The intimate performance at First MCC will feature both Boltz and Southworth sharing their journeys as Christians and as gay men.
“While Azariah speaks to his story, and Ray shares his story through his music,” they explain.
Boltz will also perform at the Oct. 10 Pride Sunday service at First MCC, which takes place early at 10 a.m. to allow attendees to go to the parade and features a rainbow balloon release.
The GA Voice spoke with Boltz about faith, coming out, and his plans to help fight religious intolerance.
GA Voice: What have you been up to?
Boltz: I’ve been sleeping (Laughs). I’ve been touring and playing which is something that I never thought I’d do again when I came out. I thought it would be the end of my career. Now, I look back over the last 18 months and I’ve finished a record that has taken me all over the United States.
You’ve been out to fans for about 2 years now. How has it been for you? Do your fans still show up to support you?
Not many. Some will still come. Christian radio won’t play my songs. I knew that was going to happen and I don’t hold that against them. That’s just what they believe they have to do.
You knew what you were about to do and how it would affect your life. Was it that you just needed to be yourself that you don’t care anymore what will happen?
That’s exactly right! I’d come to the place where I was already out to my family and they had accepted me. I just felt it was the right thing to do.
Do you have a church home right now?
I don’t. I haven’t picked a church home. I’m not really sure I’ve found one where I feel like that’s where I’m supposed to be every Sunday.
When I came out and was publicly dis-fellowshipped from my church, I just haven’t felt particularly drawn to any church since then. Is that where you are?
This is very prevalent in the gay community. We are people who have been hurt by religion and religious people. When you start talking about Christianity, it doesn’t bring up a lot of good feelings for people in the gay community.
I sing a song called “The Altar,” which is really a tender little song about coming to the altar and laying your burdens down. I can’t sing the same words that I used to sing to it because how many people were like me who went to the altar hundreds of times to lay the burden down of being gay with the promise that if I did that, I would be a new creation, and it didn’t work. I can’t get up and sing the same lyrics that I used to sing.
I came across a scripture in Micah that just basically said that true religion that is pleasing to God is to visit widows and orphans in their time of affliction. It’s less about organized religion and more about just showing love. Is that how you see it?
I am so right there with you! I went to a hyper-faith church when I first became a Christian. They taught you to pray that God would heal whatever was wrong with you by faith. If you had a broken arm, you prayed for Jesus to heal your arm and begin to live your life like your arm was healed. You didn’t go to the doctor or have it set. You were just to believe you were healed.
You were to deny the physical reality of it being broken and just believe that it is no longer broken. I knew a young diabetic who threw away his insulin and slipped into a diabetic coma. Things that could be treated medically led to their deaths because they wouldn’t go to the doctor.
People used to stand up in church every Sunday and say what they were healed of, like some problem with their eyes or from cancer. I’ve often thought that if someone had stood up in that church service and said, “I prayed and I’m still sick. God didn’t heal me,” they would’ve been escorted from the building and it would’ve made everyone think that they just didn’t have any faith.
If some of those people would’ve been honest, maybe others wouldn’t have thrown away their medicine or reconsidered that it doesn’t work the way that these people say it does. That’s what I feel that I’ve done by coming out. I’ve stood up in front of the church and said, “I did everything you told me to do. I prayed. I read every book. I went to Christian counseling. I fasted.”
After years of working on overcoming it, I had to admit the truth: I’m gay. There’s no pretending. There’s no getting around it. I told the truth and it was the same response as if someone had stood up and said, “I’m not healed.” People are so shaken when someone says it doesn’t work.
Maybe you’re not singing the same things that you once sang when you were in the Christian music industry, but you’re singing from a more honest place about your faith. I would think that God would appreciate your honesty.
I think it’s more spiritual than pretending. I am doing this show with Azariah Southworth and it’s been so cool. He was 22 and at the top of his career where things were exploding for him. He had a TV show and everything was really going amazing for him. He is a perfect example of what it means to pay the price to stand up and be who you are.
We were in Long Beach, Calif. and we did an inter-faith service that the (Fred) Phelps family were there protesting the gays. Azariah took bottles of water over to them and they wouldn’t drink his water.
Aside from this show in Atlanta, what’s coming up for you?
This hasn’t even been released to the press so you’re the first to find out. I’ve just signed on to be the spokesperson for Soulforce. They’re a group that takes bus loads of college-aged kids to these fundamentalist Christian universities. They go to places like Bob Jones and Brigham Young. The colleges that have policies that say you can’t be a student and be gay or you’ll be expelled.
They tell these schools that whether they will acknowledge it or not, they do have GLBT students and should be addressing their needs. They’re often met with threats of violence or being arrested.
I am joining Soulforce to fight this religious intolerance. I’ll be representing them and doing some concerts for them and I’m really excited to be doing this. I never expected any of this to happen. When I came out, I thought I’d move down to Florida and be a greeter at Wal-Mart. But as long as the doors keep opening for me, I’ll keep walking through them.
Top photo: Ray Boltz shocked the Christian music industry and lost most of his original fans when he came out in 2008. (by Howard Zucker)