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. Edwardo69

    Last word of the night–for you haters out there–thanks for over-populating our planet. thanks for making starving babies, thanks for wiping out our forests and animals with your insane breeding, thanks for taking my gay dollars to raise your children while discriminating against me.

    May 19, 2010 at 10:20 pm |
    • Dink

      Would you save a tree and kill the children. ABORTION

      May 19, 2010 at 10:25 pm |
  2. noahlyn

    lol, then i got a virgiwell i do have a cat named garcy, shes a virgin, i hadt to part with err, but anythin for the suns
    n, my cat garcy, its gonna be hard to part with her, but, you know, the suns must win! god would want it that way

    May 19, 2010 at 10:18 pm |
  3. Steve

    Dink, why are you talking so funny?

    May 19, 2010 at 10:15 pm |
    • Dink

      Christ crucified, raised from the dead sitting at the right hand of the father. That is not funny. Those that have ears ...let them hear

      May 19, 2010 at 10:23 pm |
  4. Dink

    An abomination is a disgrace that must be differentiated from all other other transgressions. No one chooses to be gay? (that is free-will) Sin alienates the consciousness of all from the Grace that is bestowed upon us from GOD. Alternative lifestyles might satisfy for a season, but then the reality set's in. Your fruit will no longer prosper as the grains of your life will be separated from the chaff and you will not prosper. O ye of little faith having come to the knowledge of the truthful take heed to HIS word. AMEN

    May 19, 2010 at 10:14 pm |
    • midwestmatt

      Whatever. May God have mercy on your intolerant soul.

      May 19, 2010 at 10:34 pm |
  5. Edwardo69

    It's pretty simple–if your born in the U.S., you are a Christian, and have the right religion. If you're born in the mideast, you're a Muslim with the right religion...confusing isn't it?

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

      Did you not understand that there are false prophets and false religions? Father, son and the Holy Spirit. False doctrines and preachings have plagued the body of Christ for many have come in his name (GOD) and have deceived the minds of the masses.

      May 19, 2010 at 10:20 pm |
  6. Steve

    He wants me to sacrifice a virgin. Gender didn't seem to be an issue.

    May 19, 2010 at 10:10 pm |
  7. Edwardo69

    Shanna– Read the Quran! Maybe you could be wrong??? I'd hate to think you have the wrong religion after all that mindless spewing!

    May 19, 2010 at 10:09 pm |
  8. Steve

    Dennis Rodman is letting me down.

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

    Whether you believe in the Bible or not, it doesn't say anything anywhere about being a lesbian. Men being with men is a no-no but girl on girl action is ok.

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

      Yes the Bible does talk about woman on woman. It's in Romans 12.
      26Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27In 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.

      May 19, 2010 at 10:40 pm |
  10. Steve

    From Ghost Busters

    Gozer: Are you a God?
    [Ray looks at Peter, who nods]
    Dr Ray Stantz: No.
    Gozer: Then... DIE!
    [Lightning flies from her fingers, driving the Ghostbusters to the edge of the roof and almost off; people below scream]
    Winston Zeddemore: Ray, when someone asks you if you're a god, you say "YES"!

    May 19, 2010 at 10:07 pm |
  11. Dre

    Don't worry, all of you who DON'T believe in GOD will one day stand before HIM. I just pray you will have accepted Jesus first... I mean that. I pray for all lost souls.

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

      Dre, the error in your logic is that you assume we want to be saved. I've read your bible and I don't want to spend eternity as a slave to the celestial despot that supposedly wrote it.

      May 19, 2010 at 10:14 pm |
  12. noahlyn

    the god of basketball, dennis rodman, you needed to ask? thats a given

    May 19, 2010 at 10:03 pm |
  13. shanna

    The evidence that the bible is real!! Look all around the world! many things predicted in the bible have already begun to happen, and are continuing on a daily basis-Pray!! No one is born gay!!! That is another thing the devil is decieving you with~turning you away from the Truth! Jesus was sent because he was the ultimate sacrafice-made from the father , the most precious sacrifice sent for the purpose to burden all the sins of man-decieved by the devil, corrupted by evil for the sole purpose to spite the Father, Jesus was made of man, who walked the earth as a man into adulthood with the sole purpose to be fulfilled in the action of the cruscifiction. Carrying the burned of all and graciously and evers so humbly giving himself as his father had commanded. If thats not love , then I dont think anyone knows what love is!. Because of this act , the devil could no longer "own" the damned, rather than corrupt and decieve and convince that "God is not real." or that "if god loves you so much then why did he make you this way..you were born this way so that is what you must be. " He preys on the weak and feeble and corrupts the soul, once the soul has been corrupted , it is very easier to convince ones that are lost-For ones that accept and acknowledge that jesus is the son of god and believe in their hearts-greater is theres the kingdom of heaven!! The devil no longer has binds on you-if you do not believe, then your entrance to the kingdom will be lost , and you will continue being the Devils puppet,

    May 19, 2010 at 10:03 pm |
    • TB

      Shanna, it's people like you with an archaic belief structure that drives your decisions that make me fear for my children.

