Affirming Faith Voices Crucial For Advancing LGBT Civil Rights

It didn’t take long for Michelle Shocked’s ‘misunderstood’ anti-gay rant to make the headlines last week. Her choice of language was repugnant. (A few days later, she apologized.) Although she has received more press in recent days than she has had in the last decade, for now, she only has cancelled concerts to show for it. But this isn’t a blog about her. It’s about the missing voice of affirmative LGBT faith leaders in the media.

Many will see the Shocked incident as a typical Christian anti-gay ‘whack-a-mole’, individual and unconnected to the start of Supreme Court oral arguments on Proposition 8 and DOMA. But those on the front lines of LGBT civil rights recognize Shocked as parrot of the pulpit. After Lifeway Christian Resources (a Southern Baptist organization) revealed that 64% of Americans think legal gay marriage is inevitable, you can expect to hear a steady stream of prophetic filibustering this spring. Between now and June, those who still go to church will hear many sermons on the Armageddon inducing powers of homosexuality. The most putrid and sensational will, no doubt, escape from confines of their own dwindling congregations, loose its hated across our public airwaves and further cement the notion that Christians are anti-gay.

Why not? It’s all we ever hear. 3 out of every 4 anti-gay sentiments reported in our public media come from religious sources. (40% of negative rhetoric specifically from evangelical circles.) We often confuse those who speak from lofty perches as having earned the authority to speak for the many, when if fact, they were probably just the first to grab the microphone. An argument could be made that religion-fueled bigotry retains its foothold in LGBT civil rights opposition because it continues to be given the bullhorn. We keep boo-ing the speaker hoping he’ll be quiet, but we’re still filling the room. Walk away and what’s it matter? There comes a time when the onus becomes ours to change the programming. If we change the channel the ratings will fall and the show will be canceled – end of story.

But it is a mistake to steal the microphone from every person of faith.

Author and minister, Rob Bell has sold more books than Michelle Shocked could ever dream of matching in record sales. He is one of the most audible voices of modern Christianity, actively influencing an entire generation of Evangelicals. Recently, Bell publicly expressed his support for gay marriage with emboldened clarity yet, outside of faith-based circles, few noticed. He is one in a handful of articulate, compassionate, and influential religious voices willing to be responsible for moving a generation toward LGBT affirmation. Notable believers like Brian McLaren are crucial in helping Christians understand that the language used by their forefathers is one of an inherited and broken theology that must evolve. It’s important to find positive role models who admit to climbing out of the primordial goo and are willing to build a bridge to safety.

If Michelle Shocked is worthy of a mention at all, it is that she is a Follower being baptized in the rising waters of change. For those who claim a faith tradition, the neutral ground is rapidly disappearing. Silence, apathy and indecision were once an oasis in a rising tide of discrimination. Staying silent meant avoiding controversy – but now we recognize that silence is too easily confused with consent for injustice. For those victims of the current, it is our challenge to give them a recognizable voice that can guide them to safety.

  1. Hello,
    I am embarrased to say I am a brand new fan, not knowing much about you but so far love your music and your blog. I am struggling so much with being gay and being able to still be a child of God. It must have been fate to hear one of your songs during a break in between our services and finding out a little about who you are. I’m almost relieved to know there is someone out there that is gay and still sings of Gods love. I’m not alone!!! I can wait to learn more about you and hopefully put some concerns to rest. I do not know if you respond to posts or not but I would love to hear about your journey or directed to more blogs or will just listening help me “get it?”
    I’m so thankful to have discovered you!!
    A grateful new fan,
    Kelly Halkyard

  2. Long time fan since Undo Me. Also a Southern Baptist girl who came out in 2009. Hardest thing ever! So many people thought I couldn’t be a Christian and be gay. I couldn’t deny either one. I had experienced God in powerful ways over the years AND I couldn’t deny my sexual orientation any longer so I had to figure out how to be both. It hasn’t been an easy road, but I walking it one step at a time! Thanks for your music and inspiration.

  3. I’ve admired you for a long time, as an artist and an authentic Christian. I myself got in trouble with Christianity, but it wasn’t even because of conservatism, it was when my best friend and a very liberal Christian turned out to be incapable of forgiving me one stupid mistake. For some reason – but the reason probably being related to my own conviction that Christianity’s first if not only value is in the forgiveness as demonstrated in a person like Jesus – not being forgiven by the best Christian I’ve known made me lose my grip on the whole thong, god and all included.

    However, after years of struggeling, and being essentially atheist now (or should I rather say non-theist, to avoid being associated with the negative connotations that many atheists have called over themselves with their binary, and militant, attitudes), I must say I never really lost this feeling of Jesus having been such a wonderful guru, one who always forgave, and in fact never judged other people, he let others manage their own decisions, in full respect of who they were. The same thing I still appreciate in my Christian friends – those who are truly loving people, who just want to walk in the footsteps of someone like Jesus, rather than claiming ownership of him, hijack him, even remake Jesus, to their own self-centered image.

    You are a wonderful person, Jennifer. I’s so happy to know that Christians like you exist – many of them. There is hope. And this isn’t just about LGBT people, although your support for them is important. It’s about bringing more love to this world. Real love: inclusive, compassionate, forgiving and non-judgmental love.

    Much love to you.

  4. Jennifer, I’m new to the webpage, but a long long time fan. I’m going to make this short and sweet. I appreciate all you to for the LGBT community. I read the stories in the newspapers about you, I saw the Larry king interview, I heard how most of your fans broke their Jennifer Knapp CDs, and why? Cause they found out you were a lesbian. Well I’m a gay male who is slowly coming out to people. The more I come out to the less support I get. I’m glad there are big names in Christianity who allows you to do what you are doing. We need more and more people like you to step up and defend us. Thanks for all you do.

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