politics · Religion · social justice

Why I Love This Queer Christian Artist

Who is Grace Baldridge? Can LGBT+ people be Christian? Does cognitive dissonance make Christians act the way they do?

When presented with a difference of opinion, there is a tendency in Christians to respond in one of two ways: 

  1. A dismissal of beliefs 
  2. Or a rejection of the entire person 

Either way, as cognitive dissonance kicks in, the brain is activated. Through years of church conditioning, Christians learn that they should feel threatened, afraid, and to walk away when presented with uncomfortable situations. 

This behavior is never explicitly taught or said through words, of course. It is exemplified by action. This causes a cycle of cognitive dissonance, further conditioning the congregation. They get used to feeling confused. This leads to a safety response from the body, where they think, “Discomfort means confusion, so I must leave.”

I have found myself slung back and forth between these two response methods as my old Christian community tries to decide what to do with me. They unfollow me even though previously they have been welcomed into my home. They unfriend or block me. And they certainly do not support my music career or read my blog.

In the ‘perfect’ American Christianity, discourse is labeled as impolite and treated almost as useless by your average church-goer. This pattern can be seen easily when we look at the fact that students are taught apologetics in Christian high schools (see: preparing high school students for secular college, or we might as well say: the secular world). This is a fear-filled mentality. Fear is the exact thing the Bible calls Christians to actively fight against a total of 97 times. There used to be a misconception that it was said 365 times, for each day of the year. Regardless, it is clearly mentioned more times than, for example, sexual immorality.

During my Junior year, my school claimed to dedicate our Christian Studies class—45 minutes, 4 days a week—to teach us about the world’s different religions. I was beyond excited because I wanted to deeply understand other people and their views. In reality, the class was a wolf in sheep’s clothing. We were only taught why these religions were wrong, how we were right, and how we should convince these people to think otherwise.  

I don’t have to look very far to find an example of the premise that people, especially women, who disagree are labeled as impolite. Other names for them are difficult, troublemaker, and cherry picker. Depending on how low a person’s morals are, the list goes on, with names such as communist, slut, Jezebel (a nicer, Christianese), and even demon or demon-possessed. 

Evangelical Christians disapprove of anyone who goes outside of what these Christians deem as safe questioning of the faith. What that safe questioning is will be discussed in another article, but for clarification purposes, my questioning doesn’t go into the ‘approved’ category. 

Progressive Christians, Christian LGBT+ community members, and anyone outside of the acceptable standard are labeled outsiders. The church fires, dismisses, and rejects them. They are treated in the most horrific and traumatic ways. Emotional abuse is rampant in churches that claim to be inclusive but are exclusive to an extreme in reality.

Grace Baldridge is a person I am currently fascinated by. She quickly became known in my deconverting community as the Christian Artist who surpassed Lauren Daigle, the top Christian artist of 2020, in the Christian Music Charts. Grace’s album, ‘Preacher’s Kid,’ became controversial pronto due to her genre choice, Christian Indie. 

You must be very confused. Why is this interesting to share in a blog post?

Semler—Grace’s artist name—is a Christian, queer, lesbian woman.

Grace and her wife, Elizabeth Capel in August 2018, in an Episcopalian marriage ceremony

She said, “[I uploaded it] as a Christian album because—while it may not play like a Hillsong worship album—that’s what it is… The Lord works in weird ways, my friend.” You can read and discover more about the beautiful person she is in this interview with her here.

Just to speedily get my fangirling out of the way, I am absolutely obsessed with her. My favorite song from ‘Preacher’s Kid’ is definitely Jesus in Texas.

Oh, what a terrible honor it’s been
To learn that my blessings are things you call sins
I’ll spend the rest of my life tearing down
The Jesus from Texas you put in a crown
But I won’t give up on you

Jesus From Texas – Semler

I adore everything she stands for. Her heart for others and for union and community. With her uncanny ability to listen to different people, even those who hate her for who she is, she still wants to have discourse. She learns more about God every day through other people. She fights for others to feel love and to be loved. She wants to turn the church inside out, so it’s about people and not about doctrine.

If this is Christianity, I want it.

On March 16th, I was binging God is Grey, as per usual, when I stumbled on a video with Brenda and Grace. I was extremely excited because 1) God is Grey is one of my favorite YouTubers, and 2) I hadn’t interacted with anything Grace did outside of her album at the time.

