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. Everybody Needs Jesus

    Please accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior...before you breathe your last breath and it is too late.

    May 19, 2010 at 10:57 pm |
    • Everybody Needs Jesus

      God created all things including you and me. He didn't want us to be puppets on a string; so He gave us free will (the ability to make choices). We chose sin (the exact opposite of what God would have us choose). This separated us from God (He is pure and cannot have sin in His presence). He made a way to reconcile us to Himself by saving us from ourselves through the death of His Son Jesus(He died in our place). He then gives us the free will to choose to accept Jesus or to reject Him. Those who choose Him(the entire life-changing Lordship of Jesus); will be reconciled to God. Those who choose not to accept Him(the entire Jesus, including all His words and ways) will NOT be saved; thus choosing to be separated from God forever in Hell. Those who are Christians should not judge the ways of the Un-Saved because they see our ways as foolishness and are separated from God...we should love them; show them Jesus through us; and tell them about Jesus(in a loving way). Those who are Christians should hold each other accountable so that Satan will not trick us into believing something that is NOT the way of Jesus and God. By bringing this to their attention(in a loving and not damming way) it hopefully will bring them back to the true way of living their lives in the way God would want them to....A person who has truly accepted Jesus and has been baptized has been given a fresh start. All their sins are gone forever from that point back; and they have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit(just like you and I have our own Spirit(who we are as a person) God has His Spirit; he then places it inside ours to help us discern the Bible; to help us know right from wrong; to help us pray; to help us be more of the person God wants us to be). Those who have truly been given the gift of the Holy Spirit will know if they are leading a life that is contradictory to Gods way. Christians let the Holy Spirit guide you; not your own instincts or ways... Christian, if you are living a life that is contridictory to the ways of God; please turn away from that wrong choice; if you truely have the gift of the Holy Spirit; you know if the purposeful sinful life you are now living is not what God wants.....Those who have not accepted Jesus; please do; before you have breathed your last breath; then it will be too late.

      May 19, 2010 at 10:59 pm |
  2. Gary

    I think it is sad that the belief she loves so much, despises her. If her religion gives her peace, so be it.

    May 19, 2010 at 10:56 pm |

    Love God, Love People....

    May 19, 2010 at 10:53 pm |
  4. Steve

    Glittering prince of air..Really?

    May 19, 2010 at 10:48 pm |
    • Dink

      ALSO among many names FALLEN ANGEL ABANDON, ACCUSER, ADVERSARY, ANGEL of LIGHT, BEAST, BEELZEBUB, DRAGON, KING of BABYLON and Son of Perdition and many more

      May 19, 2010 at 10:58 pm |
  5. Steve

    Is it really worth the brain energy??!!

    May 19, 2010 at 10:46 pm |
  6. Steve

    Whether there is a god or not. Whether there is a heaven/hell or not. If someone is going to hell, then let them do it. As long as one is not harming another, WHO CARES!!

    May 19, 2010 at 10:43 pm |
    • Dink

      LAME It is God's will that no one shall perish. DO you read his WORD (B I B L E )

      May 19, 2010 at 10:50 pm |
    • Fred

      The problem is, Steve, that we do hurt others ... if we are being honest. All of us have hurt individuals/the collective – that is the nature of wrong-doing. There are always negative consequences.

      May 19, 2010 at 10:52 pm |
  7. Steve

    ummm, Mohamed was born hundreds of years after the bible was edited. As Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama)was born 500 years before Christ, can you please tell me where he says Jesus exists. And maybe the authors of the bible just weren't t that smart and didn't speak Chinese

    May 19, 2010 at 10:43 pm |
    • Dave

      Islams's Bible (Koran) mentions the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ.
      The Buddha and his beliefs (no witnesses) did not spread around India til after Christ lived
      Look it up

      God created all of the languages (Tower of Babel)

      Read the Bible, what do you have to lose other than eternal life

      May 19, 2010 at 10:56 pm |
    • David Johnson

      Steve – Actually the different language thing seems to have occurred twice. The first time was after the flood.

