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. Doyle

    this is beautiful.....a pretty little lesbian sparks an ignition doubting God's existence. The question will forever remain...Does God exist? I think u have to be a dumb-ass to doubt. Do u think we came from monkeys..or fish..or some micro-organism? Where do u think we came from? Just appeared? 1% of total human population doesn't believe in God. I guess if u want to be that 1% to rebel......ur losssss

    May 20, 2010 at 8:29 am |
    • Evolve

      I think we came from Monkeys, fish and micro organisms, but I do believe the order of events is probably reversed.

      BTW, I have read your bible, probably more than most christians. I read it until I vomited.

      May 20, 2010 at 8:33 am |
    • Joe

      The same geniuses who gave us religion also believed the earth was flat and the sun circled it. Great, I'm supposed to live my life based on a 2000 year old work of fiction cobbled together by ignorant dimwits with no understanding of science whatsoever.

      Just because 99% of the people on this planet are delusional fools who worship a majical bogeyman in the sky does not mean that I have to. Science will ultimately provide us with the answers to the questions abou the origins of life. If you wish to believe that the earth is a mere 4000 years old and that we all walked with the dinosaurs, have at it. You can't fix stupid.

      May 21, 2010 at 10:27 am |
  2. poochie

    Doesn't that show that people are PASSIONATE about their beliefs/disbelief in GOD?

    May 20, 2010 at 8:29 am |
  3. Mandy

    I grew up in the church. I attended a Christian college. I have a Bachelors Degree in Bible and I am gay. I used to be religious until the church almost killed me. I used to be religious until the church told me that I could not be a Christian. I used to be religious until I learned to think for myself. Now i'm spiritual. A point that I would like to make is that when Jesus came the old laws went away (old testament laws). We are told to follow the teachings of Jesus. Jesus doesn't mention anything about being gay in the New Testament. All of this hate and condemnation comes from ignorance. People really need to learn to look for their own answers and their own ways rather than just believing the nonsense of what others tell them. Research it. "Homosexuals" of today are not the "Homosexuals" of the Old Testament. We are not sick, we are not evil and we are not contagious. Those who condemn us however could not possibly understand the love of Jesus and are not "filled with the spirit" if they did/were they could not feel such hatred for someone who is different. People like you are the same people who crucified Jesus because he was different.

    May 20, 2010 at 8:22 am |
  4. AmyP

    God made us the way we are, straight or gay. I'm happy that you've found your way to be at peace with who you are and your presence in the light as God's child, and are returning to your music with renewed commitment and purpose. And I'm glad that I had the chance to photograph you when you opened-opened-opened-opened for Suzanne Vega. My best wishes and prayers go out to you – keep the faith alive!

    May 20, 2010 at 8:22 am |
  5. faithplusnothing

    She is searcing for a church to tell her that being gay is not against God's word. It is not hateful to call sin a sin.

    May 20, 2010 at 8:21 am |
    • Chuck711

      It's not a "Christian's" place to condemn a person for sinning. No one likes a self-righteous zealot telling everyone what is right and wrong. You worry about your sin, and let others worry about theirs.

      May 20, 2010 at 8:25 am |
    • just me

      Sorry, but where did Jesus ever condemn gayness as a "sin"? Maybe there are phrases in the OLD Testament – but Jesus turned the OLD Testament on its head. He turned "an eye for an eye" into "Love one another".

      May 20, 2010 at 12:15 pm |
    • loubert

      @ Chuck711

      Then who gave you the right to tell this person what to do?

      "No one likes a self-righteous zealot telling everyone what is right and wrong."

      Really now?... did you just talked about yourself?

      Seriously, think before you comment....

      @ just me

      Sorry, but where did Jesus ever said gayness is NOT a "sin"? There are verses in the OLD Testament – but Jesus turned the OLD Testament on its head. He turned "an eye for an eye" into "Love one another". TRUE but he didn't say ignore sin.. if that's the case we can say a lot of things like did Jesus say we can't lie/murder/cheat/etc... etc.. it's under the presumption of knowing what the OLD testament stands for but having changes that enhances what the WHOLE bible truly means.. sigh.. ppl ppl...

      May 20, 2010 at 8:52 pm |
  6. Pamela

    Love and forgiveness – those are the two most important parts of the Christian faith in my opinion. Whether you agree with someone or not, God teaches us to love. I think we could all (myself included) work harder on that one.

    May 20, 2010 at 8:18 am |
  7. Conspiracy

    I'm starting to believe that CNN gets interns to write these garbage posts. Funny how in the past several days the first comment I read is some inflamatory B.S. I swear the CNN staff sits back and watches all of us feast on dim-witted "posts" by "greedymas" and laugh their asses off. Though it is quite possible that there really is a Bible-thumpin' stone thrower like greedyma, I'd rather think it is a conspiracy perpetuated by CNN.

