On Wednesday, the singer made a statement (e-mailed to news outlets, and me in response to my inquiry): “I do not, nor have I ever, said or believed that God hates homosexuals (or anyone else). I said that some of His followers believe that. … When I said, ‘Twitter that Michelle Shocked says, “God hates faggots,” ‘ I was predicting the absurd way my description of, my apology for, the intolerant would no doubt be misinterpreted. … And to those fans who are disappointed … I’m very sorry: I don’t always express myself as clearly as I should. … And my statement equating repeal of Prop. 8 with the coming of the End Times was neither literal nor ironic: It was a description of how some folks – not me – feel about gay marriage.”
Shocked said her own sexuality isn’t an issue here. “I’d like to say this was a publicity stunt, but I’m really not that clever, and I’m definitely not that cynical. But I am damn sorry. 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.”
Well, I sure would love to see a YouTube video of that concert. I wasn’t there so it’s hard to say how her comments were construed, but the fact that people left in droves and the club staff had to literally pull the plug and turn off the lights lets me think she was pretty damn clear at the time.
For you folks who say you haven’t heard of her, she was big back in the 90s when the whole singer-songwriter thing exploded. You might have heard this song.
When your church makes you say stupid shit that alienates a huge chunk of your core fans, maybe you’re in the wrong church.
Seriously, WTF Michelle Shocked? While I can’t say I was ever a huge fan — somewhere I’ve got a box with the CD containing “Anchored Down In Anchorage” on it, and that’s about it — for some reason I’d always believed Michelle Shocked was a lesbian. I lumped her in with the rest of the late-90s Lilith Fair era of women’s music — you know, Indigo Girls and all that. I guess I haven’t kept up because according to the New York Times, somewhere along the way Shocked became a born-again Christian of the holy roller, Pentecostal persuasion.
There are two kinds of churches in the world: the kind peddling love and hope, and the kind peddling hate and fear. I’ve always been fiercely allergic to the latter kind. I really don’t understand why someone would attend a church that makes a person feel bad about who they are, who their friends are, fills them with fear, and alienates them from those who support their creative endeavors. I also don’t understand people who pay more attention to a handful of passages from the Old Testament while ignoring 99.9% of the New Testament:
Michelle Shocked cited Old Testament verses condemning homosexuality and told the audience she hoped the courts would uphold Proposition 8, which bans gay marriage, according to Yahoo Music. “I live in fear that the world will be destroyed if gays are allowed to marry,” she said. Then she also told the audience to go on Twitter and report that she had said God hates homosexuals, though it is unclear whether that remark was sardonic.
Much of the audience walked out after her remarks. The club’s manager tried to end the show, but she continued playing until staff members pulled the plug and turned off the stage lights.
The thing is, gays are already allowed to marry in about a dozen countries around the world, and in portions of half a dozen others. Yet we’ve continued to dodge asteroids, while Harold Camping’s end-times predictions have been one huge failure after another. Meanwhile, we continue on in our foolish, carbon-chugging, earth-polluting ways. It seems pretty obvious that if the earth is destroyed, it won’t be the fault of gays.
I do think the Bible is full of lots of eternal truths, one of them being, “Ye shall know them by their fruits.” Right now, Shocked is sowing a very bitter harvest. There’s anger and cancelled gigs and people walking out of shows because she’s repeating what her church told her. The good news is, there are plenty of churches out there of the “love and hope” persuasion, that don’t make you feel bad for who you are or who your friends are or the things you’ve done or believed.
There will inevitably be those tempted to compare this incident to the Dixie Chicks’ infamous public flogging after Natalie Maines said she was against the Iraq War and ashamed President Bush was from Texas. There are similarities, but they’re thin. For one thing, the Dixie Chicks were at the peak of a red-hot career — they had the number one single on the charts, fer crissakes — when they were attacked by their own very clubby industry. The Dixie Chicks’ words were greeted with cheers at the time; only later was a controversy manufactured by the suits on Music Row and at corporate radio.
Someday we’ll find out the full story behind what was an organized, industry-directed campaign ginning up outrage for fun and profit. Few people remember this today, but at the time the ‘Chicks had just emerged victorious in a major, very public battle with their powerful record company, Sony. From the memory hole:
The war with Sony started in 2001, after the group’s first two albums, Wide Open Spaces and Fly, sold more than 10 million copies apiece. In an interview with Dan Rather that aired on CBS, the Chicks announced that by their math, Sony had made $200 million off them but that individually they had yet to gross seven figures. Then, in a move that sent shock waves through Nashville (admittedly it’s a town that’s easily shocked), the Chicks served Sony with papers claiming that because of the company’s alleged accounting misdeeds, they were declaring themselves free agents. “We all know there are some major problems in the music industry,” says Maguire. “Every new act signs a bad deal. But we never dreamed that the s_____ deal we signed wouldn’t even be honored.”
Sony sued the group for breach of contract; the Chicks countersued, alleging “systematic thievery.” As the charges escalated, the Chicks found themselves Nashville pariahs. For country acts, the relationship between label and band has historically been in loco parentis; bands presumed the label always knew best. “Everyone in the country industry kept telling us, ‘Keep your mouths shut. Why don’t you appreciate what you have?’” says Maguire.
That’s the context that’s always ignored when people talk about how the Nashville music industry turned on its own stars. Despite all of this, they still had a Number One radio single and a Number One album. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the whole Iraq War fauxtroversy popped up on their first post-Sony endeavor. It was a way of teaching the Chicks a lesson by a hubris-filled entertainment industry. That this lesson veered way out of control and ended up ultimately hurting the industry itself is just par for the course.
All of this is water under the bridge, and it’s a little off topic, but I figured some wingnut is going to go all “liberals-are-hypocrites” on this story, so I thought I’d get ahead of the game.
Anyway, Michelle Shocked is entitled to her opinion, as misguided as it may be, but her fans don’t have to subject themselves to it. And I don’t see any coordinated, industry-generated campaign to ruin her career as happened with the Dixie Chicks. I see an artist engaging in some very public self-sabotage for reasons I can’t begin to fathom but are probably rooted in the very toxic, negative messaging she’s been getting every Sunday.