Marsha Stevens and the Christian Song For Those Tears I Died

marsha stevens cindy pino

Cindy Pino and Marsha Stevens

In 1969, Marsha Stevens, wrote the song For Those Tears I Died (Come to the Water). This song was quite popular in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church movement. To this day, I can remember my sister-in-law singing this song. It brought tears to my eyes. The lyrics go like this:

You said You’d come and share all my sorrows,
You said You’d be there for all my tomorrows;
I came so close to sending You away,
But just like You promised You came there to stay;
I just had to pray!

And Jesus said, “Come to the water, stand by My side,
I know you are thirsty, you won’t be denied;
I felt ev’ry teardrop when in darkness you cried,
And I strove to remind you that for those tears I
died.”

Your goodness so great I can’t understand,
And, dear Lord, I know that all this was planned;
I know You’re here now, and always will be,
Your love loosed my chains and in You I’m free;
But Jesus, why me?

And Jesus said, “Come to the water, stand by My side,
I know you are thirsty, you won’t be denied;
I felt ev’ry teardrop when in darkness you cried,
And I strove to remind you that for those tears I
died.”

Jesus, I give You my heart and my soul,
I know that without God I’d never be whole;
Savior, You opened all the right doors,
And I thank You and praise You from earth’s humble
shores; Take me, I’m Yours.

And Jesus said, “Come to the water, stand by My side,
I know you are thirsty, you won’t be denied;
I felt ev’ry teardrop when in darkness you cried,
And I strove to remind you that for those tears I
died.”

I am sure many of you, who are older and at one time were a member of an Evangelical church, likely heard this song.

In 1979, Stevens divorced her husband and declared to the Evangelical world that she was a lesbian. I suspect you can imagine the Evangelical outrage over Stevens becoming a ______________. (fill in the blank with whatever derogatory word Evangelicals use to denigrate LGBT people) In the IFB wing of the Evangelical church, some pastors went apoplectic over this. How dare Stevens soil such a wonderful song! Others were sure that Stevens had been led astray by Satan.

The song and Stevens’s lesbianism proved to be a real conundrum for many IFB preachers. Had she “always” been a lesbian? If so, how could a lesbian write such a powerful, God honoring song? Well, praise Jesus, this just goes to show you that God can use the worst of sinners to accomplish his will, right?

In 2002, Bill Gaither caused quite a stir when he had Stevens come on the stage at one of the Gaither Homecoming Concerts and sing For Those Tears I Died. (you can see a video clip of this here) After the show, someone snapped a picture of Stevens, her lesbian partner, Gaither, and Mark Lowry. (as you you can see, the picture was not by accident)

marsha stevens bill gaither

Gaither caught so much Evangelical shit over this that he was forced to release a statement:

Apparently, a visit by Marsha Stevens to a Gaither Homecoming concert in 2002 is being misrepresented and misused by her and others. Marsha Stevens is an outspoken lesbian singer-songwriter who operates an organization called Born Again Lesbian Music (BALM Ministries). Her story is a sad one.

In 1969, as the 16 year-old leader of what many consider to be the first contemporary Christian music group, Children of the Day, Marsha wrote “For Those Tears I Died,” which quickly became one of the most popular songs of the so-called Jesus Movement. Featured on “Maranatha’s “The Everlasting Living Jesus Music Concert” album, her song became one of the best known Christian folk songs of the decade.

Gloria and I, along with hundreds of churches around the country have sung that song for years. Unfortunately, in more recent years Marsha publicly declared herself to be lesbian and took her music and work in a very different direction from where it started.

In December 2002, we had a Gaither Homecoming concert in Phoenix, where someone told us she was in attendance and asked if she could come backstage and say hello. Mark Lowry and I greeted Marsha and her partner and someone snapped a photograph of the four of us, a picture Marsha has exploited on her Web site ever since. False reports of what transpired at the concert have also surfaced on various Web sites so we pulled the videotape of the concert and reviewed it. Here is exactly what happened.

Gloria and I were celebrating our 40th anniversary that night and we sang a number of songs that had been special to us over the years, including, “For Those Tears I Died.” I mentioned, from the platform, that the woman who wrote that song “is here tonight.” I then said that I love that song because someone “may have seen a grownup with a Jesus that maybe is pushing you away, that wouldn’t let you in. And you were never good enough. The only Christ I know is the Christ in that song, with His arms out very wide, saying, “Come to the water, That’s the only Christ I know — come as you are.”

We then continued the concert without any further mention of Marsha or this song. Any other report of this concert is simply and sadly false. I regret that this brief exchange has apparently been used to suggest some sort of endorsement of Marsha and her current life and work. Clearly I do not endorse or support either, though I believe God can, and does still use this song to minister to people. I pray for Marsha and encourage others to do the same.

This is yet another example of the homophobia that is rampant in the Evangelical church. The good news is that young Evangelicals are less likely to be anti-gay than their Evangelical parents and grandparents. Why? Unlike older Evangelicals, young Evangelicals likely know someone who is gay. Knowing is the first step to acceptance.

As far as Marsha Stevens is concerned, she went on with her life, starting a music ministry called Born Again Lesbian Music (BALM). She is married to Cindy Pino, and is, as one writer described her:

Conservative Christianity’s worst nightmare – a Jesus-loving, Bible-believing, God-fearing lesbian Christian.

From 1970-1980, Stevens was part of the Contemporary Christian group Children of the Day. Here is a 1971 video of Children of Day singing For Those Tears I Died:

YouTube Preview Image

Video Link

Do you remember this song and the subsequent outrage over Stevens’s lesbianism? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

Comments (13)

  1. ami

    I remember the song very well. Never heard all the controversy surrounding it, however. Of course we were sheltered from the world and I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a gay person until I was 18 years old. Yeah, really.

