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. Love

    do not judge Christians. The Bible is clear...there is no other book or subject in the world that will cause that many people to comment vigorously more than the subject of Jesus, and the Bible. Non-believers all feel attacked once the name of Jesus is mentioned, stop, and think, why are you attacking Jesus? Does His name reveal unwanted subjects in your life? Does it open your eyes to a sin in your life that you don’t want to let go of? Jesus is often controversial because His words were so radical, it showed the evil in man, and the corruption of our own flesh. Really, ask yourself the question, why does Jesus upset you so much? Have the guts to search and find out for yourself......read His book!

    May 19, 2010 at 7:16 pm |
    • Morgan

      I have read it. Probably more than most self-proclaimed Christians. I found it an interesting book, but hardly a guide to a moral life. All the killing and raping.. hardly something I want to model my life on. Besides, it's too hard to go that far outside of town to dig a latrine every time I need to hit the john.

      All kidding aside, though, it's your holy book. You go ahead and live by it. Don't be gay, don't commit adultery, and live by all the other injunctions. in there. The rest of us will live according to the moral guides we choose, and we'll all be happy and tolerant together.

      May 20, 2010 at 7:47 pm |
  2. LK

    I am a straight, Christian woman who regularly attends a non-denominational church and I believe that when God made us in His image, He made NO mistakes. Including sexual orientation. I don't believe it's a "choice" any more than I made a "choice" to be attracted to men. And even that is a mystery (what attracts us to each other; I am certainly not attracted to every man I meet!). Even if people think homosexuality is a sin, Jesus said to let those without sin cast the first stone. Since I sin from time to time, I won't be throwing any stones...

    May 19, 2010 at 7:16 pm |
  3. Neal

    Wow, the stupid is really out in full force in this thread. Yikes!

    May 19, 2010 at 7:15 pm |
    • Bob

      Um hmmm... birds of a feather. Thanks for joining us.

      May 19, 2010 at 7:17 pm |
  4. Bob

    And in the end... the love we take... is equal to the love ... we... make.

    Don't forget that God IS LOVE. And, God is a person who has all the full SPIRITUAL nature of both man and womankind. Someday Jesus will come back and heal us all, resurrect us all, and save everyone that decidedly chose God by responding to Jesus' gift of love on the cross. If you don't want God while you are here on earth, you won't want God there either so relax – you won't be forced to live with Him in heaven. You will live without Him in hell. But remember: God is LOVE... not religion.

    May 19, 2010 at 7:14 pm |
    • Linda

      Your right–We need to be constantly praying for the love of Jesus to be poured out into our hardened hearts through the power of the Holy Spirit.

      May 19, 2010 at 9:06 pm |
    • Linda

      You're right–We need to be constantly praying for the love of Jesus to be poured out into our hardened hearts through the power of the Holy Spirit.

      May 19, 2010 at 9:13 pm |
    • Linda

      You're right about God is love–We need to be constantly praying for the love of Jesus to be poured out into our hardened hearts through the power of the Holy Spirit.

      May 19, 2010 at 9:14 pm |
  5. Caligrrl

    It's a prayer I have for all who are living to properly learn grammar in school, to revere the rules of capitalization, to hold unto their bosom the tenets of punctuation and spelling, whereby at some point in their future they might be afforded the opportunity to post judgmental and confused comments on the internets regarding something or someone which is absolutely none of their business, and perhaps be taken a tad more seriously. Yea, verily.

    In all seriousness, it saddens me to hear of gay Christians or other people of faith feeling they are sinners and not loved by God because of something a man wrote in a book hundreds of years ago so his neighbor would stop sleeping with his livestock. The Bible is a book, people. Of stories. Written by men who wanted power and to keep other people in line. Jesus existed of course, but he did not write the Bible. Man did, for his own personal goals at the time. God, Spirit, Yahweh, whatever you want to call Him or Her does not care who you sleep with, as long as it is a consenting adult. Just be a good person. Improve your life and the lives of others. Contribute to society in whatever way you can. Raise a family. Take care of your family. Pursue your talents. Don't be a d*ck. That's pretty much it.

    May 19, 2010 at 7:13 pm |
    • Bob

      So... you are writing your own Bible? Why should I follow yours instead of theirs?

      May 19, 2010 at 7:16 pm |
    • Swordfish

      And again...what a pity.

      May 19, 2010 at 7:16 pm |
    • SonOfSteel

      Beautifully said. Why not interpret the world as it is revealed to us – instead of believing 3rd & 4th hand 'gospels' written thousands of years ago by ignorant men with their own earthly agendas.
      The bible is just a book. period.
      The enormous number of suckers, who are simplistic enough to endorse the bible-nonsense, does NOT validate anything stated in the bible.

