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

    God is love – read 1 John 4.

    May 19, 2010 at 8:48 pm |
    • RQ

      God is love, right, but HE is also a GOD that chastise who HE loves. So or do you mean we can sin even get saved? No have to turn away from SIN.

      May 19, 2010 at 8:55 pm |
  2. saddened...

    Jennifer Knapp it was better for you not to have known then to know the truth and turn away. It's really sad for those people who you have confused. I pray that you will be convicted and restored by God's true love.

    May 19, 2010 at 8:47 pm |
    • Kim

      By her own confession, Jennifer has not turned away from the Lord...she loves the Lord and believes that she is saved by grace through faith, which is not of herself, so she cannot boast, but a gift from God....just the same way you are saved....if she were to trust in her works (like being good and choosing not to be gay) then her salvation would not be the kind of salvation that Jesus and Paul and Peter and John etc. taught about. If we could be saved by works, then Jesus would not have had to come and die for our sins.

      May 19, 2010 at 8:51 pm |
    • Kim

      And furthermore...how many people do you confuse every time you exceed the speed limit....that is sin in God's eyes as you are breaking the law of the land, which He commands that we obey. How about when you think bad thoughts about someone...and then maybe share those thoughts with a friend out loud in front of co-workers? If Jennifer will lose her salvation for her 'sin', then everyone else will lose theirs as well for their sins. God does not play favorites.

      May 19, 2010 at 8:55 pm |
    • pplr

      Who says Jennifer hasn't already felt God's love?

      I cannot see how God would make her gay without feeling that is the way she should be.

      May 19, 2010 at 8:55 pm |
    • jj41

      to Kim...the thing you fail to see is that most people who call themselves "Christian" won't go around claiming there's nothing wrong with lying, adultery, drug use, greed, even something as simple as speeding (if they're honest). What Jennifer has done here is attempt to erode a foundational truth; that sin is wrong. She is attempting to take something that is on the dark side of a black and white scale and turn it into something harmeless. Most of the people commenting on this blog are encouraging her as well. If you read the first chapter of Romans (completely) you'll see this very thing described almost exactly like it's played out in this scenario. Those people who totally disagree with the truth of the Bible should take a hard look at that. Something written roughly 2000 years ago just described what we've all seen played out in front of us....and it doesn't speak to highly of people who indulge in same gender sexual relations.

      May 19, 2010 at 9:41 pm |
  3. Edwardo69

    Your rock b.scott !!! Agreed!

    May 19, 2010 at 8:46 pm |
  4. b.scott

    Does everyone forget the Bible was written by man, not God or Jesus? It was written over 2010 years ago. Doesn't anyone believe that time and science may have altered what is stated in the bible or embellished by man? Religion is a club of different variations. Like different Lodges, such as the Elks, Eagles, VFW, etc. Come on, people, get in the 21st century.

    May 19, 2010 at 8:41 pm |
    • Tom

      That's what you believe and what you think is just as crazy to me as what you think about my beleifs.

      May 19, 2010 at 8:59 pm |
    • RQ

      this shows how corrupt the world has become, compromise to sin and their flesh desires. The Bible itself is a miracle!

      May 19, 2010 at 9:03 pm |
  5. Edwardo69

    I believe the scripture says "ask anything in my name and it shall be done unto you. So, how can the answer ever be "no"... you and your god are useless.

    May 19, 2010 at 8:41 pm |
  6. Aaron Cox


    Steve – God did NOT create gays. God created a relationship to be a man and a women with no exceptions. Don't you think it is a little ironic how even in a "gay" relationship there is a "male" and "female"? How terrible that you all are blasphemy toward God – please remember WE ALLLLL will stand before God someday at the final judgement – I pray you don't hear the dreaded words "depart from me, I never knew you" and then all eternity will be spent in the Lake of Fire. There is NO WAY a true christian, one who has realized that there is no way into a perfect heaven, except thru accepting the gift of Jesus' death and resurrection, he took the penalty of all our sin, that that person could stay in the sinful gay lifestyle without severe judgment from God – God disciplines his children when there is sin in their lives.. Make the right choice, follow Jesus.


