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May 19th, 2010
09:10 AM ET

My Take: On fear, faith and being gay

Editor's note: Christian music artist Jennifer Knapp returned to the music scene with a new album this month after walking away from a successful career seven years ago. She also revealed that she has been in a same-sex relationship for the past eight years. Read more about Knapp and watch her interview with Larry King.

By Jennifer Knapp, Special to CNN

As a young girl, I learned to read music. The scattered black dots on the page, successfully decrypted and performed, began to make more vivid the world around me. I began to discover the private, personal and strange journeys that playing music had to offer. I listened, I sang, I played, and I began to write songs of my own. For me, music has become the tool through which the meditations of my soul find deeper peace and understanding.

As a young adult, I began to pursue a purposed life of faith centered on the teachings of Jesus. Many would say that I "became" a Christian. Curious, passionate and confounded, I entered my local evangelical Protestant church with a new appreciation for my spiritual self and participated with full fervor. There too, I experienced music as a gift that could draw out the deeper cries of not just my heart, but the hearts of others as well.

More and more, my spiritual pursuit began to be reflected by the songs I was writing. I laid down the questions of my faith I was too embarrassed to share aloud, or worse, uninvited to speak of openly. The songs I wrote directly pertaining to my faith were warmly greeted and celebrated in my church. Soon I found myself with more invitations to play my little songs. Starting in local churches and humble country sanctuaries, onto summer camps, college campuses and conferences of faith; I didn’t know it, but I was becoming a “Christian artist.”

Almost exclusively, I was playing in and around churches - Methodist, Baptist, Lutheran, Pentecostal, Episcopalian, Catholic - and some churches that had no recognizable denominational affiliation other than a cross over their door. Where I began thinking that all Christians were alike, I quickly discovered that they were not. They all spoke of Jesus the same, but their practices and traditions, their “do’s and don’ts,” could be vastly different.

As confounding as this was to me, I learned to respect the houses where I was asked to play, learned to listen a bit more closely, and even more, learned to appreciate the diverse styles and methods with which many people process their spiritual journey. As the invited but alien artist, it often fell upon me to find our commonality, to sing of what we could mutually share and celebrate.

Through trial and error, offense and blessing, I learned that not even a Christian could be solely judged by his cover. Blundering assumptions about how I thought one church might believe, or even how one single congregant among them might believe, only left me an agent of offense. I began to recognize the intense personal nature of each individual’s specific spiritual journey. I began to see the powerful protection a community of faith could be for the fragile and broken. I also have seen the tragic emotional and spiritual devastation brought upon those who sought only compassion and were greeted with condemnation in times of utmost vulnerability.

All this I have seen, when I just wanted to play music. I just wanted to explore my faith. I simply wanted to meet others, converse, encourage and learn about how to be ... well, a meaningful person. I have definitely found myself in the midst of an adventure I would have never imagined or called for.

This was the world I found myself in when I realized I was gay. After years of subtle comments, wary glances and leading encouragement to get married and have babies, I was fully aware that I had a foot in the door of some houses that were about to be slammed. At the same time, I had experienced years of rich and fulfilling dialogue with many people of faith who taught me the soft landings of compassion. Still, it was hard not to respond to the fear. I questioned whether my faith had betrayed me, or I if had a betrayed my faith. I wondered if music was a ruse and could unite no one.

Like wistful balloons loosed to the wind, I was about to release both faith and music, but I could not release what I had learned.

Where music had led me to very strange lands, full of people with differing faith practices, cultural expectations, gender roles and more ... it had taught me to listen. Through the torrent of life’s confusion and seeming incongruities, there is a spirit, a song, that if we strain hard enough, we can hear. What we can hear, when we listen, is how we are much the same.

From time to time, a song catches our ear and we follow it outside of our usual haunts. We stumble out of our chosen sanctuaries and toward the source of sound that seems to reveal our heart’s longing. It is only when we get there that we can see the diversity of the many who were called by the same tune. Will we be encouraged to see we are not alone? Shamed that we do not want to share it with others differing from ourselves? Or will we simply listen?

