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. Tom

    Lots of people in here that purport to be a Christian and then when someone writes the truth of how the Bible speaks of homosexuality as a sin, then these people attack the writer. Bottom line is that a Christian speaks the truth and doesn't sugar coat someone's deviation from the Word of the Lord. Judgement comes from the Lord alone and telling someone that they are not following the Lord is not judging them – it's doing the difficult Christian thing of being honest about another person's behavior. You either believe in the Bible or you don't and if you do, you don't pick and choose what suits your comfort zone or interferes with your ego.

    May 19, 2010 at 7:51 pm |
  2. james

    Jennifer, you only have to read the first few comments from your fellow christians to see how small-minded, petty, and hateful these people are. Why would you want to associate yourself with these people? Religion is brainwashing and is poisonous to our society. You can still explore your spiritual connection to the world and humankind without their silly stories and made up gods. Let it go. Religion is for the weak. You will be stronger on your own.

    May 19, 2010 at 7:51 pm |
    • Frank

      How can you encourage her to have a spiritual connection...and then you say religion is for the weak?

      May 19, 2010 at 8:19 pm |
    • Pirogi

      Because spirituality doesn't necessarily require religion.

      May 20, 2010 at 11:50 am |
  3. Brad

    I wonder if Jesus fondles as many children as his priests do.

    Is that what people mean when they say they've been "touched by god"?

    May 19, 2010 at 7:48 pm |
    • Leda


      May 19, 2010 at 7:51 pm |
  4. Ben

    @ 99.9% of these comments. :rolleyes:

    My first thought is bfd? Ooo, she's a gay Christian rocker. She's so edgy!!

    May 19, 2010 at 7:46 pm |
    • Scott

      No kidding man. Seriously, who cares?

      May 19, 2010 at 7:51 pm |
  5. JesusisLord

    A righteous Father willingly sacrificed His Son to account for your sins, but should you deny His gracious offer in this life, Hell and Satan await you in the next.

    May 19, 2010 at 7:44 pm |
    • TB

      Can't wait. At least my Sundays are free.

      May 19, 2010 at 10:14 pm |
    • Bob Ingersoll

      Then I'm a better father than he is. I wouldn't sacrifice my son for you or anyone. The truly scary thing about religion is that the followers so easily dismiss the horrid behavior of their deity by saying crap like "The Lord moves in mysterious ways." Yes, the mystery is that any reasonable person still buys into this.

      May 20, 2010 at 6:57 am |
  6. mary

    Well the more I hear people say they are gay..The more I am inclined to believe that it is a choice..
    I just don't buy the fact that so many are born gay..I think we are born se**ual.. And getting pleasure, one way or another is just Ok today..Be it alone or with some one of the opposite or same gender...
    It seems more about being with some one you can relate to..Which seems easier with some one who enjoys the same things. Which people of the same gender do..And just adding the s** in cause you want to.

    May 19, 2010 at 7:43 pm |
    • Morgan

      I think I speak for all of us here when I sincerely say.... huh?

      May 20, 2010 at 7:53 pm |
  7. Swordfish

    Why would anyone believe in "nothingness" and live a meaningless life?

    May 19, 2010 at 7:42 pm |
    • thebigatheist

      One can live a full life free of religion. and as far as we all know "nothingness" is the only thing we have to go by. no one has ever come back to show us otherwise...

      May 19, 2010 at 7:54 pm |
    • Tom

      Yes, Christ came back. Miracles are abound and you choose not to believe. Your problem alone and no one elses. Just start to try to believe in something other than yourself and you may be very surprised.

