It sounds like a match made at gay Sunday school. Four years ago, Christian singer Jason Warner and musical-theater performer deMarco deCicco met at a Los Angeles-area restaurant. Apparently the chemistry was intense and immediate. And before you could say Hallelujah, they started making beautiful music together.
“We had an instant spiritual connection,” deMarco, 29, says during a recent phone interview from their Los Angeles apartment.
A what connection?
“A spiritual connection means that nothing else mattered not what our parents thought. I guess you’d call it love,” deMarco explains. “Plus, compared to me, Jason was very spiritual person.”
While deMarco grew up in a predominantly Italian-Catholic suburb of Toronto, Jason, 30, hailed from Baltimore. The Warner family were strict Pentecostal literalists. Jason’s musical background was steeped in Christian contemporary, but in trying to reconcile his sexuality with his faith, Jason had started exploring alternative paths. Together, their connection included tasting different flavors of spirituality: Buddhism, Reiki, studying Rumi.
“DeMarco had it easier than me. I was carrying all this Pentecostal baggage, and anything other than Christianity was considered evil,” Jason explains.
A year after they had met, Jason and deMarco merged talents. First recording a Christmas album, then two “spirit pop” albums. They were quickly labeled a gay Christian act. But that tag is “a big misconception,” Jason says.
DeMarco quickly reminds Jason that he’s doing an interview to promote their gigs at Cathedral of Hope this Sunday.
“Oh, deMarco’s worried,” Jason laughs. “But we never had the intention of building careers as Christian singers. We had every intention of being a mainstream pop duo.”
They’re performing schedule includes a lot of churchy concerts. And by releasing three albums with the word “spirit” in the title, what kind of image did they think was coming across?
“If you look at Christian music, it’s about Christ,” deMarco says. “We don’t write lyrics about Jesus.”
“Whatever “‘spirit’ means to you can be interpretive,” Jason adds. “Spirit can be romantic something shared between partners. Or spiritual songs can be about you and God. When you label anything “‘Christian,’ you’re already excluding so many people.”
In the past year, Jason has become especially wary.
“Things are very sensitive since the 2004 election and with the government we now have. What they’ve made of the term “‘Christian’ is everything we believe Christ is against,” Jason says. “Christ was about non-judgment, compassion, love and justice for all people. Today, the term “‘Christianity’ has so many negative connotations that it’s not something that we even want our music associated with.”
Although it doesn’t sound like Jason and deMarco are ready to reclaim Christianity from the biblical inerrancy types, they haven’t given up the good fight.
Being gay is what first burst Jason’s Pentecostal bubble. It led him to new existential questions: What is life about? Why are we here? What’s our purpose?
So he started reading and searching. And he clung to a verse from Luke: “Seek and you shall find.” By studying other forms of spirituality, Jason discovered many core similarities among different faiths: concepts like, love and respect your neighbor.
“So the goal with our music is not to impose our beliefs, but really to impose love,” Jason says. “When you choose love as the answer rather than hate and judgment the world can be a better place.”
Throughout their career, anti-gay fundamentalists have repeatedly confronted them.
“We’ve seen Fred Phelps holding signs that say “‘God Hates Fags,’ “‘Thank God for AIDS,'” deMarco remembers. “Once we did a benefit for the Matthew Shepard Foundation and it was “‘Mother from Hell.'”
When attacked by homophobes, do Jason and deMarco just put on blinders?
“Our greatest weapon is love. And it’s hard for people to fight that,” Jason says.
He belives politicized Evangelicals are living in fear the fear of surrendering to another progressive issue.
“Gays are just another community just like how women shouldn’t have been able to preach and African-Americans shouldn’t have been freed,” Jason continues. “It’s no surprise the Bible has been abused and scripture misused in order to pass judgment.”
The “spirit pop” duo see themselves traveling on the path to modern civil rights.
“We’re watching it happen, and we’re lucky to be a part of it,” Jason says. “Martin Luther King, Jr. would have never been able to achieve what he did if he wasn’t black. DeMarco and I have always said we’re here for a purpose.”
Jason and deMarco perform at Cathedral of Hope, 5910 Cedar Springs Rd. on Oct. 2 during the 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. worship services, and a concert at 7 p.m. Free. 214-351-1901
ARMISTEAD’s CUPS YANKED AT BAYLOR STARBUCKS
A Starbucks at Baylor University removed coffee cups featuring a quotation about growing up gay written by Armistead Maupin.
The quote read: “My only regret about being gay is that I repressed it for so long. I surrendered my youth to the people I feared when I could have been out there loving someone. Don’t make that mistake yourself. Life’s too damn short.”
Aramark, the dining contractor for the Starbucks, pulled the cups from the campus store after receiving an e-mail that said the quote was inappropriate at a Baptist university. In August, the Princeton Review ranked Baylor as one of the worst schools for LGBT students.