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. LJS

    Have you ever taken the time to read the entire stories that surround the so called gay passages? Have you read what the true sins were that were being committed? Like inhospitality and idolatry. Until you truly read and study the stories in depth you honestly do not know what they are saying. It is like reading a paragraph in the middle of a Stephen King novel then trying to tell people what the entire book is about, or trying to build a house with only the center page of the blue prints. Unless you really know what is going on before and after you don’t know what is going on at all. Almost all who go to church take the pastors word about the scriptures and never totally study them for themselves. If everyone would sit down and study them this world would be a truly different place. And as a final note and something to think about, the word homosexual was not added to the bible until 1949. That was after the failed attempt to use the bible against slaves. What group will be the next to be attacked by twisting the words of the bible? If you take nothing else from this take this, God Is Love!

    May 20, 2010 at 7:50 am |
  2. Jared

    As an atheist, I'm pretty sure god doesn't exist, so I wouldn't worry too much about his opinion of you. Anyways, I'm glad you came out and hopefully your fan base will be understanding.

    May 20, 2010 at 7:49 am |
    • mobadthangood

      You know Jared I knew a guy like you once. He was an atheist.
      We he died a few years ago. I went to the funeral home to see him
      There he was, all dressed up and no place to go.
      Kinda made me feel bad for him.

      May 20, 2010 at 1:55 pm |
  3. Shadowgaze

    How do gay couples have babies? I thought that was impossible? All I will say is this, I judge nobody, I try to accept everyone as they are – I focus on my own spiritual being. I suffered most of my life at the hands of an alcoholic father and a diseased family, I was abandon by those whom I thought would help me, save me from the hell I was in ! However, my faith saved me, a few select people that God put in my life – helped to guide me. Each day I wake up is a day of soul searching, I find salvation in meditation and prayer . I'm not sure what hell is, but I know we all have been given a gift – life is full of temptations and it's up to us to use our will and fight. This is how I live my life, I pressure nobody into my pracitce – it's what works for me. Each person has to find their own way!

    May 20, 2010 at 7:46 am |
  4. satevejoy

    God is love! It's His nature, His character, His DNA. He is love and love is God! That being said, God loves mankind so much he has given us the right to choose to accept His love or reject His love. He doesn't force it on you but He continues to try and draw you unto himself. The thing that separates mankind from God is sin. God hates sin but love the sinner. His word says. "The wages of sin is death (separation from God), but the gift of God is eteranl life, through our Lord Jesus Christ". Jesus said, "If you love me, keep my commandments". Now if you believe in God and believe the bible to be the word of God, then you try and govern your life by it. If you believe as one poster put it, that God is dead then you govern your life by your own rules and values. Just because socciety has changed and we now want to accept being Gay as normal, doesn't mean that God's views have changed on it. He still loves the sinner and still hates the sin. We still have the choice to accept Him or reject him and be man or woman enough to accept the results of our decision.

    May 20, 2010 at 7:45 am |
  5. Marius and Ofelia Bonca

    If you are gay, you can NOT BE on GOD side. Heaven can Not be populated with gay and lesbians, young lady!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Change your life !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 20, 2010 at 7:43 am |
    • ElleRM

      I have news for you. Heaven *will* be filled with less-than-perfect people. People who acknowledge themselves in honesty and acknowledge their need for a savior. What do you think Jesus came for? All the perfect people? There are none. Your comment is ridiculous.

      May 20, 2010 at 7:55 am |
    • natehembree

      You're right Elle, to a certain extent. Heaven will be filled with sinners, imperfect people, but they will be perfect. That's the hope of the gospel. We get the perfect righteousness of Christ imputed to us through faith in his person and work, and God justifies us. That's good news!

      May 20, 2010 at 8:30 am |
    • Alma Jackson

      PROVE IT.......Are you going to spout Leviticus and then retract that when I prove that Leviticus also supports slavery and violence against women? Are you going to say, "well thats the Old Testement and not relevant" and throw away half the Bible to support your bigotry? Are you going to say being gay is a choice and then fall silent when I ask you when you "chose" to be straight?
      PROVE IT.............

      May 20, 2010 at 12:41 pm |
  6. JennaR

    Will you stop watching your favorite Christian movies once you learn that the guy who composed the soundtrack was also gay?

    Will you stop watching every movie ever made by Hollywood, where gay directors, producers, actors and crew members all contributed to the biggest blockbusters in our culture?

    Most importantly, will you stop reading the Bible, which hosts a very colorful cast of gay characters, too? Sure, they were being condemned in the Bible, but the Bible also condemns alcoholism. Do you refuse to by albums or movies produced by alcoholics? If so, I hope you like books! Wait–nevermind. I know several alcoholics who work in publishing! In fact, gays work in publishing, too. They also work construction, so maybe you had better live in something other than a house . . .

    May 20, 2010 at 7:39 am |
  7. Michael Batchelor

    I agree with + "Jennifer, You are a beautiful soul with a poetic voice that speaks from your heart. You are loved..." Sadly, most people have missed your point altogether.

    May 20, 2010 at 7:27 am |
  8. Jesus of Nazareth

    Let him who is without sin cast the first stone, aight....

    May 20, 2010 at 7:24 am |
  9. gene

    i haven't read all of the comments. i assume some have praised her, while others have condemed her.
    all i know is, that i understand what she is going through. as a christian i know God loves me, but the religon tells me i am not "right".
    it's not an easy path to take. it's not fun to be laughed at.
    all i know is that God loves me and i love him.
    it doesn't matter who is in my life as long as he is in it.
    let me worry about my sin.
    let me worry about what will happen on judgment day.
    you just need to love. Jesus made sure to point that one out. Love others... he didn't say judge them. you are only making things worse for his kingdom by showing how religous you are.

