“I do not, nor have I ever, said or believed that God hates homosexuals (or anyone else). I said that some of His followers believe that. … When I said, ‘Twitter that Michelle Shocked says, “God hates faggots,” ‘ I was predicting the absurd way my description of, my apology for, the intolerant would no doubt be misinterpreted. … And to those fans who are disappointed … I’m very sorry: I don’t always express myself as clearly as I should. … And my statement equating repeal of Prop. 8 with the coming of the End Times was neither literal nor ironic: It was a description of how some folks – not me – feel about gay marriage.”
– Michelle Shocked
I am not a fan of Michelle Shocked, but my husband has been for many years. I saw her perform a few years ago in Seattle to a small crowd at The Crocodile. It was an intimate show, and rather awkward for me, as a non-fan, as that I felt that I didn’t “get” her act. Another distracting factor was that she was prominently lit the whole time with a blue light, making her skin look blue-black, while the rest of those on stage were not similarly lit. I found this choice too obvious to be accidental, and wondered if it had any connection to her born-again association with a mostly black congregation.
That being said, when I saw that Michelle Shocked had launched into an anti-gay rant at her recent San Francisco gig, I thought to myself, “I never her liked her much anyway.” Long time fans, however, were deflated. The venues for her future tour dates started cancelling, fans were in an uproar calling for her head. I initially agreed with the reaction, believing anyone saying “God hates fags” is someone to be dismissed. Slowly, news came that she believed her remarks were misinterpreted.
I figured that it would be only a short time before audio/video of the event was put online, and I’m happy to see that it has. At around the 4:30 mark is where the offending statements begin, and I think that anyone who has been paying attention to this story should listen. Additionally, I believe that context is everything, and while I’m not a fan, am an atheist, and anti-evangelical, I think that she deserves to be listened in what I believe to be the most generous of contexts.
What her statements say to me is much of what her fans should know. She is a fundamentalist, evangelical Christian. Her congregation (and, with that, she says, she also) believes that the second coming of Jesus is nigh. This is an important place to pause, to consider that as a part of her Christianity, she believes that we are in a sinful world (very, very sinful, especially given the proximity to the End) and that homosexuality is a sin (which she is quoted as saying, “homosexuality is no more or less a sin than fornication.” This is where when she starts talking about Prop 8 passing, and priests having guns to their heads to marry gay people, etc. can sound, as she claims, as a statement meant “ironically.” I think she was speaking less ironically and more hyperbolically, but the underlying truth being that (in my words) the normalization of sinful behavior will beckon Jesus to come back, as they believe is promised. When Michelle Shocked says to tweet that she said, “God hates faggots,” the tone in her voice seems to be one of a person who has suddenly dissociated from herself, is hearing what she just said, and interpreting it for the audience. It is self-conscious, hyperbolic, and haha-only-serious.
There is so much gravity in each of the words she spoke, and the words themselves are tied to so many individuals pain. I think it was nearly impossible for anyone to hear what she said in any way other than how they heard it. The pain was too loaded in her fan base, and frankly, I think she didn’t understand how alienating it can be when you’re a fan of someone (for 20+ years), and despite their proclamations of fundamentalist Christianity, you felt that the artist you were seeing was still “one of us,” where “one of us” is a queer-loving liberal. The words “fundamentalist Christian” seem to immediately negate the words “queer-loving liberal,” and it’s hard for many people, myself included, to hold those two ideas in the same headspace.
Perhaps this is the same problem I’m having with her recent tweet of Truth vs. Reality:
Truth=patient kind loving faithful trusting
Reality=ugly spiteful hateful petty self-serving
Talk to me Twitter
The idea that Truth is opposite, or can be compared to Reality seems nonsensical. There have been many accusations since her performance at Yoshi’s that she is “off her meds” or should get back on them. I haven’t listened to the entirety of her second set, but I think that it’s important that people consider her as a human being who is obviously working through some shit. Even if she believes that fornicators and homosexuals are the same kind of sinners, and deserving of judgment, that means that she likely sees herself (and pretty much everyone anyone knows) as deserving of that judgment. Maybe that judgment comes with nothing but wrath. Maybe it comes with forgiveness and love.
At any rate, I think that there is much more to this than is being reported, or reacted to, and if you have any interest in the human condition, worth considering. I am still uncomfortable with her statements, due to the fact that they can be taken in such a painful way. I believe that the gravity of what she said should not be ignored, and that she should be considerate of how her words are interpreted (and the outcome of that interpretation.) As I stated, I’m an atheist, and no fan of fundamentalist Christianity, but we share this rock with all types, and it’s important to figure out how to communicate and work together, especially if those we disagree with don’t want to.