Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Amy Grant and Audience and Why/If it Matters

Since I have no "cool factor" to protect, I don't mind admitting that I've long had a soft spot for Amy Grant. Discovering her music (and "contemporary Christian music" in general) as a pious college kid was actually a big part of my development and in some ways, the thoughts, hopes, prayers set to music saved me, maybe more literally than figuratively.

Today, I saw on my Facebook newsfeed a link to an interview with Amy, conducted with a Michigan based LGBT magazine. You can read the interview here.

There has already been much made of her careful responses, her skirting any kind of clear affirmation of LGBT folk. She has LGBT friends, she's aware of them in her fan base, and she gives one of the best answers of all time with this observation: "When you don't understand something, you can either default to judgment or you can default to compassion. Those take you down completely different roads."

Yet, LGBT are treated as a political hot potato that is obliquely compared to telling who she voted for in the last presidential election. It's information that is divisive and she says she's more interested in bringing people together. All well and good, I suppose. I can understand it, even. She has pressures from her local church and record label and larger fan base that I'll never have or feel the need to navigate.

But towards the end of the interview she also says, "This is interesting because I have never done an interview where it feels every question is saying, 'Tell me I'm OK.'"

Yes, Amy, that's there. I admit it. I hate that I sometimes look to celebrities I've admired to affirm me, but it's there, it's real and let me see if I can explain why this is a thing.

In so many of the church discussions about LGBT folk, so much emphasis is put on "unity." Let's not let this issue divide us. What so many of us LGBT folk hear is, "We think you're okay-ish, but it's not worth the hassle to say so outright. It's not worth the loss in revenue to say we've reconciled our faith with the fact that there are gay people and they might have some rights to happiness and fulfilling relationship out in the open just like straight people. We welcome you to our worship and/or concerts, but please don't ask us to outright affirm you. It does no one but you any good."

See what we hear? The only people who will benefit by being affirmed by church hierarchy or pop stars are the LGBT folk---and it feels like we're not worth the trouble it'll bring to the hierarchy or career.

There are any number of ways that I've long respected Amy Grant and her attempts to live honestly, the way she conducted herself during her divorce and remarriage seemed like models of restraint and what a gift it must have been to her children that she kept them out of the press as much as possible during those times. And the album, Lead Me On remains a high water mark, in my estimation, of religious music recording.

But yes, sad and unfortunate as it is, I'd still like a more solid word of welcome, affirmation, acceptance.

It shouldn't matter, but yes I'd like to know that Amy Grant thinks I'm okay.

And I'll take her word of wisdom and do my best to meet what I don't understand in her non-answers with compassion more than judgment.

But compassion doesn't preclude pushing back. I hope I push back with love. 

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