Ray Boltz, Popular Christian Music Artist, Comes Out

This recent article in The Washington Blade is causing a lot of anguish among my Christian friends. Christians coming out of the closet as gay really gets under the skin of many evangelicals (I had one Christian friend tell me that as bad as my atheism was, at least I wasn't gay), but Boltz's story is particularly difficult, because of his popularity as an artist, and character Boltz shows in making the decisions he's made, to finally be honest about himself and his life.

I was never much for Christian music. I spent most of fifth and sixth grade listening to Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, over and over, and I think that is a bit of inoculation for what has been contemporary Christian music in the last 30 years. But Ray Boltz is a familiar name, and several of his songs are instantly familiar to me. Recently, Ray has disclosed that he is a gay man, has divorced his wife, and moved to Florida to start on a new path, a fresh start. The article provides some interesting background on Boltz's thirty year struggle with his homosexuality, and how he managed to build a successful marriage to a woman he loved and raised his kids while dealing with the inner conflict of his disposition.

This is agonizing for many of the Christians I talked to. He's so well known, and not just famous (in evangelical circles), but his songs were "so true, so filled with the spirit, so heart felt" to quote a Christian friend's recent lament. After thirty years of being a Christian, and very visible, inspiring leader in the Christian community, how does a man so immersed in the Gospel, the culture of the Gospel, in an otherwise healthy and happy family situation just decide to go off the reservation? This is not a case, so far as we can tell, of a Christian coming forward and confessing his struggles with sin, his battle against temptation. Rather, he decided that being homosexual wasn't just something he did, which is the typical view in evangelicaldom (see the frequent comparisons evangelicals frequently supply to show they understand the homosexual struggle against temptation: the lure of gambling, alcohol, gossip, even sweets are commonly trotted out as badges of solidarity with those struggling with their homosexuality), but something he was.

As is evident in Boltz's current situation, post-coming-out, one can make large theological adjustments, gerrymandering around what seem to be strong prohibitions in the Bible and still live as a Christian, albeit a non-traditional one. But here I think we see the playing out of seismic pressures where Christianity and living experience grind together. It's difficult to read Paul in Romans 1 and miss the invective:
24Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. 26Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. 28Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. 29They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
This isn't hemming and hawing about the historical accuracies about genealogical timelines in the mists of Genesis. This is Paul laying it on heavy in moral and soteriological terms. On a face value reading of the text, Boltz has aligned himself with the absolute worst all creatures in God's eyes -- full of every kind of evil. I don't know how Boltz harmonizes passages like that with his current beliefs, or even if he tries. But this passage and others in the Bible do not seem to grant much leeway on this topic. I've heard the arguments for Paul being "read of context" here, with the suggestion profferred that Paul was only speaking about the homosexuality practiced in local pagan rituals of the time, and not of homosexuality in general. That's quite a stretch, and if that kind of adjustment holds, there's little in the Bible propositionally can survive the intent application of such "adjusting" hermeneutics.

Rationalizations borne of necessity aside, Boltz's revelation has been deeply discomforting for Christians I've talked to in the past few days. One of the realizations that is finally sinking in in evangelical circles is the waning of traditional hostility toward homosexuality of previous generations in the culture. Homosexuals are still widely detested and shamed, thanks in large part to evangelical Christians, but the stigma is not what it was, even recently, especially among young people. Ray Boltz just changing course and charting a new path toward life as an actively gay man just highlights how compelling the the homosexual as counterfactual to Paul and the Bible has become. I don't know Boltz personally, but I think one would be hard pressed to reconcile the stream of evils Paul tells us characterize those who "do what ought not be done". Of course the claim will be made that homosexual practices are themselves desperately wicked, but the Biblical view suggest something much stronger and pervasive obtains for the homosexual. Pretty much you turn into the worst kind of human being in every way, to hear Paul tell it.

“If you were to hold up the rule book and go, ‘Here are all the rules Christians must live by,’ did I follow every one of those rules all that time? Not at all, you know, because I kind of rejected a lot of things, but I’ve grown some even since then. I guess I felt that the church, that they had it wrong about how I felt with being gay all these years, so maybe they had it wrong about a lot of other things.”

- Ray Boltz

According to the article, Boltz has a friendly, supportive relationship with his ex-wife (they have since divorced) and his kids (who were grown and out of the house by the time this came about). Boltz has made enough money to provide for his family, and while there must have been a lot of pain and anguish in the way all this played out, Boltz and his family have emerged on as positive a note as one might hope. Carol Boltz now is active in a gay advocacy group called Soulforce.

Maybe the process Paul is describing in Romans 1 just hasn't played out yet, and it will take some time for Ray Boltz to embrace the various kinds of wickedness Paul enumerates for the unrepentant homosexual. But as Boltz proceeds with this new chapter in his life as a gay man, as his "Boltz-ness" remains, and the qualities and virtues he demonstrated in his life over the past 30 years continue, he's yet another point of dissonance for the Biblical Christian. This isn't how it's supposed to be, the gay man who's decent and kind, responsible, talented, giving. If Paul was the inspired "hand of God" they suppose he is, what do we do with Ray Boltz?