Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Gay Bars, Gay Bears and Christianity

Summer of 2009 has been quite a life changing experience traveling around the west coast states. I was hoping to make some contacts and find opportunities to further my music performing and art projects and work on some things for my documentary film. That really has not happened, however I have gotten to get closer to family and even some of my extended family.

One of the themes I keep seeing in my travels as I meet folks in the LGBT community are faith issues. It seems like for some crazy reason, gay issues have been really a hot topic in the church but it seems like church is a really hot topic in the gay community. Everyone has a story, and although most stories seem the same, I hear some unique situations in the lives of LGBT people that have really challenged my views.

Most of the people I have talked to on this trip are gay men, and mostly in the Portland, Oregon area. Portland is in the middle of rustic logger Oregon conservative culture with lots of religious influence. There is also this extreme polarity of this post “hippie” culture all over Oregon, mostly in the college towns and everywhere you look in many areas of the Portland metro area.

I grew up near North Portland on NE 31st near Killingsworth and close to the “hood” which was notorious for drive-by shootings, drug and gang violence. Fifteen years later I am shocked to find these hip-trendy-yuppie businesses all over my old neighborhood that I remember to be a commercial ghost town. Art and music on the street, bicycles ruling the traffic and everything “organic” has replaced the abandoned old boarded up storefronts on streets like Killingsworth and Alberta. Also, the gay community has really emerged from a few parts of town to several areas of Portland, with gay and gay-friendly establishments in parts of town I would have never expected.

With all this exploring, I still have not come up with an answer to how most gay men in this area view Christianity. I have gotten an earful (that’s for sure) of what I am calling my “crash course” in gay culture. I guess this the stuff I missed when I came out over three years ago. My “gay lifestyle” upon coming out consisted of moving into a suburban Kentucky ranch house with an older man with a big family who fed me constantly with “meat and potatoes” as well as feeling an isolation from the mainstream of gay culture. I am seeing that I really did not miss much! I would much rather be back in a private quiet family kind of life gaining another 50 pounds than cruising a downtown queer fashion show with a bunch of shallow queens telling me how to dress. Another contrast is this “bear” community that I have been so drawn to. By learning how not to dress, the bears counter the counter-culture of gay life to a new extreme, however I find so much of the empty sexually-driven naughty ways that I see in the gay mainstream.

So how does faith fit into all of this? Men love to talk about themselves and I am one of them. I find myself at gay and gay-friendly establishments hearing about people’s lives and most of the time sharing my life as well. Most gay bars/restaurants in Portland are unusually friendly to strangers, and I am defiantly strange. With my long hair and flannel shirt, I look like a hippie and one guy even said that I looked intimidating! But I still find that even though I have to assert myself, folks are pretty welcoming and willing to talk to me, even about God. The gay-bar experiences I have had in Middle-America were just plain pathetic with the exception of meeting a guy in a cowboy bar, but he turned out to be the creepy guy that I blocked online…

Before I mingled with LGBT folks, I came to a place in my isolated nice little Christian world that I felt like Church was everywhere, and everywhere there were hurting people and when people hurt they either go to church or mostly to some kind of escape (well then, some churches can be an emotional escape I suppose). The most common “church” that folks seem to go to in Western culture are bars because they are like community centers for just about every kind of community that adults can find. Because I don’t drink, cafes were always my “bar”, and they were great opportunities to talk to people about life and faith but with an intellectual thrust as opposed to bars which I find people letting their guard down quite a lot.

When I lived in Anchorage, I found that some of my church friends were reaching out to bars, clubs, taverns and pubs mostly through music. There were times, mostly in the 1990’s where I could find myself playing gospel songs and hymns in some really dumpy dives, including the Salty Dog in Homer, Alaska and in the bar on an Alaskan ferry boat on its way to Ketchikan. This would stir up some interesting demons, that’s for sure.

Now that I am more comfortably mingling with people in gay establishments, I find even more that gays love religion! I always thought this was sort-of true, but I see that religion is really gay (in my opinion) - just turn on Trinity Broadcasting and watch “Praise the Lord”, it is sooooooooo gay. Catholic stuff also is very gay in so many ways, its funny.

Another reason why I believe that lesbian and gay people are drawn to religion and spirituality is because of several similar themes that I find in the lives of LGBT folks. These traits include: creativity, intuition, awareness of self (feeling isolated and the search for the authentic because of gender-related rejection and even abuse…), and sensitivity to a deeper look into life. Most of us who are “enchanted” (I learned that one in California) are forced with facing self at some time in our life as opposed to many heterosexuals who can blend in with their surrounding culture and feel automatically accepted in it. Straight people in Ohio are some of the most non-interesting folks I have met around the globe, and living there made me realize that some people can go through life never having to discover or even challenge who they are.