      May 22, 2010 at 2:33 am |
  6. Leda

    I am from the South, I follow the teachings of Christ but I do not consider myself a "Christian". Not in the modern sense. What I do know is that Jesus teaches us not to judge, as only God, the Father in Heaven, has a right to judge. No one CHOOSES to be gay. I don't think a single gay person would CHOOSE to be gay, only for the reason that too many judgmental people make it so difficult to be gay. Either way, all of you who consider yourselves 'Christian' obviously have no idea what it means to be Christian or else you wouldn't be posting your ridiculous comments here! Whether it's "wrong" or "right", no one but God has a right to be the judge of moral or immoral behavior, no matter what the Bible reads.

    May 19, 2010 at 7:12 pm |
    • Swordfish

      Ahh, the tirades of willful stupidity...what a pity.

      May 19, 2010 at 7:14 pm |
    • Leda

      How is that a "tirade of stupidity"? How is having faith "stupid"? If I recall quite a number of modern day scientists have faith in a God of sorts, and yet they're considered stupid? I'm not insulted that someone I will never meet and therefor have no reason to be insulted by would think me stupid, I just really wonder why people think having a faith in SOMETHING is stupid.

      May 19, 2010 at 7:24 pm |
    • Swordfish

      Faith, I said nothing about faith. The tirade is in your logic. Your argument about gays and Christians makes no sense.

      May 19, 2010 at 7:32 pm |
    • Leda

      1) Religions make it difficult for gay people to have a normal life. It is astounding that the government would use a religious belief to keep two people from getting married. The comment I made was a tongue-in-cheek statement about why gay people would "choose" to be gay when their life is so much harder than straight people. Having a few gay relatives and a few gay friends I have learned through second hand experience how difficult their lives are. 2) Growing up in Texas maybe I had no choice but to believe in God, even so I can't stand the Christian church. I studied the Bible in college, and am actually a Religion major in which I studied the major world religions, and it disgusts me how Christians use it to judge everyone but themselves. It explicitly states in the Bible that humans are not fit to judge one another and that is exactly what most Christians do, as exampled above. I suppose tongue-in-cheek doesn't go over real well on the internet.

      May 19, 2010 at 7:48 pm |
  7. JesusisLord

    All the rationalizations will seem very hollow indeed, when you stand before the Judge and give account for your lives. That said, Jesus forgives every sin and accepts any sinner who approaches Him in sincere humility, ready to repent.

    May 19, 2010 at 7:11 pm |
    • Brad

      It's going to be funny when all the Christians die, only to have to answer to the Flying Spaghetti Monster for their egregious sins.

      All hail the Flying Spaghetti Monster!

      May 19, 2010 at 7:24 pm |
    • Alma Jackson

      JesusisLord: explain your 'rationalization" of those verses in Leviticus that support slavery and violence towards women.

      May 20, 2010 at 8:39 am |
  8. Brian

    Are hard-core christians the net's most successful trolls? And – I'm wondering if they are on purpose or by accident.

    Why degrade the pinnacle of existence – I'm speaking of scissors of course.

    May 19, 2010 at 7:08 pm |
  9. t

    God has mercy....the whole country is sinking.

    May 19, 2010 at 7:07 pm |
  10. Allknowing

    Hey greedyma...you may eat feces and persish...just do so quietly...idiot

    May 19, 2010 at 7:03 pm |
  11. Paul of LA

    So many comments, so many views, so many opinions, so many judgements, so many fingers pointing, so many wrong people, so many right people, so many people against God (the Creator), so many people for The Creator, so many gods, but there's only one God–God the Father who is Jesus in flesh and the Holy Spirit in our hearts if we chose to let Him live there. Sorry, this is no judgement, just the simple truth: Jennifer Knapp is decieving herself and others. God abhors homosexuality and it is an abomination to Him. It's not just a sin that is the same or greater than any other sin. It is a chosen lifestyle and she would tell you that if she only spoke the truth. I do not hate her or any other homosexual. I love them as God loves them, but probably not as good as God loves them. God loves us all for we are all His children. The simple fact is that He has given us all a choice to follow or not, to make life choicees. Homosexuality is simply chosen. God does not create what he abhors. We create our own little monsters when we let Satan rule even if we think he does not rule us. People, God is not dead. God is not what you want Him to be. The god of other religions is not the God I try to serve daily. I'm not perfect, neither are you or Jennifer Knapp, but we have to continually die to ourselves and live to please God. Read His Word and He will reveal to you the goodness that only He can give. Let's love one another as Christ loved the church. If that sounds foriegn to you, then like I said read His Word. Good night all. I must eat now.

