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. chicago

    AAA, Jesus preached repentance and you would be wise to do likewise. Your right, we are to share the truth with a right heart and spirit but do not allow others travel aimlessly without at least warning them of what the Bible says. Love your neighbors and love your enemies was not everything that we are commanded to do, we are to warn people what God has already judged. Please don't play the good hearted Christian who takes the liberal stance on every issue that is not popular. If you are a Christian, then proclaim salvation in Jesus Christ!

    May 19, 2010 at 4:08 pm |
  2. AAA

    To other Christians here–You know God is not impressed with anyone passing judgement. It is His job. He said "love your neighbor, and love your enemies". Leave everything else up to Him. We are all imperfect sinners from the day we were born, and that does not mean a sinner cannot have a relationship with GOd. If that was true NOT ONE person would have a relationship with God. He is the only one that knows all of our fates. Reflect on yourself and ask if God would be impressed with your condemning words.

    May 19, 2010 at 3:59 pm |
    • Ben

      God (not people) condemns homosexuality as sin in his Word. Rationalizing behavior with lies might might make us feel good for a short time, but it is still a lie no less. Love demands that she be given truth.

      May 19, 2010 at 4:32 pm |
  3. Truth

    Humans do not need to judge, that is what the Bible is for. It's clear in scripture that the gay lifestyle is wrong. Check out Leviticus 18:22, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and Romans 1:22-27 just to name a few. I feel sorry for those of you who do not belive in God or His Word. In the end you will find out. I hope you get a revelation that He is real and He loved you so much that he took your sin so that you would not have too die and go to hell. God created man with a choice to live for Him or not. Because the first man decided to make his own choice and sin then we have all become sinners. But there is still hope today and will be until He comes again for those who have followed the plan of salvation laid out for us in Acts 2:38. Jennifer I hope and pray that you will find the real answer your searching for by following what Peter preached on the day of Pentecost! You won't find God's body which was Jesus Christ (John 1) because He was resurrected! But you can have His Spirit live inside of you through the power of the Holy Ghost. The power is that ability to overcome sin. If this world were my only hope then I would be miserable. I have only quoted God's Word and not my opinon. You can't make God love you any more then He already does but because He loves you He wants to change you to be like Him.

    May 19, 2010 at 3:59 pm |
    • DJLR

      What about in the Bible where it says shrimp are an abomination? (Also in Leviticus) What about the verse that says it is an abomination to wear cloth of two different fibers? Do you wear 100% cotton? And then there is Exodus that says any who work on the sabbath, to include cooking dinner, should be stoned to death. You can't pick and choose what you follow and then berate others for interpreting the bible with kindness and love, as Jesus would have us do.

      May 19, 2010 at 4:39 pm |
    • bluefan

      I believe in God...just not the bull that people like you pass off as the "ultimate truth" when that truth was written by the hands of men and reinterpreted so many times. It can be changed at a whim to fit any line you are feeding us.

      May 19, 2010 at 4:43 pm |
    • Michael

      Get a clue that the Bible was written by humans many many centuries ago who were writing in the context of their time. It needs to be interpreted in that context. It is not "set in stone" as you would claim.

      May 19, 2010 at 4:44 pm |
  4. Julia

    The bible itself is a good book just like Gone with the Wind. It's a book that all people such read because it has good values such as having faith in people and believing that all people are good. Being gay doesn't mean they did anything bad; loving anyone of any gender isn't bad ever. Personally, I don't think that it even matters if someone says they're gay or not because its that person's choice to love a person their own gender. The one thing that bothers me, and I'm sort of religious (not christian though), is when people read the bible wrong. Where in the whole book does it say "Gays are bad because they're gay..."??? It doesn't. Also, I really hate when religions go too extreme because unlike Protestant christians, Catholics priests can't married or can't have sex or even masturbate! Since we are human, we have needs and no matter what you do, even when you were a kid and thought that sex was ew, you will want- no- NEED sex because you have to express passion. All of you so-called christians, look at your ten commandments. Love thy neighbor, and that includes all your neighbors!!
    Thank you, Good bye

    May 19, 2010 at 3:58 pm |
  5. VermontBill

    VermontBill thinks she should visit Vermont. Up here we have learned to be open and accepting of difference within people.

    May 19, 2010 at 3:54 pm |
  6. ak

    Wow...welcome to 2012...please enjoy your stay...and if for some reason you do anything wrong...we will throw rocks at you...REALLY? you people really need to understand that love is love...its just that simple...I can't tell you not to love someone...and for that reason you can't tell me who I can't love...this is as simple as walking..Now I know if you don't understand it...than it must be wrong..but...hear me out now....not everything is bad....or wrong...I'm sure you lied(which is a sin) I'm sure you cheated (again a sin)..This actually might come as a surprise to you though but its proven that the bible was written 300 hundred year....wait for it......wait for it.....AFTER JESUS DIED...........WOW.....if that isn't hear say...I don't know what is...but...I love jesus...and Jesus loves me..and would you like to know something else????? I'm a very proud lesbian...lol have a very nice day!

