Gay Christian TV Host Lets It All Out

Azariah Southworth’s suddenly a very public figure.

The Nashville-based Christian-television host caused a national stir this week when he came out of the closet, telling the world, “I believe by me living my life honestly and authentically now, I am able to be a better person and a better Christian.”

Obviously we couldn’t resist reaching out and having a chat with Southworth, who graciously agreed to talk shop with our editor. Those Christians sure are generous!

Read what the Indiana-born Southworth has to say about becoming an overnight celebrity, why the church should stay out of politics and whether his parents think he’s going to hell – after the jump, of course.

Andrew Belonsky: First of all, Azariah, what have the past few days been like for you? Your coming out is big news. Your face is on Huffington Post; you’re all over the place. What has the reaction been like?

Azariah Southworth: It’s been really amazing. I’ve received several hundred emails from people all around the world just encouraging me and supporting me. It’s been really positive.

AB: Were you surprised that it’s been so positive?

AS: I was surprised that it ended up being so positive, yes, but I was also surprised by the amount of response that I received and all the publicity it’s been getting, which is great because this story needs to be told.

AB: And do you think there’s been so much attention?

AS: I think because it’s something that most people in this country deal with at some point with somebody that they know. It’s very common not only to struggle with your faith, but also to struggle with homosexuality or being gay and your faith. It’s a very prominent issue in our times.

AB: What spurred the decision to come out now?

AS: Well, over the past year, I’ve gone through some experiences and long discussions with friends, especially after watching the documentary For The Bible Tells Me So. I began doing a lot of research myself about what the Bible really says about homosexuality, I finally became comfortable with who I am and with sharing that with others. I’m finally comfortable being honest and open with everyone in my life. That really pushed me to the point – all those experiences and the learning that I did – really pushed me to the point of being really confident and comfortable with who I am. Now I can come to the public and say, “This is me. You might not agree, but this is who I am and I just want to be honest with you.”

AB: I imagine that prior to seeing the movie and your life growing up, you had a different view of homosexuality?

AS: Yeah. Absolutely. I was raised in a very religious home, a Pentecostal home, where it was very condemned. It was not in any way acceptable. You were going to hell if that’s the kind of life you lived. I remember as a child, this man came into our church and he was dressed as a woman. He got – it was testimony night, or something – and he went up and gave his testimony. I remember afterwards, everyone was gathered around him, talking to him, probably trying to convert him. We found out a few days later that later that night he went home and someone was waiting for him, tied him to his bed and killed him.

AB: Oh my god.

AS: So, it was always in my mind that “this is something you do not do, people will kill you, people will hate you and you’re going to hell.” But when I really learned to explore it for myself, that’s not the case.

AB: What have your parents said about this? Did you give them a heads up and tell them about the story?

AS: I tried calling them and I didn’t get a hold of them. They know that I’m gay, however they do not know it’s national headlines right now. I’ve been contacting my friends and family to let them know what’s going on, but I honestly don’t know how my parents will react. I know that they don’t think of being gay is right, but they still love me and accept me. They don’t condemn me, but I don’t know how they’re going to react to having it be a national issue now.

AB: Do you think your parents think you’re going to hell?

AS: Uh – I think if, you know, you asked them that, just a general question, “Do you believe that being gay will send you to hell?” I think they may agree with that, but I can’t speak for them. The main point is that god loves us and does accept us and it’s okay.

AB: You’re a very interesting case because of the tension between Christianity and gay people. Do you expect any backlash? I imagine it must be hard to be gay and Christian and present that to people without getting a bewildered “how can this be?” reaction.

AS: I know there’s going to be backlash; I know there’s going to be consequences. I know there are some hard times ahead. I expect it. I anticipate it. I don’t know if I’m ready for it, but I know it’s coming. I don’t know how the church is going to react, but I want to encourage them to not only start studying what the Bible really says, but also to love me and those who are going through the same thing. Don’t try to change me, don’t try to change others, just love us. That’s all we ask for and let God do the rest.
[Southworth credits Daniel G. Karslake’s For The Bible Tells Me So for leading him out of the closet.]
AB: Back to childhood – coming of age is difficult for all gay people who are in the closet. It must have been doubly difficult for you growing up in a religious environment. So, what was college like or being a teenager? Did you have girlfriends?