    May 19, 2010 at 8:39 pm |
  7. Tom

    Also, no Christian knows who is going to Heaven or hell or when the end of time will come. Also, salvation is a lifelong process (but your life could be real short so its important to do right) so saying a bible verse doesn't save someone either.

    May 19, 2010 at 8:32 pm |
  8. adrian

    larry king asked, "is she going to hell?".. i would ask jenn, "do you think you're going to heaven?"..

    May 19, 2010 at 8:27 pm |
  9. Tom

    God created all things and gave man free will so that his love and actions would come freely and forced. Those who choose evil make the place a bad world and hence we have suffering. We have to leave this world that has been screwed up by man to enjoy true love. Praying is not a cell phone call. It takes lots of calls and faith and like anything else it doesn;t happen right away. Faith and hope are key components and it is difficult.

    May 19, 2010 at 8:26 pm |
    • thebigatheist

      Okay where do I start? You said "God created everything (paraphrasing)". Ask yourself; What person or in this case diety make something he loves so much (per the bible) and put them through so much pain and suffering? Think about it, if you or I as parents did a QUARTER of the things the bible says he (god) did to his creations, we would be in jail facing the death penalty. Furthermore if you believe a diety created everything then surely you give praise for ALL death, famine and destruction that has happened or will happen. After all god knows it's gonna happen because he created it right?

      May 19, 2010 at 9:01 pm |
    • Tom

      Based on what you posted, you didn't read or understand a word I wrote. Look I can only you lead the ignorant to water, I cannot make you drink it (hence, freewill) You wanna be a big dbag – your choice. God made you with free will to make your own choices.

      May 19, 2010 at 9:14 pm |
    • thebigatheist

      Tom that is a cop out, I have read the bible, that why I am an Atheist. I can quote with the best and I understand. FULLY, you see Tom, if you read the bible surely you have seen the passages about dragons, witches and unicorns...YES unicorns!). The bible mentions slavery (how to handle a slave) am I to believe it is okay to have slaves after all it's in the bible? F unny how Christians tend to ignore parts of the bible; but are quick to jump to the scriptures that best suit a circular argument they are trying to make.

      May 19, 2010 at 10:01 pm |
  10. Tom

    "realised I was gay". That's a self deception that the gay community is perpetrating to make everyone feel better and accept their choices as normal. The more accurate statement is "chose to live a gay lifestyle". It is all a choice.

    May 19, 2010 at 8:23 pm |
    • Kim

      How do you know? Are you gay and did you choose to be that way? Honestly, why would anyone choose to be gay? If you want to say that gay people choose to act out physically and emotionally who they are, as opposed to suppressing who they are, then that part would be a choice....BUT...to say that who they are inside is a choice is simply a misunderstanding on your part. If you are not gay, then you are not qualified to make a judgment about it. As someone who is gay, and is a born-again, Spirit-filled Christian, I can tell you that whether or not I act out physically/emotionally, who I am inside, I am still gay. Just because someone may participate in celibacy, doesn't make them not gay anymore. It is much more complicated than simply 'making a choice'. If it were so easy...then I dare say that 95% of gay Christians would have made the 'choice' to be straight a LONG time ago. No Tom, it is not as cut and dried as you make it sound.

      Tom, I challenge you to something: How about you take the next 6 months and get to know

      May 19, 2010 at 8:38 pm |
    • Kim

      (continued...sorry...hit a button by mistake). As I was saying: get to know 5 gay Christians....not superficially...but really get to know them. At the same time....spend at least 2 hours a week in prayer with the Lord specifically on this subject...not just talking to Him...but quieting yourself before Him and listening to Him as well. Keep a journal of what you learn about the people and what God says to you about them.

      May 19, 2010 at 8:41 pm |
    • Alma Jackson

      Tom: since I "chose" to be gay, please tell us when you "chose" to be straight? And how long did you consider being gay before you "chose" to be straight?

