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. Wanda

    Interesting, Jennifer doesn't refer to her personal relaitonship with Christ; she doesn't mention scriptures. She had her experiences with different churchers and people, what are her personal experiences with Jesus Christ? I get the impression that she desn't know scripture and doesn't know Jesus therefore she doesn't have love for the Word (Jesus) she doesn't have love for the truth (Jesus). Jennifer appears to be a very affectionate person who knows love in terms other than agapa love. Love is committment to God's commandments. I John 2:3-6,5:3, We all need to keep our eyes on Jesus not on others. We must be more desperate for Him than any person or thing. We have to also be careful not to let ministry replace our relationship with Him. God bless you Jennifer, I hope you come to know Jesus for yourself.

    May 20, 2010 at 1:35 am |
  2. leslie

    Jennifer's courageous article was not written to beg us for acceptance of her sexuality. It was not written to publicly denounce her Christianity, nor to announce her departure from the music scene. She is not asking for our approval, so let's stop acting as though we can rule that over her. She has dealt with this struggle already, and she is at peace. She is now simply sharing her life experiences, with an open heart, searching for understanding among Christians that are divided even amongst themselves.

    Forget about what her words say about HER, what does her article say about US? Our ability to love, to accept, to rejoice and suffer with others? Look at the comments above...and realize that WE, not Jennifer, need the most prayers and forgiveness.

    May 20, 2010 at 1:23 am |
    • Wanda

      Leslie, if we love righteously in Christ Jesus, the love for the truth must prevail. Those of us who love Jesus love Jennifer. We are embracing her with love. Compromise is not love. It is important to understand spiritual warfare. We will know them by their fruit. Put on the full armor of God. God Bless, may you know and love the whole truth and not just what is conveient.

      June 7, 2010 at 4:13 pm |
  3. Kyle McCurdy

    I was wondering what happened to her! Well Jennifer, we have some things in common. Because since I started listening to you forever ago, I've come out too. And God loves us so much. We were made in his image. I'm so happy for you and so happy you're back. I hope you bless us with more of your music!

    May 20, 2010 at 1:20 am |
  4. Post Tenebras Lux

    read the bible. the real problem is not that people are being "homophobic" or are things that are hateful towards homosexuals. the real problem is that the one true God almighty offends you. you all dislike the Idea that you can not have your own way. you are all willing to except your own version of a "god" but you are all unwilling to except the true God because he offends you.

    May 20, 2010 at 1:16 am |
  5. Emily

    John, don't know if you will see this or not. But your comment was beautiful and perfect. Good for you and good for your husband. 🙂

    May 20, 2010 at 1:04 am |
  6. Armondo V.


    May 20, 2010 at 12:57 am |
  7. Jesse

    For those who call themselves Christians lets us remember that judgment belongs to God and God alone! It's not about religion; it's about an intimate relationship with Him (God). It is not are duty to cast the first stone, our duty is to love as Jesus loves and let Him be the judge over us. No sin is greater than another, although the Bible is clear on what sin is we need to walk as Jesus walked. So look at your lives first and know that we are ALL sinners and allow God to be your guide; instead of judging, love and pray.

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

    Hi Bsquared. God loves you very much. If you will let Him help you, He will bring holiness into your life.
    Jesus is the way the truth and the life

    May 20, 2010 at 12:28 am |
  9. chucky

    We as Christian should love her anyway...even if our own personal opinion based on the Bible is that she is sinning. Because whether or not we believe whats said in the Old Testament, in the New Testament its very clear that we should love everyone...

    May 20, 2010 at 12:14 am |
  10. Bsquared.

    I'm totally in line with everyone that says choosing to be hated would be stupid. If we were all straight we'd stil all be sinners. you "good people" bashing your fellow men and women don't listen to the teachings that the Bible left us with.
    It's funny how we are quick to be the judge and not letting GOD do the judging. People that hate so much the "sin" but really hate the people are what drove me out of religion. I believe there's a God but I can't back people who HATE in the name of God and in the name of the teachings Of Jesus Christ. If you're with me sound off, if you wanna crusade and hate me for what I am Please. Provide your full argument on why I am part of the most hated community in the world not by choice but purely by the way I was born. And whoever said science proved that gay is a choice obviously isn't much of the scientist...

    May 20, 2010 at 12:11 am |
    • TCJulian

      I am truly sorry. Truly. Many poeple claim to know Jesus and God, but all they really know are his principles and rules. What they are missing is the love and compassion and jealous personality that he in fact has. Jesus loves u, for who u r, nothing can ever change that. What ever u choose to do, i hope that one day, u will find the love that u are looking for 🙂

      May 20, 2010 at 12:17 am |
    • chucky

      wow TC that was really cool...I agree, and try to remember its not actually about religion, its about a relationship with our Savior

      May 20, 2010 at 12:20 am |
  11. Stephen Pyle

    I've never listened to Jennifer's music (even as a kid who grew up at some of the summer camps and churches she probably played at), but I would be interested to listen to her now. I don't feel like she clearly expressed what or who she currently believes in but if she still believes in Jesus, I'd like to hear her writings about going through this process. To me, I think it adds a bit of reality and honesty.

