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. Jorge Vazquez

    As an evangelical Christian I would rather have 1000s of Jennifer who are honest and loving (what a beautifully written piece) than one hypocrite. Remember one message that is loud and clear in the gospels is Jesus's distaste for the religious establishment of the day. He leave his strongest word for them, yes even calling they hypocrites. I wonder why?

    May 19, 2010 at 11:37 pm |
    • Dink

      JORGE I believe that you have forgotten a very important word. A house divided against itself will fall. Jennifer's blatant immorality cannot be tolerated or you are a partaker in her same sin HELLO!

      May 19, 2010 at 11:45 pm |
    • yoop

      So you would rather Christians just sin, admit it, and then rationalize it. Somehow i don't think that is what Jesus was getting at.

      May 19, 2010 at 11:49 pm |
    • Jorge Vazquez

      The church has already been divided! Don't for a second think that it isn't. It has been divided over whether women should be in ministry (is that a sin then women being in ministry). The great division started with the reformation. Martin Luther caused the worst division ever because of the hyprocrisy of he Catholic Church in selling indulgences. Thus your assumption that because it divides the church it is wrong is errorneous. Also not biblical as Jesus said he did not come to bring peace. The only question then becomes what is holy division and what is not.

      I did not condone her sin and still believe her lifestyle is not ideal, but all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. I recommend you both read Alexander Solzyhenitsyn. One brilliant statement he makes is that "it would be wonderful if we could take all the evil in the world and put it in one place and destroy it. But that would require all of us tearing out a piece of our own heart and who wants to do that". Should Jennifer not be allowed to talk about her faith? Who are you to question her faith and walk with God?

      May 20, 2010 at 12:57 am |
  2. Yetunde

    There is so much ignorance coming from the atheists on this post, The blind are leading the blind
    No wonder there is so much crime in the world, people are just making up their own morality as they go along – refusing to submit to the One who fills their lungs with breath
    Many on this post cannot even spell, yet they are convinced that they could do a better job running the universe than God who is Holy
    Just because you choose to deny God's existence does not make Him go away

    May 19, 2010 at 11:32 pm |
    • Dink


      May 19, 2010 at 11:34 pm |
    • Bran

      I mean, you religious folk read your posts after you make them right? And still, what you just said doesn't sound crazy to you? I'm all for God but either this thread is full of a miracle amount of prophets or full of a miracle amount of bigots and crazies foaming at the mouth, masking their fear and phobias behind some imaginary voice they supposedly hear or some morality book written during a time when hanging people on crosses was a humane treatment of people.

      Seriously, it's like reading Twilight and then walking around demanding everyone lives as Bella does. That's how you sound. It's a book, with some good messages on morality. Of course, there's those of you that read into it what you want to get back so you can excuse your hatred, fears and general ignorance behind some greater power so that you don't have to feel the guilt of judging someone based on something they do that in no way effects you.

      Bunch of crazy people.

      May 19, 2010 at 11:45 pm |
  3. surfbumb77

    Okay, I was very intrigued when I saw this article. I had to take time to read it, and that was time well spent. To those of you "christians" who are blaming others for not studying the bible, I have one question? Are you? If you have sturied it you would uinderstand the difference between what happened to Sodom and what gays of this generation.
    God told abraham that sodom would be destroyed because there was not one Godd man in the entire city. It was filled with murderers, rapists, and defilers of children. It was a totally evil city. When his angels visited the city to pass His judgement the citizens of Sodom wanted Lot to send them out so that they could rape them.
    You have to understand what you are reading. You have to study it and pray about it. Jesus tried to tell the people of his age that life had changed and that the old rules didn't apply, but they wouldn't listen. It seems that people in our age are refusing to listen, as well. We have enough problems to concentrate on, in this country.
    And yes, I have read the bible, front to back, several times. I have studied it and prayed about what I read. Jenn, you just ignore what the "righteous" people have said here. Their eyes have been blinded and they cannot cope with what the New Testament truly says.