    May 20, 2010 at 8:18 am |
  8. Asia Wall

    I just think it's ironic that everyone on here is accusing the Christians of being HATEFUL, just because they say that something is a sin, but then there are five million comments aimed at the Christians saying 'I hope you die,' and calling them idiots, pea-brained, and myriad other terrible things. Who's really full of HATE?

    May 20, 2010 at 8:16 am |
    • Chuck711

      Because it's not a "Christian's" place to condemn a person for sinning. No one likes a self-righteous zealot telling everyone what is right and wrong. You worry about your sin, and let others worry about theirs.

      May 20, 2010 at 8:21 am |
    • loubert

      @ Chuck711

      Then who gave you the right to tell this person what to do?

      "No one likes a self-righteous zealot telling everyone what is right and wrong."

      Really now?... did you just talked about yourself?

      Seriously, think before you comment....

      May 20, 2010 at 8:48 pm |
    • righteous-in-Christ

      @ loubert – Amen, Glory to God! God bless you!

      May 20, 2010 at 9:41 pm |
  9. Chuck711

    Do you people want to know true freedom? Stop believing in superstitious nonsense, and start believing in yourselves. Find your own paths. Stop judging people in the name of some myth. Celebrate your own victories, and accept responsibility for your own failures. Now that is freedom.

    May 20, 2010 at 8:16 am |
  10. Tn Gal

    Here is the bottom line. According to Bible, Beeing gay is a sin and is not in God's will in our life, bible clearly states that, that's why marriage is ment ONLY between a man and a woman! This is what God's word says and it is true, however God hates any kind of sin but loves the sinner and bible CLEARLY tell us what do when we sin, repent , ask forgiveness and TURN AWAY FROM YOUR SIN

    May 20, 2010 at 8:13 am |
    • sco

      perfectly said

      May 20, 2010 at 8:15 am |
    • HotPatata

      There are many sins in the Bible. Eating shellfish is a sin. Working on the Sabbath is a sin. Have you never done anything proscribed in Leviticus? I doubt that. Slavery and bigamy are not sins. Who get to pick and choose which sins are forgiven quickly (or totally ignored), and which ones deliver you into a lifetime of scorn and oppression from your fellow "Christians"? You? Please. You can't even spell.

      May 20, 2010 at 8:24 am |
    • Alma Jackson

      Explain your support for these verses in the bible....or are you picking and choosing what you want?

      Deuteronomy 21:10-14 "When thou goest forth to war against thine enemies, and the Lord thy God hath delivered them into thine hands, and thou hast taken them captive, And seest among the captives a beautiful woman, and hast a desire unto her, that thou wouldest have her to thy wife; Then thou shalt bring her home to thine house; and she shall shave her head, and pare her nails; And she shall put the raiment of her captivity from off her, and shall remain in thine house, and bewail her father and her mother a full month: and after that thou shalt go in unto her, and be her husband, and she shall be thy wife. And it shall be, if thou have no delight in her, then thou shalt let her go whither she will; but thou shalt not sell her at all for money, thou shalt not make merchandise of her, because thou hast humbled her."
      Deuteronomy 20:14 "But the women, and the little ones, and the cattle, and all that is in the city, even all the spoil thereof, shalt thou take unto thyself"

      May 20, 2010 at 9:25 am |
  11. sco

    give it a couple more years and beasteality will be forced upon the masses as normal too.society is regressing

    May 20, 2010 at 8:13 am |
  12. Jennifer I hope you read this...

    I wonder what God thinks of all this? NOT ABOUT BEING GAY, but the inability to have dialogue as human beings. This is obviously a passionate issue for people, even if they are not religious. Jennifer is a very talented writer and deserves a lot of respect for putting this out 'there'. I find it interesting, no matter where you stand on being gay, that in the Lord's Prayer we ask God to forgive us as we forgive others. That is why it FOR-give because it has to be given before it can be given by us, and it is a scary thought to think that God will forgive us as we forgive others. Also the measure that we judge others with will be the measure that God judges us with. In that sense I leave it between Jennifer and God with where her heart is. Jennifer I apologize for to you on behalf of Christians. You did not deserve the kind of response that you have been given by many. I envy your guts to put yourself out there as an example of this faith tension you feel. May you find comfort in knowing that your Journey is not over and that God is not done with you! I respect that you are putting this tension that you feel in the open, because it makes me wrestle with it too. I hope that God will continue to make His Way known to you and that if you keep knocking the door will be opened-whatever that may be.

