Mon | Jan 21, 2019

A message behind the music?

Published:Tuesday | February 10, 2015 | 12:00 AMDexter Wharton

On the heels of the recent Grammy Awards, a bias of mine surfaced from its subconscious dwelling. As persons of various sexual persuasions received accolades for achievement in music, I pondered even more on a conversation my wife and I had about attending an upcoming gospel concert.

It so happens that this upcoming occasion promises to feature several Grammy-winning artistes alongside a plethora of local songbirds. What grabbed my attention, though, and ashamedly so, was that at least one participant is believed to be of a sexual persuasion most religions frown upon.

I mean, I know of secular artistes performing gospel songs, but it isn't everyday I get to consider attending a show in which a secular, allegedly homosexual artiste performs gospel music.

The fact that I have to consider whether to attend, and not because of the price of the tickets, highlights my bias. The advertised artistes can sing, and are world-renowned. Yet I find myself pondering what would it say about me as an individual belonging to the Christian faith were I to attend. What message would I be disseminating to my young son who looks up to me for his moral guidance?

Upon further introspection, one cannot help but wonder what a person's lifestyle has to do with their ability to perform on the stage. Is there anything about gospel music that makes it so sacred and holy and untouchable that a homosexual cannot partake of it?

I know homosexuals can sing. Actually, Sir Elton John's music is among my favourite. I owned a George Michael collection growing up when CDs were the latest technology. But is one crossing the line when one delves into performing gospel music as a homosexual?


What's the difference?


The Church, no doubt, will have its opinion on the above-mentioned question. It is also quite likely that this opinion may differ in intrinsic ways among the many denominations that make up the Church. But is there really that much of a fundamental difference between standing at the pulpit as an alleged homosexual and sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, and standing on a stage as a supposed homosexual and crooning tunes that echo the story of the Christ?

We frown on paedophiles and other sex offenders. We frown on, and in some cases, reprimand men and women of the cloth who participate in behaviour not in keeping with the publicly accepted doctrine of the Church. Should we also frown on the would-be, thought-to-be or known-to-be homosexual who wants to sing gospel music?

What makes issues of morals and ethics so interesting is their ability to dig beneath our deepest consciousness and unsettle us. As so-called moral agents, we often believe we have the God-given right to dictate what is acceptable and what is not.

As a member of an interfaith body, I could not help but wonder how other religions would approach the dilemma before me. Would my Hindu friend attend a celebration knowing that a key participant in that celebration was not thought to be a heterosexual? Would my Muslim family doctor discourage his child from attending this concert, not because it is a gospel concert but because an alleged homosexual would be performing there? Should any of it matter in the long run?

At the cusp, we may find that in some way or another, we are all hypocrites. We all have biases and pretend too often not to. We all believe at times we wield the power to tilt the scales of Lady Justice based on our individual moral codes.

In the end, I am persuaded I am going to have a ticket before the concert starts and I am looking forward to enjoying every tune I am privileged to hear. At the heart of it, I am more interested in a message of love, tolerance and hope than the sexual orientation of the messenger.

n Dexter Wharton is a linguist, theologian and communications officer at the Global Interfaith Council. Email feedback to and