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. Ashish

    Our god is a loving god. Like the way sun shines on everyone without any prejudice, he loves all the children. Journey of a life is a journey of learning that ultimately leads to him. If we believe that all of us are his children, we are basically brothers and sisters that we call universal brotherhood. Lets stick together as one family in this journey. The feeling of love and empathy towards others will only benefit you in your journey towards him.

    May 20, 2010 at 9:08 am |
  2. Doyle

    To Evolve: Let me clear this up for you. Muslims dont believe Mohamad is God on earth. Jews dont believe Jesus is God on earth. Christians believe Jesus IS God on earth, concieved by The Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary. The New Testament Bible is proof that Jesus was on earth. Jesus told us what God wanted us to know. The problem is God didnt write The Bible. People wrote The Bible inspired by The Holy Spirit. Now the question becomes do you believe in The Holy Spirit. Even the American Indians claimed to have moved mountains based on faith.

    May 20, 2010 at 9:06 am |
    • Evolve

      what exactly are you trying to clear up. You have told me your opinion on your faith. You are no different than any other religious wacko out there. Let ME clear it up, I believe in God, I don't believe in religion.

      May 20, 2010 at 5:50 pm |
  3. Steve From NH

    Stupid question –
    Where in the bible does it say that it's a sin to be gay?
    Second stupid question –
    When did Jesus say it was a sin to be gay, and what words did he use?

    May 20, 2010 at 9:06 am |
    • mobadthangood

      From the journals of Ms. Kay:
      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 1:51 pm |
  4. Ms. Kay

    Luke 23:34 Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they don't know what they are doing."*

    May 20, 2010 at 9:03 am |
  5. Adam

    this really isnt't that hard. Christianity is based on the bible. the bible condemns homosexuality. You can't be a christian and believe that homosexuality is ok. That's like being a doctor and thinking cigarettes are healthy.

    May 20, 2010 at 9:02 am |
  6. Sense

    "Religious" bigots and those filled with hate are more obviously those AGAINST people who believe the Bible to be God's Word to man. No true Christian would wish death for one practicing homosexuality, and yet it is not true on the other side.
    Just read many of the comments to this article.

    May 20, 2010 at 8:59 am |
  7. oh please

    Not one person has quoted a scripture that plainly states it is wrong to be gay. I don't know the Bible well enough to know where to look. Will someone please provide one for me?

    May 20, 2010 at 8:54 am |
    • Dan

      1 Corinthians 6:9-10 – "Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God."

      While this verse addresses homosexuality, it also lists a number of other things as well. This verse is primarily saying that we all fall into one of these categories at least once in our lives, whether it is lying or saying bad things about someone behind their back...whatever the case may be. They are all viewed as sins, however they have all been forgiven. With Christ's sacrifice, all of the things which appear on this list are forgiven. And to all the naysayers, yes that includes homosexuality.

      May 20, 2010 at 9:04 am |
    • Adam

      1 Corinthians 6: 9-10
      Leviticus 18:22
      Leviticus 20:13
      Deurteronomy 23:17

      May 20, 2010 at 9:06 am |
    • Doyle

      I dont know The Bible versus but it has to do with Sodom and Gamorah....Sodomy is taking it in the ass....God destroyed Sodom (the city) because everybody was taking it in the ass

      May 20, 2010 at 9:08 am |
    • robli143

      Old testament references are part of the LAW – the same LAW that Jesus came to fulfill and so he began a New covenant with man. He taught in Matthew 12: 31 " Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy [against] the Spirit will not be forgiven men.

      May 20, 2010 at 11:37 am |
    • YHWH reigns

      Matthew 5:17
      "Do not think that I came to destroy the law. I came not to destroy, but to fulfill".

      Yahshua fulfilled the Torah and told us to 'sin no more' and to follow Him.

      The 'Law' (Torah) is not bad, it is good, as 'all things from the Father are good.
      The oral law or oral traditions were not a part of the Tanak, but rather traditions of men, used to oppress them.

      May 22, 2010 at 5:56 pm |
  8. Jay

    I hope to find the graceful acceptance of myself in the same manner that Ms. Knapp has. Whether you are a monotheistic believer, of some other faith, or keep your own counsel, I believe that we must all come to terms with ourselves. I am Christian, and, personally, believe that homosexuality is a sin. So are many of the things that I have done, and carry with me to this day, mostly in the service of my country. I believe that I will be forgiven for these sins. I also believe that each of us is worthy and capable of receiving forgiveness, based on my faith doctrine. Yes, even homosexuals. For they, like me, must be allowed to receive forgiveness. If not, my faith is meaningless.

    May 20, 2010 at 8:50 am |
  9. areasoningvoice


    May 20, 2010 at 8:43 am |
  10. JM

    I can't wait for Jennifer's new CD to be released. I loved her first two. I've wondered what had happened to her and hope that as a result of this article, she receives a wider audience.

    May 20, 2010 at 8:43 am |
  11. pilsnerred

    ask anyone who is dead........i bet they prayed for redemption......too little too late.....
    ! ! ! !

    May 20, 2010 at 8:43 am |
  12. Doyle

    To Evolve: What does "probably" mean? ah hah....God just called you out......what do u mean probably. Are u really saying that absolutely God does not exist? Or are u saying God probably does not exist? I'l bet u a dollar on your death bed you will pray to God asking for forgiveness.

    May 20, 2010 at 8:39 am |
    • Evolve

      I said probably because I know full well that many Christians do read the bible, however the vast majority of people who run around claiming to be christian have no idea what it means because they have not read the book, do not attend church. I didn't just pull this information of the air, this is one of the top complaints of Christians about Christians.

