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. Everyone Stop

    For any actual Christians thinking of leaving a well thought out rebuttal to all the Christian haters and mockers on this thread, please don't waste your time. Man will never understand the deceitful nature of the heart unless God himself reveals it.

    May 20, 2010 at 6:02 am |
    • just me

      What is being mocked is not Christianity, but those who call themselves Christian and do not understand Jesus' message of love.

      May 20, 2010 at 11:53 am |
    • YHWH reigns

      You are right that we shouldn't waste too much time trying to argue our faith..

      However, it is our duty to at least share it so they cannot say they were not told 🙂

      May 22, 2010 at 10:52 pm |
  2. Deb

    Jennifer, don't know if you are reading these blogs, or will ever get to mine after being totally disgusted by some of the posts, but I've had the same experience as you. I was one of the worship leaders in my church and I was told by many that my music was a blessing to them....until I came out as being gay. Crazy how the church can turn on you! I find myself disappointed with the church as the bride of Christ – if I were Christ, I would want a divorce!

    P.S. I'm glad you are back in the music scene! Your music has always been a blessing.

    May 20, 2010 at 5:52 am |
    • Pat

      I'm curious to find out how you deal with your homosexuality being a Christian

      May 20, 2010 at 6:08 am |
  3. Barney

    To: Jennifer Knapp
    What you wrote about your life is amazing. All the noise you hear is just noise. What God wants from us is a relationship with him, a journey of trust and faith in him, giving everything to him, and remember, only God judges and validates us, not man.
    A large percentage of Christians today are what we call church-e, i.e, they attend church every Sunday or special Sundays (Christmas etc), they may know intellectually the Bible or Theology, but sadly, they do not "know" Jesus. This is why the worst PR for Christianity are Christians because of their righteousness. Regardless of one journey with the Lord (& this includes many pastors) people always sin, that's why "ONLY" our father God has the power of Grace and Love to forgive us, not our fellow man. Most Christian go to there grave never bring one non Christan to God. It's so easy to hang with fellow Christians and condemn others,.
    Keep strong because God has gifted you with your music to reach the broken hearts.

    May 20, 2010 at 5:50 am |
  4. AaronS

    My issue is NOT with her being gay. I believe these feelings come from a real and authentic place for everyone, gay or straight alike. HOWEVER, I also believe that just as the heterosexual is called upon to not commit fornication or adultery, the gay person, sad and unfair as it may seem, is called upon to likewise resist the urges within themselves.

    No, my issue is that she says that "Many would say that I 'became' a Christian." This smacks of someone who never really went the distance when it comes to faith. There is a huge difference between being a nice person who tries to live the ethical teaching of Jesus...and a person who has entrusted Jesus with their life and future, believing Him to be the risen Son of God. This latter version is what true Christianity is. It sounds like Miss Knapp, for all the wonderful qualities she may possess, has never really went the distance.

    I do wish her well. But TO ME, being a Christian artist is not just about singing "Christian" songs. It's about BEING a Christian in the sense I have indicated above.

    May 20, 2010 at 5:37 am |
  5. +

    Jennifer, You are a beautiful soul with a poetic voice that speaks from your heart. You are loved...

    May 20, 2010 at 5:37 am |
  6. Jojo

    Jesus was gay. Any cute, Jewish, 30ish, unmarried male who only hung around with a group of men had to be gay...

    May 20, 2010 at 5:29 am |
  7. just me

    What a beautiful article, Jennifer! Jesus was full of love for EVERYONE...how sad there are some who hate in His name.

    May 20, 2010 at 5:28 am |
  8. matt

    I can appreciate J. Knapp's "journey" as being one who "listens" in a sea of people who may or may not...it's a verbose way of pointing the finger. The "if you don't agree with homosexuality, you're intolerant" schtick has gotten old. Actually, you can just fill in the blank now-a-days. Let's see, "If you don't agree with...ME, you're intolerant!"

