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. Leda

    Have any of you devout Christians heard of the Council of Nicaea? Do any of you realize that in 325 A.D., the Nicaean Council comprised by the Emperor Constantine and other leaders of early Christian faith, broke apart the Bible and removed books they felt were blasphemous? Anyone that thinks the Bible is truly the Word of God that cannot be broken, removed or destroyed in anyway are fooling themselves. The Bible was written by men, broken apart and put together by men, and blasphemed by men. All of you quoting the Bible so eloquently cannot see the blasphemous mockery you are making of God and His love and His word.

    May 19, 2010 at 9:28 pm |
    • everykneebow

      I tell you what when you understand and do the word and works of the Bible we have know, then worry about the rest untill then don't worry about those books.

      May 19, 2010 at 9:31 pm |
    • thebigatheist

      Well Leda, what exactly is "His word"?

      May 19, 2010 at 9:33 pm |
    • Leda

      thebigathiest – I don't know how to answer your question because I seem to be contradicting myself. There are a lot of good messages in the Bible, but the modern day Crusaders focus strictly on the bad (those pertaining to Hell and the Final Judgement). Read up on the Infancy Gospel by Thomas, the Book of Mary, the books that were considered blasphemous. They will bring a whole new light to the idea of Jesus and God.

      May 19, 2010 at 10:35 pm |
  2. renea burns

    Satan has deceived many of you on here. There are many Good people in hell and wished they could come back and make righteous decisions and get there life right by Gods standards not by mans.

    May 19, 2010 at 9:24 pm |
    • thebigatheist

      Really? Did these "Good people in Hell" come back to tell you how terrible it was? Heck did anyone from heaven come back too?

      May 19, 2010 at 9:30 pm |
    • everykneebow

      There is a story in the Bible. Read it.

      May 19, 2010 at 9:33 pm |
    • thebigatheist

      @everykneebow, there is a story on how to handle slaves (Luke 12:47-48)..read it. There are references to magical creatures (unicorns Numbers 23:22, Numbers 24:8, Isaiah 34:7 Dragons Isaiah 34:13, Micah 1:8, Witches Leviticus 19:31)...read it...

      May 19, 2010 at 9:44 pm |
    • everykneebow

      thebigatheist You can not understand Gods word if you do not beleive he exist. The holy spirit is the teacher. When you get saved we can talk again. I will pray for you.

      May 19, 2010 at 10:01 pm |
  3. Aaron Cox

    the real question is. did god write the bible? or did man? and how will we ever know the truth of this?

    May 19, 2010 at 9:20 pm |
    • Tom

      1. Man is way to stupid to write a book that is composed by several writers that is spot on in every way in how to set yourself up for a good life. 2. Jesus was here and rose from the dead and told us the bible is from God. 3. Tens of thousands of miracles attest to God's greatness through the Holy Book.

      May 19, 2010 at 9:24 pm |
  4. Nancy


    May 19, 2010 at 9:18 pm |
  5. Yuriy

    Wow. I'm glad I jumped ship on Christianity. It doesn't even square with its own holy book, and most of the laws that Christians are busy burning themselves on the stake for are aimed only at the Jews (Exodus 19). Maybe all these hateful Christians could take some hints on biblical study from the Jews instead of killing them.

    The Christian thinks that Jennifer should involve herself in a sham marriage and have kids, while not loving her husband, and being miserable. That is considered moral in their eyes, but not in the Bible. Read your holy book and come to grips with reality. Jesus is dead. The New Testament is a book full of contradictions and errors.

    Keep on keeping on Jennifer. When I was a Christian, I thought your tunes were pretty good. Don't let the hypocrites and idiot savants get you down.

    May 19, 2010 at 9:17 pm |
    • RQ

      awesome, you support her to keep sinning? What kind brother or sister in Christ is that? Don't you realize it is all devil's plan trying to deceive people? This is a spirit devil mocks YAHWEH/YAHUVEH GOD.