    May 19, 2010 at 11:31 pm |
  4. The Half Baked Lunatic

    I don't understand how anyone can say they believe in "god" without giggling. The whole idea is just absurd.

    May 19, 2010 at 11:31 pm |
    • yoop

      As is the origin of time, and matter. Just stupid.

      May 19, 2010 at 11:33 pm |
    • johnd

      Truth is we all, at some point, put our faith into something. There are leaps we all make to try to explain the unknown.

      May 19, 2010 at 11:36 pm |
  5. yoop

    What difference does it make if we are born with a desire to do evil, does that make it right? I desire to steal, cheat, etc... but in choosing not to we are all better for it.

    May 19, 2010 at 11:29 pm |
    • Kyle McCurdy

      Because nobody who is gay chose it. I'm sorry you can't and don't understand that, but that's the way it is. It's like telling someone who's left handed they CHOSE to be left handed. That's bull. So just love people, even if you don't accept it, and deal with it.

      May 20, 2010 at 1:22 am |
  6. johnd

    Does it mean that if I disagree with someone I hate them? I don't believe that I have spoken one hateful word on this site. There is a passage in the Bible that has to do with 'iron sharpening iron'.

    Again, God is both love and truth ... not one at the exclusion of the other.

    May 19, 2010 at 11:28 pm |
  7. Tony

    I know who the real idiots are. The ones that are narrowminded and dont know what it means to be gay. Up Yours People

    May 19, 2010 at 11:26 pm |
    • yoop

      I think the idea is that we don't want something up ours.

      May 19, 2010 at 11:30 pm |
    • Michael

      Um, I think most people know what being "gay" means. We are not narrow minded. We happened to believe that truth was, is, and will always be the same. It never changes no matter who says differently. If a man landed on the moon in the sixties does it matter what I think about it? It happened. If God said homosetualty was a sin. It is. You don't have to agree. That doesn't change it.

      May 19, 2010 at 11:32 pm |
    • Dink

      GAY pride comes before shame Prov.11.2

      May 19, 2010 at 11:33 pm |
    • johnd

      You are right. Most of us don't know what it is like to really struggle with same-sex attraction.

      However, I believe that we all struggle with something that is seemingly impossible to manage.

      May 19, 2010 at 11:33 pm |
    • mobadthangood

      About the "up yours" there Tony boy.
      I would think that something you like as much as you do "up yours" would be a little more reverant to you.

      May 20, 2010 at 2:08 pm |
    • let's be real

      No. The real idiots are the ones deviating from the actual article and blabbing about their personal agendas/vendettas/beliefs not in relation to the article.

      May 21, 2010 at 2:53 pm |
  8. Jose Dea

    Dear Jennifer Knapp. Thanks so much for your courage and for letting God use you to show what an honest pilgrim is in our search for God's will for us. I am sorry that seek people have wrote comments with so much hatred and the worst of all, "in the name of God”. What a good thing to see that you know in Who you have believed and you enjoy His steadfast love regardless the dirty things you her for people labeled "Christians" but so away for m the Jesus Character,. Keep going in that honest search following Jesus, and celebrating what Jesus has done in your life.

    May 19, 2010 at 11:22 pm |
    • Dink

      It is not hatred towards Jennifer yet her deed that are done in the darkness of the BODY of Christ and here confessions of the acts will only serve to lead here to restore a God-like relation ship as God has commanded

      May 19, 2010 at 11:29 pm |
  9. Steve

    The sign said everyone welcome to come in sit down and pray. But when they passed around the hat at the end of it all, i didn't have a penny to pay. So I got me a pen and paper, and made up my own sign. I said thank you Lord of thinking about me I'm alive and doing fine.

    May 19, 2010 at 11:17 pm |
  10. Dave

    Steve read your Bible
    Christ died for all of our sins
    If we believe and repent of our sins we are always saved

    May 19, 2010 at 11:17 pm |
  11. James

    The Bible is a work a fiction. God did not write it. If the Bible is Gods indisputable then why are there different versions? Men wrote the Bible. Men edited the Bible. It has wonderful lessons from time to time but it is not the word of God.