    May 20, 2010 at 5:18 am |
  9. Pat

    It's a pity Christianity can be misused in such a way. Either you're a Christian living according to the Bible, or at least making efforts to, or you're not. Unfortunately, many "Christians" are trying to find new interpretations of the Bible. If they don't agree with it, perhaps they should wait until their faith and relationship with God has matured enough and simply stop making public statements which simply confuse non-Christians and make Christians look silly.
    So if you're gay and believe that's God's will for you, then you shouldn't make the Bible look like it's supporting you. Let's not go on misinterpreting what's clearly written in black and white. I'm sorry about Jennifer's case, but please don't make it look like Christians have rejected her.

    May 20, 2010 at 5:16 am |
    • Alma Jackson

      Pat.....if it's clearly written in black and white, are you going to pick and choose where it's written?

      May 20, 2010 at 1:48 pm |
  10. Robert

    Let's remember that it wasn't Adam and Steve, nor was it Adam and Eve. It was Adam and his rib. God made Eve from Adam's rib. It says it in the bible. Not Adam and Steve, people. Adam and his rib. Do you get it? His rib? His tummy bone? We all have them. (Probably.) Think about it.

    May 20, 2010 at 5:06 am |
    • Jesus

      By Zeus are really that stupid? Do you actually believe what is in the "bible" is true! Not only are most of the stories in the bible borrowed from other religions thousands of years older, but the stories in the bible were heavily edited by the catholic church. Grow out of your child like need to believe in Santa, the tooth fairy and the Easter Bunny. (By the way Easter and Christmas aren't "Christian" holidays either.)

      May 20, 2010 at 5:48 am |
    • YHWH reigns

      You are right, Christmas and Easter are pagan holidays that are not in the Bible.. in fact, Yahweh detests when people 'go into the forest, cut down trees, bring them back in and decorate them with gold and silver'. This is all worship of false gods. Even the name Jesus isn't an actual name, but rather a made up one with a mixture of several languages.

      But the funny thing is if we search with good intention, we will find that Yahweh gave us holidays to celebrate and the reasons we do.

      You are right that many churches or men of power did change things to appease the pagans who worshiped the sun and other false gods, but the Bible speaks against all of that and still does... we just tend to follow the traditions of men, rather than the instructions of Yahweh... this is a part of Yahshua's message when he was here, as the religious followed traditions of men and only used Yahweh's instructions to hinder and oppress their fellow men.

      May 24, 2010 at 4:01 pm |
  11. Mike

    Another non-news waste of time. Never heard of her. Who cares even if she lays with dogs?

    May 20, 2010 at 3:31 am |
    • venusrising

      That was funny as hell. OOPS did I mention hell.lol

      May 20, 2010 at 4:59 am |
  12. Chris

    God is a figment of your imagination. He doesn't hate gays, any more than he hates people who eat shellfish. He is all in your head. If you think he hates gays, it's because YOU hate gays. And if you hate gays, it's because you never really stopped to wonder why you should - you just took some idiot's word for it. Don't refute me with a Bible quote either, because it's written and promoted by the idiots to whom I refer, not by its fictional main character.

    Stop pretending you hate the sin but love the sinner. That's a crock. You hate the PERSON. The hate you project onto some imaginary deity is YOUR hate. It comes from YOU. You hate, and no amount of mumbo jumbo relieves you of responsibility for it. And your hatred IS a choice - an ignorant choice that causes incredible pain and suffering not just among the objects of your hatred, but among you and your fellow haters, and all the rest of us who have to listen to you go on and on about this crap when there are so many other problems that need our attention.

    Jennifer, you would do well to drop this whole Christianity thing. With it will go much of your confusion. I understand the attraction to it, and to the loving, compassionate face that it wears. But behind that face is a force of unspeakable evil that tears lives and civilizations apart, just as Islam does. You can be a loving, compassionate person without it, despite its claims to the contrary. In fact, you will probably find it a lot easier.

    May 20, 2010 at 3:20 am |
  13. tomtom

    And we worry about muslims??? We have enough to worry about religious nut-jobs here at home.