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jennifer Knapp.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Culture & Science • Opinion

soundoff (1,303 Responses)
  1. KBBVA

    I have gone through and have read some of the posts. I feel sad for the people who have no heart or compassion for people and that is if you are a person of faith or not. My best friend is gay and a Christian. He has struggled his whole life with this. He was brought up in a strict pentecostal church whose Pastor was his grandmother. He has never officially come out to his family because they would not understand. He has known since a little child that he was gay. Now tell me, does a child choose to be gay. I don't think so. It is something that a person is born with. There is no easy answer here as far as faith and the gay person. I am a person of faith and to be honest I am confused about this myself. All I know is that we should love people and help them through their struggles, even if we don't totally understand what their stuggle is. And to close I want to say this and I will more than likely get a lot of nasty comments about it, but I don't care. We Christians should stop being so judgemental about things that we don't know about. You never know what a person is going through until you walk a day in their shoes. Stop letting fear and hatred rule your lives. Instead embrace a brother or sister and help them throught. Gays don't need to be fixed or even understood. They need love and compassion. It is a shame that confessed Christians are the first ones to crucify a person. I believe they missed the part of the Bible that states we are to love everyone.

    June 15, 2010 at 2:14 pm |
  2. JLP

    "Let those without sin cast the first stone" Jesus said it and i believe it.

    May 29, 2010 at 1:06 pm |
  3. Mykelb

    Dear Ms. Knapp, please read the original bible in Koine Greek. It will reveal that the old stories told in the mistranslated King James version are not the same lessons. It's too bad that the American talibangelicals keep using mistranslated texts that are used to bash gays.

    May 28, 2010 at 11:32 am |
  4. Reality

    Hmmm, some comments are not going through. What are CNN/Belief's rules about the length and specific words of comments?

    Some words like mutual mast–ba-tion are widely used in scientific journals as a Google search will show.

    May 27, 2010 at 2:44 pm |
  5. boduke82

    Greedyma – you obviously do not know Scripture either. Ezekiel 16:49 – 50, "Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good." So just put that in your pulpit and smoke it!!

    May 27, 2010 at 2:00 pm |
  6. FORGIVEN-BOUGHT BY SACRIFICE-REDEEMED

    Well, Skee said it all earlier.

    There was once a time when atheists tried to disprove Christianity, and instead became Christians because of the proof. The Bible also says there will be a time where no one will be able to convert. They will be so blind that they won't see what's staring them in the face. One day everyone will know the truth, and I would not want to be a non-believer at that time. Thankfully I won't be. Hopefully I'll already be in Heaven.

    Jennifer, God loves you. But we all need to realize that we're sinners in need of forgiveness. That means me, you, everyone on this blog, and everyone in this world. Our lives shouldn't be based on what God wants us to do and not what we want to do.

    This is only part of what I believe, and no one is going to change that.

    May 26, 2010 at 7:09 pm |
  7. GI JOHN

    Dt...if you are in fact a follower of Christ you would know He tells us to have nothing to do with someone who refuses to turn from their sin. You warn them and if they refuse to listen you move on. What does light have to do with darkness? Have you ever heard of seperation dt? Jesus told us to not be yolked together with unbelievers and immoral brothers. Jesus told us that the cost of following Him would cost us family and friends. Your not being a friend to your friend by accepting his gayness. Nor are you putting Christ first. Read your Bible dt. Do not trust your own feelings. And yes... God does hate the sinner dt.......
    You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil; with you the wicked cannot dwell. The arrogant cannot stand in your presence; you hate all who do wrong. You destroy those who tell lies; bloodthirsty and deceitful men the LORD abhors. .......Pslam 5:4-6

    May 26, 2010 at 11:41 am |
  8. dt

    Excuse me? I'm not the one who's gay. My friend is. I'm not going to hell for any of his sins. My point is if I'm constantly telling him what a terrible person he is he will be turned off to anything I have to say. However if I show him the love of Christ he will be more likely to listen to my beliefs. How can you say that God hates the sinner? Do you hate your children because they are doing something wrong? Or do you love them and hate their wrongdoings?

    May 26, 2010 at 4:22 am |
  9. GButterfly

    Why are my comments being blocked?