    May 19, 2010 at 3:49 pm |
  7. ETownCanuck

    I've never understood just what it is about religion that can cause relatively sane and educated people to become completely irrational.

    May 19, 2010 at 3:49 pm |
  8. Brendan

    Jennifer, thank you for sharing. God does love you and wants the best for you. Since you used the analogy of song, I'll use those terms.
    Indeed there is the one Spirit singing one Song through all of History: the God who created, sustains and completes all. The theme of the Song is Jesus Christ: his life, death and resurrection which give life to everyone. Yet we often confuse this Song with different music, songs not of God, and so go out of tune with God's Song. In the end God harmonizes or drowns out the other music with His own, but it is best for us to sing in tune with the Song. As Jesus said, it is not enough to merely hear God; we must also give our lives to Him, otherwise we miss our part in the Song.
    Many of the offenses you have encountered come from people who are listening to the wrong song, or perhaps just singing their part out of tune. And while God gives everyone a different part to sing, there are musical boundaries that we all must abide by: tempo, measures, and the like, so that we harmonize in community. Our parts are individual, but indivisible from the community symphony. So it is with all of life, including sexuality. God's purpose for is shown from creation sex to be a unitive, procreative and sacramental act, not merely the fulfillment of personal desires, but for the family, and the family for the community, and the community for God.
    However compelling a song may sound – however compelling a story about one's sexual identity – if it clashes with the Song, is not in tune with God's plan that is best for us. And the Song tells us that our identity does not flow from our sexuality, but our sexuality comes from our identity, and our identity comes from the Composer, God.
    May God bless you and show you His song more clearly every day, that you may sing in perfect harmony with it.

    May 19, 2010 at 3:33 pm |
  9. alyson

    Jennifer I love your music I came out aboput 3 yrs ago I grew up in church and I was shocked by the treatment I have recieved from people who claimed to love me for yrs just because of who I love!!! I was suicidal on drugs and miserablle hiding my sexuality I have never been happier than since I have embraced who I am amd who God created me to be a LESBIAN!!!! It is so sad to see people passing judgement on you!! God is the judge not people!

    May 19, 2010 at 3:32 pm |
  10. Jeff Schieding

    Has anyone noiced that with this girl, it is all about her? She is trying to justify being gay now, and no one who has been a Christian(Jn.3:3 not religious definition of) can walk away from Christ. He said it is better for a mill stone to be tied around one's neck and be thrown into the sea. If, like the apostle John says, she was'truly of us", she has denied Christ. If she was a 'professor' and not a 'possor' of Christ it doesn't matter. She will now spend the rest of her natural life trying to justify having had familiarity with the truth of Jesus and living a compromised life of sin.

    May 19, 2010 at 3:31 pm |
    • Jeanine

      What the heck are you babbling about?

      May 19, 2010 at 4:45 pm |
    • gunny

      wow! you said absolute nonsense with such conviction that for a second i thought you knew what you were talking about! lol

      May 20, 2010 at 12:45 am |
  11. CB

    God isn't real. But thanks for the laughs 🙂

    May 19, 2010 at 3:17 pm |
  12. deepthot

    if God is dead, where's the body?

    May 19, 2010 at 3:10 pm |
  13. Brian

    The Bible speaks of homosexuality in the same terms as adultery and sexual immorality. So, are you saying it is okay to cheat on your spouse because an adulterer exists and "God must have made them that way??" No, that sounds ridiculous! I am a Christian and know that there are people in my church who struggle with pornography, lust, pride, gluttony the same way that they someone might struggle with homosexuality. There is a difference between committing a sin against your body and a sin not against it. This is why the church reacts to sexual sin so severally. Part of it is fear and part of it is a lack of understanding. I am sorry if the Church in the past has not treated the homosexual community with the compassion it deserves and will do everything I can to make sure I do not make those same mistakes.

    May 19, 2010 at 2:55 pm |
  14. greedyma

    I did read her ariticle demitri and it was quite enlightening i am glad she knows GOD but her choice to gay is still wrong in his eyes. and that is the point most important. i hope she takes her journey to the fullest so her eyes and heart and mind will be at its fullest to decipher what God wants from us our purpose for him and eachother. Again he destroyed sodom and gomore and Im sure you've read that as well i hope. God says come as you are so he can mold us into what he desires not what we desire in the negative. Read up on that and then after reading all her beautiful words again of her enlightenment and see what she still chooses, is what God would allow. NOt me. as i said i am a work in progress myself and still seek him for guidance out of my sins. But there are lifestyles one choose that are flat out wrong.