      May 20, 2010 at 8:45 am |
    • Alma Jackson

      Tom: when did you "choose" to be straight? How long did you consider being gay before you "chose" to be straight?

      May 20, 2010 at 12:52 pm |
  11. Edwardo69

    Even if I believed it, I still wouldn't follow it. He drowns people in great floods, sends people to hell for victimless crimes (not believing something is a crime?), he destroys entire cities, just to punish the bad people. I've prayed before, there was no answer...a total waste of time. If I can't trust him now, how can I trust him throughout eternity?

    May 19, 2010 at 8:22 pm |
    • adrian

      when you prayed, did it ever appear to you that God's answer was probably "no".. as far as the cities being destroyed and all, do more research!!

      May 19, 2010 at 8:30 pm |
  12. Peter Battaglia

    God Bless you. No one truly connected to God could deny your love. It takes a small man to bleet the word of God, but it takes a big man to feel it.

    The anti-gay portions of the Bible were written by man, because no one who has felt the true love of God can deny that the love Jennifer has is anything but pure and true.

    Your preacher isn't God or Christ, the literal word of the bible isn't God or Christ, the love you have in your heart that is pure and true is God AND Christ. To deny that love is immoral, man or woman.

    May 19, 2010 at 8:20 pm |
    • Tom

      You are just picking and choosing what parts of the Bible suit you. It doesn't work that way and you are letting yourself be fooled with that type of thinking.

      May 19, 2010 at 8:23 pm |
    • thebigatheist

      Peter Battaglia, with all due respect, THE WHOLE DAMN BIBLE WAS WRITTEN BY MAN!

      May 19, 2010 at 8:53 pm |
  13. Kendall

    What amazes me from all the negative comments is that most of the ppl that made them would say they are open minded liberals. They welcome all viewpoints...as long as those viewpoints are there own. Miss Knapp's sexual orientation doesn't concern me as a Christian. I don't approve of it, but it's her life and she can live it as she sees fit. As long as the religions aren't beating up on the non-believers, why all the harshness towards them?

    May 19, 2010 at 8:15 pm |
  14. Edwardo69

    @Tom – I don't have a god...you do. I have invisible pink unicorns. And I can prove they exist, as soon as you prove your god exists.

    May 19, 2010 at 8:12 pm |
    • Tom

      The proof is there but you refuse to believe. The resposibility rest squarely on your shoulders to take the time to try and pray and understand. All the same God whether you choose to believe or not.

      May 19, 2010 at 8:17 pm |
    • thebigatheist

      Well said!

      May 19, 2010 at 8:41 pm |
    • mick

      anyone that bashes gay people are diffently insecure of their own sexuality.

      May 24, 2010 at 10:34 am |
  15. ConjoinerDrive

    Many species of animals have been observed to have "gay" members of their "community." Do you think certain birds, for example, choose to be gay? They just are.

    May 19, 2010 at 8:08 pm |
    • Tom

      Yes becasue animals can't control their biological urges, humans can.

      May 19, 2010 at 8:12 pm |
    • mary

      They have proven that animals that do seem to be gay are in actuality only taking what they can get until the right gender comes along..Most dump the same gender partner when they can actually mate.
      it is a tactic in the animal world..I would hardly use animals to justify a human deviance from normal behavior.
      There is a huge difference between human and animals.. And anyone that know 's a few stomach churning examples of that wouldn't claim animal behavior as an example to justify anything they do.

      May 19, 2010 at 8:21 pm |
  16. Tom

    We all have burdens and crosses to carry and real Christians pray and hope that all people can bear their crosses in accordance with HIs Word.

    May 19, 2010 at 8:06 pm |
    • Greg

      You need a new approach. All this "righteous word" stuff I don't think a lot of people believe. Good for you that you do.... But you may want to try to broaden your thinking.

