Michelle Shocked Does Not Hate Gay People, So Why Did She Say God Does? [Update: There Was Bad Information on the Internet! Surprise!]
Update, 3/22: You can listen to audio from Michelle Shocked's rant below. So we have a great deal of information now -- her initial lunatic outburst, her highly measured response and the reaction of the masses. Judge for yourself.
Update, 3/20: The Texas Observer has an open letter from Michelle Shocked to her fans. It's worth reading -- the crux lies right here: "If I could repeat the evening, I would make a clearer distinction between a set of beliefs I abhor, and my human sympathy for the folks who hold them."
Although her argument seems to still amount to, "I was saying what misunderstood people say," which isn't a very good one. But she does make some solid points about fairness, namely that many of the people decrying her remarks feel the same sinister discomfort around evangelicals as certain evangelicals feel around homosexuals. And she's right to describe herself as, "an artist in this time of unbearable culture wars."
Original post follows...
North Texas native Michelle Shocked earned the disdain of her crowd in San Francisco when she reportedly told them, ""You can go on Twitter and say, 'Michelle Shocked says God hates fags.'" They did, and now she's getting booted off various club's schedules around the country. OK, so an artist said a really stupid thing. Wouldn't be the first time. But this one is strange. Either we have the whole story and she should know way, way better, or we're missing some critical details. There's certainly cause for suspicion -- Shocked's only public address since the incident has been to Tweet "Truth is leading to a painful confrontation," which is useless vagary and to retweet the most inflammatory vitriol headed in her direction.
Shocked has a long history of proximity with the LGBT community -- she was for years famously assumed to be a lesbian. She never exactly shoved those rumors off with the fervor of a bigot. In fact, she often used the fact that it was a constant source of conversation to approach the issue in typically measured fashion. I don't know what she was thinking in San Francisco or what exactly happened (the Tweet feed is a notoriously ridiculous source of good information, and that's most of where it's coming from at this point). But I would be amazed to learn, even in spite of her Born Again conversion, that she has gone Full Westboro.
In a 2008 interview with DC9 at Night, writer Darryl Smyers broached the topics of religion and sexuality with Shocked. Their conversation follows -- I've moved the particularly relevant topics to the top, but be sure to read the whole thing for an in-retrospect hilarious moment where she, a Mormon by upbringing, says the sentence, "But thinking about Mormons, can you imagine how awful it would have been if Mitt Romney was the Republican nominee for president?"
Well, as it turns out, not so awful for a Lefty like you, Shocked. I digress, slightly: Regardless of circumstance or context, you can't get away with saying "God hates fags" and expect anything other than a well-deserved clobbering. Idiots say stupid things all the time -- my Twitter newsfeed is peppered with backward thinking and general insanity as I type. The reason this is so notable, and so jarring, is that Shocked is basically one of the good ones. I'm sure her philosophy is evolving and that she doesn't believe today everything that she believed in 2008. But you do not spend a career constantly speaking to the media about sexuality and suddenly totally lose all semblance of a grip on your ability to be decent when the subject arises publicly.
I'm glad Shocked is losing shows over these comments, and I'm glad the Internet is furious. But let's please take a second to consider the possibility that we don't know everything and give her a chance to engage us before we get completely cut and dry.
Here's that interview:
Recently, you talked about becoming a born again Christian and you stated that perhaps you simply attended church a few times too often. In the same way, could someone attend a Muslim mosque or a Buddhist temple and find truth there? Obviously millions and millions have found that truth. I'm aware of the Christian gospels being the one way, the true way. I don't know if those other religions make that same claim. I don't think Buddhist claim Buddha is the only way. Perhaps Muslims do, but I am way out of my depth here. I'm barely hanging on by my fingernails speaking as a Christian. I am not a model Christian by any sense of the word.
Who is? I believe that my pastor is. I believe it is so easy to learn and be taught by him. If you knew that there was a man of God on this earth, someone who really had the wisdom and the discernment and the knowledge and the control, would you not follow that person? I'm really persuaded that my pastor is the embodiment of that man of God.
Early on in your career, you were incorrectly assumed to be a lesbian. You once said that you were an honorary lesbian. Now that you've been married, divorced and found religion, why do you think many who claim to be Christians are so openly hateful toward homosexuals? In his time, Jesus was hanging out with the prostitutes, the tax collectors, the lepers, all the people that proper society had banished or had determined were underclass. Today, it is easy for me to imagine that Jesus would hang around those who have been scorned, abandoned and neglected. We live in a homophobic society. But homosexuals are a group of folks who Jesus would recognize. Jesus even says that he didn't come here to be righteous. He came here for those who needed salvation.
Being born into a Fundamental Mormon household, you must have an interesting perspective on the recent goings on in Eldorado. I remember being raised Mormon and people asking me about polygamy. The standard answer was that was a long time ago. We always knew that there was kind of this break-off group that still practiced polygamy somewhere. Polygamy has always been something that Mormons feel gets misrepresented in the media. I don't know why the authorities went in now. I mean, how long has that thing been there? It's not like that they just started. The timing of it confuses me. It's like sex scandals or cult news that always breaks in order to distract us from other news headlines. But thinking about Mormons, can you imagine how awful it would have been if Mitt Romney was the Republican nominee for president?
Throughout your career, similarly to Steve Earle, you've never hesitated to state your political opinions. How much do you think being so vocally leftist can damage an artist's career? I think it affects us enormously, but we rarely complain because when the tide is in our favor, it also affects us very favorably. Right now, to have any integrity, you have to make a stand and have a very unpopular opinion.
How do you think republicans have been so successful presenting themselves as the party of Christian values? Hypocrisy, an undaunting willingness to engage in hypocrisy. If you think about the things that are being done in the name of God, I sure wouldn't want to be Republican when I died! I think that it's an old, political formula. It's the same with nationalism, the ability to tickle people's notions of patriotism and the fatherland and the homeland. It's all a part of what Obama correctly calls the politics of fear.
Did you cringe when Bush said his favorite philosopher was Jesus Christ? I love me some Jesus Christ and I really have an antipathy for George Bush. Jesus did have a mighty philosophy, a revolutionary one, but I don't understand how Bush reconciles his politics with his theology.
Your latest effort was a live, gospel recording. Do you think gospel music could ever crossover and have popular success? Someone would have to dedicate an entire career to the gospel genre. I don't think there is a way to make a gospel record and make it appealing to people who listen to some of the best music on the planet already. For my particular audience, I think there is room for them to here what my spiritual growth consists of.
Is there a reason why you don't play Dallas very often? Is it because the Bush library is going to be built here? I have a lot of unresolved family dramas in Texas so it kind of became an easy place to avoid. I've resolved a few of the conflicts and I'm probably going to be involved in another one at this show. That's family, right? That's just how it is with family.
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