Despite a lot of uproar last week prior to the concert, Ray Boltz sang in Abilene, Texas, to a welcoming audience. What a relief that there were no signs or hecklers, because there were sure enough comments in the local newspaper. Thankfully there were old fans as well as new ones, and I have it on good authority that Ray had a good day.
(Reporter-News photo by Nellie Doneva)
Here is the new review:
Boltz mixes old faves with new songs
Nearly 200 turn out for Paramount concert
By Emily A. Peters firstname.lastname@example.org
Sunday, April 5, 2009
Ray Boltz sang some old Dove Award-winning favorites at a free concert Sunday while mixing in some soul-baring ballads from a forthcoming album that allude to his recent coming out as a Christian homosexual.
About 160 adults with about a dozen children came to Abilene's Paramount Theatre to hear Boltz, who said Abilene is the smallest city he's played since coming out in September.
"That's a little nerve wracking," he admitted before the show, but he said he understands why he might not draw the same crowd that has attended his multiple Abilene shows over his two-decade career as a nationally known Christian recording artist.
"When I came out, I knew the church wouldn't accept me being gay, and I couldn't expect all my old fans to just say everything is cool five minutes later," he said. "They've seen you one way for so long, so I respect the people (who didn't come), and I don't have any bad feelings toward them."
Monica Warn, a longtime member of the Exodus Metropolitan Community Church that sponsored the Boltz show, sang along with some of the old favorites at Sunday's concert, such as "I Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb" and "Thank You."
But she also found a spiritual thread in his newer songs, which Boltz says will be on an album he's finishing next week.
The new songs include lyrics such as "Don't tell me who to love. Don't tell me who to kiss." Another lighthearted retrospective song recalls how he felt freedom when he went to a seventh-grade dance and left the group of wallflower boys to join the girls on the dance floor, "kicking up my heels; finally letting go."
"His new songs are wonderful," Warn said. "You can still hear the voice of God in his new songs. They are about acceptance and finding out who you are, and that has a lot to do with God's love."
That's the message Boltz said he hopes to convey with his new album, which he will soon send to record companies to gauge interest.
"I'd say these songs are less religious, but there are still spiritual truths," Boltz says.
One new song expresses his struggle to keep his homosexuality a secret with the lyrics: "God knows I tried, God knows all the pain I kept inside. He's seen every tear I've cried." Another haunting ballad tells about a young boy who was always teased for being different and was eventually found dead at the bottom of the swimming hole.
But the old Gospel Music Award-winning favorites are what drew Dentler Stutts, a member of a local Baptist church who said Boltz's homosexuality had new effect on her desire to come and bring her 2-year-old granddaughter.
"His old songs were played at the funerals of my mother and nephew," she said. "He's got a God-given talent and an incredible voice. This place should have been packed today, being as Abilene is such a Christian town."
Some local Christian radio stations have removed Boltz from their playlists in the last year, and in recent weeks, representatives of some Abilene churches vocalized their disapproval of Boltz's homosexuality.
The concert venue drew no protesters Sunday.
"People of Abilene will tell you what they think, but when it comes to it, they are people of faith, so we really didn't have anything to fear," said the Rev. Margaret Walker, senior Pastor of Exodus Metropolitan Community Church.
Walker teared up and closed her eyes as Boltz sang her favorite, "Watch the Lamb."
Sam Robles, 29, came all the way from Midland with his girlfriend to hear the Ray Boltz songs of his childhood. He said this concert came at a good time in his spiritual life since he just recently started going to church again at God's Rainbow Promises Fellowship in Midland,
"This is what I pretty much grew up listening to," Robles said. "To see him here years and years later is a blessing. I shook his hand and took a picture with him."
Boltz said that his songs are still coming from the heart and that he'll release the album online if the record companies don't bite.
"I think I've always written songs that expressed what I was going through, and this is just current," he said. "This whole thing has affected me in that I have a lot of questions now. I don't claim to have all the answers, but I'm writing songs about where I am, and that's just being honest."
Several fundamentalists (from preachers to local radio hosts) spoke and had warned their listeners and congregations of the event, some of which I quote from the local paper (Abilene, Texas Reporter News).
and he had made statements that he said were simply to inform, but they no longer play Ray Boltz songs on their station.
- KGNZ's own station manager Gary Hill said [the listeners] "are struggling since Boltz revealed he was gay"
Chuck Farina, pastor of New Hope Church in Abilene, devoted part of a letter to his congregation about the upcoming concert.
"There are many who might excitedly attend the event without being aware of the changes in Ray's beliefs and practices," he said.
In the letter, Farina called Sunday's concert an attempt to "'bridge the gap'" between the straight and gay communities and to "promote the homosexual lifestyle here in Abilene."
It seems like they didn't want to appear homophobic, but they did sound that way to me.
Meanwhile, Kim McLaughlin, the local president of PFLAG (Parents/Families of Lesbians & Gays) had spoken to Farina - and called him on the letter he sent regarding the concert. She called it "hurtful and painful." Also, from the article, McLaughlin,
"she did not believe God would discriminate against anyone based on their sexual orientation.
"I was born straight, white and female, and there was never a time in my life that I thought I had a choice regarding my race, my gender or my sexual orientation," she said. "We've made a lot of progress based on not discriminating against people on their race or gender, but we still have a long way to go when it comes to sexual orientation."
I agree with McLaughlin.
Thankfully, the concert went off and there were no signs or loud protests. I'm thankful for that - because I think it would actually be a GOOD thing if the two "sides" came together!