We see that gay and lesbian people are “sensitive”, however sensitivity is not always a bad thing. A truly spiritual person has to be sensitive to the Spirit (sensitive to God) as well as sensitive to the needs of others.

Talking about Christianity in bars to strangers is really uncool, however I am surprised at how willing people are in gay bars. I also wonder if lesbian and gay folks realize more of their hunger and need for God than straight people? As I mentioned before, faith is a hot topic in the gay community as well, but if there is so much animosity, disappointment and outright disgust coming from LGBTs how come we are so open to matters regarding the church? Based on my experience, some of this may be because of my experiences with “ex-gay” programs and my desire to continue the social justice and advocacy work trying to raise awareness using creative efforts. I guess that looks really cool, and even a lot of straight folks are all ears when they find this piece of my life after probing a bit. “What on earth made you want to move to Kentucky?” people may ask, and not wanting to open up my straight-jail-can-of-worms, I feel like responding, “are you sure you want to know?”

I guess what I find with gay men in particular is a hardness of heart toward the church with some mixed sentiments added as well. It is the saddest when I find that so many gays still see the Bible as anti-gay. As educated and opinionated as so many are, I still wonder if most of these guys form their opinions of the Bible from the pulpits of the ignorant instead of being enlightened with the source itself. Since coming out I have tried to follow the Bible more in principal, not in practice. It is not a rule-book to me, it’s an oracle. It gives me wisdom and hope. I also have learned to see God as not the one ultimately to blame for everything negative that happens, but as the answer; to question self rather than question the Creator.

However, with those I come across as I plunge into what seems to be a deeper look into main stream gay culture (and mingling with “bears”), I am saddened by this sort of cynical-critic attitude that causes one to try to figure out things from afar and yet never seeming to dig deep enough into the subject of faith in a deep personal experience. As I have written earlier, guilt is one of the greatest hindrances to prayer for the gay and lesbian community. Some guilt needs to be forgiven and some guilt just needs to be educated (false guilt over sexual identity needs the light of truth to free someone); and not knowing the difference causes so much confusion and frustration that so many put up a mental block when if comes to their personal relationship with God through Christ. On the other hand, it is all so easy to discuss religion when it does not challenge the individual to face their self.

On a closing note, this faith “mental block” reminds me of the many dear people that I have visited on my journey so far, and how I am asked to fix computer problems. For some men and women, no matter how desperately I try to use non-technical terminology and make things simple, repeated, written whatever… Some still feel so overwhelmed by the whole experience that they can’t seem to grasp a single concept about computer maintenance. It could be mixed with all the baggage of past computer crashes, all the useless stuff they bought that was not the right hardware and software; and a deep inferiority complex toward younger generations when if comes to technology. It could be mixed with the pride they had ten even twenty years ago of how good they were at computers, and there is fear of loosing data, fear of loosing a sentimental PC that needs to be replaced and perhaps other psychological barriers. Fixing a PC is annoying enough, that’s why I bought a mac. But I find that I not only get involved with playing this computer “hero” which makes me feel so all-powerful, I have found that my greatest challenges with being a tech-support-vigilante is not the “blue screen of death”. It is breaking through all of the mental barriers that people have unconsciously erected and that takes a much bigger hero than I may ever be.

The good thing about these mental barriers and hardened hearts is that prayer is the answer to cure spiritually blinded eyes and open spiritually deafened ears. Learning how to strategically wage war against these little enemies of the truth is based on knowledge as well as your closeness to God. The bad news is that debating alone will produce little results and may even prove to be counter-productive. Right now in my life, my studies and the effectiveness of my spiritual influence (which I admit is lower that it has been) I am realizing now that I need to move from this sort of “collecting-a-big-gay-prayer-list” to moving into answered prayer. As we Christians know about the faith pioneers and saints that their actions were seeded by a burden. Luther seeing the brothels for clerics on his first trip to Rome was a seed that produced a holy restlessness. These burdens are from the Lord when you feel the guilt and pain of another as if you are Christ carrying their sins. But these spiritual emotions may be there for you to take them to the cross, to intercede in prayer, devotions, fasting… That is when the debate ends, the argument is cast down and the confusion ends: the one we have in our heart is knocked off the fence into either a Damascus road experience of submitting to the Light, or a bitter decision to truly turn away and consciously follow a path that leads away from God.