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

      Another posting from someone that knows nothing about the Bible and who said she had to get married? Lots of people who should remain celibate.

      May 19, 2010 at 9:22 pm |
    • Yuriy

      I am NOT a Christian. There is no devil. He is a construct of the New Testament. The Accuser in Job is an agent of G-d, not His enemy. Read your bible again, and open your eyes. You'll find that life without hate is very rewarding.

      She is not bound to the laws of the Jews, and there is no specific prohibition on homosexuality for the Gentile in what you call the Old Testament.

      May 19, 2010 at 9:25 pm |
    • Yuriy

      Tom, I have very strong reason to suspect that I know more about the bible than you will ever learn in your lifetime. I have probably been studying it in its original tongues (excluding the Aramaic) longer than you've been alive.

      May 19, 2010 at 9:27 pm |
    • Yuriy

      RQ, the devil as you perceive him is a construct of the New Testament. He doesn't exist in the real sense.

      May 19, 2010 at 9:29 pm |
  6. Jeff Carlson

    You do know that CNN keeps posting this type of stuff because all the rabid Christians and rabid Atheists cant help pooping on each other like Pavlovian Dogs. *Ding* jasdkfa;ksdjfasl;dfsf stupid Christians asldjfa;lksjd;fasdf stupid Athiests ads;fja;lsdkjfa;sd and on and on and on and on. Thank God the fundamentalists on either side dont have any real political power or we'd have lynchings in the name of God or in the name of reason. Im not interested in either the French Revolution or the Crusades coming to the States! I believe in the Separation of Church and State and think it should be widened to include the Separation of Crazy Fundamentalists – be they Christian or Athiest – and the Internet. I jest...kinda of.

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

      Atheist are fundamentalist? There's no Atheist church no bombers etc. If you look Ahteist only come out when provocked. And what would a "fundamentalist Atheist" look like? Your statement make no sense. There are evangelical atheist but they are not Atheist, they are agnostic. Get your facts straight.

      May 19, 2010 at 9:27 pm |
  7. Brandon

    All I want to say is Jesus basically gave love and acceptance to those that accepted and loved him. He loved those people so much he died for the wrong they did. I won't judge her, she has been more involved with Him than me it seems; I don't see how she is commiting sin if all she said about herself is true. Love is love. To be honest, I wish I had someone like that in my life.

    May 19, 2010 at 9:12 pm |
    • Tom

      Yes Jesus loves and accepts but don't forget he says, "Go and sin no more"

      May 19, 2010 at 9:18 pm |
  8. Edwardo69

    Jim Jones here-anyone need more Kool-Aid ??

    May 19, 2010 at 9:10 pm |
  9. Tom

    God is God. He can deal with stupidity and ignorance if coupled with a lot of effort and a kind heart.

    May 19, 2010 at 9:08 pm |
  10. Edwardo69

    jbm–there are over 40 religions...are you sure you've got the right one?

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

      Also, you need to remember that your hatefulness and mockery and disrespect will all come back to you regardless of faith, deity or belief system. It's just the way of the universe regardless of what you beleive and brother, if who you are on here is any indication of who you really are then you storing up some bad karma for yourself.

      May 19, 2010 at 9:11 pm |
    • epf

      OMG...they all think they're right...exactly the problem...religion has given god a bad name!!

      May 20, 2010 at 8:45 am |
  11. jbm

    Marc, we all, at some point, put our faith into something.

    If I am wrong about my Christian faith than what have I lost ... tried to be a faithful and good husband, father, son, brother, friend, employee, citizen. If I'm wrong than I won't know it.

    What if your wrong?

    May 19, 2010 at 9:02 pm |
    • Tom

      Well said jbm.

      May 19, 2010 at 9:07 pm |
    • thebigatheist

      But all those things you try to be, people do everyday; secular and non secular alike. What you are trying to be is a good person. Unfortunately many people think you can only do good if your Christian. that is so far from the truth. And as far as what you missed out on dealing with relgion is trying to find the truth (whatever that is) and if I am wrong, I have nothing to worry about....I am more "Christian" that many, I do good I read the bible just don't buy it.