      May 19, 2010 at 10:28 pm |

      Let me wash you in the holy water and place you on the white horse for the rapture is here and you shall ride with god and jesus next to you to slay the sinners and unholy..

      Oh wait sorry that was a movie.. Nope your just nuts. take your meds honey.

      May 20, 2010 at 12:00 am |
    • buchab

      So God sent his son to die to appease his bloodlust to save us from our sins? He couldn't just forgive us for having a sinful nature that he saddled us with.

      Some guys are attracted to skinny blondes; I prefer tanned, curvy brunettes. I didn't choose to like them anymore than I think Ms. Knapp "chooses" to like women. We are just wired the way we are wired.

      May 20, 2010 at 12:19 am |
    • Alma Jackson

      Shanna: when did you "choose" to be straight? How long did you consider being gay before you "chose" to be straight? Or are you afraid to answer this question?

      May 20, 2010 at 9:27 am |
  14. db

    Anyone who reads the bible and comes away thinking that being gay is a tremendous sin is truly ignorant. The bible condemns debauchery. In the time of Christ Rome was ripe with it. Read each verse and honestly argue that they are referring to two loving faithful people in a committed relationship. The bible condems forced rape and depravity such as was described in the story of Sodom and in Romans. Peter's letter that specifically mentions homosexuals has it's own dirty little past..the word homosexuals was not added until 1958, and the word that it was translated from still confounds experts. But that did not stop puritanicals who wanted there to be no doubt that being gay was somehow evil. I'm suprised that retarded kids, or other "different" people were not condemned to have a demon possessing them. We can debate this back and forth but the truth is found in these words...First remove the plank from your own eye before removing the speck from another's eye...none of us are perfect and none of us are called to judge anyone, in fact we are specifically instructed not to judge.

    As the father of a gay teenager living in the south I admire this girls courage and committment to her faith. Here in my part of the country the churches are more interested in shutting people out who are different then they are. They are neglecting their first and most important calling.

    May 19, 2010 at 10:03 pm |
  15. Amber

    As far as I'm conserned god isn't real.

    May 19, 2010 at 10:02 pm |
    • RQ

      men take too much for granted. we are blind to see what YAHUVEH GOD has created for us.

      May 19, 2010 at 10:05 pm |
  16. Uncle Deuce

    Yeah, Praise Jesus. You know what? F- ALL religions, especially what passes as Christianity nowadays. Completely intolerant and judging. The Jesus I learned about growing up loved everyone no matter what, and all who claim to love him should follow suit without condemning anyone. PERIOD. THAT is a Christian, not what all these f-ing religious yahoos from the midwest/south/even here in NYC say. I would bet anything in the world that most people who broadcast their religion the way gays broadcast being gay have WAYYYY more to hide, and WAYYY more sin that they cling to religion over. It is a joke the way people who are religious regard themselves compared to anything different. Got news for you a__holes: Being gay is not a choice. It is what it is. You can't force a choice on anyone because it is not the mainstream of because the Bible says so. There should not be any shame in being gay because you piece of sh___ mindless, heartless zealots think the Bible says there should be. jj41, Christianity as you define really IS a scam. DIE, all you hyper-religious, ignorant pieces of crap. Oh, and I am as straight as they come and love curvy women. But I'd almost go gay just to spite you all because the dogma is just so disgusting.

    May 19, 2010 at 10:02 pm |
  17. Dre

    I don't think Jennifer TRULY knew/accepted Jesus as Lord. She needs prayer like any sinner or any of "US". God is NOT a compromising GOD. Sin is sin. Man on man, woman on woman, man and woman who ARE NOT married is sin. God loves the sinner, but hates the sin.

    May 19, 2010 at 10:01 pm |
    • RQ

      Exactly! Hallelu-YAH!

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

      Just because you don't think Jennifer TRULY accepted Jesus as Lord or knew Him doesn't mean she didn't. Thank God that He is the One Who decides who has accepted Him, because if most Christians had their way, they would not let God let gay people be saved.

      May 19, 2010 at 10:31 pm |
  18. Steve

    I am confused. The Lakers and the Suns are tied after 3 periods. which God should I pray to for the Suns to win?

    May 19, 2010 at 9:59 pm |
  19. noahlyn

    PLEASE, .lets get one thing straight, if we are gonna go by the bible then the first thing you need to learn.JUDGE YE NOT LEAST YE BE JUDGED. it is no ones business who someone loves, ms knapp didnt even need to include it in the article. be who you are, dont make excuses that you are something, just be it, live by example. period im straight, do you think for one minute that i go around announching that to my friencds? hell no and no one else has to either, just live your life, you will be excepted by the open minnded people, anyone else, isnt worth your time.

    May 19, 2010 at 9:57 pm |
  20. Greg

    The Bible is nothing but a palgerized story of Horus. A story that was a thousand years before Christ.

    May 19, 2010 at 9:56 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.