    May 19, 2010 at 11:16 pm |
    • Michael

      Poor soul.

      May 19, 2010 at 11:21 pm |
    • Dink

      You are such a scholar. Yes the bible was not written by God, but is the inspired word of the apostles and sacred elders.

      May 19, 2010 at 11:25 pm |
  12. Monty Fowler

    I just spent the better part of two hours sifting through this pile of mostly crap. It is horrifying to me as a Christian that so many self-identified "Christians" would spew such vile hatred and intolerance in this way. Love God with all your heart, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as you love yourself. That's it folks. That was the entire Old and New Testament summed up in one sentence. Every person is a sinner. Christ died for all of the sinners...and all of the sins. Wow...just wow.

    May 19, 2010 at 11:16 pm |
    • Michael

      You're a Christian? I suggest you read a bible when you get a chance. Study to show yourself approved unto God. Rightly dividing the word of truth.

      May 19, 2010 at 11:19 pm |
    • Dink

      What you are failing to see is that the issue is a role model such as this cannot be tolerated as it is an abomination to God's laws and does not edify the church.

      May 19, 2010 at 11:22 pm |
    • Dink

      No comment What are your scriptural references for your comments?

      May 19, 2010 at 11:39 pm |
  13. jesusfrickencrist

    Good God... I never realized how many loony-tune nutjobs still exist. All I hear anymore from the religious fanatics is 'blah blah blah, bleh bloo, bluh, blip blip blip, boo."

    May 19, 2010 at 11:11 pm |
    • johnd

      Maybe they are expressing their freedom of speach as do you? Maybe they disagree with your views? Thought that is what these sites were for ... ppl expressing their views.

      May 19, 2010 at 11:18 pm |
    • Dink

      I will pray that you come to the realization of the truth. God who is light will expose the darkness that you might be living in.


      May 19, 2010 at 11:18 pm |
  14. Dink

    There is a way that seems right to men, but the ends there are destruction. READ THE WORD and stop leaning to your own understanding. PLEASE!

    May 19, 2010 at 11:10 pm |
  15. Jack Beslanwitch

    Jennifer: Thank you for sharing your heartfelt account. My own spiritual journey led eventually to episcopalian, a welcoming Christian environment that though I am straight is also welcoming and accepting to those who are gay. Actually, the new and current vicar of our local church is gay and in a committed relationship of long standing. A recent consecrated bishop also happens to be a gay female in a long standing relationship. It is sad in reading through the comments here that many see only sin where there is an opportunity to be accepting and loving and true to the compassion that is so central to what I now consider my spiritual life. I had not heard of you before and will look at your body of work to see if it appeals to me as your account does. Good luck and please be sure that God is smiling at you with his love.

    May 19, 2010 at 11:06 pm |
  16. Steve

    If a saved Christian joins the air force and drops a bomb killing hundreds of people, is he still going to heaven.

    May 19, 2010 at 11:05 pm |
    • Dink

      Very good question Steve

      May 19, 2010 at 11:07 pm |
    • Dink

      Thou shalt not kill among others An old Testament Law that no one could keep. Thru God" Grace he sent his son into the world that no one should perish but have everlasting life.

      May 19, 2010 at 11:15 pm |
    • mobadthangood

      Yes. He his a warrior carrrying out orders.
      He is defending his freedom, his families, his country and his countrymen.
      He has been attacked and is defending himself and those he loves.
      Wouldn't you defend the ones you love.
      Hitler murdered and destroyed millions of people because of hate. Should we not have attacked Germany then.
      Saddam murdered, tortured and destroyed thousands of his OWN people and would still be doing it today had we not attacked his regime. We did not attack Iraq. We attacked Saddams Rigime.
      We have not attacked Afghanistan. We have attacked al-Quaida.
      Would you like to let them continue to commit terrorism throughout the world as they are doing and have been doing.