      May 19, 2010 at 9:18 pm |
    • jbm

      Yes, I am striving to be a good, faithful and loving person – like lots of people in the world ... you are right about this. The problem is that I am not always – like most people in the world. This is the very point of the good news of Christ – that we all have fallen short of the mark ... we all have hurt, and continue to do so, others.

      Jesus forgave and released the woman caught in adultery – actually quite an amazing story, but he also told her to go and live in a different way. She, I, and you don't have to carry the shame and guilt around – that is good news!

      May 19, 2010 at 9:29 pm |
    • thebigatheist

      jbm the good news is that you recovered from what you percieved as wrong doing yourself. There is no Christ to do that for you... it was you and thats my point. But if you choose that route then more power to you just dont try to force it upon anyone else...I am just saying.

      May 19, 2010 at 9:49 pm |
    • jbm

      How is it that I am forcing my opinion onto anyone? I am sharing what I believe in an open forum ... isnt' that what you are doing? Are you forcing your opinion on me? Thought we were just discussing.

      May 19, 2010 at 9:52 pm |
    • jbm

      I actually like talking to people who claim to be atheist. For starters, atleast they have a strong and passionate opionion about the topic. Two, I have rarely met an atheist has not been hurt or disappointed about faith-related matters ... this makes sense to me.

      I don't like talking to apathetic people.

      May 19, 2010 at 9:59 pm |
    • thebigatheist

      jbm- I am not trying to force my opinion on you, if you took it that way I apologize, I was speaking in generalities and not at you. Just stating that the good person YOU are is because of YOU and no one else, again that's my opinion.

      May 19, 2010 at 10:07 pm |
    • thebigatheist

      jbm- I am an Atheist, and I like talking to self proclaimed Christians, I have yet to meet one (pastors included) who could last long enough to have this discussion without getting frustrated. LOL Again I will not force my beliefs on anyone. However I will defend them. I was once a Christian- until I read the bible....I do like the discussion thanks for that jbm!

      May 19, 2010 at 10:12 pm |
    • jbm

      I did not think you were trying to force anything one me- no need to apologize, although I appreciate your sentiment.

      I was not offended by what you said, as I thought we were just discussing a sensitive issue – throwing thoughts/beliefs out there. I like good conversation ... and to reflect on what has been said.

      May 19, 2010 at 10:15 pm |
  12. Sue

    Jennifer, having homosexual relationships is not necessarily going to keep you out of heaven. But let's not just gloss over the fact that your lifestyle is sinful. This statement is not old-fashioned or closed-minded; it's absolute truth. No, homosexuality is not a worse sin than adultery, fornication, lying, gossiping, cheating, or stealing, but it is very much a sin. Any sexual relationship outside of a heterosexual marriage is sin. Period. If you don't believe that, then you don't believe the Bible. And when Christ talks about following Him, He not only says to believe in Him, but He also says to repent. Repent means to turn from any actions that are not pleasing to God. According to the Bible, homosexual relations are definitely something that is not pleasing to God. Let's not be in denial. But the rest of us cannot judge you and condemn you...only God can do that. We've ALL sinned big-time, and we all "fall short of the glory of God," hence the need for grace. Our deeds will never get us into heaven, but if we're truly committed to Christ, we will try our best to not do things that are displeasing to Him.

    May 19, 2010 at 9:01 pm |
  13. marc

    and the cult of christianity lives on

    May 19, 2010 at 8:59 pm |
  14. t

    We are always looking for excuses to explain our mistakes. It is easier to admit if we have made something wrong and fix it.

