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Welcome to Brothers and Sisters, the weekly meetup for prayer* and community at Daily Kos.  We put an asterisk on pray* to acknowledge that not everyone uses conventional religious language, but may want to share joys and concerns, or simply take solace in a meditative atmosphere. Anyone who comes in the spirit of mutual respect, warmth and healing is welcome.
A couple months ago I found a link to a very touching interview with gay Christian musician Ray Boltz. I found his story very touching that I wanted to share it for tonight's meetup.

I believe his personal story illustrates the hurt inflicted on so many people all because  many churches and people of faith fail to understand that people are more important than religious dogma. Jesus always put people first, if He even considered religious dogma at all. In the New Testament, the only people Jesus had any harsh words for were the religious leaders who abused their power to control and oppress people.

A few highlights from the above linked interview on You Tube:

At around the 1:45 mark, he talks about how he became a Christian at age 19. He kept his same sex attraction secret, because he thought he could overcome it. But he could not and he spent the next 30 years hiding who he was because he was too ashamed and afraid of rejection.

At around the 5:30 mark, he talks about his depression and feeling suicidal and his realization 30 years later he wasn't ever going to change. So he decided to be honest with his wife and children and tells them he is gay.

At around the 13:25 mark, he talks about how his struggle influenced his music. The song (links are to the songs on You Tube, if you want to listen to the music) "Does He Still Feel The Nails" was about Ray's feeling he had failed because he couldn't change. The song "The Altar" was about his own feeling broken.

At around the 15:50 mark, we are introduced to one of his newer post "coming out" songs "I Will Choose To Love." This song is about his decision to be who he is no matter what anyone else thinks. Again, the link is to the song on You Tube, if you wish to listen to the music.

Here is a link to a New York Times article about his story. His family was supportive:

Around Christmas 2004, in the midst of a family dinner, Mr. Boltz’s son Phil asked, “Daddy, what’s wrong with you?” This time, Mr. Boltz told the truth: “I’m gay.” His wife and his children, startled though they were by the revelation, told him they still loved and supported him

His ex-wife Carol Boltzsebsequently spent time on the Board of Soulforce a group dedicated to ending religious oppression against LGBT people and she is an LGBT ally.

While he came out to his family in 2004, he still hadn't come out to the nation. In September 2008, Ray Boltz decided to go public in an interview with The Washington Blade, a Washington D.C. based LGBT newspaper.

Unfortunately, the nation's reaction was different from his family's. There were a lot of people who sent him a lot of very nasty messages. There were people who mailed him back his albums saying they would never listen to his music again. He also received a lot of positive messages. There were also a lot of people who told him they were in the same position - gay, but married with children too ashamed to tell anyone.

He has written songs since he came out in 2008. The links are to the songs on You Tube for those who would like to listen. I already included a link to one of his newer songs "I Will Choose To Love". He also wrote the song "God Knows I Tried" about how hard he tried to be someone else but he couldn't be anyone but himself. His newer song "Following Her Dreams" is about marriage equality. Last, here is an embedded video of another newer song "Don't Tell Me Who To Love.". This song is about marriage equality and the music video was made at a Gay Pride parade.

We talk about stereotypes. There have been a lot of negative stereotypes about LGBT the last 30 years. Well, I began to develop a positive stereotype almost 30 years ago. I came to believe if I met a gay or lesbian person, they were more likely to understand me and accept me for who I was. Why do I think that?  I've experienced it. In college,  I had a gay teaching assistant. He took the time to understand a reading problem I'd had that nobody else did. His class seemed to draw gay students - no other class did. These kids were not mean to me. I was used to people rejecting me due to social skills. They didn't. Was that why?  I didn't know but I assumed it was.

In the early 1990's, I had a mental breakdown. I got very depressed and obsessive-compulsive. My co-workers didn't understand. To them, I was just some weirdo who couldn't get himself together and needed a lot of reassurance. Well, the few who did understand were mostly gay co-workers. Was that why?  Again, I didn't know but I assumed so.

To me, gay and lesbian people understood what it felt like to be rejected and were much less likely to do it to somebody else. People who go through the rejection Ray Boltz did usually emerge from that more, not less empathetic.

I watched a lot of TV at the time. I ran across a gay TV channel. I watched this TV show about AIDS. This man was diagnosed with AIDS. This was announced at his work, and people reacted by shunning him. The program asked "Is this how people would react if he was diagnosed with cancer?" There were other shows - all of which illustrated the pain in gay and lesbian people's lives due to rejection. I knew rejection, so I connected with the programs.

At the time, I was in an Assembly of God church. I got invited there, and in 1-2 weeks I had people calling me to see if I was okay (something they did well). That gave me a bit of a support system. I was bothered when I heard people talking bad about gay and lesbian people. I decided to talk to people about this. I told them about the TV shows and some of the people I had met. I wasn't confrontational, more naive. I received the standard reply about "love the sinner, and hate the sin." I was also told about ex-gay therapy and how there were many formerly gay people now married and heterosexual. I was confused by that. Was this possible?  Do people want to?  I didn't know what to think at first.

But nobody could convince me I was wrong. There was part of me that wanted to learn I was wrong, because I didn't want to be rejected. After all, I didn't like conflict and I didn't make friends very easily. But I was a "big picture" guy. That "big picture" was based on my limited interaction with gay and lesbian people. I viewed them as more, not less moral. I viewed them as people who understood what it was like to hurt, and they used their pain to make them better, not bitter. As a "big picture guy" there was no way 2-3 Bible verses negated that. I also had a hard time defining morality in terms of a persons sexual orientation, or much else the church considered relevant. I defined it by what was in a person's heart. And it really disturbed me that people Jesus would consider "the least of these" seemed invisible and were kicked to the curb. That's true with many issues from health care to unemployment policy to poverty.  Again, this goes back to people being more important than beliefs. Too many people are stuck in rigid, impractical ideology. If the free market could solve our health care problem, we wouldn't have 50 million Americans without health care. There's no way to solve this moral problem without government involvement and funding.

While nobody could convince me, I couldn't argue such and such Bible verse didn't say this or that or the other thing. But I knew there was more to this. I decided to research the topic. Remember this was 15-20 years, before the internet. I could find only one book and that was "The New Testament and Homosexuality" by Robin Scroggs. I had to special order it, and took a long time to arrive. Today, there is a lot more written on the subject. While I'm not a theologian, I could now argue back some!  Needless to say, now days that information is a lot more available such as in this excellent write up on Soulforce's website.

In time, I quit going to church. I got more and more disillusioned for this and other reasons. I came to feel the church was an institution that did little to no good, and was just part of the Republican infrastructure. The so called "unholy alliance" between big business conservatives and religious conservatives.  

After that, I didn't go to church for over 10 years.  I felt almost all churches were like that or were simply upscale country clubs. In time, I learned there was a Christian Left. One day, I felt ready to go back. I talked about that in my last Brothers and Sisters diary. Today, I am proud to attend a liberal church that welcomes all God's children.

My favorite Ray Boltz song is "Thrown Away". When I hear this song, I think about how our society throws away people Jesus would consider "the least of these." and how wrong that is and how I want that to change. That's why I'm a Democrat!

But back to my original point. Yes, people are far more important than any theology or ideology.

The floor is yours to participate however you feel led - sit back and just enjoy music, or share whatever is on your heart or submit prayer requests.

Originally posted to joedemocrat on Sun May 26, 2013 at 05:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Street Prophets .

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