    May 25, 2010 at 5:06 pm |
  10. GI JOHN

    What a whole mix of deceived people we have here. Satan is doing a masterful job on deceiving even "Christians".
    You have your people who don't believe in God or the Bible at all! How laughable is that? Yeah, we came from no where! Just popped into existence! LOL! Tell yourself whatever you have to I guess to justify your ignorance and sinful lifestyle! Then you have the "Christian" who has obviously made up there own God and Jesus. Refuse to take heed to Christs own words. Lets make it quite clear God hates the sinner! I am sick and tired of this line God hates the sin not the sinner. The sinner is the one committing the sin. Yes God loves mankind and has given them one last chance to Repent and turn from sin. Yes Jesus ate with the sinners....but those sinners who chose to follow Him turned from their sin! You can not continue in habitual sin and be a follower of Christ. Wake up people! It does not matter what you feel is right! This is God's creation and if you want to serve Him you must and will turn from your sin. How can you possibly love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength and do anything less? Heaven is a place for those who choose God over this world and their fleshly desires! You wanna be gay....be gay! But quite hijacking God and Jesus as yours! It is clearly wrong and is sin! Put God first and Satan will flee! All those who claim to follow Jesus must turn from wickedness.

    Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God...1 John 3:5-10

    You will all see just how wrong you were when you face Christ on Judgment Day. I know all will hate this warning I am posting...but I expect no less. Christ said;"They hated me and they will hate you".

    May 25, 2010 at 12:14 pm |
    • GButterfly

      If you would realize that homosexuality is a state of being and identity that God has given to some people then their lifestyle is not a willful disobedience to God’s laws and commandment and they are not living in sin. When people were fighting against slavery they broke the law but followed their hearts, their true way of being they did not sin. That too is in the bible. Seriously what happens to your righteous argument if you realized God created homosexuality? Just like he has created it in many other parts of the animal kingdom, which is well documented.

      May 25, 2010 at 5:15 pm |
  11. Dolphin

    In God's Ten Commandments, being Gay is not addressed at all. The other Commandments point mostly to heterosexuals such as not coveting a neighbor's wife. Strange how those who would condemn gays are not looking at this matter clearly!

    May 25, 2010 at 9:41 am |
  12. Undeniable Fact

    We must be ever cognizant of the fact that Jesus Christ never said anything about sexual orientation, especially gays. And It is by His blood that we are Saved, not by man's. Remember that always!

    May 25, 2010 at 9:34 am |
  13. dt

    I have a dear friend who is gay and professes to be a Christian, although it is my personal belief that this is wrong. He is aware of my religious beliefs but we are still able to love each other and have a wonderful friendship. I believe that God would have me show my friend love and compassion rather than judgment and condemnation. Christ dined with the sinners, right? I do not condone my friend's lifestyle but I also do not constantly judge him. I simply show him love, which is a much better way to reach him than trying to force my beliefs on him. When you do that they only put up their guard and refuse to hear what you have to say.

    May 25, 2010 at 9:29 am |
  14. YHWH reigns

    I S I T A C H O I C E ??????

    Love is a choice.
    Engaging in intercourse or similar acts is a choice.
    To look upon someone with lust is a choice.

    Men are usually attracted to women. The choice comes when they desire to have them, which is normally followed with action to try and get them, which is also a choice. If they commit adultery and lay with them while the woman is married to another man, that is a chioce, which is also a sin. Even promiscuity of sleeping around casually is sinful and degrading to one's self and the other they are engaged in the action with. Life is harder, but better when lived with the desire to be pure and to chose NOT to make the wrong choices.

    It would be a far stretch, probably not correct, to say that attraction was a choice. But to act on it in selfishness, rather than choose not to follow it, is a choice, which can lead to sin.

    May 24, 2010 at 4:36 pm |
  15. noma

    This is such a beautifully written article. I have never listened to Christian music, honestly, I am scared of it and its judgmental followers. But this article has sparked interest in me to listen to her music. Whether you think she is sinning or not you have to admit it takes guts to stand up and admit who you are knowing you will be condemned for it (sounds eerily familiar). She will undoubtedly lose a large number of fans but I have a feeling they weren't worth having in the first place with their false message of love and forgiveness. However, she has opened herself up to people like me who are scared of Christian music and the narrow mindedness that often surrounds it. I wish you the best with everything! Your music will not fall on deaf ears.

    May 24, 2010 at 2:46 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.