History of Scandal in Christian Music

by VorJack

I had thought that Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) was a recent development – say, back in the early nineties or eighties. But that’s really just when I became aware of it. I’ve come to understand that it’s older than that, and it has a turbulent history in regards to matters of scandal and sexuality. A post at Unorthodoxology hits some of the high points:

I’d like to tell you a little story. It’s about a woman who wrote and performed innovative Christian music, becoming arguably the most popular female Christian artist of her time. So successful was she that her songs were even used in hymnals and songbooks across the world.

But a few years after her success, she came out as a lesbian and was buried under a heap of criticism.

Sounds a bit familiar, right?

But this isn’t the story of Jennifer Knapp, the popular Christian artist who came out this month as a lesbian. This is the story of Marsha Stevens, the woman who has been called the mother of Contemporary Christian Music. She began her career in the late 1960s and penned the popular song “For Those Tears I Died.” But her revelation of her sexuality in 1979 exiled her from mainstream Christian music.

Yes, the woman who birthed CCM was a lesbian.

Casting the net more broadly is Douglas Harrison at Religion Dispatches. He looks at Gospel musicians, including the legendary Sister Rosetta Tharp. Tharp’s electric guitar work in the 1940s sounds decades ahead of it’s time, but apparently rumors circulated about her relationship with a another female performer. There’s also the “King of Gospel” James Cleveland, Kirk Talley and others. According to Harrison:

Not for nothing has Bishop Yvette Flunder said that gospel music is gay music. But it’s not just gospel. From traditional black and Southern (or white) gospel, to praise and worship and inspirational, to Contemporary Christian music, you can’t swing a Dove Award (the Grammies of Christian entertainment) without hitting upon evidence of the longstanding, deep-set presence of queer experience in, and its influence on, Christian music culture at all levels: from performers on down the line to piano players, back-up singers and other supporting musicians, choir directors and song leaders, songwriters, producers, and managers, and of course, ordinary fans.

  • trj

    Still not worth listening to.

  • http://godlessmusings.wordpress.com/ Fiyenyaa

    I personally find it staggering that these people who are outed (or out themselves) and suffer a backlash from their conservative fanbase seem to continue being Christians. I’d have thought that the generally unpleasant experience would at least trigger some kind of questioning.

  • wazza

    I wonder what it is that causes so many of the “best” Christian musicians to be queer? It’d be an interesting study if anyone was willing to talk about such things in that community (Christians talking about queer identity, I mean, not the other way around)

    • Hellboy

      I’m surprised Steve Taylor hasn’t come out yet.

      • swmr1

        Seriously! I remember how “controversial” he was when he started. I still like a couple of his songs…

  • Hermetically Sealed

    King’s X got blasted twice– first, just for being on a “secular label” (Atlantic), and then when Doug Pinnick came out saying he was gay. But, last I heard, they still consider themselves a “Christian band.”

  • h.C.

    Don’t forget Sœur Sourire ( Jeanne Paule Marie (Jeannine) Deckers ), Belgian. She wrote the song Dominique (1963, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_CIWmO7W0gc) . After coming out as a lesbian she left the convent in 1967. The Belgian State harassed her from then on for taxes on royalties for this song (all the rights were for the convent – she didn’t get a dime from it). She didn’t have a nice character, but after years of problems, she committed suicide with her love Annie Pécher in 1985. They are buried together. See the movie “The singing Nun” with Debbie Reynolds. I still think (personal opinion – based on nothing) that the church murdered her by using the state taxation services to punish her for leaving the convent.

  • rufustfirefly

    I really liked King’s X. Still do basically. Also a band called The Choir. Too bad they’re “Christian”. And I remember all the sound alike bands, especially in the Christian hard rock and metal genre. And man I hated Stryper.

    • Hermetically Sealed

      Funny you should mention The Choir also. Both them and King’s X were exceptionally good for the “Christian rock” genre. Michael Knott was also (and often still is) doing some good music (including his rather shocking “Aunt Betty” album).

      IIRC, The Choir got screwed over by their Christian rock label and they were forced to break up for some sort of contractual reasons.

      • swmr1

        I swam on the same summer league team as Mike Knott as a kid (his sister was closer to my age). His first band, Lifesavers, was a favorite when I was a christian. I loved The Choir’s album, Circle Slide (I think that was what it was called).

        • Hermetically Sealed

          Yes, Circle Slide was their best.

          Knott did an album called “Spin Cycle” which is very low budget, sounds rather thrown together, almost desperate– which is what makes it so great. Its out of print, but if you can get your hands on it, do get it.

