Josh Ritter, in my opinion, is one of our greatest songwriters. According to my iTunes, I have listened to his So Runs The World Away approximately eleventy billion times, and the rest of his catalogue at least half that many times.
Now I like him even more. Josh was invited to perform at Messiah College in Grantham, Pennsylvania, and, unaware of the restrictive, anti-gay policies of the school, went on with the show. When he found out what kind of a place it was, he responded, both on stage and on Facebook:
I travel a lot – this month I was in fifteen cities in as many days. I always like to learn a little bit about the place I’m going to play – that Chicago has the fourth largest GDP of any world city, or that Louisville is famous for a sandwich known as the “Hot Brown.”
Today I was Grantham, Pennsylvania, at Messiah College, and as I was doing a little digging about the place I learned something that surprised and disappointed me.
Messiah College requires all students to sign a “Community Covenant” promising to, among other things, “avoid such sinful practices as…homosexual behavior….”
This policy, which I see as exclusionary and bigoted, could not run more counter to my personal beliefs. If I had done my homework, and read about Messiah’s policies ahead of time, I would never have agreed to play there.
I did play at Messiah College tonight, and I chose to use the opportunity to talk to the students – to encourage them to seek openness and change. I spoke honestly about my personal views – that we should all have the right to love – and to marry freely, no matter what our sexual orientation. Everyone was respectful and kind, and it is my hope that they’ll continue to demand a change to the Community Covenant.
I hope to have made the best of a difficult situation. I’m donating the fee I received from Messiah College tonight in its entirety to The Trevor Project (thetrevorproject.org), the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth.
I won’t play Messiah College again – not until they welcome, in word and deed, all members of their faith regardless of sexuality, and I urge my fellow musicians to do the same.
It goes without saying that most of our most prolific artists are very supportive of LGBT equality. It’s difficult to create things of beauty when you’re a person who harbors bigoted, discriminatory attitudes. But I really like it when an artist like Josh, who isn’t specifically known for his “gay fan base,” uses an opportunity to take a stand like this.
If you’re not familiar with his music already, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND that you get familiar. He is prolific, he is brilliant, and his music is beautiful. Here are a couple of tastes for you: