A recurring theme in Jax Anderson’s life has been religion. Specifically, it’s been the church. And from a very young age, it was where she found solace, hope, family and discovered her musical ability. Today, Anderson is better known as Flint Eastwood and perhaps because of a push from the divine, she even writes her music at Assemble Sound — a former Corktown church repurposed as a creative hub for musicians. However, her latest song, “Real Love” which dropped on Friday, June 22, addresses the homophobia present in Christianity. Namely, the actions of her former Metro City Church Pastor Jeremy Schossau, who earned widespread criticism last winter when he began providing classes for young girls that many called “conversion therapy.” Anderson, who is openly gay, said she wrote the song because “no kid should.”
“To them, it’s coming from a place of love,” Anderson said. “I understand that there are certain sects of religion that have a differing opinion from me, but I think at a certain point you have to ask yourself, ‘Is my opinion hurting more than it’s helping?’ I think with the LGBTQ community the church has really, really hurt a lot of people. It’s something that they need to start owning up to instead of trying to change (others) all the time.”
But as much hurt as Anderson herself endured while being closeted in a heavily religious community, she is firm that her song is not meant as an attack on Metro City Church or Schossau. Rather, it’s her way of putting out “the whole story” and emphasizing a perspective that people who aren’t part of the LGBTQ community might not see: that love can and does exist outside of heterosexual boundaries.
“He was my pastor all throughout high school. My whole purpose in writing this is to tell the story of the people (the church is) affecting and to give those people a light and a hope. But I don’t think anybody deserves death threats or as crazy as the internet can get,” Anderson said, referring to the heavy online pushback that both Schossau and Metro City Church received.
But not by accident, “Real Love” shows off a prominently religious sound with its church-esque choral pulses and broad, gospel feel — all with a unique, Flint Eastwood pop twist. This is a sound that comes naturally to Anderson, as her formative years were spent learning how to write religious music in church.
“I learned how to play and write music in that context. I would say that the positive of that is that as a pop musician I need to write something that stays in people’s minds,” Anderson said. “And with modern church music you have to be able to sing the song by the end of it, so it definitely taught me how to write in a way of catchy melodies and certain cadences and simplicity.”
A style that’s perfect for relaying a clear message. Perhaps the most powerful part of “Real Love” is a re-recorded quote from Schossau himself, “Because love without truth is not love, right? And truth without love is not truth.” He uttered those words to applause when he received an award from Watchmen on the Wall, a national religious group that gave Schossau an award for providing his classes and standing up to public pushback. Anderson said she included that statement within the song because it perfectly summed up the duality of love in this situation.
“That line especially is something that runs so true to both sides,” Anderson said. “And it’s interesting that the intention behind the words can be the difference between someone feeling (great or) awful and going down a rabbit hole of depression that people deal with by not feeling accepted.”
Anderson can comment on that feeling better than most, as she herself experienced it when she was growing up.
“I mean, I knew I was gay from the time I was a little kid. I had crushes when I was in preschool. I am, through and through, a very gay human,” she said with a laugh. “I kind of denied it until I was in high school because I would always have in my mind, like, ‘Whenever I get to high school I’ll pray a lot and God is going to change me and I’m not going to be gay.’ Then I got to high school and I realized that it wasn’t going away.”
It was at that point that Anderson began to admit to herself that her sexual orientation wasn’t a phase, but an integral part of her identity. Church members did not see it that way.
“I told a church member when I was a freshman or in eighth grade and it was just like, ‘The devil is lying to you, I’m going to pray for you, that you are shown the right way,’ and it just immediately sunk me even deeper into the closet,” Anderson said. “It wasn’t until I was 19, around that time, that I came out to everyone.”
And though most in her immediate circle didn’t treat her differently, Anderson’s relationship with Metro City Church became strained.
“I actually worked with Metro doing video for them after I had come out and it was a weird situation. They 1099’d me. They made me a contract worker so that if anybody asked if I was on the staff they could say no and cut ties really quick because I was openly gay,” she said. “They knew I was gay. They asked me in the interview if I was dating anybody and I said no and they were like, ‘OK, just let us know when you start dating somebody.’ I started dating somebody very quickly after that and did not tell them.”
The rest of Anderson’s time at the church was short-lived, but not the lasting effects of her quiet, but firm exclusion. She was devastated by the loss of a community that she had viewed as extended family.
“Truth be told, I was very bitter toward the church for a long time. I was very angry. I was very upset and I was very hurt,” Anderson said. “Over time I just realized that they’re people too, and sometimes people let you down and sometimes they have a different opinion. It’s taken a very long time for me to forgive the church and I feel like I’m finally at a place where I’m OK with it.”
However, regular churchgoers can still count on seeing Anderson in the pews on occasion.
“I go to church every other Sunday because my older brother is a pastor and I want to be able to support him,” she said. “But as far as me being a Christian or being spiritual, I would say no, I’m not anything right now.”
When asked how she was successful at reconciling her difficult relationship with organized religion she said that the first step was letting go of internalized anger and bitterness. She made an effort to foster understanding.
“I think in an aspect where you have different opinions — especially where there’s hurt involved — it’s very easy to lose respect very quickly. And, for me, I think I’ve always tried to be very intentional with retaining respect even if I don’t agree with somebody,” Anderson said. “That goes so across the board. It’s so easy to point a finger, it’s so easy to yell out hate. All I want to do as a person is to spread love and to spread hope to people and how am I going to do that if I’m pissed off at people?”
Her advice to young people, especially young girls, who are involved in a conservative religious environment is simple: know that hope and happiness is possible.
“You are is beautiful and there’s nothing wrong with you and you’re not flawed, you’re not a mistake, you’re not broken,” Anderson said. “I would definitely tell myself to find that community that accepts me for who I am a lot quicker. It’s so much easier when you learn to accept yourself and love yourself. That’s the whole purpose of this song, to show people that that is possible even though with my perspective the church had told me for so long that it wasn’t.”