    May 19, 2010 at 2:42 pm |
    • alyson

      people do not choose to be Gay or Straight!! You are born with your sexuality!!!

      May 19, 2010 at 3:37 pm |
    • bluefan

      How do you know, Greedyma? God talk to you personally? Tell you exactly how he feels? Haven't heard any reports of burning bushes lately! Or is it that you, like so many other fundamentalist Christians, take the written word of the bible, a book written by MEN (in a language different from English) and re-written hundreds of times, so literally there is no room for interpretation. That truly is what scares me with some religious fanatics now-a-days. I am a Christian and love God...but I also realize that I don't know everything! Therefore I live my life trying to be the best person that I can be and spreading God's love through kind words and actions...not speculating what he thinks and how others should conduct themselves!!

      May 19, 2010 at 4:38 pm |
    • Sylvia

      A sin is what it is a sin, to say good is evil and evil is good is to invite the wrath of God.

      May 19, 2010 at 8:03 pm |
    • Alecto

      When reading all of these comments from the so-called religious christians, I can't help but note how they continue to contradict even their own statements from place to place. Here's just some of the things I've noticed:

      1. god cannot make mistakes ... but people, apparently, need to be "born again" to fix their first birth, which was so righteous and part of god's plan. Because these people, again apparently, know that god meant something different for them.

      2. god made us in her image ... but christians (and other religious freaks) seem to know which image of a person is right and which image is deserving of banishment to hell.

      3. god is the final judgment and jesus said not to judge others ... but christians know that only applies to people judging them and they quote the bible as their reference for why others should not persecute their beliefs, but ignore the fact that they do it freely to anyone else.

      4. the bible said being gay is wrong in the old testament along with a bunch of other rules ... but christians are comfortable tossing out those other "silly rules" because "duh, they're old!" However, these two lines that we've "interpreted" and "translated" to apply to homosexuality ... well, that, my friend IS THE WORD OF GOD! Those other ones, ah, ignore 'em. God didn't really mean that.

      5. jesus said love they neighbor ... christians take that to mean, only love your neighbor if s/he believes as you. If not, point out how your neigbhor is wrong and if they don't convert, ridicule, denounce and judge him/her to be evil and going to hell. But make sure you tell him/her that you'll "pray for them!" Because that's the christian thing to do and jesus did say "love they neighbor".

      6. the bible said feelings are wrong but acting on feelings is wrong ... so being gay isn't a problem, but having hot, torrid, satisfying gay sex ... totally wrong! Because a loving god would give his beloved children feelings and pleasures only to have a cosmic joke of saying "use it and suffer for all eternity!"

      7. christians admit to "being a work in progress" but still feel enlightened enough, godly enough and pompous enough to look at other people and comment on their own progress or otherwise give advice on how they can improve.

      And finally ....

      8. You can't have fundamental without being mental!

      May 20, 2010 at 1:09 pm |
    • Alma Jackson

      GreedyMa: When did you choose to be straight? How long did you consider being gay before you "chose" to be straight?

      May 20, 2010 at 1:54 pm |
  15. Incredulous

    Good grief, some of the views above are very worrying considering this is 2010. And to think we're whipped up into a frenzy about a supposed muslim threat from overseas. I think maybe we should look closer to home if we are worried about our civil liberties.

    May 19, 2010 at 2:40 pm |
  16. Roy

    Actually, all of this could easily be settled if people just accepted a simply truth: the Bible is wrong.

    May 19, 2010 at 2:32 pm |
    • nat

      ??? That's your opinion.

      May 19, 2010 at 2:34 pm |
    • nat

      ??? The Bible is wrong...about what?

      May 19, 2010 at 2:39 pm |
    • JustaBlogReader

      Actually most of the events described in the bible can be correlated by other historical texts and actual physical evidence. What exactly is wrong? Is it the love your neighbor as yourself part?

      May 19, 2010 at 4:48 pm |
    • guest

      Most people think the Bible is wrong because they do not want to accept their sins...they want to believe to their convenience

      May 19, 2010 at 5:26 pm |
    • Alecto

      Excuse me, guest ??? "Most people think the Bible is wrong because they do not want to accept their sins...they want to believe to their convenience".

      Are you for real? It's the religious nutjobs (probably like you) who pick and chose what verses mean "sin" and which ones don't. And even if one sect decides this verse means it's a sin to do _______(blank)_____ another sect will wave it off and say it's totally okay.

