Gay-ther, again (I of II)

Several readers have written to express something just sort of shock that Bill Gaither would make such an apparently strong statement in favor of inclusion, tolerance, and openness as was attributed to him and about which I wrote a few days back. The general consensus among a few people who have had occasion to peer into the Gaither empire and watch its workings up close (and a few who haven’t but speculated all the same) is that the Gaithers’ definition of tolerance runs along the lines of “Don’t ask; don’t tell” (and if anyone asks, you are, and you tell, woe unto thee). How to reconcile, then, this far less expansive sense of inclusion with the pretty progressive suggestion of wide-net Christianity intimated in Gaither’s remarks from the stage? I find it hard to believe that, as some readers have suggested, Gaither didn’t know the woman he was talking about was gay. The Gaithers have been around artsy, creative, and musical types long enough that they have inevitabley known their fair share of less-than-straight folks, from the tightly closeted to the flamboyantly out. So that explanation doesn’t wash with me. The other alternative readers have posited is more believable, but also much more cynical: as one commenter put it over at exgaywatch.com put it: “money makes da worl’ go round, da worl go round, da worl go round,” by which I assume he means Gaither’s remarks about everyone being God’s children were either an opportunistic ploy to create a warm-and-fuzzy moment (for which Homecomings are notorious and which assumes the crowd was likely to be moved by a big-tent moment of outreach to gay and lesbian Christians … a specious assumption, I think). Or, it was a way of pampering a fellow songwriter with some wispy platitudes (which assumes most of the audience didn’t know anything about the person Gaither was referring to). In either case the cynical argument goes, his remarks were more of a tactical decision than suggestive of his broader world view. But, while Gaither’s remarks were vague enough that the people in the audience could and probably did project onto his comments whatever particular shape, construction, or meaning they wanted (which would give credence to the second cynical reading), both scenarios assume stuff that a seasoned performer like Gaither probably wouldn’t take for granted (plus it makes no sense to me why Gaither would feel the need to throw a nerf bone like that to someone like Marsha Stevens, who exists nowhere near Gaither’s musical league).

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