AS: [Laughs] In middle school I dated a few girls. I mean, you do that, because that’s the thing to do, but in high school I didn’t date anybody. I didn’t believe in dating at the time, which is a popular thing amongst hardcore Evangelicals: not to date.

AB: Really?

AS: Oh, yeah. There’s a whole series on it, like I Kiss Dating Goodbye. It is not healthy at all. People need to date to learn how to deal with relationships. But, yes, I did date some girls. A year ago I was in a relationship with a girl for a couple months. She knew going into it that I had gay tendencies, but I was attracted to her personality. I was attracted to her as a person, but when it came to physical things – kissing, holding hands – it was very uncomfortable. It wasn’t for me and I knew that, so finally we broke that off, but we’re still very good friends.

AB: Are you seeing a guy now?

AS: I am not.

AB: Oh! We’re going to have to find you a boyfriend!

AS: [Laughs] I think right now I’m okay with being single. I just came out of a relationship that kind of ended sourly.

AB: A relationship with a man?

AS: Yes, a relationship with a man. Well, I would hardly call him a “man,” but we’re not going into that. [Laughs]. But, yeah, I recently came out of that and I learned a lot from it. That also has brought me to where I am I’m grateful for that experience and I’m not going to regret it, because I learned from it. Relationships? I don’t see that happening right now, but I would love to date.

AB: What about at work? I know you said this might cost you your job. Has there been any backlash on that front?

AS: I haven’t heard from them at all. I don’t know if I will. My friend who helped me get my show on the air, his dad is a board member of the network and my friend contacted me last night to let me know that he cares about me as a friend, but he felt what I did was wrong. I’m sure by now that his dad knows, and because he’s a board member for the network, the board knows. I’m sure very soon the shows that are airing will be stopped, but it will be interesting.

AB: A lot of Christians think that marriage should be between a man and a woman, because that’s what the Bible allegedly says. Where do you stand on that?

AS: I believe there should be equal rights for all. I believe that men should be able to marry another man. I think that a woman should be able to marry another woman. Marriage should be about love and not about what the church says it should be about. The church has done more damage to culture and to – I don’t know if I should go there – but the church has, in the past – their being involved in politics has not ended well. The church needs to stay out of it. We should have that right because we are humans and we love.

AB: It’s interesting what you say about how the church should stay out of politics. Obviously I agree with that, but you can’t really be a political candidate in this country without declaring that you have a personal relationship with God. Hillary Clinton went on about how she has felt the Holy Spirit and Barack Obama has repeatedly had to defend his Christian faith. What do you make of that showing – the way that religion becomes a political tool?

AS: Yeah, just to gain exposure. I think it’s very sad. If what you’re standing for politically can’t get you where you need to be or where you want to be, then you shouldn’t use religion as something to bring you more success, especially if you don’t really believe it. However, if that’s what they truly believe and they live that out, then I’m all for it. They should talk about it if it’s part of who they are. If that’s something they don’t live out and something they are using as a publicity stunt, that’s just wrong and they’re going to have to live with that.

AB: What do you want to be doing with your life?

AS: I really hope to become a voice concerning the issue of Christianity and homosexuality. I hope to become a role model for those who are dealing with their faith and being gay. I just really hope I can be there from now on to help people. I always knew that I would be in ministry somehow and I believe that this is the ministry that God is calling me to and there are people who need it, so I want to be there for them. I also want to continue a career in television. I really want to continue to host and direct and produce shows. That’s my passion.

AB: There are always the gay networks!

AS: I know! Hopefully they’ll give a ring!

AB: Well, thank you so much. You’ve got bigger balls than me, kid!

AS>: Let’s hope they pay off!

Don't forget to share: