Three-time Dove Award winner Ray Boltz’ latest album, True, may not wow traditional fans of contemporary Christian music as did his previous 16 releases. But the record’s 12 songs, the first he has written since coming out to his family in 2004 and his fans in 2008, are certainly no less inspired than the celebrated hits that made him famous, including “Thank You” and “Watch the Lamb”. In fact, for gay Christians who have longed for songs that meld their love of the Gospel with a genuine love of self, this may be his most inspiring venture yet.
With True, Boltz remains grounded in his born-again roots with tracks like “Who Would Jesus Love”, while unabashedly embracing the new freedom of his self-acceptance in songs like “American Queen” and “I Will Choose to Love”. Add to these the gay anthems “Don’t Tell Me Who to Love”, which gay rights group Soulforce has used to promote marriage equality on YouTube, and “Free at Last”, which paints an optimistic future of universal acceptance, and we see Boltz is firmly establishing himself as an artist who defies genres, or perhaps defines a new one.
As a re-born gay Christian artist, Boltz hopes to garner thousands of new fans while retaining some of his longtime traditional devotees, the existence of whom threatens to be blotted out by countless internet-based hate-mongers now posting hurtful jibes at a figure they view as having fallen from grace. Since choosing to come out publicly [in the Washington Blade] in September 2008, Boltz says hate attacks have been relentless.
“I don’t read the hateful messages”, he said, referring to the thousands of negative comments being posted on blogs, on Christian websites and on YouTube. But he admits that personal attacks, including one he recently received via email telling him he should kill himself, are hurtful, despite the strength he continues to draw from his faith.
Settling into to his new life as a man-loving member of Fort Lauderdale’s gay island community of Wilton Manors, Boltz makes it clear that his coming out is not meant to serve as an argument to gain conservative Christian acceptance of LGBT lifestyles. “I don’t want to argue or change anybody’s mind,” he says. “I just want to tell people how I feel.”
With the album’s title track Boltz does just that, as he clarifies his expectations for those who will choose to listen to his new, self-actualized voice. “I’ll open up this heart / Filled with passion and pain / All I ask before we start / Is you do the same.”
Referring to the 18 years he spent performing for devout Christian audiences, Boltz says in True, “I have stood on stages / In concert halls / Looking out at the faces / I tried to please them all / But the longer I stood there / The more that I knew / Some people will love you / Some never do”.
Whether or not Boltz has set out to become a poster-boy for gay Christianity, his message is certain to provide a breath of fresh air for gay Christians, both closeted and out. At the same time, his style and subject matter reaches far beyond the gay Christian community. The song “Swimming Hole” cries out a mainstream message condemning gay-bashing and hatred by recounting the story of boy who was killed for being perceived as different.
Boltz makes no effort to justify any interpretation of the Bible or any view for or against homosexuality with this new album or with his choice to live as an out member of the gay community. But with the heartfelt “God Knows I Tried” he comes to terms with himself and his God in a way that anyone from any religion can understand and, perhaps, embrace.
In perhaps the most salient of the soul-felt lyrics contained in True, Boltz says, “I would rather have you hate me / Knowing who I really am / Than to try to make you love me / Being something that I can’t / And after all these years of living / I’ve begun to understand / I could try to be like someone else / But it won’t change who I am.”
Ray Boltz' music, including the album True, is available on iTunes.
Boltz' coming out story, in his own words
Boltz lends voice to marriage equality fight
LaZeric Freeman from Hammond on May 02, 2014:
I was never really into Boltz, but respected his music. A little closer to home is Tonex who now goes by the name of B-Slade.
Tonex was a mixture of Michael Jackson and Prince, but for the Christian music industry; singer, producer --- releasing lots of CDs through his record label and independently. Though he came out and is being treated in the same fashion of Mr. Boltz, his fanbase seems to actually grown.
Truth is, I'm not a supporter of homosexuality, but I'm not getting rid of his CDs either. Those songs are still valid and not any less truthful. Respect is the key. Respect and compassion.
Brian Schwarz (author) from Washington, DC on May 17, 2012:
Well, the comments of his old fans are mixed. If you look on the comments under the YouTube videos you'll find it sparked quite a debate. This guy was iconic and still is. People sing his stuff in churches year round, especially at the holidays. Some have refused to continue singing the songs, others continue.
Keith Abt from The Garden State on May 16, 2012:
Never heard of this guy but I salute his bravery in coming out. I wonder what fans of his "old" CCM work are saying about it.
Brian Schwarz (author) from Washington, DC on May 14, 2012:
It's true, but for some reason it still is. :-/ Thanks for reading and commenting!
David Sproull from Toronto on May 14, 2012:
I think people should marry or not marry whoever they want to.
It almost seems silly with all the troubles of the world that this is even a big issue...