      May 20, 2010 at 2:17 pm |
  17. JS

    There once was a society dominated by the right-wing elite. They memorized scriptures and strived to follow them. They scorned sinners and judged those they deemed unworthy. One day, a woman was caught in the act of adultery. They dragged her out into the street, her clothes torn, exposed with her shame. According to their laws and generations of social and religious conditioning, she was to be die by stoning. Before they could kill her, a Man came along and asked those without blame to cast the first stone. One by one they left. He turned to the woman and asked, "Who has condemned you?". "No one", she replied. "Neither do I.", the Man said.

    May 19, 2010 at 11:04 pm |
    • Dave

      What is your point?
      The Jesus teaching is correct.
      Except you forgot the ending of this teaching (the most important)
      "Go and sin no more"

      May 19, 2010 at 11:11 pm |
  18. veggiedude

    The bible is as valid as the horoscope in the daily newspapers. Read for entertainment only. Please do not take it seriously.

    May 19, 2010 at 11:04 pm |
    • johnd

      What do you base your 'belief' on?

      May 19, 2010 at 11:38 pm |
    • Watanabe

      I would say that veggiedude bases his belief on...(drum roll please)...evidence!

      May 20, 2010 at 7:14 am |
    • johnd

      What conclusive evidence do you have that there is no God?

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

      May 20, 2010 at 11:44 am |
  19. RichardCory

    I love how nasty people get about pointing out the "sinfulness" of being gay . . . and we all quietly ignore the sins in the Bible like gluttony. I love seeing sermons on abortion and homosexuality given to overweight, middle-aged congregations. Does it make them feel "more saved" hearing sermons that there's a good chance will never have anything to do with them? How about if we all work on our OWN sins, and THEN worry about if what everyone else is doing is wrong?

    May 19, 2010 at 10:59 pm |
  20. Jessica

    Sitting here reading the plethora of comments, I was stricken by immense sadness. When did Christians loose their love for one another? When did we lose the ability to leave judgment in the hands of the Father? At what point were we taught that condemnation of our fellow being was acceptable? When did any of us as humans learn that hate and condemnation were acceptable–regardless of our individual religion or which side of this fence we sit on? Whatever your vocabulary–we all commit sins, by whatever name we call them. By whatever vocabulary, we are all wrong at some point, on some level. I speak for myself when I say that I am not perfect, that I'm not always right, and that I realize perfection as an unobtainable goal–but that my goal through my life's journey is to strive for the best that I can give myself and those around me. Faith has always been a large part of this for me. I really related to what Jennifer says–she is striving to live her life as she sees fit, and faith is obviously a large part of that. I commend her for her honesty in a time when so many are decietful. I commend her for her diligence and perserverance to live her life as a life of love in a world of hate. She was a role model to me as a youth through her music and her never-ending search for faith and the Higher Power, and she will continue to be a role model for me in adulthood. Say what you may about me, but I am unwilling to condemn her for her "sins" when I have "sins" of my own.

    May 19, 2010 at 10:58 pm |
    • Dink

      YES and she will be judged by her sin at the gate and so will you. UN-confessed sin........as a Christian she has fore-knowledge that she is sinning and does not refrain from it.

      May 19, 2010 at 11:01 pm |
    • JS

      Thanks Jessica, for reminding me that there are still people like you out there.

      May 19, 2010 at 11:02 pm |
    • Dink

      Jessica ......it would serve you better to read the scriptures more and further you understanding of GOD"s LAW. Not the understanding of the world but deeply search and find the truth's

      May 19, 2010 at 11:05 pm |
    • johnd

      Yes, there is a lot of condemnation that gets swung around, from all camps.

      The problem is, gently and humby correcting someone does not need to be condemning ... it is actually Biblically encouraged. I would want someone to help me if I strayed from truth.

      God is both love and truth ... not one at the exclusion of the other.

      May 19, 2010 at 11:05 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.