      May 20, 2010 at 3:35 pm |
  8. everykneebow

    Satan would like people to beleive his lie that they are drunkers, gay, lesbians, all kind of unGodly things. The bible says be not deceived and my people parish for a lack of knowledge. Find out what God says you are. Satan is going to hell and wants to take as many of you with him that he can get to beleive a lie. The best lie is that God don't exist. That is probably his best one. But you better beleive God does and Satan does. Don't let satan deceive you.

    May 19, 2010 at 10:42 pm |
  9. Fred

    LOL ... yes, I think I also bought a few CDs!

    May 19, 2010 at 10:41 pm |
  10. Dink

    Let us give praise to the father (GOD) this night. That his eternal love and salvation is his gift. Let us not loose sight and be deceived by the glittering prince of the air (LUCIFER) that we can live apart from the teachings of the scriptures. God grant all who have ears to hear and receive this prayer to cause and reconsider the adverse effect of their sin that is alienating them from you. ALL

    May 19, 2010 at 10:39 pm |
  11. Rosemary

    Knapp states, "I didn't know it, but I was becoming a "Christian artist". Golly gee, she didn't know it when her Christian concerts and CD sales were abounding along with Christian accolades and Christian bucks. I think she used the Christian community to advance her musical career. Although she feels wrongfully judged, she and Ray Boltz should be appreciative of their early musical roots which brought them acclaim.

    May 19, 2010 at 10:39 pm |
  12. Everybody Needs Jesus

    The fact of the matter is this: Any person/Christian could take any sin and claim it as their own under the guise of "God made me that way; he wouldn't have made that certain thing; unless he expected someone to claim it as their own". Example a person could say: "I am a Liar; God made me have those tendencies so I should just give into it and just accept that that is who I am...A Liar."

    Then insert any sin into the spot of "Liar" above....like adulterer; thief; gay; and so on.

    What everyone needs to insert in there is "Sinner" and then repent from it and change.....just like you should change from any other sin you may insert here. Yes that sin may rear its ugly head at times; but at least we are not claiming it as our own and not letting it define who we are; while at the same time; we are working away from it with God's help.

    May 19, 2010 at 10:37 pm |
    • Everybody Needs Jesus

      They only thing wrong with the example I gave when you insert the word "sinner".....is that God did not give you those tendencies; it is our own selfish desires being fueled by Satan.

      May 19, 2010 at 10:42 pm |
  13. Phil

    Wow. Either people are totally for or totally against being gay. Having a little biology and a little spirituality, I came to the conclusion that gay is a total evolutionary dead end. A gene set that does not reproduce is already extinct, like being 100 points behind in a basketball game and time is expiring. So it's not biology. God made it a capital crime. It's still a sin. Jesus will forgive sins if a person will ask. But that takes revelation, something that's sorely lacking nowadays.

    May 19, 2010 at 10:35 pm |
  14. everykneebow

    "The Lord will judge his people." It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

    May 19, 2010 at 10:33 pm |
  15. Dave

    Hey Edwardo

    How come all of the other major religions (Islam, Buddism, etc.) state that Jesus Christ existed.
    The Bible does not say anything about Islam or Buddism (working good for Tiger)
    Any other belief is false.
    God is just trying to make it easy for you but all of you unbelievers reject it
    The Bible states that there would be many that scoff at scripture and be in continual unbelief, blinded by Satan.
    We will all have to bow to Jesus when we die

    As a Christian I do not judge you, only God judges but we are suppose to spread the good news of Jesus Christ.
    I pray for you all, even Bill Mahr

    When you unbelievers meet Jesus you cannot say that nobody talked to you about Christ
    and his teachings

    May 19, 2010 at 10:32 pm |
    • midwestmatt

      Good LORD!! God will take your intolerant soul and cast it to the Hell it deserves to burn in.

      You say you do not judge and then tell me I am not close to God because I do not believe in Jesus?? That is a judgment in itself.

      Jesus was a man. He stood up to the Romans and didn't back down and they killed him. End of story.

      His example, along with nearly countless other brave and strong people throughout history, teach us to stand up to the intolerant and those that would subjugate us and that's why I stand up to the church and their wicked ways.