      May 19, 2010 at 8:04 pm |
    • thebigatheist

      Why do you think I just believe in myself? Huh? Where did that come from? As far as the Christ coming back thing: PROVE IT? If it is true it should be simple enough right? We should be able duplicate the supposed ressurection right or have CREDIBLE proof something happened that day...guess what we don"t? We should also be able to easily find his leneage (which to date NO ONE has found). Furthemore explain to me why the first account of Jesus Christ came 50 some odd years AFTER he supposedly died? And why all accounts to JC were just in passing and not more in depth? Lastly Jesus didn"t die remeber he came back?) So did god lie...did he really love the earth as much as the bible claims? See with me being the Atheist I am in this debate the burden of proof lies with you and folk like you who buy this stuff!. So Tom I am waiting...so is all the scientific and church communities alike. Oh yeah faith is no a good answer; it's a cop out! My contention is this; You can find descrepencies in the FIRST TWO pages of the bible (won"t go into it here...figure it out for yourself) and that is supposed to be the manual, to Christianity. You owe it to yourself to ask questions and be very skeptical unitil PROOF proves otherwise.

      May 19, 2010 at 10:35 pm |
    • Geoff

      Theudas is an example of a 'prophet' that claimed the exact same things Jesus claimed (to some extent), prior to Jesus claiming them. Theudas, like others before him, met with a horrible death–as would Jesus. The followers of Theudas and others like him would dissipate soon after their death and the movement would die. So why was Jesus different? What set this movement, Christianity, apart from the others? Why would billions wind up following Jesus and not someone like Theudas? To me the answer is simple: the Resurrection. The only logical reason that the followers of Jesus would continue on with such passion, even to the point of their own executions, was the undying belief that Jesus was the real deal.
      Just something to ponder. Doesn't make me right; it doesn't prove that Christianity is true. But I think an honest examination of why Jesus was different and why his followers were so convinced of the message, is worth having a look at.

      May 24, 2010 at 12:57 pm |
    • Geoff

      Also keep in mind that 'writing things down' was not a common practice then, especially among the poorer people. Relaying information verbally was an art form and taken very seriously. 'A Short History of Christianity' by Stephen Tomkins in a great book. It sugar coats nothing and reveals the early days of the chruch–flaws and all.

      May 24, 2010 at 1:01 pm |
  8. TOTB

    The Bible is clear on homosexuality in both the Old and New Testaments. Nevertheless, for people in the 21st century to fail to try to understand the origins of homosexuality is the height of laziness and ignorance. Research has established clear and convincing evidence that there are legitimate factors that can set people up to struggle with homosexuality.. sexual/emotional abuse; a horrific; abysmal relationship with the same sex parent and even same sex peers; etc; etc; etc. There is also a significant socio-cultural context to this struggle and I would suggest that the way gender roles are socially constructed is one of the biggest culprits.. people start questioning their sexuality when, among other things, they sense they don't 'fit' into how a girl or boy should act... should be... The Bible never said all girls had to be into dolls and all boys had to be into sports, for example... yet much of society still projects these 'gender role norms' onto youth... Why don't we change these norms... broaden or altogether eliminate gender roles and let each person be the people God created them to be.. if we stopped defining what it means to be female or male behavior-wise, I would venture to say much of the gender confusion we see in this world wouldn't even exist.

    As for Jesus, He did love but He also confronted or corrected in love. Today we think we are being loving by ignoring or turning a blind eye to all behaviors and just 'letting people be." Sometimes that is the most hateful thing a person can do... Love sometimes requires taking a stand when a friend/family member is making a choice that could ultimately harm them.. God did not see His people going down the wrong path and stand innocently by... He, most obviously, sent Jesus and, in the OT, He appointed prophets to convey His truth; alert them to their errors; and He gave them time to repent or change their ways. May we be as loving as He was... to lovingly correct those who were not choosing what was best.. either for them or for Him.

    May 19, 2010 at 7:40 pm |
  9. Pete

    God is great. Jennifer is great. Her music rocks. She is happy. God loves her. Nothing wrong with that.

    May 19, 2010 at 7:38 pm |
  10. Brad

    The vengeance of the Flying Spaghetti Monster befalls all non-believers!

    REPENT, CHRISTIANS. You must know the one, true way!