      This is not intended to be offensive just a word of advice

      May 19, 2010 at 8:11 pm |
    • Tom

      Greg – I appreciate the constructive criticism. I realize that some folks may not believe or understand but I cannot just avoid saying it because of the atheist liberal group that is posting here. If anything, I hope they understand that there are plenty of great people who believe in the Word of the Lord.

      May 19, 2010 at 8:15 pm |
    • Sylvia

      Tom before you change your approach think about this, Gods word will not return to him void. When you speak in truth change is not needed on your part. Not everyone was meant to hear the Gospel and Truth hurts. We cant afford to be gentle or just right when a soul is at stake. We don't bible bash, we give truth with love. Patience required and the Armor of God necessary.

      May 19, 2010 at 8:31 pm |
  17. Edwardo69

    your god needs to spend less time peaking through bedroom keyholes, and focus on what's important: starving babies, homeless Haitians, for starters. Your god is a total perv.

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

      He is your God too and its not His fault that you are too stupid and ignorant to show respect and actually try to do something to help the unfortunate. Love and change all starts with you and you can become smarter by just showing a little more love.

      May 19, 2010 at 8:08 pm |
    • thebigatheist

      @Tom, BREAKING NEWS: One does not have to be a Christian to do good or show love; another misguided approach to religion. As I recall there were many churches who both publicly and privately praised god for Haiti's tragedy becuase they believed they (Hatians) made a pact with the devil to be free of French occupancy.

      May 19, 2010 at 8:47 pm |
    • YouAreDumb

      Tom, you're calling someone an idiot while telling them they need to show some more Love? God must be so proud of you.

      May 19, 2010 at 8:58 pm |
    • james

      Tom, he is not my god. Your belief in gods does not apply to anyone but you.

      May 19, 2010 at 9:48 pm |
  18. Tom

    People – calling out someone's sinful behavior is not judging them. If someone says they are a Christian and behaves contrary to the Bible which they purport to believe in, then it is a Christian responsibility to tell that person they are transgressing and forgiveness is always present.

    May 19, 2010 at 8:02 pm |
    • RQ

      Great point Tom, agree.

      May 19, 2010 at 8:58 pm |
    • Alma Jackson

      Where in the Bible does it state you have a responsibility or a right to judge others? And you still haven't answered my question.........when did you "choose" to be straight?

      May 20, 2010 at 12:54 pm |
  19. capexcitemnt

    this may be a little off topic but... when female suicide bombers go to heaven do they have 72 guys waiting for them?

    May 19, 2010 at 7:58 pm |
    • Ben

      *resist urge to punch stupid American*

      May 19, 2010 at 8:02 pm |
  20. Swordfish

    Brad, it's obvious you hate the name of Jesus, but know that he loves you even more.

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

      I don't hate the name of Jesus. I hate what people use his name to justify.

      May 19, 2010 at 7:53 pm |
    • Swordfish

      Likewise, Christians don't hate the sinner, just the sin.

      May 19, 2010 at 7:56 pm |
    • Leda

      ...and then use the Bible and Jesus' name to pass judgement on everyone around them. I wonder, Swordfish, what dirty secrets you have in your closet? You do know that God knows all, right? Even the dirty thoughts that roam around that empty head.

      May 19, 2010 at 8:00 pm |
    • Tom

      Leda – I doubt you have a clue as to how God thinks and operates based on your previous posts.

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

      Tom – You're right, I don't and never have presumed to know what God is thinking. No one does and we may all get a big surprise when we die. What I "know" is what I have discerned from reading & studying the Bible; I believe my own interpretation of the Bible. No one knows what God is thinking and what He meant, we only know what we THINK is the truth from what we have read and our own life experiences. I doubt you know any more than I do about how God thinks and operates. It is sinful to assume so. Or haven't you read your Bible lately?

      May 19, 2010 at 9:14 pm |
    • let's be real

      Leda has a point, although I would have to admit she could have come off as less hostile/offended-sounding.

      May 21, 2010 at 2:50 pm |
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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.