With the abolition of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and the recent reversal of Proposition 8, small steps have been taken to ratify equality for the greater human community. Even in the midst of all the positive changes that are progressing in our culture today in regards to equality for the LGBTQ community, there is a worldwide, multi-billion-dollar industry fervently holding on to their closet keys - hoping no one will escape from their industry's closet.
The world of Christian Television has done its due diligence in slandering the name of the LGBTQ community with their proclamations of abomination and the promise of a blistering hot hell awaiting their wicked souls, "where even the worm dieth not." However, there is a dirty little secret that many Christian Television networks don't want the general public to know. The secret: they employ homosexuals. With their own version of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," Christian Television networks across the board have been in bed with the LGBTQ community since the beginning of their first broadcast.
However, there is one brave soul in the Christian television industry that is putting his career and livelihood on the line. He is tired of people not asking, he is tired of not telling the truth: he is gay and he loves Jesus. Award winning producer, journalist, author, and former senior producer at multiple Christian television networks including The 700 Club, James Alexander Langteaux has decided enough is enough and he is finally going public about his attraction to God and men with his new book "Gay Conversations with God - Straight Talk on Fanatics, Fags and the God who Loves Us All" - due to be released April 1st. That's right, you read that correctly. April Fools Day is the release date of James' latest opus and this is no joking matter. "Gay Conversations with God" has been eight long years in the making as James struggled with how "open" he truly wanted to be in his tell-all memoir of God's inclusive love for him and the rest of creation.
James, how long have you been in the world of Christian Television?
Way too long. The irony is I told God when I was 17 that I didn't ever want to work in Christian television - or anything Christian for that matter. And that is pretty much all I have done for almost 20 years. I think it was Anne Lamott who repeated the old joke - "If you want to make God laugh, tell her your plans."
James can you please tell us a little bit about you religious upbringing?
It's funny but my earliest memories involve waking up under pinball machines and barstools in restaurants and pubs. Then at about age 7 my parents were swept up in the Jesus People movement and my life took a massive hard right. Suddenly it was all Pentecostal prayer meetings, late night alter calls and fire and brimstone preaching, rules and regulations that would make Bob Jones' students cringe - and enough vitriolic sermons that pounded the point home that God Hates Homosexuals. They are going to hell. End of story. The only problem was I was gay and yet I could feel God's tangible love for me. Now what do I do with that?
Your original title of your book was not Gay Conversations with God. What was your original title of your book and why did you change it?
I remember when I felt a new book stirring (this was after writing two Christian books for one of the more conservative Christian publishers) I sat at my computer in the underground speakeasy we created in Los Angeles and suddenly there was an explosion. The words just came pouring out and they were so incendiary and unexpected that I began to shake, wondering if I may be channeling Jesus, Truman Capote and Dr. Seuss simultaneously. This was to be the book's Foreskin (a little more than Foreword) and the title "God Hates Fags - and other bedtime bible stories" followed quickly on its heels and it seemed a perfect compliment. I loved the shock value of that title. In fact, over the 8 years that it took for me to finally get this book into print I became very attached to the title. But just before we went to press there was an all out title fight with the distributor who insisted that we had to change the name. They said it was going to potentially turn off buyers and bookstore owners who didn't take the time to get the joke. Since the whole point was to get this message out to as many as possible, I finally, begrudgingly relented. (sigh) I still love the old title.
You mentioned earlier that you told God that you never wanted to be in Christian Television - so how did you end up being a senior producer for The 700 Club?
Yeah, God really does have a sense of humor. I also told him I would never go to a Christian school. So while at graduate school at Pat Robertson's Regent University, one of the executive producers of The 700 Club taught a small class I ended up taking. He knew I lived in the artsy neighborhood (read: gay neighborhood) and he would occasionally joke and ask, "Did your boyfriend bring you into class today?" Despite that I was buried deeply in the closet, I would do a faux lisp and tell him, "Yeah, Shane is so good that way."
All the other students were vying for positions on the show, and since I didn't want any part of Christian TV, my surliness may have made me stand out. Months later, I was working on the crew of an NBC mini-series on Jackie O and had determined to drop out of grad school and join the TV circus in L.A. I even dared God to stop me if he didn't want me to go by presenting me with an alternative offer. The very next day the executive producer called and asked if I would be interested in a job on The 700 Club.
In your book Gay Conversations with God you tell of a story of a young man who worked with you at The 700 Club that confessed to you that he was gay; how did that confession shape your faith journey?
Well, ironically I was working late in my office, writing copy and questions for some ex-gay guests who would be on our new Sunday show to share how Jesus had set them free from homosexuality. I was already late for dinner with my boyfriend when there was a knock at my door. It was a man from security and I was sure that somehow they had found me out. I was going to be escorted out of the building for being gay.
