Newly declared lesbian country singer Chely Wright, so supportively interviewed by NBC a few weeks back, performed at Washington's Capital Pride Festival last weekend. In an interview in the D.C. gay magazine Metro Weekly, Wright claimed her sister's minister equated gays with murderers:
Here's one of the most disturbing things that happened. My sister and I are very, very close, and she lives in a town of 400. She said that her preacher came to her house last Friday and said, ''Jenny, I need to tell you that on Sunday I'm going to be preaching a sermon on homosexuality.'' She said, ''Really? Okay, well, don't look at me when you do it.''
When that preacher got up in front of the congregation -- which, by the way, my nieces and nephews were sitting in the pews -- he got a dry-erase board up and drew some graphs and stick figures and lines and arrows, and equated gays with murderers.
WRIGHT: That's what we're dealing with. Jen said it was all she could do to not break down and cry. Her 12-year-old son Max just kept looking up at her and saying, ''Momma?'' I can take people disparaging me and nasty phone calls coming into radio stations when I'm on the air, but to know that a preacher is up there telling my nieces and nephews that their Aunt Chely is the same as a murderer really, really upsets me. That's a problem for me.
MW: Does that affect how you feel about religion in general or your own personal religious beliefs?
WRIGHT: It doesn't impact my relationship with God in the least. It speaks volumes, however, about the work that needs to be done in churches in America. That's why I'm on the board of Faith in America, an organization that takes on and holds responsible churches who do damage to young minds by telling them that they're damaged goods. There's a lot of bigotry going on. I understand we want to tell young people: try not to be an alcoholic, try not be a drug abuser, try to be mindful of the ways in which you share your body with partners, try to be a wholesome person. But I do not like a church telling a young person [to] try not to be a gay person, because we're born that way. I was born this way, and I've yet to meet another gay person that says that they weren't.
I'm so fortunate that my relationship with God has never waned. In fact, I would have pulled the trigger, I would have killed myself had I not been delivered from that pain by the grace of God.
MW: You've talked and written about getting to the point of suicide, and obviously getting very close. Is your relationship with God the thing that kept you from taking that final step?
WRIGHT: It was wholeheartedly my relationship with God. It's been a powerful thing in my life since I was a little girl. But one of the things that is beautiful about being a follower of God is that sometimes it's active and compelling in your life when you don't even know it. I did have a loaded weapon in my mouth and I was ready to pull the trigger. No, I didn't hear a booming voice saying, ''Do not do this child of mine.'' I didn't see a guy in a robe. But I know that I was ready to end it -- I was a somewhat known country-music singer and also a lesbian and I didn't know how to make those very real parts of me intersect. I had no hope and I was ready to give up. And for whatever reason, I didn't pull the trigger.
I went upstairs and out of just sheer emotional exhaustion I fell asleep. I got up the next day and I was afraid to go downstairs where that gun was. I got on my knees in my bedroom and instead of praying to God to help me figure out a way to make this career work with my secret, my prayer was different. It was, ''Dear God, please grant me a moment's peace.'' And the minute I said, ''in your name I pray,'' I had it. It was as though someone poured a gallon of peace over me.
I realized, holy crap, that's what I've gotta do. I've gotta stop praying to do it my way. I've been trying it my way for 36 years. I felt as if God said, "Okay, now we're gonna do it my way, and my way is what I've been telling you for a long time: You're going to tell the truth." My life got downright magical from the minute I decided to just give in to my truth without knowing what might happen, without knowing that I may or may not have a career. When you have a gun in your mouth and you don't pull the trigger, the rest is extra.
MW: A lot of gays and lesbians who've had difficult experiences with churches and religion, like what your sister just went through, tend to shy away from religion. How have people reacted to you as an openly gay person with a really strong religious faith?
WRIGHT: One of my really good friends is a lesbian in Oklahoma City. She explained to me that she hated going to church -- she wished she could go but she knew the minute she walked in the door she was less than. She wasn't part of that club. And who wants to attend that club meeting? Nobody wants to go to that club meeting where you know that you really don't ever get to fit in. It's human nature to want to build a wall and throw a finger up at that. I get that.
I was lucky that I kind of believed there were two Gods: the one at church they were telling me to fear, that was going to burn me up in this fire; and then the one who gave me my music, that was always with me, not just on Sunday mornings. I was one of the fortunate few who never felt alone. But it's reasonable for young gays and lesbians, in my opinion, to develop an aversion to religion and church and fellowship. And that's why I'm so frustrated with churches who automatically exclude young gays and lesbians. And old ones for that matter. How dare they assume they own God?
Orthodox Christians don't "own God." They believe in what the Bible teaches. The obvious reply to Wright's Gay Pride God is "How dare they invent their own God?"