Tip of the iceberg
You may not have noticed, but something pretty extraordinary just happened over at Gospeleer: a southern gospel record label executive made a strong case for, in his own words, getting beyond the taboo of homosexuality. Cuing off my article about gay men and gospel music, Mickey Gamble thinks through the question of sexuality and scripture.
While there are various thoughtful but opinion-based arguments to the contrary, I know of no scientific studies that I can consider as “serious”, acknowledging that sexual orientation is anything other than a fact of birth. Not a “condition.” Not a “lifestyle.” Not a choice. Hair color, gender, skin color, body height, race, and sexual orientation, are all traits in the same “facts of birth” set. The mix of these traits in any person are facts that precede any life decisions or choices that we add on to determine the whole of “who I am.”
Fear and mistrust of those with traits “not like me” have created dramatic and oppressive prejudices throughout history. Those who have been the targets of all such prejudices have created much of the great and transformative music and literature, as well as political and religious discourse, borne out of the struggle to just belong to the whole, to accept their own “unwanted” bodies, and to be accepted as contributors in their own societies.
, our own long, deep, and violent struggles for racial and gender equality come easily to mind. The perspective we get from that history is instructive to this discussion in a couple of ways. First, embedded deeply in those struggles was the effort to use scripture as the bottom line unchallengeable “reason” for maintaining the status quo. Just as now with the so-called “gay issue.” If those scriptures quoted against the struggle for racial and gender equality were so important then, why not now? You just don’t hear many folks quoting the Bible to justify slavery these days. America
You should read the whole thing. I’d love to be wrong here, but I don’t know of any public statement by someone of Gamble’s status and place in the industry that comes anywhere close to this.
As I noted in my article, Gaither got clobbered into a full-scale retraction and denunciation of homosexuality when he dared to speak non-negatively about a gay person and her music in public. Dottie Rambo sent a lot of signals in her career that she was at least gay-friendly (appearing with Lily Tomlin, for instance), but she left unaddressed her own feelings or thinking on this issue, so far as I know.
What’s striking about Gamble’s post is not just that he bucks the party line on homosexuality, but that he does so in terms explicitly based, not on a critique of Christianity (what is typically disparaged as the godless atheistic homosexual agenda etc), but rather critiques evangelical (ab)uses of scripture from a distinctly Christian perspective, something that just doesn’t happen in sg:
There is something about being told, through no fault of your own, that “you’re different” and “you’re bad” and “you don’t belong” that forces you to deal with how alien you feel to yourself and how alienated you feel from those around you. And is not this exactly the Christian experience of “having to be in this world” where we do not feel we belong?
The conventional wisdom will doubtless be to dismiss Gamble and his pov as a one-off exception to the consensus view, but all the email I get from gay and straight alike every time this topic comes up suggests otherwise. For instance, here’s an email I received last week from a performer whose name all of you would recognize:
I had several gay friends while I was in the music dept. at college, and I think without exception all shared this evangelical background experience Shores identifies. I was able to identify with them because I spent my high school years being called a sissie: I played the piano, sang, was in the band instead of playing football, wore Calvin Kleins and hairspray - hey, it was the 80’s. You know how hard it is to get dates with girls when they all think you’re gay !!??!?!?!
The absolutist mentality in southern gospel music/southern evangelicalism could perhaps be the root of all evil. The either/or of ministry-entertainment, gay-straight, crew cut-spiked hair, tie-open collar . . . it goes on and on. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been chided for “leaving my bible on the shelf!” when I go to the polls and vote for those damned liberals. Not only do they hate the sin, most of them openly hate the sinner. Surely that must be a miserable existence?
While no one would mistake southern gospel for a progressive or inclusive culture, history tells us that the emergent viewpoints appear like icebergs … the visible portion is always just the beginning.
So here’s a question for you (and I’m really asking): what if there a lot more – not a majority mind you, but a not insubstantial number all the same – of Mickey Gambles out there in sg: straight but not necessarily narrow?Email this Post