So anyway, as I finish this much larger article than I wanted to write, I am reminded how blessed I am in a nation where I can wear a cross to show my faith, and a rainbow to show my identity without having to be imprisoned, tortured or executed as a result. It is wonderful to know so many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people that so freely worship Christ. I am typing on my aunt’s laptop by their pool north of Seattle on a warm evening. Her partner and young daughter play in the family room after we had dinner together. My aunt, saying grace thanked God for my visit and things like that reminded me of how many LGBT Christian families are out there.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Summer Tour

I need your prayers and encouragement

I hope to do some touring this Summer, playing in clubs and churches. I have had thousands of hits on my music pages and have gotten some gigs as a result. In the late 90's and early 2000's I took some road trips staying with folks I knew through various contacts around the West and in Alaska. This time, I hope to focus on the West coast from Central CA to the Seattle area; then to make my way back to Ohio through northern states.


Even though I am now more aware of my mental health and have more treatment and coping skills, I still feel insecure about taking such a trip; things can be so tough for me because of this condition. I did recently get on disability, and am waiting for the rest of the paperwork and the medicare and income to take effect.

For those people of faith who believe in what I do, please pray for direction for me. My faith has been at some all time lows lately and I have been really discouraged about moving on with creative work and volunteering. I am getting over a painful breakup and I am also getting out of a stressful living situation.


My current art exhibit is soon to be over and my paintings, along with most of my stuff and studio equipment should be in storage in SE Ohio. I am over half way through my second full length pop/rock CD, and due to some setbacks and some really badly sounding drum tracks, I have put some of that stuff on hold. I still have almost half of my 2007 CD being played on the Bear Radio Network, but I stopped marketing those songs online, and downloads have been down lately. Finishing up another film/video class in June... I hope to get an HD camera to get some better footage for my documentary project on this trip as well.

I will be using my old Kentucky address for my trip and my cell number should stay the same. My target date to fly from Columbus, Ohio to Portland, Oregon is June 28th, 2009. I am hoping my disability back-pay will come in at a reasonable time as well as favor with venues and places to crash that don't irritate me too badly (those of you who tour know what I am talking about!) Many small churches and venues only plan out a few months in advance, so I hope I am not too late to get a some gigs.

Thank you all who take interest in my work,

Jason Ingram
Logan, OH

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Jason's Gay Pray Q and A

Jason's Gay Pray Q and A

Is there such thing as a "gay demon" like some claim?

Yes. But there are more straight demons then gay demons! Just as a lesbian or gay person can serve God, they have the same choices that straight people do to open themselves up to the demonic realm.

Even if there are demonic spirits that are familiar with LGBT people, that does not mean that demons are what make people gay.

I believe that the kingdom of darkness preys on the weak, and whenever there is an oppressed group of people there is hurt. Where there is hurt, there are opportunities for the demonic to use those hurts to hurt others and ultimately attempt to mess up God’s kingdom on earth.

Can you pray the gay away?

You can pray away lust for the same gender if that is taking you away from your relationship with Christ, but you cannot pray away something that is a part of you.

Can God make a gay person straight?

Yes, God can. The question is whether God is willing, not able.

Can LGBT people receive answered prayers the same way other people of faith can?

Absolutely. However, those of us who went through years of anti-gay beliefs need to deal with these issues because they can easily hinder our faith.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Thank You GayChristian.net

For the last two years since I started the Gay Prayer Resource, I admit my personal life of prayer suffered. Although I pray over all prayer requests, even sometimes the illegitimate ones (sometimes I get some joke prayer requests... GLBT Christians are a double whammy of what many like to make fun of) I have not "prayed through" like I envisioned. There are some that I have prayed for that I sense the Holy Spirit leading me to send a specific word of encouragement to and others its just nice to know someone cares. Most requests do get sent to a private forum on my favorite Christian community site, the Gay Christian Network. They have a message board called "Help, Prayers, & Support" and members all over the world log on regularly to see who they can pray for and encourage. There are some men and women that seem to respond to just about everyone's posts, and they even post religious pictures and quotes.

I thank God for this web community and I know that I would not have fulfilled what God called me to do in this prayer outreach if it were not for the prayers of these special LGBT intercessors. I also have asked my church, friends and others I know at times to pray for the needs of those who contact the Prayer Resource. So far, I have had responses from as far as the middle east to Japan. So far, this is the only web community and site that specifically deals with prayer in the greater lesbian and gay community.

If not for the Gay Prayer Resource, there are some that may not have found a way to get prayer from gay affirming Christians. Many are afraid to ask for prayer from those who take an anti gay position because they usually get responses that include extremest advice about their identity. If someone is willing to search long enough and wait to get accepted in private prayer forums like the one on the Gay Christian Network, I am sure they will find what they are looking for, like me when I was coming out of the closet in 2006.

Thanks also to all of my members, I know I should e-mail more announcements, but I know how folks get tired of e-newsletters all the time. Big thanks to GCN! You guys are such a blessing,