    May 19, 2010 at 8:58 pm |
  15. shanna

    God is the ONE TRUE KING, and jesus is the hope of all mankind!! Yes being gay is a sin, killing is a sin, lying, cheating stealing, all sins-JESUS was sent to swipe the slate clean and provide hope to all who believe and pronounce that he is the son of God-God did not make man "gay", God mad man with the freedom of choice, along with the freedom, the knowledge of right and wrong. So many people forget to acknowledge the Devil. The devil hates God and will do everything in his power to steer Gods children away like lost sheep. Once he has the the tinest opening , he uses them like little puppets-destroying anything and everything devoted to the Father. So many are blinded and strayed-I too have done my fair share of corruption, ashamed and broken , graciously found the father again!! He never leaves-dont ever forget that!! But if you are going to make the claim that people are just born that way and that it wasnt a choice in the matter-then sadly they are once again-Puppets in the Devils evilness. That is exactly what he wants you to say...trying to bring as many as he can away from the Lord. I do not judge, and i will not turn away if i am in front of someone of this choice-instead, i graciously open my arms because we are all Gods children and all deserve compassion!! People just need to be aware that its the Devil-as the puppetmaster...The kingdom of Heaven has no occupancy limit and i pray that one day we all will know the truth and love as one family!!

    May 19, 2010 at 8:57 pm |
    • pplr

      So how did the devil make people be born gay when God is the Creator?

      May 19, 2010 at 9:04 pm |
    • thebigatheist

      Puppet master? Really...wow...look, if God was so almighty then why would he give his only son (rememeber according to Christianity we are ALL God's children right?), love is a human emotion. Secondly Why would an omnipotent god have to give his only son in the first place? After all, he can wipe the slate clean he's god right. The puppet master is not the devil (he don't exist either) the puppet master is religion as a WHOLE. Who in the hell (pun intended) would give a son (Jesus) only for him to do damn near do nothing but die (suppoesedly) then have your son turn water to wine....wine!!!! Come on during that time there were many sick people, many diseases, and yet Jesus presented no cure...are you kidding me...

      May 19, 2010 at 9:13 pm |
    • Alma Jackson

      Shanna: why is being gay a sin? If you're quoting Romans or Leviticus, are you going to pick Romans but say leviticus is wrong? Are you going to say the Old Testament doesn't count, just the New Testament?

      May 20, 2010 at 8:49 am |
  16. gobuythismusic!

    I wonder how many of you know J-Knapp's music. I am an evangelical Christian. And I LOVE JENNIFER KNAPP! I HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR WHAT – 10 YEARS FOR A NEW KNAPP ALBUM!

    IT'S ABOUT TIME!!!!! Before making a comment – go listen to her music, because it is moving, personal, and helps me feel close to God. Also, it rocks. I am looking forward to having Jennifer Knapp get the credit and acclaim that her musical and song-writing talent deserve. Christian, secular, I don't care if her songs are in Na'vi – her music is fantastic!


    May 19, 2010 at 8:57 pm |
  17. Edwardo69

    Am I the only one that feels that "someone had to die, just so I could be forgiven", REPULSIVE! ?? I make sure I sin everyday so he didn't die for nothing.

    May 19, 2010 at 8:56 pm |
    • Tom

      Very immature and a very atheistic liberal comment with zero compassion.

      May 19, 2010 at 9:05 pm |
    • thebigatheist

      Amen Brotha Edwardo68!!

      May 19, 2010 at 10:14 pm |
  18. Sabrina

    I, for one, would be relieved as an artist to take a position that so swiftly eliminates the stupidest and most hateful element of my fan base.

    May 19, 2010 at 8:55 pm |
  19. jbm

    We all start discussions with certain presuppositions – in this case, we either believe the Bible is the Word of God or we don't.

    If we do believe then we try our best to embrace and understand it even if we don't understand or like/wrestle with what we read, because we are finite beings with limitations and believe God has a better bigger picture view than us – my 2 year old son does not appreciate why I don't want him to run out into the road, but I know better.

    If we pick and choose from the Bible what we like then we run the risk of making God in our own image ... He is then a representation of what I want. As a therapist I understand our human capacity for rationalizing and self-deceit. This is dangerous ground to walk because truth is then what I want it to be.

