Newflash: Christian music isn’t just composed of choirs of boys with angelic voices singing hymns. On the contrary, much like secular music, Christian music is incredibly diverse and has a long history where it has and changed over time, much like rock or hip hop. Way back in the day, it was chants and chorales, which is generally what people assume Christian music to be. However, in the late 1900s, as more young people began leaving the Church, Christian artists began to seek to not only expand their styles of artistry, but to also sing to the people outside of the church, not just to the people in it. This is what eventually developed into what is now known as Christian contemporary music, or CCM. As of 2015, it encompasses not just the traditional hymns and gospel songs, but also has infiltrated genres like hip hop, indie and even EDM.
British musician Vicky Beeching was one of the forerunners of CCM. She became incredibly well-known internationally within the Christian Church in the early 2000s and was an especially popular keynote speaker and worship leader for churches and ministries in the American Bible Belt. Because I was still very young when she reached the peak of her popularity, I never listened to her very much, even when I started exploring the world of CCM. Nonetheless, I had seen her name come up on enough tracks and banners to know that her albums sold and that she was more or less hailed as a staple at the many Christian conferences and events. Even today, I sometimes still recognize her songs during the call to worship.
That changed when she came out as lesbian in 2014.
I admit that I didn’t even know that this had happened. Unfortunately, despite my passion for social justice, I still mostly use the internet to procrastinate and goof around instead of actually educate myself on what is going on around the world. Luckily, Buzzfeed, though usually a go-to procrastination site, has also been a saving grace for me with its growing emphasis on thoughtful, long-form articles. One of these articles was an interview with Beeching, from which I learned about her coming out story and what happened in the aftermath for the first time.
In her interview* with Patrick Strudwick, LGBT editor for BuzzFeed UK, Beeching expresses incredible joy and relief about coming out. While it was still difficult, the freedom of no longer having to hide her secret was even greater. The only regret she has is that she “only [wishes] she had done it sooner” (Strudwick, 2015).
That being said, she is also frank about on how her singer-songwriter career has essentially ended since that pivotal moment. In an ironic twist that is impossible to miss, she can actually no longer book gigs because few churches or Christian events want to accept her since her coming out and advocacy of equal marriage rights. Once in churches across America, she was hailed as a hero of the faith, a role model for young Christians. Now, in those very same places, she is ignored, if not looked down upon and shunned. Not only that, but she has also since been the target of many threats and much unrelenting hate, whether received online or directly through her mailbox.
“It’s made me grieve for parts of the church. People can be more concerned about doctrine than they are about people. People would rather be ‘right’ than loving. I’m concerned by the effect it has, especially on LGBT young people,” Beeching sadly while in reflection.
In light of that, Beeching then concluded by firmly stating that the Christian Church “needs to break the taboo of homosexuality” (Strudwick, 2015), namely by being open to and actually discussing the issue of homosexuality in the Church and then by welcoming LGBTQ youth into the congregation as family. She also states that just as people, especially Christians, were forced to rethink their ideology surrounding slavery during the abolition movement, Christians today also need to rethink their ideology around homosexuality and gay rights, and perhaps even reexamine the Biblical passages that reference homosexuality.
Honestly, I’m not sure if I agree with Beeching, in the sense that I am not certain one could make a theologically and biblically sound argument affirming homosexuality, even after reexamining Biblical passages pertaining to it, whether from the Mosaic Law or the Gospels. In short, I’m not sure if one could ever successfully justify homosexuality with the Bible, as Beeching asserts.
Nevertheless, reading this whole exchange between Beeching and Strudwick made me grieve for her and what she has been through and ashamed for how the Christian Church has once again failed the people they are called to serve. On that note, I agree with Beeching wholeheartedly that churches have a responsibility to begin breaking the silence and actually start reaching out to LGBTQ youth and genuinely love them unconditionally. For, while I may disagree with her, disagreement is not mutually exclusive with love and compassion.
Unfortunately, many Christians do not feel the same way. In response to her testimony, Strudwick remarked that treatment Beeching has faced from the Christian Church since coming out “does not sound like unconditional love,” in reference to how Christian doctrine exhorts Christians to love others. Beeching in turn responds with both tears and a smile.
“No. People say to me, “Of course we’re not going to give unconditional love to things we believe are sinful,” she said.
This particular quote from Beeching didn’t just grieve me. It aggravated me, and it made me incredibly angry. Because ultimately, regardless of whether or not I agree with Beeching on the theological argument for or against affirming homosexuality, I know for certain that the theological argument for or against loving others is firmly for loving others as Christ first loved us, which is unconditionally.
As simple as it sounds, unconditional love is not unconditional if it’s conditional. That means unconditional love does not restrain itself, even in disagreement, and even from things that are considered or are sinful. For Jesus Himself did not withhold unconditional love from things that are sinful, namely us, human beings.
“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8, ESV)
If Christian churches are going to close their doors to the LGBTQ community on the basis that according to the Bible, gay people are sinful, then everyone might as well just not go to church. That includes pastors, worship leaders, bishops, and even the Pope. For according to that same Bible, everyone, no matter who we are, is a sinner full of sinful things.
Maybe the question we ought to be asking should not be who therefore deserves to be accepted in the Church or who doesn’t. Because according to the Bible, none of us really do. But instead, perhaps we need to ask more often is what does it mean that we were loved by Christ unconditionally, and from there, what does it look like for us to love all people unconditionally, even those we disagree with, in response?
Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners. (Matthew 9:13, ESV)
What is your personal response to Beeching’s story?
What do you think it looks like to love unconditionally?
Do you think that it’s possible to not support homosexuality or gay marriage, yet still love the LGBTQ community genuinely and/or unconditionally?
* Strudwick, Patrick. “This Is What It’s Like Being A Gay Christian Rock Star.” BuzzFeed. Buzzfeed UK, 13 Aug. 2015. Web. 01 Oct. 2015.