Tilly Antoine / Wikimedia Commons

Christian rock icon and cultural commentator John Cooper has finally spoken out after controversial self-proclaimed Christian artist and drag queen Flamy Grant’s appearance at the Dove Awards. Grant attended the awards with “queer Christian” artist Semler and Caedmon’s Call former lead singer Derek Webb. The controversy began when Webb posted an image on X featuring himself, Flamy Grant, and Semler together with the caption “54th annual Dove awards, here we come.” The photo shows Webb wearing a dress, while Semler, a woman who is married to another woman, is dressed like a man, and Flamy Grant stands in the background. Grant made headlines recently for being the first drag queen to have a number-one Christian single. Webb and Grant collaborated on Webb’s first new Christian album in 10 years, featuring a song called “Boys will be Girls,” which celebrates coming out and has a music video of Webb dressing in drag. 

None of those featured in the picture had been nominated, although Semler had lobbied for the Dove Awards to nominate her for “Best New Artist” last year. A few days after the awards show, Webb released a video to explain his decision to wear a dress. “As a cis, straight, white man, I walk into a room like that (and any room) with an incredible amount of advantage and privilege. If I’m attending as an ally of friends and colleagues, I should do everything possible to surrender that privilege at the door,” he said. Grant, whose real name is Mattew Blake, also posted his reasons on X, writing, “Just a few words about the spirit of this thing: the reason we’re attending is to have a good time as out and proud queer Christian musicians. It’s not a protest — at least no more of a protest than queer people existing in spaces that don’t often welcome us is by default.” Despite presenting himself as a queer Christian, Grant has detailed his deconstruction story on “The Heathen Podcast,” declaring, “I’m an apostate, a heretic, a heathen—and I’ve never felt more whole.” He also stated he had found joy in his “new godless spirituality.” 

Cooper, frontman for the popular Christian band Skillet, did not initially respond to the post but spoke to Church Leaders after he was encouraged by others to address the situation. “Obviously, they’re just trying to get attention, they’re trying to disrupt, and they’re going about it in a clever way,” he said. “And the truth is they are being the aggressors in this.” He added that they would not have pulled a similar stunt at a Muslim event because “The laws of intersectionality would apply.” He stated, however, that he believed they felt bold enough to do so because of “weak” Christians. “They know that Christians are so wimpy and weak…they know that Christians are then going to somehow feel intimidated by them and not know how to act,” he said. 

He was also critical of the Christian music industry for being too soft on Christian values. “If there was clarity in the Christian music industry about what it truly meant to be a follower of Jesus, I think that people wouldn’t feel comfortable to come and express queer joy. I think they would be like, ‘This isn’t for us,’” he said. Earlier this year, Cooper discussed “The Rot in Christian Music” on his podcast, Cooper Stuff. Cooper began the podcast by highlighting the growing concerns Kevin McNeese, founder of Christian music site NewReleaseToday, had about the increasing use of profanity in Christian music in 2017. By 2023, McNeese now found himself addressing Derek Webb’s “Boys Will Be Girls.” He stated that Christians were afraid to speak out about profanity and indecency for fear of being labeled “judgmental” or “bigots.” “And who wants to be any of those?” he asked. Yet, he encouraged Christians to speak out. “What if we all said defiantly, ‘Me. I don’t care what you label me. Fine.’ I’d bet the conversation would change pretty rapidly instead of shutting up in fear that you’ll be labeled something uncomfortable.” Cooper affirmed these concerns and stated that weak pastors lead to weak Christian industries. 

Now, with the controversy at the Dove Awards, Cooper wanted to make it clear that his criticism was because the three individuals claim to be Christians. “When you’re dealing with people who claim the name of Christ, who then refuse to stop these patterns of behavior that the Bible condemns, then we have a responsibility not to associate with these people. So I would just ignore them,” he said about what he would have done had he been at the awards. Cooper was unable to attend this year, but stated his reasoning to ignore them fell under 1 Corinthians 5, which says in verses 11 and 12, “But now I have written unto you not to keep company if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolator, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such a one no not to eat. For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? Do not ye judge them that are within?” He stated that people like Semler, Grant, and Webb “hate the truth” and added, “They are moral relativists. They don’t believe that there’s such thing as absolute morality.”

Despite having a lot to say, he said the decline in the Christian music industry had left him “speechless” and that he “never thought he would see pastors or Christian artists say that being empathetic and having a winsome tone is more Christlike than speaking truth and calling out evil.” He criticized how the industry had allowed “a grown man [Derek Webb], who is apostate—says he doesn’t believe in God, [to spend] his time being an accuser of the brethren and someone who consciously hates Jesus…[to] go on and say nonsense and have Christian people in the industry go, ‘He does kind of have a point.’” Cooper has a new book coming out November 14 entitled Wimpy, Weak, and Woke that further deals with the issue of weak Christians that he feels enable people like Webb, Grant, and Semler to make a mockery of Christianity. Speaking with Brian Kilmeade of Fox News to promote his new book, Cooper said, “This book uncovers the philosophies behind utopian dreams that become dystopian nightmares and presents a positive vision for how we can thrive and flourish. The false promises of Man lead to destruction; God’s ways lead to life…” 

More from Beliefnet and our partners
Close Ad