    May 19, 2010 at 7:37 pm |
  11. thebigatheist

    Why would anyone want to associate themselves with a diety; let alone one who condones killing and some of the most horrid actions known to man?

    May 19, 2010 at 7:37 pm |
  12. Swordfish

    "Life sucks, everybody knows it, but one day it will all be over you just have to make it until then."

    I like it!

    May 19, 2010 at 7:35 pm |
    • Brad

      It's a pretty sad to live your life looking forward to death that much. Especially when nothing happens after you die.

      Life is pretty great.

      May 19, 2010 at 7:39 pm |
    • Swordfish

      It's sad to think you believe there's nothing after death. Trust me, there's an appointment with you name on it.

      May 19, 2010 at 7:47 pm |
    • Brad

      You're right, tomorrow I'm seeing the dentist.

      I'm going to go ahead and enjoy my life, thanks. I'm not under the delusion that the "real thing" begins when I'm dead.

      If your god has a problem with that, there's a dick with his name on it. Mine.

      May 19, 2010 at 7:51 pm |
  13. John

    Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God, so here is what He has to say, Romans 1:26-27 – "Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion." (NIV)

    May 19, 2010 at 7:33 pm |
    • C.O.G.

      28Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. 29They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

      Hmmm. Sounds like the rest of us. Christ ministered and healed through the forgiveness of sins. Shouldn't we show that same love for our fellow man (or woman, in this case).

      Scripture can be a double-edged sword. Learn it and live it, but use it wisely. When used as a weapon, it can cut us as well.

      May 19, 2010 at 7:47 pm |
  14. Kim

    I would like to say to everyone here that whether you are gay or straight, Christian or Non-Christian, good speller or bad speller, male or female: Christ died for all of us and loves all of us equally. Imagine His love and salvation as a loaf of bread. Jesus came to feed us the bread...showed us how to eat the bread and share the bread...then left us with an unlimited supply of the bread to feed the whole world that is starving for the bread. Instead of doing as He did and sharing and eating the bread as He showed us...we have become vendors of the bread. We have put a price on the bread that He never charged. We have packaged the bread in packages He never told us to use. We brag about how our bread is better than that person over there's bread. Some of us even claim to have manufactured the bread ourselves. Let's just get back to eating and sharing the bread as He taught us to. Simply and plainly with all people.

    For those of you who are Christians who believe it is ok to judge another's salvation...better read up on how Jesus felt about the Pharisees...cuz you are acting just like them. If you truly believed that gays were going to hell...you would be in your prayer closets rending your hearts before God in anguish for their souls...not partaking in useless bashing online that will not lead to anyone's repentance. If you really are a Christian...then put up or shut up. In short, true Christians weep before the living God for souls they think are perishing...not mock them in public forums. As the Bible says, it is the goodness of God that leads to repentance, not the obnoxiousness of those who profess belief in Him.

    Imagine waking up tomorrow to find that being straight was unacceptable...to society and to God. Now...tell me if you can...how would you become 'un-straight'?

    May 19, 2010 at 7:33 pm |
    • Tom

      Kim – problem is that most people here are not saying she is going to hell but saying her lifestyle is a sin. That is not judgement that is speaking the truth. Being a Christian does not mean shut up and tolerate sinful behavior. Bible is covered with stories of calling out people's sinful behavior but it leaves judgement to God.

      May 19, 2010 at 7:59 pm |
    • Carie

      Thank you Kim.

      May 19, 2010 at 8:10 pm |
    • Sylvia

      Kim, He died for those would accept him not for everyone. As we can see, not everyone accepts him.

      May 19, 2010 at 8:14 pm |
    • Kim

      Tom...many on here state and do believe that gay people will go to hell for being gay...the Bible is clear that hell is for those who reject the gift of salvation that Christ offers. Also...when I said 'put up or shut up'...I meant that unless you are willing to spend the time in the prayer closet for the souls of those you think need saving or deliverance...then you should not be calling them to any kind of action beforehand.

      Carie – you are most welcome.