      And like others have pointed out, you can't pick and chose that which suits your needs or lifestyle. If the bible is your "truth and rules" then you've got to live all of it, Brother. That means all those outdated, archaic little rules that you so easily dismiss, like mixing fabrics or owning slaves. By your own logics, those biblical rules carry as much weight as the other ones you demand everyone else live by ... like gay people. It's an all or nothing deal. And you, are too stupid to realize that you undermine you own position by living your life the way you do. In that, you are a pseudo christian and that's really no christian at all.

      May 19, 2010 at 6:22 pm |
    • junichi

      I dont believe it is wrong, i do believe it is MIS interpreted. whether you believe it or not the BIBLE is the INSPIRED words of GOD, that have stood the test of time , changed lives of many, and still reigns supreme today. but the thing every one is missing is the only reason the BIBLE is in existence is because of the need for one man JESUS CHRIST. GAY straight, fat , skinny, short , and tall. Ill even take it further MUslim , Buddhist, Catholic, CHristian, and Athiest, JESUS CAME for ALL , and until CHRISTIANS can relay that and accept the JESUS came for all the message will always be scewed and MIS INTERPRETED.

      May 20, 2010 at 10:58 am |
  17. nat

    the 2 most important laws that Jesus spoke were 1. Love the Lord God with all your heart. and 2. Love your neighbor as yourself. So if you are bashing on gays, or any other person....you are breaking at least one of the commands that Jesus himself considered to be the most important. His message was about love, mercy, compassion, forgiveness, and helping the poor, praying for the sick...etc. no where I can find in my bible to say, judge and criticize your sisters and brothers. duh! The Holy Spirit lives in Jennifer...He will convict her where He feels necessary. Our Christian walk is between oneself and God.

    May 19, 2010 at 2:30 pm |
    • Brendan

      Actually, God calls us to live in community: the Body of Christ, family of God, etc. All of life is for the community and God; at least, that's what Christ taught. Who better to decide the heart of Christianity than Christ?

      May 19, 2010 at 3:48 pm |
    • I'm just a JesusFreak

      That's almost exactly what I believe. After growing up in a Christian house and learning all the do's don't and contradictions out there I went deeper in the Bible and my relationship with God. I discovered that all these rules that are in the Bible meant something to someone at sometime but they aren't from God to us. When Jesus came to this Earth he mentioned those two. When the religious haters of the day asked him (and they were trying to trick him btw) if he should do something on the sabbath or let his cow die he pretty much said "don't be dumb!!" I challenge all of you so called Christians out there to pray about this, open your heart, mind and ears to what God says to you. He said love! Love God and love ppl! Just because someone does something that you don't like or don't think is right (or have always been taught was wrong, don't fall into that trap, find out for yourself) doesn't mean it's wrong. That is between them and God. You hating them or looking down on them is between you and God. You will have to answer to God for that.

      May 19, 2010 at 7:16 pm |
    • TB

      I look forward to a day when people realize that if Jesus existed at all he was just a person with potentially some good ideas and philosophies. How can the world have rational discourse with irrational sun worshipers?

      May 19, 2010 at 10:10 pm |
  18. LBW

    I attend a church that has gays. We all worship the same and we are all happy to be together on Sunday. We are all God's children. Any judgment that is to come is between a person and their maker. Not from a bunch of soap boxers.

    May 19, 2010 at 2:29 pm |
    • nat

      you said it!!

      May 19, 2010 at 2:33 pm |
  19. Mark

    Didn't someone once say that "He who is without sin should cast the first stone"? All I see is a lot of stones being cast at Jennifer. Who among us would be as holy as we make ourselves out to be on sunday if our mind and souls were laid bare to reveal their contents to the world? We are all screwed up and broken and unless Jennifer is doing something harmful to others or illegal we, as a Christian community, need to shut up and love. It makes me sad when I see Christians acting this way, It is a pathetic excuse for our call to love others and Christ loves us. It is also a base understanding of being gay. I have a LOT of gay friends and they can no more like a member of the opposite sex anymore than I could be attracted to members of the same sex. It is not a choice. It is not a "lifestyle". It is the way you are.

    May 19, 2010 at 2:27 pm |
  20. nat

    I know that Jesus lives in your heart Jennifer. Let Him guide you, and lead you into the life that He has for you. Nobody is perfect. All you that are throwing stones at her, or hitting her with your bibles; As Jesus put it.".let you without sin cast the first stone." I guess you'll be walking away. Salvation is not about how much or how little you sin, it's having a personal relationship with Jesus. It's through Jesus Christ that we are made clean. Trust in Him for your salvation. If you want to judge her, you're nothing more than a self righteous hypocrite, and by the same measure you judge her, you will be judged.

    May 19, 2010 at 2:10 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.