(RNS) — The Grammy-winning band Switchfoot, known for its Christian-adjacent rock music, released a TikTok video with a positive message toward the LGBTQ community on Friday, Sept. 17. The video comes in response to queer Christian artist Semler, who posted a video last week seeking clarity on the band’s stance toward LGBTQ inclusion.
“Yes, I support your rights and freedoms, I want you to feel loved and supported,” said Switchfoot lead singer Jon Foreman in the video. “Love and embrace have always been central to our story and our song. We need our differences.” The video has been viewed more than 21,000 times. Semler’s video, which includes Switchfoot’s response, has been viewed more than 162,500 times. Switchfoot did not immediately respond to request for comment.
In their response video, Semler expressed cautious excitement about Foreman’s statement, but added, “I am interpreting what you said as being affirming. If I am incorrect in that, then I really hope you would clarify. Because I think for many queer people of faith, the bait-and-switch of hearing such encouraging words like yours and then finding out that means something else can be heartbreaking. But I don’t think that’s you.”
Though Switchfoot has resisted being labeled “Christian,” their music is teeming with faith references, and hits like “Dare You to Move” have earned the San Diego-based rock band a strong Christian following over their 20-plus years together. Their 12th studio album, “Interrobang,” was released on Aug. 20.
Semler, whose full name is Grace Semler Baldridge, is an openly queer artist whose EP “Preacher’s Kid” topped the Christian iTunes chart in February. Semler is a self-described “faithfully skeptical Christian” who grew up listening to 2000s-era Christian rock, and their eight-track EP reflects on the experience of coming out as a queer person of faith.
On Thursday, Sept. 16, Semler posted a TikTok video announcing their plan to yell “gay rights” at that night’s Switchfoot concert to see how the band would respond.
“I am a big Switchfoot fan,” said Semler in the video. “While Switchfoot has always seemed like a really loving and kind band and group of people to me, they’ve actually never come out and said that they are LGBTQ-plus affirming.”
Semler hoped shouting “gay rights” at the concert would be an invitation for Switchfoot to clarify their stance on LGBTQ inclusion. While Semler didn’t get the reaction they were looking for at the concert, Foreman did respond to Semler the next day via the @switchfootofficial TikTok account.
“I’m so glad that you were there last night, in fact, it breaks my heart to think that you would not be accepted,” said Foreman. “Let me correct that. You and your journey and your story are welcome at a Switchfoot show.”
“Our music has always been for anyone who is open-minded enough to jump into the dialogue. Agnostic, atheist, consumerist, Jewish, Muslim, doubters, believers, haters, lovers, LGBTQ-plus and everyone else who is brave enough to look for meaning,” Foreman continued.
“No one else is an expert on someone else’s experience,” he added.
“It was very surreal,” Semler told RNS. “I just can’t emphasize enough how meaningful it has been to so many people for Jon and Switchfoot to clarify their position and just be so loving in this response.”
Semler said Switchfoot is one of their most significant musical influences and that hearing Foreman stand up for LGBTQ rights when they were a teenager would have been life-changing.
“So many of us have experienced the bait-and-switch of hearing we are welcome, and then finding out later that we’re welcome if we change, we’re welcome with stipulations,” said Semler. “I find Jon’s vulnerability very inspiring. I’m hopeful that maybe this could be a catalyst for some change and healing for people who’ve been on the wrong side of polite Christian cruelty.”
Semler is releasing a new EP called “Late Bloomer” on Oct. 22, a project they hope to share with many listeners, Switchfoot included.
“If you ever want to see some chaotic queer Christian fun, please come to a Semler show,” Semler told Foreman in their TikTok responding to him. “We have a rowdy crowd of misfits that I think you’d fit right in with, Jon.”
This story has been updated.