On public mourning when Evangelical culture kept you in the dark

[I don’t normally include content warnings on my posts, but I’m including one here because of my discussion about evangelical homophobia, including song lyrics that I don’t want to get stuck in anybody’s head without giving advance warning]

My Twitter feed is full of remembrances from queer people tweeting about how much George Michael meant to them as kids, watching his videos and recognizing something of themselves in him. They all have these memories of his music as the soundtrack of their youth, while meanwhile the soundtrack of my teen years was Steve Taylor singing about how much God hates me.

Lest you think I’m exaggerating, here’s a video of Steve Taylor performing “Whatever Happened to Sin” back in 1984, complete with exaggerated limp wrist and hip flounce, while mocking the idea that gay people are accepted by God.

The song is included on his “Now the Truth Can Be Told” best of album that I listened to constantly during my teen years. I can still quote the lines from memory:

“I heard the reverend say / gay is probably normal in the good Lord’s sight. / What’s to be debated / Jesus never stated what’s right. / I’m no theology nut / but, the reverend may be a little confused. / Now if the Lord don’t care and he chooses to ignore ya / tell it to the people of Sodom and Gomorrah.”

I don’t have any heartwarming stories about being a young queer kid listening to pop music, identifying parts of myself in the artists I’m listening to, and feeling less alone. My stories are about being a cynical teenager who saw the massive hypocrisy in the Evangelical world and clung to the one Christian artist who was talking about how messed up all the scandals, con artists, and hypocrisy in evangelicalism were, only to have it turn out the lifeline I was reaching for was a rope embedded with shards of glass.

I didn’t have anyone I could identify with, good evangelical youth didn’t listen to secular music, after all.

Sorry if I sound a little bitter, it’s just that musician deaths always remind me about what little in-denial queer evangelical me was listening to. It’s beyond messed up that the soundtrack of my youth includes a song with lyrics that would be at home on a Westboro Baptist protest sign.

This isn’t a homeschooling thing, it’s an evangelical thing. I’m not talking about the deeply fundamentalist churches that force women into long dresses, no, this is what mainstream evangelicalism did.

That’s what happens to evangelical kids. We’re deliberately cut off from pop culture by our churches and our Sunday School teachers, with an entire evangelical subculture intentionally devoted to the mission of keeping good church kids in a bubble away from the rest of the world. They created an entire parallel culture of books, music, some attempts at TV programming and movies, all to keep evangelicals separate from The World.

Contemporary Christian music (CCM) exists to keep church kids from listening to secular music. Evangelicalism intentionally stole our own culture from us to keep us in their bubble.

We’re introduced to replacement music that teaches us to hate ourselves because God hates us.

I push those memories down until something like George Michael’s death reminds me of the hate we were fed in contemporary Christian music. The only time people like me were in my Christian music, it was telling me that God should do to me what he did to Sodom and Gomorrah.

When the rest of the culture engages in these displays of public mourning for departed pop stars, I feel like I’m left here mourning the childhood evangelicalism stole from me.

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