      BTW, I believe in a God, in fact I believe there is only one God. However I do not believe in Christians, Muslims, Jews or any other religion, you are all a bunch of lunatics.

      May 20, 2010 at 8:51 am |
    • Evolve

      "I'l bet u a dollar on your death bed you will pray to God asking for forgiveness."

      I pray to God all the time, I never pray to Christians. There is a big difference.

      May 20, 2010 at 8:53 am |
  13. pilsnerred

    YES! Unfortunately MOST people believe in GOD, but they SIMPLY do not want to live by the rules or would rather make up their own. NO ONE wants to be told they are living a sinful life. OR THAT THEY DO BAD THINGS!! Everyone wants to believe they 'aren't that bad'! No one wants to be told that God is watching what we do and HE IS THE ONE WHO WILL JUDGE US FOR EVERYTHING WE DO AND EVERYTHING WE HAVEN'T DONE. THIS IS WHAT MOST BELIEVE. LIKE IT OR NOT. People do not want to know that there is an ultimate truth and that they are in need of REDEMPTION!
    most people would rather just live for themselves and make up their own rules and worry about the consequences later.....

    May 20, 2010 at 8:37 am |
  14. Leonard

    I have no problem with people who come out and say they are gay. I do have a problem with Christians though.. If its not the gays that get on their nerves its the dinosaurs. Look at Rev. Alan Rekers..an Anti-Gay preacher stepping down because he was traveling with a young gay man. And who knows what went on behind closed doors. Christians accept the gays...and widen the pearly gates we are bringing the Dinosaurs too.

    May 20, 2010 at 8:36 am |
    • Doyle

      Are u going to deny being a man because other men do bad things? The same with Christian. Its not about what other Christians do, its about Christ. Dont u think?

      May 20, 2010 at 8:51 am |
  15. Beth

    Be a fisher of men, not a cleaner of fish; Leave that up to the Holy Spirit.

    May 20, 2010 at 8:35 am |
    • righteous-in-Christ

      @ Beth – it's obvious that you have no understanding about one being fishers of men. How can one be delivered from sin unless one preaches the Gospel of the Good news? John 3:16 says: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believesth in Him, shall not parish, but will have everlasting life.

      May 20, 2010 at 9:45 pm |
  16. Kevin

    I listened to "DIVE IN" off her NEW ALBUM. WOW!! What A Great "Spiritual" Song...FALLEN is good as well. Her songs are wonderful, great voice, and i still hear the wonderful message of God's Love in her Music. For those that want to control her life and judge and condemn her because she doesn't live the way you want her to...go right ahead....that is your choice. As a Christian man, i can see that she is still reflecting God's Love through her music and will still be an inspiration to me (and others) since she released her first Album Kansas.

    May 20, 2010 at 8:34 am |
  17. Bobby

    It's disappointing how quickly we foist our own opinions without acknowledging the question of greatest importance...

    Where is the glory for God in all of this? Isn't that what he has called us to be after?

    I wish Jennifer Knapp would have talked about how this experience has shaped her walk with God, not with other Christians. Billy Graham said it best...what [we] think is irrelevant. Only the Truth and holiness of God matters.

    To be Christian is to admit imperfection. Only God is perfect. Let's ignore the rifling emotion within and consider how we might honor our heavenly father today.

    May 20, 2010 at 8:33 am |
  18. Dan

    everyone always fights about this.
    How can we claim to be Christians if we are fighting with each other?
    This debate will probably never be settled, because there will always be people with opposing views.
    The fact of the matter is this:
    As Christians, we believe that Christ died to pay for all sins...not some, not a few, all. And that means all sins of all varying degrees of "evil" or "wrongess".
    Not everyone believes in christianity or other religions, and that's fine; they have the choice to believe what they believe, just as we can believe what we want to believe.
    But let's just stop fighting.
    We're only fighting over the right to call ourselves correct.

    May 20, 2010 at 8:31 am |
    • Christian Music Fan

      Debate is not the same as Fighting. Fights use weapons. Debates use words to state , inform and convince others of our positions. Some of us do not live in communist lands where there is only one 'official' opinion and debates are outlawed. Debates makes people realize that there are alternative views on the subject matter. It is better to debate and discuss than to start fighting like how all violence and wars start.

      May 23, 2010 at 6:55 pm |
  19. steve_vig

    For someone that is truly saved, God gives them hope to change their sinful lifestyles in anticipation of the greater reward after they die. However, I feel that the problem is when someone chooses to deliberately live in sin – being gay – it doesn't work. Can a person who continuously commits adultery without any desire to stop really call him or herself saved? God doesn't save us because of our good deeds or good thoughts, he saves us because we believe that Jesus died for us. And because of that, He gives us strength to change things in our lives that don't honor him. Since we're imperfect humans, we'll never achieve a perfect, sinless life;but in my opinion, someone that is truly saved is at least motivated and taking steps to get sin out of his or her life.

    May 20, 2010 at 8:30 am |
  20. Mike

    It is so funny how many "religious" people tell us we can't live in sin, we should fight our feelings and temptations, as if they know all about the feelings and temptations. Are they saying that we ALL feel them? How would they know how it feels? Is there something THEY need to talk about? I submit to all of you that most of those who lecture us on our feelings, and temptations know more about our feelings and temptations than they would like the world to know. To them I say, embrace who you are, be true to yourself and get the bleep out of your closets, it's dark in there.

    Join the dark side, we have cookies... and... well... never mind what else.

    May 20, 2010 at 8:30 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.