Ray Boltz is a gospel Christian songwriter and singer, who has been performing his original music around the nation as a full-time career since 1986. Boltz came out publicly about being gay in 2008. The nature of his music and his faith may have become more complex, but both are still major components of his life.
Saturday, he performs in Richmond for the first time at Metropolitan Community Church. He spoke with GayRVA.com about his music, his journey, and faith.
GayRVA: What are your thoughts on gay activism?
Boltz: When I think about that, the Loving v. Virginia case comes to mind. That was the case involving an interracial couple, when interracial marriage was still illegal in many states. After the case turned into an activist issue, Loving said: “We weren’t doing this to be activists. We were in love.” I agree with this sentiment – just to be an honest and authentic person, and to live your life the way you want to is most important.
I do think it’s great to be outspoken. You know, it doesn’t take long after coming out to be confronted by this society, which says you can’t get married, you can’t get joint tax returns….it just doesn’t take very long before you see how society treats gay people. But I think things are changing for the better. When I was a teen and had all these feelings to deal with, I didn’t know about being gay. I did not know one gay person, there were no gay idols on any scene, nothing. That has definitely changed, and I think that’s great.
How does your music reflect your beliefs?
I do stand up for social change where I can. The song “Don’t Tell Me Who to Love” is about the Loving v. Virginia case in comparison with my own life, and the song “Swimming Hole” is about hate crimes against gays. Right now, I am part of a group called “Soul Force” that aims to help LGBT kids trump the fundamentally anti-gay policies at Christian-affiliated schools….My ex-wife is actually one of the Board of Directors for this group. She is just fantastic.
Are you partial to a certain branch of faith?
Actually, there are a few independent churches that I hang out with. I’m not partial to any one of them, although I do consider the Methodist community to be more accepting of its LGBT members than many other churches are. I got involved with the community when a pastor in Washington, DC contacted me after he had listened to my Christmas CD. He asked about the song “God Knows I Tried,” and asked me to perform it for his congregation. I like the accepting and supportive attitude of the church; we both believe in applauding people for being who they are, not persecuting them for it.
I think more churches should take this attitude towards people, because really embracing differences in people keeps those differences from turning people into stereotypes. I wish more churches saw it that way instead of being vocal about their anti-gay sentiments, even from the pulpit. Telling teenagers that they have a “broken” sexuality because they are gay will not change the fact that they are. It’s not a choice, in my opinion. Changing these attitudes takes time, but I do think it’s beginning to happen.
What messages do you want to send to your fan base through your music, particularly those struggling to navigate tensions between the church and the LGBT communities?
You know, I spent 30 years trying to do everything they said I should do. I did counseling, praying, deliverance, thinking that I could “choose” not to be gay. None of it worked, and they’re not going to come out with anything new now, after 30 years, that I haven’t already tried. In the end, I can change my behaviors; but I can’t change who I am, no matter what. God knows I’ve given my all, and I think that the church communities are widening their perspectives as time goes on to accept the notion of this quote, that “Honest doubt leads to great faith.” Faith, after all, is not necessarily having the answers; it’s about questioning the answers you are given.
Ray Boltz performs tracks from his new CD, All the Best, on Saturday, April 9, 7 p.m. at the Metropolitan Community Church of Richmond, 2501 Park Avenue. For tickets and more information, click here.