      Sylvia – sorry, Christ died for everyone...read this from the NKJV:
      1 Timothy 4:10
      For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe.

      May 19, 2010 at 10:24 pm |
  15. Geoff

    I love Jen. I met her in '96 and she played at our church in Texas. She was very gracious, kind and amazingly talented. I will cherish that memory. I don't agree with her choice (and I do believe it's a choice, but we can disagree on such things and still be friends). God loves her as He loves me. I'm a chief sinner among sinners. I cannot and will not judge where Jen is at or where she is heading. As I struggle with my issues, I pray she finds answers, peace and keeps God in her sights. I just bought her new album and am really enjoying it. All the best Jennifer.

    May 19, 2010 at 7:32 pm |
    • C.O.G.

      I'm with you, brother.

      May 19, 2010 at 7:48 pm |
    • Morgan

      Geoff, you are one of the very few Christians I've met who can simply disagree with someone without insulting them. Well done, good sir.

      May 20, 2010 at 7:50 pm |
  16. I'm just a JesusFreak

    I am very disappointed that Jennifer has taken this opportunity to make it sound like she was never a Christian. As if she just used the church and Christian labels as her "gravy train" to do what she wanted. If she ever preached or shared a testimony (as I'm sure she did, I've been to several Christian concerts, camps and conferences and that is the norm) that touched someone out there then they probably looked up to her. I'm not saying that she let them down because she decided to come out of the closet, but they will probably be devistated because it is popular belief in the Christian community that being gay is a pretty big sin. I understand all of her problems with all the different people and beliefs out there that claim to be the one and only way to heaven, but it saddens me that she has taken this route. Especially that she said "many people believed that I "became" a Christian". For all of you people who say that she's not a Christian, I think she already said that (dummies). She shouldn't let other ppl's beliefs decide whether she is a Christian or not. I pray that she can look beyond all the hate and find Jesus (if she never knew Him as she suggests) and love Him with everything she is and let Him guide her. Life sucks, everybody knows it, but one day it will all be over you just have to make it until then.

    May 19, 2010 at 7:29 pm |
    • Geoff

      She shared a great testimony of faith in '96 when I heard and met her. I think she is in a strange and difficult place. Maybe it's like when someone breaks up with you and your reply is 'I never liked them anyway'. It's between Jen and God. I'll just love her and hope she finds peace and, of course, a positive relationship with Christ.

      May 19, 2010 at 7:36 pm |
  17. fred

    Just don't take a walk out in a natural setting, you might find it obvious that a big bang could not have created the beauty around you.

    May 19, 2010 at 7:26 pm |
    • Bob Ingersoll

      Oh, on the contrary, I find ample evidence that makes it hard to believe it was magically created by some mythical being.

      May 20, 2010 at 6:51 am |
  18. John

    Religion is all in your head, shame on so many americans for being religious. Put down your bible and take a walk.

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

      I wouldn't say "shame on you" I'd merely say "question that which has not yet been proven".

      May 19, 2010 at 7:38 pm |
  19. HappyValley

    In my view... God made each and every one of us who we are. Being homosexual or heterosexual is not a choice; it is a way of life, and it is how we are born. Those who discriminate and post hateful messages, know this. God made all of us who we are. If you vehemently oppose this, then you quite simply oppose what God has willed.

    May 19, 2010 at 7:20 pm |
  20. frankie

    If I were any one of 98% of you in this discussion, I would walk out onto the sidewalk and wait for the next car and then step right out in front of it and hope it is going fast enough to kill me. Do you people seriously think you have any idea what you are talking about? My heart aches for you. Christians, please read and understand your Bible completely. Please be a witness for Christ. God deniers, are you sure God does not exist? Are you really, really sure? Christian haters, you are so intent on pointing out the hatred and hypocrisy of some Christians, but you are so hateful and hypocritical when you do so...

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

      Your comments are perplexing...are you friend or foe of the CROSS? If friend, why suggest people commit suicide?

      May 19, 2010 at 7:24 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.