    Regarding Gaither? What an asshole. No surprises there. I *did* know there were assholes long before age 18.

    Reply
  2. brbr2424

    I’m an atheist – but that was enjoyable. I really like folk music.

    Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems that a lot of people were attracted to a hippy sort of Jesus in the 70s and 80s, and then they got deeper and deeper into a legalistic bible believing authoritarian cult. Now that the Duggars are back in the news with the latest book, their story sounds typical. They had a great time before buying into the Gothard stuff. She was a cheerleader. They dated other people and probably did all the stuff people did. Then they raised their many children in a legalistic and authoritarian environment with the child discipline techniques that produce adults with PTSD. The oldest daughter is 24, uneducated and waiting for her father to find her a husband. I would be extremely resentful if my parents partied and had fun and made their own choices and then fell for hippy Jesus and I was stuck at age 24, uneducated and unable to make my own life decisions.

    Reply
  3. davewarnock

    yes I remember that song and Children of the Day. Used to sing it a lot. Good for her for being honest and brave. Didn’t know of this. I did hear a few years ago that Ray Boltz- who had a huge hit among fundagelicals, with “Thank You” announced he was gay as well. Have you heard of similar fallout from that?

    Reply
  4. Steve

    Oh yes, remember it well! Powerful! This song was very moving. Although you just taught me something, I had no idea that it was written by a lesbian. None at all! (I wonder if my mom knew before she died?)

    I read Gaithers statement with great interest. It was clear bullshit, written because of all the grief he had received. That picture was CLEARLY not just snapped. It was pretty much planned, I believe. And, it’s amazing how the good lord can use a muff diver to write such a moving song, huh? Lol! Kinda reminds me of Dan Barker & all the gospel songs he wrote over the years.

    Reply
  5. Texas Born & Bred

    I have used this song many times to lead singing in various christian events. Knowing the background and current events makes it even better (for me).

    Reply
  6. Wanderin' Weeta

    I’m glad you reminded me of this song. When it came out, I was in great pain, and that one line, “You felt every teardrop …,” brought me comfort. I sang this often.

    It’s strange, now that I know no-one “felt every teardrop,” it doesn’t change anything for me; the song still brings the reminder of shared pain, now shared with all those in similar situations, just not the fictional “Jesus”.

    I never heard of the controversy. It wouldn’t have mattered to me; I had gay and lesbian friends, even back then.

    Reply
  7. carmen

    Oh Steve, Steve . . . you and your euphemisms. . like I’ve said before, Bruce – I don’t know who’s funnier, you or your (awesome!) commenters. The things I learn on here!!

    Reply
  8. Angiep

    Seeing the video of this song being performed back in the day took me way down memory lane. During the “Jesus movement” there was a lot of love and good feeling associated with being a Christian. It was kind of fun — not like what fundamentalists are experiencing today. That’s probably why I was drawn to Christianity as a teen. As my beliefs matured and I was able to think for myself, I gave up those beliefs later. But this was a vivid reminder of what it was all about for me back then.

    Reply
  9. Ian

    Watching that video took me back quite a few years. It also made me think of The Fishmarket Combo, who sang “I Wish We’d All Been Ready” from the film “A Thief In The Night”.

    I liked this sing as a kid and remember it being heavily played on the radio. It was performed a couple of times in a church I attended; but was quickly left behind when that church became Calvinistic.

    In that picture, everyone looks happy, Bill should have owned the moment. He could have said something like, although he doesn’t agree with Marsha’s lifestyle, he was happy to see her and wanted to show the love of Jesus. Wasn’t Jesus a friend of harlots and publicans? I would be willing to bet that Bill, and all of the others, are secretly friends with all kinds of people mainstream Christianity would disapprove of. Christians only want to be like Jesus when it is convenient.

    Why is Marsha any different from Russ Taff, Michael English, Sandi Patti, or Amy Grant? In fact, according to the Apostle Paul, these remarried women are committing adultery every day and their husbands are the facilitators of it. Marsha is different because Bill Gaither caters to an older crowd. Much of his audience is made up of Archie Bunker types from the south. His core group are people who followed The Cathederals, JD Sumner and The Stamps, and The Happy Goodman Family. This core group wants to be reminded of mid-1900′s America, as they remember it. So, divorce and drinking are OK, gay is not. That is the real problem.

    In all fairness, I have to say I listened to Bill Gaither and really enjoyed his Homecoming videos. Bill and Gloria Gaither are excellent showmen and certainly know who to entertain a crowd.

    Reply
  10. Cindy

    Never liked the song,JESUS didn’t die for “tears”,HE died for sin. Never knew anything about who wrote it.

    Reply
  11. Ian

    Cindy, maybe the song was written to give comfort and hope. Don’t you believe tears are the result of sin? One day there will be no more tears, God will wipe them away. This is in the time after there is no more sin.

    Jesus died for sin, which is the cause of tears. Sometimes, when writing, the author will appeal to a concept the reader can grasp, they try to make it relevant. Descriptions of God use the words “like” and “as”, so people will understand how he looks. A person who didn’t grow up in church may not understand the entire concept of sin, but they understand tears. So, for those tears Jesus died.

    Once again, the evangelical God looses, because his followers don’t show any mercy or extend any grace. They can’t even allow imagery to help draw in the lost and hurting. It all about them, forgetting that they were once the lost.

    Reply
  12. Aaron Saltzer

    Marsha reminds me so much of Mary from Little House On The Prairie in that video. I guess being 18 or 19 wasn’t considered being an adult in those days.

    Reply
  13. ETTA MAE GAWTHROP

    BEAUTIFUL SONG.

    Reply

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>