Queer Christian cover band reclaims church space
by Caroline Love
It started as an idea on Twitter. Now, it has 1.6 million views on TikTok.
HERE’S THE PITCH: An all queer Relient K/Switchfoot cover band and we tour the country and put on shows for kids who were done wrong by their youth group.
— Grace Semler Baldridge (@GraceBaldridge) September 17, 2020
Grace Semler Baldridge proposed starting a Queer Christian cover band on Twitter in September. Today, her covers of contemporary Christian worship music have several duets on TikTok.
One song Baldridge covered is “Oceans,” a song by Hillsong, a Christian worship band at a church that has been criticized for its treatment of the LGBTQ+ community.
Baldridge said the Christian music industry isn’t affirming of the Queer community, but that doesn’t mean they can shut people like her and her wife, Lizzie, out of the church.
“They wrote these songs, but they can belong to anybody,” Baldridge said.
Baldridge, who grew up attending an Episcopal church in Belgium, posts weekly covers on TikTok of Christian songs that felt inaccessible. She said she felt affirmed growing up in her church in Belgium, where her father was the priest, but the unaffirming faith messages from the Christian community as a whole held her back in her faith.
Today, Baldridge said she is unshakeable in her sense of self and her faith in Christ. As an LGBTQ+ Christian, she said she had to do more work to find herself.
Baldridge is helping Queer Christians find themselves and reclaim the Christian space through her covers. Jamie Frazier, the pastor at Lighthouse Church in Chicago, said music is a powerful tool of liberation. He said reclaiming these songs is a good way for the Queer community to unlearn the religious discrimination they learned from music.
“We must be even more creative in the dismantling of discrimination as its architects were in establishing it,” Frazier said.
Sarah Lusche, a pastor at Hyde Park Union Church, said she also helps people in her congregation unlearn painful and inaccurate views of God. She said God celebrates all love and relationships.
Lusche said churches have to go beyond affirming the Queer community. She said churches need to understand the trauma and harm religion has caused the LGBTQ+ community.
“There is a lot of work to do,” Lusche said. “It’s not enough just to put a rainbow sticker on the bulletin board.”
Being Christian despite this harm takes resilience. Frazier said LGBTQ+ Christians are resilient because they’re able to cling to Jesus despite those who seek to separate the two.
Liz Pence, the social media and technology manager at Lusche’s church, said Queer Christians like herself are resilient in their absolute persistence to be seen by those who want to dehumanize them.
“You will not pretend like I don’t exist because I do exist,” Pence said. “If you believe in a God who sees me, you will see me, and you’re really going to see me.”
Pence said everyone, including LGBTQ+ people, is made in God’s vast and diverse image. She said the image of God encourages the world to love the Queer community, a place where God’s love is exemplified.
Queer people have always existed in the church, Pence said. Today, Baldridge said the Queer Christian community is stepping out and ready to be seen. She said people are coming out of the shadows and uniting on social media by sharing their stories and duets of her covers.
“You can’t ignore us anymore, and you can’t pretend that we weren’t raised with this,” Baldridge said. “We all ended up kind of like outcasts and rejects, and I prefer it that way. I like our side of things.”
Until the COVID-19 pandemic ends, Baldridge’s band will stay online. Baldridge said she wants to do a tour after the pandemic and perform in churches to reclaim the space for Queer Christians.
With all of her supporters on social media, Baldridge will have plenty of fans in the pews on tour.
Caroline Love is a graduate social justice investigative journalism student at Medill. You can follow her on Twitter at @carolinelove37