There’s no particular reason for me to be publishing this post today. But it’s been sitting in my “drafts” for a while, and I finally decided to let it loose. It’s a bit of doozy. Moderation may be a little tight on this one, but rest assured that your comments will be published as long as they are constructive. (Though they may not be approved right away since I’ll be at work all morning and half the afternoon.)
Today I’m going to be talking about a kind of person I can’t stand: “know-it-alls” who can’t keep their mouth shut. You know the type. They parade around, sounding smug, dropping hints and spreading rumors. In Southern Gospel, that usually takes the form of people implying that the genre is infested with immorality—specifically, homosexual immorality.
Now, I won’t deny the possibility that some rumors might be true, nor that we should be rightly angered/sorrowful if they were. But that’s not the point I want to make today. The point I want to make today is that these know-it-alls are doing far more harm than good. Here are just a few reasons why:
1. When vagueness abounds, innocent people get hurt. I can’t tell you how many readers have come to my site searching for info on whether or not this or that gospel singer is gay. Sadly, these sorts of views only increased after a certain anonymous artist started a blog (which is thankfully off-line now) and allowed the know-it-alls to drop their hints in the comments. I won’t tell you any of the names readers have typed in, but so far I haven’t seen any for which there’s a shred of public evidence that this particular rumor is true, and for some of them it’s perfectly obvious that it’s false. This is because the know-it-alls are always dancing around specificity in their comments, always saying this is a “huge problem” and there are “more than you know” while stopping just short of naming names. I’m not saying it would be a good thing for them to name names (to the contrary), I’m just saying this alternative isn’t any better, because it arouses curiosity and suspicion in readers who will then go off and engage in the sort of “I wonder if X is…” speculations which are generally reserved for celebrities/tabloid fodder. Do we want this? Do we need this? Answer: No.
2. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people jump to conclusions based on subjective criteria. “So-and-so is soooo gay.” How do you know? “I can just tell. Can’t you?” Actually no, not really. There are plenty of heterosexual men with effeminate features out there, and on the flip side there are plenty of “manly” homosexual/bisexual men (just look at Hollywood—Errol Flynn, Marlon Brando… who’da thought, but there it is). Now this past year I had a classmate who I could tell was obviously gay, but Sherlock Holmesian powers of deduction weren’t exactly required to draw that conclusion: He constantly wore effeminate clothing, used effeminate nail polish, had an ear piercing and wore a rainbow bracelet. But when you don’t have clues like that to go on, you’re guessing, plain and simple. You might guess right. But you might guess wrong too. Either way, it’s not a solid basis for spreading a rumor.
3. You will never see anyone even attempting to make a distinction between “gay” and “actively gay,” even though this is absolutely crucial in determining whether somebody is actually engaging in sin. Instead, the word “gay” is spread like a foggy blanket over everything.
4. This may be the worst effect of all. Imagine for a moment that there’s someone in southern gospel who does struggle with this temptation. But he’s genuinely trying to live biblically and abstain from sin (though the wisdom of traveling in a male group as so many SG singers do could be questioned in that situation, but we’re not going there at the moment). Now, suppose he reads people from the right speculating about him and making false accusations. Suppose further that at the same time, he has people from the left who are telling him things like, “We accept you for who you are,” and essentially encouraging him not to feel any inhibitions about giving in to his temptations. What do you think is going to happen? On the one hand, there are people who aren’t willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and are only making him more discouraged. On the other hand, there’s the allure of being accepted and welcomed by people who, in the name of not being “judgmental,” won’t give him the tough love he needs to continue battling his sin. This is a push-pull phenomenon, and it all points in the same direction. Suppose one day he just decides to give up? I can see it happening. And those know-it-alls would have contributed their share to his fall.
This is why “gay gossip” is poison, and why I’ve never allowed it on my site. I am not calling it out because I’m assuming that every rumor I hear is false. I am not calling it out because I’m in any way “soft” on the homosexual issue. I am calling it out because it’s wrong, and it hurts people. And “know-it-alls” who fancy themselves on the side of the conservatives had better wake up to the fact that even from a political perspective, this is not helping our cause. See point four.
If you are in the business, and you have first-hand, undeniable proof of some specific individual’s orientation, act according to your conscience. If you have only rumors, take them with a grain of salt and pray they are untrue. But whatever you do, don’t go announcing what you know, or think you know, on a public forum. You will harm the Southern Gospel community, you will harm the Church, you will harm the cause of Christ, and you will harm the cause of conservatism.