Lexi interviews Tonex about his Gospel music career and sexuality.
A few days ago I got a phone call from a friend insisting that I dropped whatever I was doing to jump on YouTube to see this interview. As a little background to this story, I’ve been a fan of Tonex (pronounced Toe-nay) for about 10 years now. Tonex’s music – both vocally and instrumentally is unique and raw in many ways. He is a Christian, but his creations often ruffled the feathers of ‘traditional’ believers. His music has a strong ‘cross-over’ appeal and often would be found in stores outside of the Christian music section. Tonex often writes songs in first-hand perspective of a person struggling with addiction, sexuality, mourning, or other topics that are part of life, but not often part of ‘church talk’. I was draw to this music because I felt “finally, another believer who is using this struggles of his past to bring glory to God and expose the darkness of these situations”.
Tonex has been a magnet for controversy not just because of his writing, but also his physical appearance. He’s been known to wear hair and clothes in range from a suit and tie, to hip-hop street culture, to goth (including long purple bangs and black painted nails). The latter often has called his sexuality into question. In addition to all this, in recent years he ‘retired’ from the music industry citing the unfairness of how he was financially struggling yet his music was selling well. He also was hit with the difficult transitions of being divorced, his Father and Pastor suddenly dieing, and having to assume his father’s position as Pastor of their church.
Tonex has been out of the spotlight for some months, other than releasing the occasional ‘underground’ music release online. This interview was the first major news about Tonex in a while. If there’s one thing Tonex has always done well it’s address topics that too often go unmentioned in the church. While the theological views expressed in this interview may not be agreeable to everyone – I think it’s important that we all really hear what his thoughts and perspectives are. Check out the interview (3 parts) below.
Please be advised that the interview gets into topics of sexual abuse and mature discussion of sexuality.
What is so refreshing to me about this interview is that it potentially breaks the silence in what I refer to as the black church around the topic of homosexuality. It would seem that in many African-American churches there is a stereotypical presence of gays in the choir, or band, or preaching – but it’s a secret second life that goes unexamined as long as you don’t “bring that in the church”. Or there is the homophobic response of churches where from the pulpit homosexuals are stereotyped to be ‘butch women’ or ‘effeminate men’ and openly called fagots and damned to hell in the Sunday service (yeah… how’s THAT for outreach?!).
Even when I mentioned the news that Tonex speaks out publicly about his Bisexuality, some of my friends were not impressed saying “well we all knew that – you could tell” – basically saying that they only needed to think he was gay – it never needed to be confirmed or denied. That seems to be the case as there are several prominent gospel recording artists who are rumored to be gay – and if they came out, their career would be ended, but as long as no body ‘claims it’ they will be celebrated in black churches all over America.
My concern is that the black church is burying its head in the sand. Like so many other abuses that are happening in our church, we turn a deaf ear practical implications of our human experience and give all our attention to the topics of heaven, prosperity, and personal spiritual gifts or ”ministry callings”. As a result – when people with difficult situations DO turn to the church, they are met with ill-prepared people who haven’t gone any deeper than “homosexuality is sin” and can’t offer much more council or direction than that. Too many guys who struggle with their sexuality have told me that when they went to their pastor about their struggle that they were only given advice to “find a wife” and “join the men’s ministry”.
I hope that this interview sparks deeper conversations within churches around the topic of homosexuality. Churches have to be more involved in this issue than simply rallying against gay-marriage legislation or preaching it as a sign of the end-times. I really want to dig into the cultural norms that I think differentiate the black church from how this dynamic works in other cultures.
As always the comments section is open for discussion and questions. I don’t claim to have answers – or to even have done a good job of proof reading this post! (lol). But I think the more we wrap our minds around this and seek God – the more we’ll be able to have a meaningful and positive impact in our churches, communities, and families.