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. Steve

    Pikkiwoki, has his own facebook page. Hard to argue with a God like that.

    May 19, 2010 at 9:55 pm |
  2. Edwardo69

    I'm likin' Brad...more and more.

    May 19, 2010 at 9:54 pm |
  3. Dan

    A question to ponder:
    God created us and all around us. If it was so sinful and horrible even to speak of, why'd he create Homosexuality?

    May 19, 2010 at 9:51 pm |
  4. PA

    It's the close minded, judgemental people in this discussion that make me worry about my beautiful gay daughter when she walks out the door. I'm so proud that my daughter can be who she is, so many young people stuggle with their sexual identity for fear of judement & ridicule. I'm thankful to God that I can support my gay daughter, but fearful of the people who hide behind their bible. My daughter being gay does NOT change the person she is, to me she is one of the bravest, caring, non-judgemental women I know. I'm so proud to call her my daughter.

    May 19, 2010 at 9:49 pm |
  5. lill25

    there is only one God and that is the Christian God. anyone who believes different is wrong. period!

    May 19, 2010 at 9:48 pm |
    • Brad

      "While your god's promise of eternal life is very persuasive, the Papua New Guinean mud god, Pikkiwoki, is promising a pig and as many coconuts as you can carry."

      May 19, 2010 at 9:50 pm |
    • james

      Because you said so? Because Tom says so? Just because you put a "period" at the end of you sentence does not makes it so. All of your belief does not make your fantasy true. Your belief in the supernatural is a psychosis. You need help.

      May 19, 2010 at 9:56 pm |
    • johnd

      James, is that your 'professional' opinion? Is that what you believe or did you hear it somewhere and think it was cool?

      Actaully, many therapists, both believers and not, would say that faith in something can be of benefit to people.

      May 19, 2010 at 10:04 pm |
    • TB

      Not that I want perpetuate this mythical belief, but the Christian, Muslim and Jewish God are all the same. All are the God of Abraham, according to the story books.

      May 19, 2010 at 10:35 pm |
  6. Edwardo69

    Dave had 2 glass of Kool-Aid!

    May 19, 2010 at 9:47 pm |
  7. MBoss

    K.D. Lang wrote a song many years ago titled "Constant Craving". One line in the song states "Constant craving has always been". At some point, everyone in this world is going to have to face the truth that this song speaks of. That within every soul, there is a constant craving for meaning, purpose, and truth that extends beyond this life. At some point, we all have to accept the fact that there is no level of worldly fame, fortune, or pleasure that is ever going to fulfill the constant craving that has always been in each of us. Every soul craves for a perfect love, perfect acceptance, and perfect peace. Try hard if you will to fulfill that inner craving through the things of this world, but I can testify that I have been down that road and have found that no matter how much of the fame, fortune, and pleasure I obtained in this life, it all ran out and left me craving for more. Until I met Jesus...

    John 7:37 – On that day Jesus stood and said with a loud voice, "If a person is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. If a person believes in me, rivers of living water will flow out from his heart."

    May 19, 2010 at 9:46 pm |
  8. Brad

    Why did God make the anus so tight and pleasurable, and in convenient proximity to the prostate, if he didn't want it to be penetrated?

    May 19, 2010 at 9:43 pm |
    • God

      I would love to take credit for that, but that was just a lucky coincidence. Besides, I don't want to give too much credence to those intelligent design people. Have you ever met one of those? They are crazy!

      May 19, 2010 at 9:48 pm |
  9. Silver Bullet

    Oh i wish her video got leaked out on the internet...

    fap fap fap.

    May 19, 2010 at 9:43 pm |
  10. Dave

    For all of you who do not believe in the Bible and Christiananity.
    Jesus Christ is the only way.
    I guarantee you will be a Christian and believe in the Bible and be saved
    if you accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior.
    You have to read and study the Bible to understand being a Christian
    Once you accept Christ, his helper the "The Holy Spirit" will guide you in your study and I promise you will
    be a new person.

    Also for those of you that bring up laws (and make fun of) of the Old Testament, those laws were guidelines for the Jews/Hebrews. We are saved by Faith (beleiving). The Holy Spirit will guide you on what is right.

    Praise Jesus


    May 19, 2010 at 9:42 pm |
  11. Edwardo69

    I wish Tom's parents would have been celibate!

    May 19, 2010 at 9:39 pm |
  12. Stephen

    What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. Romans 6:1-3

    May 19, 2010 at 9:38 pm |
  13. Jacqui

    I used to love listening to your music growing up. I am really happy that you have come out with a new album and out of the closet. Thanks for sharing your story with everyone. You are an inspiration and a strong person. Don't worry about the backlash. You are an amazing artist and a strong person. Thanks!

    May 19, 2010 at 9:38 pm |
  14. Steve

    Holy Cr@p Batman. I guess this means we can never get married.

    May 19, 2010 at 9:36 pm |
  15. Stephen

    Interesting comments.

    May 19, 2010 at 9:35 pm |
  16. saddened

    it breaks my heart to see the hatred on this post from Christians and non Christians alike. "God loved us while we are still sinners". Love like Jesus. Forgive like Jesus. Judge others as you would want to be judged by God. And dont be dismayed..."The cross is foolishness to those who dont believe." God is speaking and moving everyday.

    May 19, 2010 at 9:35 pm |
    • thebigatheist

      Be careful....Matthew 5:22

      May 19, 2010 at 9:36 pm |
  17. Edwardo69

    Tom-bats are not birds! 'enuf said...you probably don't know what that means,since you're never read the bible. Leviticus 11:13-19 The bible is full of stupid statements like this.

    May 19, 2010 at 9:32 pm |
    • thebigatheist

      Not to mention the dragons and unicorns!

      May 19, 2010 at 9:35 pm |
  18. God

    I'm fine with this.

    May 19, 2010 at 9:32 pm |
    • everykneebow

      Alot of you on here do not fear God."The Lord will judge his people." It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

      May 19, 2010 at 10:30 pm |
  19. sampsen

    Ms. Knapp, you're amazing, courageous and honest! I have no advice or opinion for I'm no one to judge. I'm very happy for you and I will continue to buy your music!

    May 19, 2010 at 9:30 pm |
  20. jj41

    What our culture is in desperate need of is a healthy dose of the Fear of the Lord. I pray for mercy for this country. Jennifer has obviously made some very poor decisions and instead of keeping them to herself she has made the situation even more complex by publicizing it and implicitly encouraging others to make similar decisions. It is the duty of God-fearing men and women to expose her actions as sinful and shameful. It doesn't surprise me that people reading this article don't believe the Bible is a credible source of inspiration. It doesn't surprise me that most of them think Christianity is a total scam. It does concern me though. We disregard something (or Someone) who is infinitely more wise and powerful than we could imagine.

    The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

    May 19, 2010 at 9:28 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30
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.