    May 20, 2010 at 7:24 am |
  10. Russell

    Romans 1:26-28 (New International Version)

    26Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.

    28Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.

    May 20, 2010 at 7:16 am |
  11. Casey

    Knappy! Long time fan, I will be looking for your album soon! We've missed you! I've been listening to a compilation CD I burned 8 years ago... need new stuff. 🙂

    I'm proud that you feel so comfortable in yourself to stand here today and share this part of your life.... you're changing things. No matter what, you're in the book. You're relationship with Him is all that matters.

    May 20, 2010 at 7:15 am |
  12. Casey

    Knappy! Long time fan, I will be looking for your album soon! We've missed you! I've been listening to a compilation CD I burned 8 years ago... need new stuff. 🙂

    I'm proud that you feel so comfortable in yourself to stand here today and share this part of your life... you're changing things.

    May 20, 2010 at 7:13 am |
  13. Watanabe

    Jennifer, read "God is Not Great" by Christopher Hitchens, "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins, and listen to Julia Sweeney's performance of "Letting Go of God" and you will find your mind one step closer to liberation, not by the power of these people, but by your own decision to question the baseless stories you have been told since you were a child, and your own skill at reasoning.

    May 20, 2010 at 7:04 am |


    May 20, 2010 at 6:56 am |
    • sco

      couldnt have said it better

      May 20, 2010 at 8:08 am |


    May 20, 2010 at 6:50 am |
    • ElleRM

      Don, since when was Christianity something that had to be earned? "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God." Ephesians 2:8.

      Are you saying you've never hated anyone? Because the Bible says that's the same as murder in your heart. Are you saying you've never wished you'd had something that belonged to someone else ("Thou shall not covet")? Are you saying you've never put anything before God ("Thou shall have no idols before me")?

      Are you saying you're perfect?? Because according to your logic, you'd have to be to be a Christian.

      I'm so relieved your logic is faulty, because if it weren't we'd all be screwed. Jesus didn't come to save perfect people, since there's no such thing. He came to heal the broken.

      Thank God that salvation isn't dependent on what we do, but on what Jesus did for us on the cross.

      May 20, 2010 at 8:05 am |
  16. Sojourner

    You all would do well to examine far more closely the epistles of the apostle Paul with respect to such issues. Additionally, examine that apostle's prophecies of a great apostasy to sweep the "Christian" church in latter times, and what shall be born of that great apostasy, or falling away–this is a prophecy from Jesus Christ Himself concerning "the abomination which maketh desolate", seated where it ought not to be. There is much veracity to be discovered in both the N.T. writings–the prophecies of Peter, John, Jude and Paul, for example–as well as O.T. examples of the God of Israel's response to the apostasy of His own elect (the exile of the 10 Northern tribes to Babylonia as prophesied by Jeremiah the prophet, and the activities countering the apostasies wrought by many Israelite kings–from God's consternation at Saul for seeking counsel of Endor's witch to Elijah the prophet's ministry and persecution under the relentless apostasies of Ahab and Jezebel). There are precedents for such questions found amid the Living Word, and our loving Savior encourages that we seek these out. Grace and peace be to you all. Remember that Christ Jesus the Messiah loves you deeply, that if you draw close to Him, likewise shall He reveal His Truth and His will unto you by drawing nigh to you. God bless and sustain you

    May 20, 2010 at 6:42 am |
  17. Truth

    If you are Gay you are not Christian

    May 20, 2010 at 6:41 am |
    • Reality

      Quite true, the christian cult is the enemy of the Gay Community. Gay people were on this Earth long before the christian cult was invented by man, we'll be here long after it fades into history too.

      May 20, 2010 at 7:06 am |
    • mobadthangood

      Leviticus 20:13 – "If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads." (NIV)

      May 20, 2010 at 1:58 pm |
  18. loubert

    Half the people here are just bigots to ppl that believe in God the other half that believes in God are also bigots to ppl that are gay. So if say all that stuff to ppl that believe in God then you are NO better than them. So shut @)## up and let SOMEONE else do the judging and leave the name calling to kids..

    May 20, 2010 at 6:38 am |
  19. Matthew

    Dear Jennifer,
    I personally disagree with your stance on homosexuality. I am a sinner saved by grace. My sister faces the same confusion you are facing. I am not judging you. Please know that salvation is not what you do or do not do. Salvation is who you trust. Jesus is real and alive and ALWAYS available to you. Please stop confusing people and please cast off the 'Christian' labels. I have appreciated your music in the past. It now only appeals to me artistically. I can no longer use your music for worshipping my LIVING GOD. I will not apoligize for that. I hope you find your way.

    May 20, 2010 at 6:21 am |
  20. brian

    i think we must all remember that those who wrote the Bible were spiritually inspired to write the things God desired us to know. 2 Timothy 3:16 "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness..." while also remembering that it is not our place to judge others, but to love others in spite of their sin. no matter how big, or small it may be. we all have sin within our lives; none of us escape it – even after accepting Jesus, we still fall and we still stumble. remember, salvation is not found in ourselves, but it is only by grace that you are being saved and working out your salvation...

    May 20, 2010 at 6:14 am |
    • Amos

      Hey stupid! You can't use what it says in the Bible to prove that what the Bible says is true. Think about it, but don't over cook your pea-sized brain!

      May 20, 2010 at 6:23 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.