One of the biggest struggles many gays, lesbians and bisexuals face is the reconciliation of their sexuality with their Christian faith. Can someone be gay and a Christian? Can a Christian be gay? Depending on who you ask, and what translation of the Bible you read, you might get a wide variety of answers.
No one knows the answer better than Shawn Thomas, a Boynton Beach gay man who grew up the son of a minister in conservative Indiana. Thomas wrestled with these questions and has turned to contemporary Christian music to share the message of love and inclusion that can be found in the church.
“One of the things I’m most grateful for is that my father is a graceful pastor,” Thomas explains. “I never heard condemnation from the pulpit, just God’s love and grace.”
As a teen in a small town, he didn’t really understand what being “gay” or “homosexual” really meant, he just knew he was attracted to men and that he didn’t fit the common stereotypes of the time of gay men as child molesters and social deviants.
“At the time, I wasn’t praying to God to change me or save me from going to Hell, but just for someone to be sent to me and explain [my feelings] to me,” he recalls.
Music was a natural outlet for the outgoing Thomas. His mother was a musician and he grew up singing, later starring in school productions. He completed a recording sciences and music industry degree at Middle Tennessee State University and immersed himself in secular projects.
He chuckles, “I was doing pop and rock music and didn’t really know what contemporary Christian music was. I thought it was just hymns and didn’t want to do it.”
Fortunately, Thomas did discover contemporary Christian music and was sharing his music with audiences around the country. Eight years ago, he was called to lead the music ministry at Metropolitan Community Church of the Palm Beaches part time, allowing him to continue traveling and performing.
On Friday, Aug. 5, he returns to MCC of the Palm Beaches in a special homecoming concert to celebrate the release of his latest CD, “Covered and Created.” The two-disc set includes a disc of covers of both secular and sacred artists, including Cher, Faith Hill and Richard Marx, and a disc of original Christian songs he wrote.
“I had always wanted to do a cover CD, but I wrote so many of my own songs, I never had a chance,” he explains. “I’m especially happy to be able to share songs by other artists that have some meaning to me. The songs all have spiritual themes and speak to me.”
Surprisingly, now that Thomas has reconciled his faith and found an active music ministry, he often faces the most hostility from other gays and lesbians.
“One of the obstacles I’ve come up against was criticism not from the straight community, but from the gay community. The would tell me you can’t be gay and say God loves you. It’s not true that there’s a place for faith in the gay community. I struggled with that as I tried to find my niche,” he says. “Being an openly gay Christian is kind of like coming out of the ‘second closet.’”
He adds, “Being gay is only a part of who God made me to be. My purpose is to glorify God and share the gospel of Christ. The rest is incidental to the cause….”