Skip to comments.For Gay Christian Musicians, Work Balances Faith, Art, Love
Posted on 08/01/2011 9:03:54 AM PDT by Bed_Zeppelin
Many Christian denominations denounce homosexuality as a sin. As a result, gay Christian singers, songwriters and musicians face a challenge in balancing their art, their sexuality and their faith. For those few who have decided to come out, it has meant giving up successful careers.
Singer-songwriter Jennifer Knapp has sold more than a million albums and earned Dove Awards on the strength of songs like her 1998 hit, "Undo Me." But in 2002, at the height of her career as a contemporary Christian artist, Knapp suddenly stopped making music.
"Knowing that I was going to have to publicly deal with my sexuality it really made me consider how much I wanted to participate in music," Knapp says.
Seven years later, Knapp reemerged, no longer self-identified as a Christian artist instead, she was a folk-rock musician, a person of faith and a lesbian. Knapp says that even after all that time, she still had doubts about coming forward.
"It made me very hesitant to get back up into the public level, knowing that there would be discussion about my sexuality on the whole," she says.
Don't Ask, Don't Tell
Dr. Teresa Hairston, publisher of Gospel Today magazine, says there are clear expectations regarding sexuality in the Christian church and in the Christian music industry.
"There is an assumption that as a minister of the gospel and your expression of that ministry being in song that you are an ambassador that carries with the gifting of the music a lifestyle that agrees with the Bible," Hairston says.
Yvette Flunder was an ambassador of the faith as the lead singer for the legendary gospel group The Hawkins Family. She was also a minister at the Love Center Church in Oakland, Calif., founded by group leader Walter Hawkins.
"At Love Center, we sort of practiced a 'don't ask, don't tell' environment," Flunder says. "Same-gender-loving people did exist in significant numbers, and do exist in significant numbers, but the determination was that it was problematic to be open about it. There were people in the ministry who were not able to reconcile same-gender sexuality and spirituality particularly Christian spirituality."
Flunder eventually left Love Center to found The City of Refuge Church in San Francisco. After she came out, she discovered that religious groups aren't the only ones uncomfortable with openly gay Christian artists.
"It became clear to the record label that my theology was a potential liability ... not because I was unique as a same-gender-loving person singing gospel music, but because I was clear about my sexuality and clear about my theological position regarding human sexuality," Flunder says. That tension eventually led to the end of her record deal with a major Christian label.
From Freedom To Disappointment
Flunder's experience isn't unusual. Another artist, Tim Dillinger, was known around Nashville as a go-to backup singer for gospel and secular recordings. Eventually, Dillinger began to get airplay for his own songs, such as "That's the Kind of Love." But one day, all that changed.
"Somewhere around the end of 2006, I came out on a gospel radio station in Kansas City," Dillinger says. "I did an interview there with a minister, Gerald Palmer, and it was the first time I'd said it publicly. It was the first time I'd talked about it in any kind of public forum, let alone on a gospel station."
Dillinger says coming out went from being a freeing experience to a devastating one.
"My audience in Nashville, where I was doing my concerts, literally cut in three-quarters," Dillinger says. "I used to say it cut in half, but it was really three-quarters. I went from being able to fill a room to begging people to come again."
Teresa Hairston of Gospel Today says cases like Dillinger's are an unfortunate reality.
"I think people should be able to be open about their choices," Hairston says. "They should be loved despite their choices. But they also have to realize that they have to be accountable for their choices, and that their choices have consequences."
For artists like Jennifer Knapp, those choices meant giving up a career as a gospel artist and coming back as a secular artist. For others, it has meant the end of their careers.
"A lot of people disappear. They have big careers, and then they disappear," Dillinger says. "It's almost like they do the music for the season that they can, and then they move on and take care of their personal lives. And it's just kind of a shame to me that this is what this community really forces people to do, because we are not willing to have an honest conversation about sexuality and really, really talk about why we believe what we believe."
For her part, Flunder says she's not discouraged by these challenges. In fact, she adamantly expresses optimism about what the future holds for gay Christian musicians.
