Christian pop star Ray Boltz came out of the closet in an interview with the Washington Blade last week, and the announcement–perhaps inevitably–led to quite a bit of hand-wringing from those in the CCM community. (Although there could be even more to come, since Boltz implied there were bigger stars still closeted in the interview.) Anyone who spent time in a Baptist church (or probably any church of the evangelical sort) like I did heard Boltz’s biggest hit “Thank You” warbled out at more Sunday School events than they care to mention. So how will the Christian music audience deal with the song now?
While the song’s chart days are long, long behind it, I’m sure “Thank You” still has quite a life in the Christian version of karaoke, the instrumental accompaniment tape. Will Boltz’s revelations result in the song disappearing entirely? There isn’t much precedent to go on. Other Christian singers have struggled with adultery, disappearing from the public eye for a moment, only to return to some semblance of their former fame (Sandi Patti, Michael English). But those stars had the good sense to stick to fornication with the opposite sex. One has to imagine there’s not much coming back from coming out, at least in an industry that would rather pretend homosexuality just doesn’t exist.
Last month, the question of whether “someone can love the sinner, hate the sin” when the “sinner” wrote a famous song came up in the case of the most recent release from the musical arm of the Australian church Hillsong, This Is Our God. While the Hillsong brand can sell quite a few albums on its own, the song “Healer,” bolstered by a touching story about the songwriter’s battle with cancer, created quite a sensation inside the worship music industry.
As it turns out, the songwriter, Michael Guglielmucci, never had cancer to begin with, and had extended his charade to the point of bringing an oxygen tank to performances. When an Australian paper uncovered his fakery, Guglielmucci announced that the cancer story was a front for his long-standing struggle with pornography. The song itself wasn’t untrue, he said; everyone just thought it was about cancer (unfortunate, but acceptable) instead of porn (quite unacceptable). The album from which the track came holds on tightly to the No. 1 spot on Amazon’s praise and worship chart, although “Healer” has been removed from the church-distributed version of the album and will apparently be removed from future pressings.
Somehow I doubt Boltz’s catalog will hold up even that well. I think it’s fair to assume that in the arbitrary ranking of sins Christians often seem to refer to, porn addiction outranks homosexuality, especially if you tearfully repent for looking at the naked ladies in the first place.
Key changes [Washington Blade]
Disgraced pastor Michael Guglielmucci a ‘porn addict’ [AdelaideNow]