    May 20, 2010 at 2:58 am |
    • mobadthangood

      OK you geniuses. Let a Muslim find out your gay and see what happens to you.
      You'll go running to the Christians begging to be saved.
      The Christians might condemn you and try to save you but the Muslims are going to cut your little stinking heads off.

      May 20, 2010 at 2:03 pm |
  14. Chris

    Jennifer Knapp may be somewhat talented, but you will not find her music permitted in our household, nor will you find it on many mainstream Christian music stations. That's because the majority of Christians – while they love and care for her as a person – will not allow such an influence in their lives. The reason many Christians get so bent out of shape about homosexuality is because they consider it a perpetual pattern of living a lifestyle that's displeasing to God. It's the same thing with a politician who lies for years, a murderer who keeps killing people, or a thief who steals as a career. A small minority of Christians think being gay shouldn't be on the list of things that are against God's rules for how we should be living our lives.

    There is only one TRUTH, and it's not the one we make up for ourselves. Either you believe in God, or you don't, but the truth of who God is doesn't change. His Word – the Bible – gives very clear indications of what pleases and displeases God. So if you truly profess to believe in God and you say you are a Christian, then many of you appear to be advocating your own brand of Christianity where you are accepting some, but not all of the rules for living that the Bible spells out for us. I think we are all in for a few surprises when we stand before him and we learn how wrong some of our interpretations of biblical text may be. Myself included. However, there are some things in the Bible which are pretty clear, and I believe the Bible's text regarding God's displeasure with homosexuality is clear.

    I am challenging those that claim to be Christians but at the same time appear to be so willing to accept only part of God's Word... open your Bibles. Read, study, pray. Seek the guidance of your pastors and church leaders. Is what you are saying above really appropriate in light of the God you claim to serve and have a personal relationship with? Is it in line with Christ's teachings and the writings of the apostles? Can you really say you've studied the foundations of your personal beliefs extensively or are you basing your faith on feelings and/or the agendas that happen to be pushed by the media? Something to think about.

    May 20, 2010 at 2:29 am |
  15. Post Tenebras Lux

    I do believe that people may be reading the Bible but I do not believe people study their Bibles. I pray for you all. all of you Christians and all of you people who call themselves "Christians." the Bible is the final authority on everything. now in order for me to prove that I have to first show that the Bible is inspired by God, Second that it is inerrant, and Third that God never Changes. Firstly, that the Bible is the inspired word of God. 2 Peter 1: 20-21 "Knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." here Scripture clearly states that even though men wrote the Bible it was inspired by God and only what God wanted written was written. Secondly that the Bible is inerrant. In Hebrews 6:18 "...so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie..." even though earlier in that chapter the author was talking about God's promise with Abraham this is still relevant to this argument. God never lies meaning that everything God says is true. I have already stated that that the word of God is inspired by God, so then if it is inspired by God and God said it then it must be true because "...it is impossible for God to lie..." Thirdly God never changes. James 1:17 says that " Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change." here scripture clearly teaches that God never changes. there is never a shadow or a hint of change from God. God is the same now as He was when he created the earth. With this in mind all scripture must be seen as inspired, inerrant and as the true word of God. John 3:16 says "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." many people know this particular verse and assume that all they have to do is believe that Jesus is Lord; that is not true. The Bible says in James 2:19 that "...even the demons believe..." in order to become a Christian you have to recognize that you are a sinner, you have sinned against God and nothing you can do can fix that, you need to ask for the Lord's forgiveness, trust in God to forgive you and ask him to change you and then start working on changing your life. if you are truly a Christian you should be living your life for God and obeying his laws. if you are truly a Christian you must believe in the in-errancy of scripture and if you believe that and if you are truly a Christian take this as a warning, this is also a warning for those who are not Christians: "Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves,because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
    For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
    And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them."

    May 20, 2010 at 2:21 am |
    • tomtom

      you should be a comedian, might god help your delusional mind.

      May 20, 2010 at 3:00 am |
    • Ben

      Well God does have a sense of humor

      May 20, 2010 at 3:13 am |
    • txjewboy

      If the "divine inspiration" of the Bible is in dispute here, how can you use a passage from the disputed source to prove it?