      I have no fear of God or Jesus. I have lived an imperfect life but I do not fear the judgment of God, only intolerant people armed with lies, treachery and sanctimony so thick that it obscures the truth.

      No wonder the major Christian denominations are shrinking in numbers every year. People are on to the BS and lies.

      May 19, 2010 at 10:41 pm |
    • johnd

      Why are you so bothered by his opinion ... even if it is troubling? He has his belief system, as do you. Are you not on this site expressing your opinion, as is he?

      I always find it laughable that people want their freedom of speach [feel entitled to it], unless it disagrees with their own. I believe this happens in all camps.

      May 19, 2010 at 10:47 pm |
    • TB

      Dave, when you don't meet him will you apologize to the millions of starving that could have been fed by the trillions of dollars spent building and maintaining churches to worship a mythical being, not to mention the millions killed in his name over the course of history?

      May 19, 2010 at 10:52 pm |
    • Post Tenebras Lux

      What you are saying is that we all need to be tolerant. if you truly believed that then you would not care what we said about this topic. you are not being very tolerant of our beliefs. I just find it interesting that we should all be tolerant of what you believe but you should not be tolerant of what we believe.

      May 20, 2010 at 3:30 pm |
  16. Jesus


    May 19, 2010 at 10:31 pm |
  17. Dude

    Dont you know they found an archealogical evidence recently that Jesus was a gay and his partner was indeed Mohammed.

    May 19, 2010 at 10:29 pm |
    • everykneebow

      It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

      May 19, 2010 at 10:34 pm |
    • johnd

      Often wonder if humor is used to hide insecurities? What is your real opinion about the topic?

      May 19, 2010 at 10:37 pm |
    • Dink

      You are a mocker and a teller of un-truths

      May 19, 2010 at 10:45 pm |
    • RQ

      Men are wrong all the time, and this is a mockery against the HOLY SIN SACRIFICE YAHUSHUA/JESUS!!! these stupid who made up all this will face angry GOD YAHUVEH soon.

      May 19, 2010 at 10:49 pm |
  18. Terry W. Brookman

    God bless you, Jesus loves you!

    May 19, 2010 at 10:29 pm |
  19. midwestmatt

    Go and be happy. That's what God wants and your orientation is no one's business.

    If those that professed love for you before you came out have changed their minds about you, then they are not a child of God and they have no place in the church.

    You are born gay and the intolerant religious FREAKS who spew their hatred on this board are the same morons that think that the earth is 6,000 years old and that people in the Old Testament lived to be 900 years old. They are the detritus of this lifetime and should be treated as such.

    Go and BE HAPPY. Even this atheist knows God wants us to be happy.

    May 19, 2010 at 10:29 pm |
    • johnd

      Um, how can you be an atheist and believe that?

      How do you know what God wants?

      May 19, 2010 at 10:39 pm |
    • Dink

      Excuse me .....no one is born GAY

      May 19, 2010 at 10:43 pm |
    • midwestmatt

      I believe in something far greater than an anthropomorphised god. I do not believe that God, as so many believe in, looks like us. That is unbelievably presumptuous but that hasn't stopped the church from pushing that on all of us.

      I believe that we should follow the golden rule and, if we did, the world would be a much better place (the golden rule is in some form in nearly every religion across the globe).

      I can say whatever I want to about what God wants just as so many others do.

      I'll defend people's right to be left alone and not judged by bigots, be they liberal or conservative.

      The church is a disgrace of intolerance, hatred and hypocrisy and many of the posts on this page, by people who are clearly very religious, proves my thesis well.

      May 19, 2010 at 10:50 pm |
    • johnd

      Really, do you know everyone in the 'Church' ... met them personally? How about all the good work the 'Church' does in the world – millions given to those in need? Yeah, there are some ignorant ppl in the Church – just like any organization, but does that mean we throw the baby out with the bathwater?

      Also, it appears that some of your views have come from the Bible – 'golden rule'. Garden variety faiths make me a little nervous, becasue how can I know that the god I am creating is just a projection of what I want.

      May 19, 2010 at 10:58 pm |
  20. noahlyn

    am i partying.of course.god wnats that too!

    May 19, 2010 at 10:20 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.