Azariah Southworth grew up in a Pentecostal home where Jim and Tammy Faye Baker, Paul and Jan Crouch and Oral Roberts were the standards in television viewing habits. According to Azariah, his parents were so strict, he couldn’t eat Lucky Charms because the product had the word "lucky" on it.
I’m not sure what powers of evil the word "lucky" is supposed to have, but Azariah is on the road to become a well-balanced Christian who doesn’t fear Lucky Charms…or any product manufactured by the General Mills Corporation.
Like many of our readers, Azariah can remember having gay tendencies as a young child. As a teen, he knew he was gay, but never spoke of it. However, his parents had their suspicions. So at the age of 13, Azariah began counseling to cure him of his homosexuality.
The Christian counselor’s perspective was that Azariah could be delivered from this sin. If he was close enough to God, if he was devoted enough and prayed enough, God would hear his cry for help. Additionally, Azariah began seeing a second counselor. This more secular-based counselor was going to teach him to understand and live with this homosexuality.
However, after five years of seeing two counselors, guess what? Azariah was still gay.
At the age of 18, Azariah was offered a job as a production assistant with the Inspiration Network on the program Tour TV, a Christian youth reality show that went on the road with Christian bands. So Azariah left his home in Orland, Indiana; he left his church; he left his counselors and moved to Nashville.
His mother was frustrated. She felt he had come so far with his counseling and worried he stopped too soon. Feeling there would be no “cure” to his homosexuality, Azariah replied, “God won’t tease me with deliverance. When Jesus commanded a demon to go, the demon left. There was no pursuing deliverance.”
His mother replied, “Your faith can move mountains. Your tears don’t move God.”
Azariah replied, “Really? When I cried myself to sleep night after night, praying God would deliver me, that didn’t move God? How could it not? That must be a heartless God…I don’t believe God would ever tease me with deliverance.”
Two months after moving to Nashville, the show Azariah was working on was canceled. So, like many Nashvillians, he began working a variety of jobs: he worked in a mall, Logan’s Roadhouse and a Christian Music marketing firm. He also started attending Christ Church on Old Hickory Boulevard where he met many friends. At the same time, Azariah also became more active in the gay community. He started coming out to friends and family back home.
Eventually Azariah pitched the idea of hosting a Christian Music program to the right individual who edited the pilot, called it The ReMix, and the show went into production for 18 months. Though he was still closeted at work, Azariah had the opportunity to interview some of the leading names in Contemporary Christian Music: Avalon, Jars of Clay and Building 429 just to name a few.
Despite Azariah’s success as a host, he was still restless. “I came to a point that I was sick of denying who I was, sick of suppressing who I am. I was sick of people talking behind my back and asking my friends if I was gay.”
So, at 3:00 a.m. on April 16, Azariah wrote a press release announcing he is gay. The press release in turn was sent to a variety of media outlets. According to Azariah, there was no intent to harm anyone related to his show. He also notes, “I do like to push people’s buttons, I like to get shock value…but in addition to that, I did this for myself. I had to be honest. Completely honest.”
Since that time, Azariah has received hundreds of e-mails of support. He has also received an overwhelming amount of support from those he worked with in the Christian community. According to Azariah, “Overall, the majority of people have been true Christians. They live out the message of love that Jesus taught.”
However, even in the midst of this support, there will always be a few who don’t get it. Azariah noted in one conversation he recently had, “One Christian said, ‘Why can’t you just suffer in silence? Why can’t you remain celibate? This is the thorn in your flesh you are supposed to bare.’”
Azariah responded with, “You would have me suffer in silence? That is why ministers and priests have had such problems in the past. That is why they have sex with prostitutes or young boys. Their silence led to much bigger problems.”
Clearly, being silent is not something Azariah knows much about. Even though he is just 21, he already has a voice that many individuals twice his age have yet to find. For years, people have quietly spoken about the number of gays in the Christian Music industry. If God is big enough to bless these individuals with the talent and ability to begin with, I somehow feel He is big enough to watch over their career as well.
Azariah noted, “I don’t think it is absolutely necessary that everyone comes out. Everyone’s walk is different. God’s timing is different. But to those who are thinking about it, be comforted in knowing that there are people who will support you, and you always have the love and support of God. Who needs more than that?”
The Christian network broadcasting The Remix pulled the show. According to Azariah, “As a corporate network, they couldn’t continue to have me on the air. I expected that decision and respect it.”
Even though he has been taken off the air, Azariah still has a desire to minister. “I’ve always had a desire to be involved in ministry. But you know, there are all kinds of ministry opportunities out there,” said Azariah. If he isn’t hosting a Christian television show, he may be speaking at conferences. Or perhaps Azariah’s ministry may be found on a more personal basis.
“Just last month, I received an e-mail from a youth who had come out to his parents. His parents weren’t responding very well. As a result, the youth tried to commit suicide. Fortunately, he didn’t succeed. But these kids have got to have a voice! There has got to be someone visible to them, who will let them know God loves them just as they are.”
I think Azariah may have just found his ministry opportunity.