more difficult things to understand, I’m still studying and seeking God. God bless your ministry and I continue to use my favorite scripture that most Christians don’t seem to know is in the Bible: “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will NOT impute sin.” A very special relationship we have with God because of the blood of Jesus that takes away our sin – past, present and future. God bless!

      2. How do I stop getting these comments updates? “Bless the Lord, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name!”Psalm 103:1

  13. I will simply put this here….if SG can be accepting of divorce, adultery, alcoholism, drug use, theft, lying, or anything else of that nature, then what’s the big deal about homosexuality, comparatively speaking?

    The problem lies in that none of the other sins mentioned above are considered to be a “lifestyle” (although, one could argue that there are plenty of folks in the industry who have made a lifestyle out of those things). One does not self-identify as an adulterer, an alcoholic, a druggie, a thief, etc., the way that one identifies as a homosexual, which I think is what makes it such a tough pill to swallow for many folks.

    The next question is whether or not one considers homosexuality (or homosexual relationships) to be a sin. I know many have made the argument that by being legally married, homosexuals are not committing adultery (a very common argument against it), which returns us to the “is it or is it not a sin” argument.

    1. Hey Kyle,

      Thanks for writing. It’s hard to understand someone if you’ve never walked a mile in their shoes. I could go into discussing scriptures which I think is sometimes a good idea to determine the nature in which things are interpreted. One resource that has been good in my own life that I think every Christian should watch who struggles with this issue is called For The Bible Tells Me So. It is a documentary and you can view it in its entirety on YouTube. Again thanks for the comments and I hope this dialogue continues!

  14. I don’t think the debate over the acceptance of homosexuality by the larger Christian body is one that will be settled any time soon. It is not the first issue to raise theological divisions in Christianity, as evidenced by our many denominations with their varied and often conflicting beliefs, all supposedly drawn from the bible.

    I am aways saddened when I hear people who claim to be Christians declare the bible as not being not infallible. Personally I would not be a Christian if I thought the bible was not infallible. I believe there are certain truths that were relevant only to some generations, and some that are relevant to all generations. If you look at the laws of Moses for example, while some of them could still do us much good, most of them would be totally impractical to observe in this day and age.

    It is however important to note that even the laws that required the stoning of the guilty, had God’s approval, for they were but an attempt to show a little of the seriousness of sin; its terrible consequences and how God abhorred it to the utmost. It was therefore not necessary for such laws to still be in effect when Christ Himself and not another, died a terrible death, thereby showing not in part but fully, God’s total abhorrence of sin. Yet He did not die that we should continue in sin, but that we should “go and sin no more.”

    The homosexuals were, according to the law of Moses, to be stoned to death. The punnishment had God’s stamp of approval, otherwise He would not have permitted it in the first place. Even when Christ died, just as the cancellation of stoning adulterers did not from thenceforth give them liberty to go a whoring, so the homosexual was not to consider himself released from the noble and commendable duty of keeping his yernings that conflicted with God’s will suppressed.

    In as much as I honestly believe that people are born with their orientation, homosexual or otherwise, I don’t think that gives them any license to disobey God’s clear command against homosexual relations.

    Since Adam fell the world has witnessed strange abnormalities in nature. There are people born with both male and female genitalia right here on earth, they call them hermaphrotides (an actual biologigal term). Was that in God’s original plan when He first created Adam and Eve? Did He purposely plan that Adam and Eve would have such ofspring? I doubt it. were such people fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God? Yes, and I believe it is sin that has marred the perfect image of God, in all of us.

    The point I am trying to make is that being born a homosexual is not a ligitimate excuse to sin. It may be hard, but it definitely not impossible. God cannot give you what you cannot handle. I am yet to hear of a person who died of sexual starvation. Did not even Paul commend celibacy? He did.

    The bible is not written in riddles concerning God’s view of homosexuality.

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