    May 20, 2010 at 8:10 am |
    • sco

      you sound like an infomercial for medication

      May 20, 2010 at 8:15 am |
  13. HotPatata

    Jennifer, I have difficulty understanding why you seek understanding and acceptance from these people. Just read the posts of these "Good Christians" on here. They are far too eager to whisk you away to Hell. Surely your career has led you to understand, far better than myself, how blind vitriol and hypocritcal, nasty self-righteousness has permeated most levels of the American Evangelical movement. Why do you still try? Be your own person and walk away totally from these poisonous fools, or do without sympathy from those of use who think for ourselves.

    May 20, 2010 at 8:06 am |
  14. sco

    shes nasty anyway

    May 20, 2010 at 8:05 am |
  15. KING

    One thing is certain, satan is doing a dam good job deceiving a lot of people.

    May 20, 2010 at 8:05 am |
    • sco

      you are 100 % correct

      May 20, 2010 at 8:05 am |
    • Chuck711

      And the gremlins in my house keep hiding my car keys.

      May 20, 2010 at 8:08 am |
    • King


      Stop feeding your gremlins after midnight and they will stop hiding your keys

      May 20, 2010 at 10:35 pm |
  16. David

    Jenifer, I am a christian man, saved by grace. I write only to say that I am a sinner and in need of forgiveness... live your life, love the Lord and know that there are christians out there that remain fans. God Bless!

    May 20, 2010 at 8:03 am |
    • Walelu

      As a redeemed Christian woman who is also saved by grace through faith, you took the words right out of my mouth! It is NO human's place to judge another human! Only God can do that! Thanks, bro!

      May 20, 2010 at 8:21 am |
  17. Christopher

    This was a powerful article and a powerful message of faith. Some of the comments make me honestly and sincerely sad for the people who wrote them. Maybe one day, we'll be able to share our own faith, our own sin, and our own struggle with each other in vulnerability. Until then, I imagine we'll continue to fear the ambiguity of true faith, point fingers at sins we are incapable of committing while ignoring the ones that are destroying us, and keep our chins up in an arrogant pride of sinful self-assurance. Most of us are in hell right at this very moment – we don't need to die to get there. None of us is worthy of salvation. Thank God for grace.

    May 20, 2010 at 7:58 am |
  18. Fernando

    I read the article and have no problems with what has been said. I do find it a bit ridiculous that people ridicule others for believing in the Bible or other religious text. Stop spewing hate towards them. Not everybody is Christian, not everybody believes in God, etc. Respect each other's point of view and please use some common sense.

    As for people who use the cliche phrase, "Jesus loved everybody"–yes, He did. However, you neglect to realize or accept that he did NOT accept everybody's action. Let's take the adulterous women (KJV John 8:3-11). He did not condemn her, but He did command her to "sin no more." Thus, you can see that Jesus did NOT condone the sin of adultery.

    May 20, 2010 at 7:56 am |
  19. Interesting

    I guess just another person deciding to pick and choose what they want to believe so they will feel all warm and fuzzy. Jennifer I pray you see the truth before it is too late.

    May 20, 2010 at 7:54 am |
    • sco


      May 20, 2010 at 8:06 am |
  20. ElleRM

    "What we can hear, when we listen, is how we are much the same." This is so true. At the foot of the cross, we are all the same.

    As a Christian, I commend her bravery for speaking so honestly and in doing so opening herself to the onslaught of holier-than-thou hypocrites who forget Matthew 7:3-5: ""Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."

    I loved her music when I was younger and continue to be a fan. It's clear that she's genuine person with a genuine faith, just trying to figure things out like we all are.

    I hope that those "Christians" who are tearing her to shreds will find it in themselves to mind their own business and stop making those who really just love Jesus and want to show the world his love a bad name. How do you ever expect to be a light in this sad broken world if all you do is tell people how bad they are? Did Jesus really lay his life down so that we can spend our lives condemning each other?

    May 20, 2010 at 7:51 am |
    • natehembree

      Sometimes the most loving thing is comes in the form of a rebuke. Even Christ did that. When he healed the invalid and the Pool of Bethesda, he sought him out after and said to him "Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you." Christ is not primarily about our happiness. He is about our holiness. He did teach grace, he did teach humility- he also taught judgment, and talked about it more in the gospels than any other apostolic writer. The call has always been to deny one's self, take of their cross, and follow him. We are sinners all, and saved by grace. What we so often fail to recognize is that grace is two sided: on the one it imputes the righteousness of Christ to us and our sin to him- the great exchange; on the other side there is obedience to his commands. Grace not only forgives, it empowers us to live a life that is worthy of the God that saved us.

      May 20, 2010 at 8:22 am |
    • natehembree

      PS- Boo for typos! Sorry 'bout those.

      May 20, 2010 at 8:26 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.