          • rufustfirefly

            Hermetically Sealed. I have a burned copy of Circle Slide, and a lot of their other stuff, given to me by a Christian friend. I like the Kissers and Killers CD as well. If I were a Christian, they’d be my favorite band.

  • khal82

    I always think of what Hank Hill of Fox’s King of the Hill said: “Christian rock doesn’t make Christianity any better, it just makes rock music worse.”

  • rufustfirefly

    That was a good episode of King of the Hill. Gene Simmons as the Christian rock kid’s dad.

    A Christian friend of mine told me that the Choir was putting new music out.

  • 3D

    Is this really a big shock that gospel music is gay? You have grown middle-aged men singing about loving and falling into the arms of Jesus.

  • rufustfirefly

    Yeah, Circle Slide.

  • http://CristianoGay.com Fred Conwell

    Marsha Stevens was a member and often-soloist at MCC-Los Angeles in the ’70s. It may have been there where she first performed “For those tears I died”. Surely countless people found Jesus through that hymn.

    When willl the world realize that Jesus taught us that ALL sin is lack of love (Matthew 22:36-40). Name a sin and you should be able to identify an unloved victim (self or another). What is sinful about a couple in a homosexual love relationships? Neither is victim, neither is unloved. Where is the hurt? Who is the victim being sinned against? Neither the Gospel writers nor the Prophets mention same-gender sex as a sin. “Homosexual” was coined about 1865, so any translation using a form of that word is a lie that needs to be emended. The word didn’t premier in an English Bible until 1946, so you must check earlier translations to learn what heterosexual sin is condemned. If God didn’t want men to have sex with other men, He would have said “Man shall not lie with man PERIOD. That “…as with a woman” suffix condemns straight men (such as prisoners) pretending to make it “as with a woman”. Gay men know nothing about sex with women. If you are concerned about Gay marriage violating the sanctity of the institution, insist on outlawing adultery, divorce and abortion. Marriage must be for love, not pregnancy.

    • 3D

      Fred Conwell May 2, 2010 at 10:13 am
      Neither the Gospel writers nor the Prophets mention same-gender sex as a sin. “Homosexual” was coined about 1865, so any translation using a form of that word is a lie that needs to be emended. The word didn’t premier in an English Bible until 1946, so you must check earlier translations to learn what heterosexual sin is condemned. If God didn’t want men to have sex with other men, He would have said “Man shall not lie with man PERIOD. That “…as with a woman” suffix condemns straight men (such as prisoners) pretending to make it “as with a woman”. Gay men know nothing about sex with women. If you are concerned about Gay marriage violating the sanctity of the institution, insist on outlawing adultery, divorce and abortion. Marriage must be for love, not pregnancy.

      I think you mean well, but that’s a pretty convoluted way to justify a pretty repulsive verse in the Bible.

      It means what it means: stone gays to death. Let’s not try to put a friendly face on it, and try to make abhorrent ancient beliefs try to jibe with 21st century standards. It’s a losing battle.

    • Siberia

      So bisexuals are screwed.

      Seriously, I know you mean well but it is kind of clear that it means sex with other men. It’s abhorrent, but it is what it is.

  • Pingback: The Emotron « The Weirdest Band in the World

  • Concerned

    You cannot use a few examples of unsaved people playing CCM to say that it is wrong. There are unsaved people in churches too practicing the same sins that these artists did. Are all churches bad too?

    • 3D

      Concerned May 12, 2010 at 11:07 pm
      You cannot use a few examples of unsaved people playing CCM to say that it is wrong. There are unsaved people in churches too practicing the same sins that these artists did. Are all churches bad too?

      Yes.

      This has been another edition of “Quick Answers to Simple Questions.”

      • wake up

        IT’S A BUSINESS – THEY WANT YOUR MONEY !!!!
        IT’S NOT A MINISTRY !!!!
        IF YOU LIKE IT THEN LISTEN BUT DON’T MAKE IT MORE THAN IT IS.

        • Custador

          Jesus tittyfucking Christ! Caps Lock is not cruise-control for cool. Cut that shit out.

  • Lynn

    Fred conwell, nothing you said was comprehended! You just took the Bible and twisted it and confused both sides. I’m sorry to call you out, but you seen overly frustrated ( or high) that your point was not beneficial to the topic

  • you forgot some

    sandy patty – divorced
    amy grant – divorced and unfaithful

    • more

      sandy patty was unfaithful as well


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X