      May 20, 2010 at 8:32 am |
  16. Abby

    I stopped reading all of the comments a while back. Quite frankly it hurt my heart too much to continue reading them. All this back and forth name calling and belittling is so unbecoming. Whether you are Christian or not, you are human. I wish we could all just show each other respect on a human level.

    As for my fellow Christians, it is bad enough that so many are so fast to condemn others, but then even those who don't condemn others are calling the condemners names. God gave me a brain, and I use it everyday when I read my Bible. My brain probably doesn't work exactly the same as yours, so, I am not surprised that we don't all come away from the Bible with the same ideas. I pray for Him to open my heart to whatever message He is trying to send to me through my readings. You can quote the Bible until you are blue in the face, those quotes are still just chunks of letters made into words. Those words have to be interpreted. You can't even isolate quotes and interpret them on their own, you have to interpret them in their context as well as in the overall message of the Bible.

    Now I don't know about all the other Christians that have left comments on this article, but when I read my Bible, I look for passages that speak to me. I look for passages that show me where I need to improve MYSELF. I don't look for the newest way to condemn others.

    I am so sorry to everyone on this thread who had something hateful said to them by a Christian. I have my faults and others have theirs. I don't have enough time on this Earth to worry about everyone's faults, I don't even have enough time to work on all of mine.

    May 20, 2010 at 2:01 am |
    • venusrising

      That was wonderful and very well said.

      May 20, 2010 at 5:02 am |
    • Subwife

      If I could shake your hand, I would. Well voiced, Abby. People like you redeem my respect for man.

      May 20, 2010 at 6:23 am |
    • Wanda

      Strong statement "everyone" (?) and "hateful" (?) Some people may consider the Word of God hateful, if they do not read it with the Holy Spirit, meanings are not always in words, but in the person. I pray that they eyes of your heart will be open and that you will come to know the joy of the Lord and peace beyond understanding.

      May 20, 2010 at 11:05 pm |
  17. red

    When I was 4 years old, a man my Dad worked with came to live with us when they were moving and needed a place to stay. They became my second parents and their kids were like my siblings....Including their son, who at the time was ONE YEAR OLD. I remember when I was about 5 and he was 2, I said something curious to my Mother...

    I said that Jimmy was not a girl...but he wasn't a boy either....

    How on earth did I, at such a young age, recognize that something in this very young 2 year old child was different. As he grew up, he played with dolls and had EXTREMELY feminine mannerisms....at 3, 4, 6, 8 years old...

    It came as no surprise to anyone when we all discovered that Jimmy was gay.

    NO ONE can tell me that a 3 year old child is CHOOSING to be GAY!!! I have known him all my life, and there was NOTHING about him that CHOSE to be gay. It is who he was BORN to be from day one... He was NEVER a perfectly normal straight boy who woke up one day and decided he wanted to love other men instead of women...in the same way you refer to people choosing to be alcoholics or drug addicts.

    People like greedyma disgust me.

    May 20, 2010 at 1:58 am |
  18. Cutie

    And while Americans bite each other's heads off over non-issues, the real modern world passes us by in the fast lane.

    May 20, 2010 at 1:50 am |
  19. Polman

    Jennifer, I think/feel that you are a little bit lost in your life. I saw word "gay" and looking on your picture I said to myself – she is not "gay", if really , she must be "lesbian". You probably remember that one day people brought a women they want to stone to Christ and he said to them "if you are without sin, throw the stone.." once all people left the place, he said to the woman – you are free – nobody condemned you, I don't condem you either, but don't do it anymore". We all struggle everyday, you are not a "gay", you are a woman and I hope/pray that one day you will find a nice guy with whom you can go through the life and be brave – as John Paul II said/repeated after Jesus – "don't be afraid" , they can take our body but they can't take your soul. I wish you the best!

    May 20, 2010 at 1:44 am |
  20. Wanda

    One of the commandments is to love

    May 20, 2010 at 1:41 am |
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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.