    May 20, 2010 at 12:08 am |
    • TCJulian

      I think that is kind of what all churches need : a reality check. I feel sometimes that we blame everyone else with out ever looking at ourselves first. I agree with u, it would be interesting to see how all of it transpired. Christians need to here more life stories such as these to know that everyone struggles with this kind of thing sooner or later.

      May 20, 2010 at 12:12 am |
    • Bsquared.

      Thanks SP For being real. :]

      May 20, 2010 at 12:14 am |
  12. gg

    Can I post? CNN Not allowing it

    May 20, 2010 at 12:06 am |
  13. Edwin

    If God created the world and decided what is right and what is wrong, then God certainly has the authority to condemn homosexuality. But other humans do not have that authority.

    When Jennifer gets to the 'Pearly Gates', so to speak, she will have to answer for all that she is and has or has not done. That is between God and her. It is reasonable and appropriate for others to let her know their opinions, but it is not reasonable for others to condemn her. That is God's decision, and His alone.

    May 20, 2010 at 12:02 am |
  14. Yetunde

    Seems like Bran has hatred towards Bible believers and their God

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

      Its ok. We r going to sound crazy to the world. I lived through so much i have come to expect it. It is coming to a time when only the power of God can move peoples hearts.

      May 20, 2010 at 12:03 am |
  15. chucky

    In the Bible God says that its detestable to him. So yes in the new testament Paul says that Jesus fulfilled the law in the old testament. but God said it was DETESTABLE to Him.... as in he wants to barf when he sees people doing it– that doesnt change whether Jesus fulfilled the law or not

    May 19, 2010 at 11:54 pm |
    • TCJulian

      True, but this girl is not what he detests. He detests SIN. He LOVES this girl with all of his being. No matter what choice she chooses he will always love her.

      May 19, 2010 at 11:57 pm |
    • buchab

      He said the same about eating shellfish and wearing clothes of mixed fibers....

      May 20, 2010 at 12:04 am |
  16. G

    You will all know true happiness once you stop judging other people.

    May 19, 2010 at 11:54 pm |
    • yoop

      So should we get rid of our court system then??

      May 19, 2010 at 11:57 pm |
  17. TCJulian

    SO much fighting over someones belief. How can any of this help or even advance the whole point of this article? Teenagers, adults... heck EVERYONE on this world struggles with stuff like this every day. I think it is interesting how people can fight over this and that and still not see the truth. What i see here, is a young woman that just wants to be loved. She wants to find her place in this world, her purpose in life. How about instead of fighting over whether who is right and who is wrong and casting judgement upon each other u care and help this girl in what she is going through. It doesnt matter whether u r Christian, Athiest, or some other religion, u should at least give her that.

    May 19, 2010 at 11:50 pm |
  18. anonymouslistener

    Jennifer, I have been an avid fan of your music since I found out there was such thing as "Christian artists." The first song I learned on my guitar was one of yours from your Kansas CD ("..from glass alabaster she poured out the depths of her soul..") When you played at Creation West years ago I went just to see you, I felt I could resonate with your lyrics and the spirit behind your music. I have been through such a mess of spiritual abuse over the past decade, going to a church that was built of imperfect people (imagine that). I found myself, after the loss of my dear sister, wondering what I was doing with my life. I left that church and have done things I am not proud of but I have gotten to figure myself out a bit more. I absolutely love Jesus with all my heart, but my life is so changed from the "fanatical Christian" I was just 2 and half years ago. All this to say, your music has made an impact on me and has helped me through a lot. Continue to accept the knocking on your heart from Him. Let Him continue to do His work through you, to mold you and make you who He intended you to be. Don't let the all imperfect church experiences and the imperfect people be turn offs to the most mysterious wonderous God. I am far from being there myself, but I just want to encourage you. You always have a place of welcome if you come to Seattle 🙂

    May 19, 2010 at 11:44 pm |
    • Dink

      Have you read the SONGS of Solomon a truly HOLLY man?

      May 19, 2010 at 11:48 pm |
    • Dink


      May 19, 2010 at 11:51 pm |
  19. Yetunde

    What's absurd ,my friend,is that people believe that they are going to heaven because they've been good.
    The Bible teaches that no man is good.
    The only way to the Heavenly Father (God) is through His Son, Jesus Christ.
    Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.

    May 19, 2010 at 11:43 pm |
  20. Jen

    Heavenly Father, in Jesus Name, please forgive ALL of us for any and all thoughts, words and actions that fall short of Your heart, will, plan and purposes. Thank you for your grace and mercy towards ALL of us, particularly those that don't know You (and don't want to know).

    May 19, 2010 at 11:41 pm |
    • Wanda


      May 20, 2010 at 1:45 am |
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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.