    May 19, 2010 at 7:03 pm |
  12. Michelle

    Dont you think religion is a little outdated? seriously someone should put a warning sign on the bible these days.

    May 19, 2010 at 7:02 pm |
    • JesusisLord

      Your problem is sin and Jesus Christ is the only Answer.

      May 19, 2010 at 7:13 pm |
    • Leda

      Religion and faith are two completely different sets of belief systems. Religion is a theory while faith is a practice, and neither are outdated simply because both are so relevant in society. Even atheism is a belief system, something that is practiced every day. One chooses not to believe in anything because that is what they are most comfortable with in their every day lives, and it's how one explains their actions whether they be socially considered "bad" or "good".

      May 19, 2010 at 7:20 pm |
    • Cindy

      I agree!

      May 21, 2010 at 10:09 am |
  13. Allknowing

    You religious nuts are doomed to be disappointed...what Suckers...pouring your money, energy, and souls into man-created bull to control what you do....unfortunately, you religious zealots have caused more pain and destruction on Erth than Satan could ever devise...thanks morons!!!

    May 19, 2010 at 7:02 pm |
    • Terry

      Spelling aside, I kinda have to agree with you.

      May 19, 2010 at 7:41 pm |
  14. MissAlesia

    What really shames me is the fact that many people have forgotten what this country was really based upon.




    — "And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor."

    - "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

    May 19, 2010 at 6:59 pm |
    • Brad

      MissAlesia, I want you to read this carefully. This is taken from the Treaty of Peace and Friendship, signed at Tripoli November 4, 1796:

      "... the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion..."

      It's found in section 11. You can look it up yourself.

      May 19, 2010 at 7:02 pm |
    • Swordfish

      Many of our country's forefathers were Diest, not Christians...how unfortunate.

      May 19, 2010 at 7:09 pm |
    • Dena

      "under god" in the pledge holds no substance with me because it was added by Eisenhower in 1954.
      The original read like this " I pledge allegiance to my Flag, and to the Republic for which it stands: one Nation indivisible,
      With Liberty and Justice for all."

      As for the divine Providence, Jefferson was NOT a "believer". He equated the christian religion to the likes of Minerva or other ancient mythologies. His original draft (if I remember correctly from my thesis research) did not include that term. It was added as an afterthought.

      May 19, 2010 at 10:01 pm |
  15. truth2power

    Listening to all you crazy Christians blather on and on brings this quote to mind...
    "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."

    May 19, 2010 at 6:57 pm |
  16. greedyma

    i never said i spoke for him you should check your context. i stated what i know and found in my journey and i know to chose to lye with another woman and i myself am one is an abomination. i have nothing against this lady i just hope she finds the correct way to choose her life with what God wants for all of us. So calm down. we all have fallen short from the glory of god. thus we repent and ask for strength to live better and righteous but this lady is clearly accepting her choice and hasnt found it wrong and God does. thank you.

    May 19, 2010 at 6:56 pm |
    • Emma

      Greedyma, what makes you so certain that the bible is God's word? You are brainwashed. There is no proof of anything that was written in the bible. The only thing that is certain is that it was written by men hundreds of years after Jesus' supposed death. People in those times, just as all the people in the world at the time, were looking for answers and when they couldn't find them, they created GOD! I questioned what I learned in church from the time I was 8 years old or so. You know why? Because a lot of it doesn't make any sense. There are hundreds if not thousands of religions. You have no right to claim more Godly knowledge (as if you have God's direct number on you speed dial) than any other person whose religion differs from yours. What makes me sick is you all bash each other and claim that your religion is the only TRUE religion! Give me a break. God is not a person and he doesn't control everything. You are a victim of "magical thinking"! Open your eyes and live your life with strength, passion and conviction. I do and I DO NOT turn to God for anything. And yes, I don't suffer from false hopes on a daily basis. Maybe you should give it a try.

      May 19, 2010 at 10:39 pm |
    • Alma Jackson

      greedyma....you still have not answered my question. why are you picking and choosing which parts of the bible you want to believe? Why are you disregarding huge sections of verse (old testament) because it doesn't fit your mindset?

      May 20, 2010 at 8:36 am |
    • Alma Jackson

      greedyma: if Jennifer chose to be gay, please tell us when you "chose" to be straight? How long did you consider being gay before you "chose" to be straight?

