Inside The Queer Christian Mind With Semler’s Preacher’s Kid (Mars' Hill Article)
- Carter Sawatzky
March 3, 2021
In mid-February, queer Christians had a landmark moment.
Grace Baldridge (artist name Semler) debuted their EP, Preacher’s Kid, which takes listeners on a journey inside the mind of their own coming-of-age queer Christian experience. And it clearly resonated: within a week of its release, on February 9, the album topped the Christian music chart on iTunes at number one. Preacher’s Kid even ended up dethroning Look Up Child by Lauren Daigle, which held the top spot for the 88 weeks prior.
As far as we know, Semler became the first queer person of faith in music history to be number one on iTunes’ Christian charts. Making a mark in the Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) world is no small feat especially for an industry that is notorious for its exclusion of LGBTQ+ musicians. Semler’s rise to success—without any label, radio advertising, or playlist help—proves to music executives that there is a viable market for queer Christian content like Preacher’s Kid.
While some were resistant to having the EP labelled as a Christian album, others were overjoyed to see an openly queer artist triumph in a way that has never been done before. On Twitter, Grace enlisted fans to “claim it for anyone who has been cast out in the name of God.” Semler’s album accomplished the dream of so many queer and progressive worship leaders and musicians who have longed for that elusive top spot. For the many who have been rejected or made to feel unwelcome by their families and faith communities because of their sexuality, Preacher’s Kid is a victory.
As the album was charting high, Grace Baldridge tweeted, “I’m not gonna respond to anyone asking me to repent or saying I’m an abomination. I understand I’m a different sort of image bearer than you’re used to seeing in CCM. But I’m here and I’m beloved by God and I have a story to tell.”
And storytelling seems to be a gift of Grace’s: the eight-track record moves through heart-rending moments of trauma, healing, resilience, and worship with remarkable ease. Beginning with “Bethlehem,” Semler recounts their experience in being alienated from their faith: “But I'm a child of God, just in case you forgot / And you cast me out every single chance that you got.” A repeated refrain concludes the track: “Oh what I'd give for just an inch of your peace / Cause I wanna fall but I've got bruises on my knees.”
The standout track and lead single of the EP, “Jesus From Texas,” arrives with a bustling choir of strumming guitars as Semler proceeds to lay out the thesis of Preacher’s Kid: “Oh what a terrible honor it’s been / To learn that my blessings are things you called sins / I’ll spend the rest of my life tearing down / The Jesus from Texas you put in a crown.”
In “Chicken,” we get to glimpse one of their formative romantic relationships while growing up evangelical. “Youth Group” is humorously dedicated to “the kids who have their sexual awakening at the youth group lock-in.” In a moment of extended vulnerability they tenderly admit, “now I'm grown up and I'm f****d up. Is there still a god I can trust? If you're out there I'm waiting.”
In “Good Man,” the heart-breaking honesty continues as they confess, “I believe in forgiveness, but I don't know if people can change”; contextualized with being scorned from the church, this lyric takes on a whole new depth. Preacher’s Kid closes off with the country-inflected “Promised Land (outro)” where Semler sings, “I’ve wrestled too long to lose my name”––they are committed to keeping their faith despite all the naysayers. The last lines of the album closer crescendo to a chant: “I don't know who you think I am but I belong in the promised land…but I'll be ready at the Father’s hand.”
The history-making debut from Semler pays a stunning tribute to the lives of the countless kids who have grown up with varying degrees of religious trauma because of their love and expression. As a queer person myself, Preacher’s Kid spoke to my own fraught journey of coming out, identifying bad theology, yearning for a greater love, and seeking a home for myself in the Church. Not only did this cinematic rollercoaster of a record deliver in emotional lyrical mastery, Preacher’s Kid functions as an effective warning call––that we’re here and we’re queer, so get used to it.