If you watch it, I am sure you’ll understand me when I say that this video is one of the most healing things I have ever watched. The atmosphere is welcoming and homey. I laughed, cried, and got inspired.

And since I got so fired up to make a difference, I decided to write about Grace Baldridge on a whim. 

Heavily religious people have criticized Grace her whole life. This completely shatters my heart. The LGBT+ community can look up to Grace. They can allow themselves to think that there is peace and love for them. They can feel included and a part of who God is. They can feel that they are the children of God: whole, accepted, deeply wanted, and recklessly loved. 

Many LGBT+ people leave the church because they are taught that God hates them and that their community hates their sin, which is their identity. They are left with no choice. 

Grace speaks of a Jesus that calls us to love everyone without redefining what love is. At 19:27 in the God is Grey video, Grace says to all Christians, “Include me! Talk to me! I’m a person. I am right here.” She points to her arm where it is tattooed, “Lean not on your own understanding,” and she continues with, “Talk to me. I want to engage with you.” 

This leads me back to the beginning of my article, where I described the two versions of rejection Christians choose from when confronted with a reality they don’t want to believe in. This behavior can be observed when we’re discussing topics like abortion, gun violence, and LGBT+ issues. In person, they don’t last very long. Online, it’s a whole nother story.

Listen. You have so much privilege by being able to simply dismiss these problems. The privilege you possess because your life stays unaffected whether gay conversion therapy is legal or illegal in your state (legal in 37) or country—should humble you and make you want to serve others. 

Grace interviews ex conversion seekers and leaders in this powerful video

Refinery 29 features Grace in the series ‘State of Grace’.

Here, she uses her journalism skills to investigate different issues concerning Christianity and the LGBT+ community. She even explores different views about pro-life vs. pro-choice, creationism vs. evolution, and many more. I was grounded by her kindness to seek and listen to others and her desire to make the world a better place.

Grace interviews trans individuals cast out from the church and visits LGBT+ affirming churches

This video especially shocked me. The injustice and pain made my body ache. No human should be treated with blatant disrespect and hatred. Where is the beauty of the human experience for LGBT+ people? The churches in this video that opened their arms and welcomed LGBT+ people gracefully remind me of integrated churches. While this may be a hot-button topic and comparison, I can’t help but think of all those extraordinary human beings that found a home in the church even though their skin was black.

That was revolutionary at the time.

Why aren’t we revolutional now?

I won’t get into the staggering research from theologians that prove that the church ought to love and accept LGBT+ people. I won’t get into the mistranslation of verses, nor the masculine and feminine arguments. That is for a different article.

Here, I want to affirm and sincerely thank Grace Baldridge for everything she does. She is aware that being a spokesperson for such a misunderstood group is a responsibility weighing on her shoulders and she doesn’t back down. Grace is everything I believe an artist, and especially a musician, should be. She has people she represents and fights for. She is a role model.

She brings hope.

I believe she is strong and courageous and is the queer woman for the job.

Exhilaration rushes through me as I anxiously wait for what she’ll do next.

Let’s be better people today than we were yesterday.

Legyünk jobb emberek ma, mint tegnap.

Seamos mejores personas hoy que ayer.

Citations

“No, The Bible Does NOT Say “Do Not Be Afraid” 365 Times”. The Meme Buster, 2015, https://thememebuster.wordpress.com/2015/01/25/no-the-bible-does-not-say-do-not-be-afraid-365-times/. Accessed 17 Mar 2021.

“Preparing High Shool Students For Secular College – Ratio Christi”. Ratio Christi, 2021, https://ratiochristi.org/ministries/high-school-apologetics/. Accessed 17 Mar 2021.

God is Grey. Youtube.Com, 2021, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1Xf6ScN9riYhTOUsvhkhaw. Accessed 17 Mar 2021.

Miller, Emily. “LGBTQ Singer-Songwriter ‘Gamestops’ Christian Music With No. 1 Christian Album On Itunes”. Religion News Service, 2021, https://religionnews.com/2021/02/10/semler-lgbtq-artist-gamestops-christian-music-with-no-1-christian-album-on-itunes/. Accessed 17 Mar 2021.

Refinery 29. Youtube.Com, 2021, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsZsDjpf2Ppv_cT2K6_q2cw. Accessed 17 Mar 2021.

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