      May 20, 2010 at 2:04 pm |
  17. Priscella Klock

    you are my beloved sister in Christ and I praise God for you.
    I am thankful you are here and I do not judge your heart or your relationship with our beautiful King.
    I'm so glad you are still walking in faith and that you are constantly pulling and pushing on your faith journey.
    We are all different and I believe you are a blessing to any and all communities. You are a beautiful friend through music and your desire to love God earnestly, to seek His face, to be a disciple of Jesus' love all while being genuine and real and honest are the same characteristics of the brethren in Scripture.

    I'm thankful to have you in the body of believers and you inspire me.

    sister in Christ,

    to those who think they've God life and faith and the Bible all figured out I say this to you, "Before studying the Bible I thought I had a lot of answers...but after 4 years my answers quickly became questions and my questions quickly paved paths on my journey for truth. Jesus is the messiah and He is the son of God! God did create us and He does love us! Christianity is the truth-not just a glimpse, the whole truth! But guess what? Aside from all of those truths that I know, the only other one that I am certain of is that love covers a multitude of sins and that God IS love...and that is where I choose to live and die."

    God be with you.

    May 19, 2010 at 6:56 pm |
  18. CRB

    the first part of this needs to be said again. I don't care if I already said it in reply to somebody else–I'm going to say it again, and then expand upon it:

    the God I believe in doesn't care what you do as long as you are truly happy with Who You Are. repent? repent for what, exactly? for not being true to yourself, I could buy–I do that daily, and I strive daily to get to the core of who I truly am. who I truly am is not a so-called "Christian" that judges others for the way they choose to live their lives.

    oh, I have words, certainly, for the so-called "Christians", but I don't judge how they live their lives if they're not intruding on mine or others. those of you "Christians" out there telling Jennifer–and by extension, the rest of us–to "see the light" and that we're "wrong" for believing what we believe or for living how we live are no better than the "sinners" you're calling out.

    get over yourselves. God is not about preaching hate and discrimination, nor did he give you (yes, YOU) the right to judge. what was that verse? oh yeah. "judge not, lest ye be judged." you guys might wanna, y'know, pay a little more attention to the Bible as a whole instead of zeroing in on a single, piddly little law that was written–BY A HUMAN, I'll add–for HEALTH PURPOSES some thousand years ago, give or take–things have changed since then. you know, what with all the technological and medical advances that we've made and what have you.

    pray for me all you want if you think I'm a sinner–I certainly will appreciate your concern–but don't you DARE tell me I'm sinning and that I'm wrong and that I'm going to hell. that's the quickest way you'll get me to ignore you completely.

    and with this, I'd like to offer my congratulations, again, to Jennifer for being so bold as to come out of the closet–especially in an environment as quick to judge and hate as a lot of (but, thankfully, not all of) Christianity fosters.

    May 19, 2010 at 6:55 pm |
    • Mike

      God loves gay people to the same extent and in the same way that He loves everyone else. God's love is not conditional on how we act. That does not mean that God can save everyone. Salvation is something that He freely bestows but it is also something that we must accept, and we accept it by committing our life to Him. That means, among other things, choosing His choices over our own. God's choices in everything are for our good and we ignore them at our peril. It is abolutely true that not all gay people choose to be gay. Often they have no control over their sexual preferences. But they can choose to abstain from a homosexual lifestyle. Heterosexuals do this all the time. Most of us would enjoy having emotional and sexual relationships with a variety of women, but God commands against adultery so we choose to enjoy a monogamous relationship with one wife. Our preferences are not under our control but our lifestyle choices are, and for those who abide in Christ, we must choose His choices, in everything, all the time.

      May 19, 2010 at 7:15 pm |
  19. greedyma


    May 19, 2010 at 6:53 pm |
    • Brad

      I don't care about your god. If I'm to believe he exists (which he doesn't), he conducts himself like a power-mad, mentally challenged child, inflicting misery on the entire world. No thanks on that.

      May 19, 2010 at 7:06 pm |
    • Alma Jackson

      greedyma....so you agree that you are picking and choosing which parts of the bible you want to believe? So there is NOTHING in the old testament you agree with? So you are litterally disregarding half of the bible because you need to select those verses that support your bigotry?

      May 20, 2010 at 8:34 am |
  20. Brad

    What I think is funny about this entire debate is that it doesn't matter because "God" as Christianity (and every other major religion) perceives him isn't even real. If there is a "god", it's not one that any human has conceptualized.

    May 19, 2010 at 6:53 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.