But the truth was this security man was actually a boy riddled with insecurity and he admitted that although he was married, he was secretly gay. He told me how he felt the need to share this with his wife in an effort to be transparent and honest and to free him from the fear and shame. He was shaking as he told me his story and all I could think was, "nobody here knows I am gay, why the hell are you telling me?" I carefully told him that he was not alone and God was madly in love with him, no matter what and nothing would ever separate him from God's love.
I think I may have been rather convincing - but I myself was not convinced. I found out later that his wife, who was also on staff, alerted the higher ups and this man was given the boot. I knew then that I had to stay deeply hidden in the closet so the same thing would not happen to me.
Did anyone else know that you were gay at the 700 Club besides this young man that confided in you?
Actually, that same executive, the one who made gay jokes and seemed to be the least safe person next to maybe Pat, one day took me to lunch and pretty much awkwardly opened up the subject - giving me a giant welcome mat to share my story. It was one of the most uncomfortable lunches I had to date and I was squirming and sweating until he let me know I was completely safe. That was a God moment - because the love and compassion coming from an unlikely source allowed a deep friendship to open up and this man has been a best friend and mentor ever since. That said, he made it clear that I needed to pray and fast and pray fast in hopes that I could also be one of those ex-gays - the very ones who often slyly hit on me with a casual dinner invitation after their appearance on the show.
Did you ever feel like you were living a lie?
I was SO far in denial that I convinced myself that I wasn't gay. I just had this inconvenient attraction to men - exclusively. But I sure the hell wasn't gay!
Yes. I was living a lie, for a very long time.
How do you think your former colleagues and boss, Pat Robertson, will react when they find out his former senior producer is coming out of the closet in such a provocative way?
Well, after the uproar that resulted from Pat's comments of dementia being grounds for abandonment in a marriage union, I'm not sure that really matters much. (But Lord knows we have to protect the sanctity of marriage from those crazy gays.)
According to some insiders, I was blacklisted after my first Christian book just hinted at my "struggle" with same sex attraction. I imagine this crazy new book will cause cardiac arrest in some of the staff for certain.
But I have to say I am seeing a glimmer of hope on the horizon in this God VS Gay war. I recently met with a very influential head of a major ministry to let him know of my new book and my being gay. It was a suicide mission because another dear friend of mine who was a valued employee at this very same ministry had been outed by a colleague not too long ago and he was fired immediately.
Because this little Christian ghetto is so tightly knit, the word spread to all the other major television ministries and this talented friend could not get work to save his life. It got so bad that one night he had to call me from Los Angeles to ask me if I could buy him a hotel room to keep him off the streets. It was a tragic display of how ignorance can really cost someone everything. And in this case, it was everything. My talented, amazing friend had even considered suicide at one point. The thought of that still brings tears to my eyes.
That being said - the meeting with the leader of that very same ministry went surprisingly well. I don't believe this man will be attending any pride parades. But I do know that I was able to share my journey with him and plant the idea that God is in love with all of his kids, gay straight and somewhere in between. And if God can love them - love US, then maybe he can too. Granted it was a tiny little seed, but it gave me just a glimmer of hope.
Would you still label yourself as a Christian?
No. Not at all. I have done branding for years and Christianity has been made into a terrible brand, unfortunately. A brand that doesn't look or smell anything like the Jesus I know who loved the unlovable, embraced the prostitute, and was willing to risk it all for the one lost sheep. Yeah. I want to follow that guy. And I don't need a label to do it.
Why are you choosing to come out to the world now and what do you hope to gain by it?
I see it as a Moses moment. "Let my people go!" (Pretty dramatic, huh?)
Truthfully, I have no choice. I have argued with God for so many years - asking him to please pick someone else. I never wanted to be identified with this gay thing. But it turns out God wants to be identified with this gay thing.
I have remained silent far too long. And some of God's most precious sons and daughters have been beaten and bloodied beyond belief. Someone has to tell them that they are loved, madly, passionately, exquisitely - no matter the price. And there really is a price. Especially for someone who has made a living in the Christian TV.
(I so wish I hadn't told God I would never work in Christian television. Why didn't I tell him I would NEVER win the lottery?)
If you could say just one thing to a person struggling with their sexuality, a person who is surrounded by religious oppression that tells them their sexuality is wrong, what would you say to that struggling person?
I would first hug them if they would allow me to. I would let my heart be felt before I said a word. And then I would look them in the eye and tell them that if they are running from an angry God, a God who hates fags - I would tell them that they need to stop running because that God simply doesn't exist. You don't have to give God the finger, just give him your hand. And let him love you beyond your wildest dreams. Transformation of any kind will only come from being in a relationship with him - and if there is anything he wants you to change, HE will let you know.
You can visit James' Website www.gayconversations.com to find where to buy "Gay Conversations with God - Straight Talk on Fanatics, Fags and the God who Loves Us All."