"The time will come," she says, "when the church will celebrate its gay children and the incredible contributions that same-gender-loving people have made to the life, to the income, to the spirit, to the power, to the passion of the church."
"For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due." Rom 1:26-27
Divide and Conquer: The time-honored way to overcome opposition.
“gay Christians”? An oxymoron if I’ve ever seen one!
And whoever coined this phrase is just a “regularmoron”.
The headline is an oxymoron. 1 Cor. 6:9-10.
Um, God is the One who says that it is a sin - it's not like we made it up........
There are plenty of Christian churches that have no problem with this. The gays can simply worship there.
NPR might want to look in to the problems that gay Muslims have. The penalties for an unfortunate Muslim are - shall we say - a bit more severe.
Its also interesting to note in this article that all of the people profiled in the article gave up on Christianity to focus on the practice of their sin.
“NPR might want to look in to the problems that gay Muslims have. The penalties for an unfortunate Muslim are - shall we say - a bit more severe.”
You must mean a traditional gay relationship between two muslim men and not the buggering of little boys.
Nice collection of propaganda phrases.
"came out" == Openly admitted a lifestyle of unrepented sexual perversion.
"uncomfortable with" == disapprove of. Notice that the propaganda phrase loads the disapprover, not the disapprovee, with the onus of being 'out of step', but also reduces his objection to a mere irrational feeling.
Well I guess technically you could be Gay and Christian, if you were a person who is only attracted to the same sex and not the opposite one, but also realizes it is a sin to act on that attraction, so decide to live a celibate life. But somehow, I doubt that’s what this story is talking about...
Ha ha ha ha!
Is that the new leftist template phrase?
Gay Christian is an oxymoron! There is no such animal as a Gay Chirstian.
The Bible says clearly when a person opens the door to Jesus, they are a new person. (2 Corinthians 5:17) Christianity is turning from self to Jesus. That means you give up your sin and Jesus becomes your all. There may be a time of NO struggling with sin because the change is sudden or there may be intense struggling because the person is seeing the devil trying to keep the person in his corner. As a person dies to his/her sin nature, they become more and more like Jesus. Not easy but possible.
I am tired of homosexuals and lesbians saying that it is all right to be gay and Christian. Sorry, that is like a man saying it is all right to be an adulterer and Christian.
Note that there are no group of Christians that are ever referred to as Adulterating Christians. You know, they are Christians, yet they believe God made them to have extramarital affairs. Or Beastiality Christians. Or Pedophiliac Christians. Or Alcoholic Christians (the ones who never go up for communion).
These people are not kidding themselves and asking others to kid themselves about what they are doing. They are not asking for total acceptance and pats on the back, because they are not lost so far as to have a non-working conscience that demands others tell them up is down and what sin they are doing is actually a good thing and God made them that way. (It’s God’s fault if anyone’s to blame you know. But since it’s a good thing, YOU’RE the one with the problem because you can’t see that it’s a God-blessed design of His.)
Hated it...when I heard she announced that she was a lesbian.
"I'm completely normal, just like everyone else. Except that I engage in practices that are outside the norm, and go completely against everything that I claim to believe in."
I feel a little sorry for these people. Imagine the mental gymnastics that they need to engage in, just to get out of bed in the morning.
And, for what it's worth, I agree with you on your point. *Who* you're attracted to is one thing (I'm no expert, but I figure that it's a combination of learned behavior and/or a chemical imbalance of some sort). However, the *actual act* is nothing more than a simple behavior.
I would argue that they are *not* “Christian” churches. Once you throw the Bible out you have no claim to the name.
I know and have known a few gay Christian musicians, including some nationally and internationally known musicians. They tend to prefer working out of NYC rather than Nashville for obvious reasons.
As these guys have told me, Some of the regular hymnal compositions used every Sunday in the US were written by gay men who never came out of the closet.
It’s the gay musicians working the Christian bar/cafe scene that get judged by the plastic people who attend those singsong services at churches using electric guitars on Sunday mornings.
Lest ye be judged.
The term "gay Christian" is an oxymoron and there is no such thing as a christian who is homosexual. You're either one or the other, not both. Homosexuals who openly or privately practice their sexual preference are in a state of sin.