    If one does not believe in the Bible at all then that is a completely different story. The New Testament tells us that people are blinded [for a variety of reasons] to truth. Jesus prayed on the cross "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do'.

    The New Testament [and Jesus] tells us to love God with all that we are and to love our neigbor as ourselves ... it does say that 'love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.'

    If we read the New Testament and do not only hear or pick out certain parts that make us comfortable we also know that it, and Jesus, speaks of sin and judgement. In fact, Jesus spoke more about Hell than any other place in the Bible. He also indicated that road to Hell is wide and well-traveled, while the road to Heaven isn't. One of the writers of the New Testament did say that 'all things are lawful, but not all things are profitable' ... sinful behavior [which basically means 'missing the mark' of what God intends] has damaging consequences both personally and collectively. We must remember that loving Jesus was killed by people because his message made them uncomfortable.

    Yes, Jesus/God is Love ... but also is Truth. He is not going to suspend one of these qualities for the other ... He loves us too much then to allow us to walk down destructive roads without warning.

    Jesus also said let those who have ears, hear.

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

      And who said being in a committed and loving relationship is heading to destruction?

      I, in honesty, cannot condemn others just for having a different orientation-especially those who have a level of love and commitment that we, the straight, fail to live up to.

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

      Your comment is the most eloquent one I've read. Very well put. Truth is every bit as important to God as love.

      May 19, 2010 at 9:04 pm |
    • ConnectTheDots

      "We must remember that loving Jesus was killed by people because his message made them uncomfortable."

      His message made his killers uncomfortable – because He preached love. He was killed by the right wing religious elite. Jesus dined with sinners and prostitutes, tax collectors and the diseased. He saved an adulterer from those who wanted to condemn her – people who thought that the "whore" deserved the wrath of God and was about to exact their own brand of justice on her. If there's anything you need to know about Jesus, let this act frame Him.

      You're right, the path to salvation is narrow, but I don't think God meant it was hard for those who are lost in the world...

      May 19, 2010 at 9:16 pm |
    • jbm

      You are right in that we are not to condemn another person ... don't have the power to even if I wanted!

      As people who follow Christ, we are, however, encouraged to gently guide those who claim to follow Christ away from harmful ways back onto the path. I need this just as much as anyone else. If someone loves me and what I choose to follow, I woud hope that they would lovingly tell me the truth ... even if I don't like it – which I often don't.

      I did not write the book of Romans, but as I mentioned above, believe God did through those who did. Like everyone else, I wrestle with things I don't comprehend and don't like, but I am not free to pick and choose ... this is a slippery slope.

      May 19, 2010 at 9:39 pm |
    • Alma Jackson

      JBM...for me, believing the bible is not the issue. It's those self-professed christians who pick and choose which verses they need to justify saying that being gay is a sin. Lets see, we've gone from:
      -The bible says being gay is a sin
      -well, Leviticus is wrong because it also support slavery, so I'll use Romans to say being gay is a sin
      -well, I'll just rely on the New Testament because the Old Testament is so controversial that I can't justify it.....

      We know that Jesus taught by example; has anyone considered that several verses were written as EXAMPLES OF HOW NOT TO ACT???

      May 20, 2010 at 8:53 am |
    • jbm

      Not really sure how to respond because I uncertain to what you are trying to say ... seems like you are all over the place.

      I want to respond if you could clarify.

      May 20, 2010 at 11:38 am |
  20. Aaron Cox

    If theres is any one straight man reading this article. ask yourself if you could choose to be gay tomorrow when you woke up. to attempt to erase your natural urges for females and miraculously start having desires for males? the answer is most definitely "no" it would be impossible.. so to think that only gay people are allowed the freewill do pick and choose who they like is nothing more but ignorant. how can intelligent people read the bible..know people around them.. and still continue to live their life in ignorance? the answer is beyond me. and I'm a "natural" born bi-sexual. it's who i am. i get the best of both worlds.

    May 19, 2010 at 8:53 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.