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. ms.missy2010

    It is very obvious that majority of you have not read or better yet become to understand the Bible. This is why people condemn the name of Jesus and the things that we Christian stand for (which is biblical can be found in Romans). Please do not comment on the bible If you do not know or understand what you are talking about. I am hearing scripture being thrown around by people who as far as I can tell, read there bible not as often as they should. Others, that haven't read it at all, (please don’t comment on it. Thanks). If anybody need help understanding something please let me know.

    May 20, 2010 at 11:07 am |
    • Proud Gay Woman in NC

      The right to free speech extends to everyone, not just you. If I want to comment or discuss your post, I have the right to do so...
      The biblical scripture I have posted proves clearly that many here pick and choose the verses they want to support their bigotry. When Ms. Kay quotes Leviticus, thats fine, when I or others quote other Leviticus verses that support slavery, all of a sudden, only the New Testament is relevant. When we query verses that support violence against women, suddenly, Jesus doesn't support that part of the bible. HYPOCRITES......

      May 20, 2010 at 12:03 pm |
    • LivinginVA

      If I need something explained, I'll ask my uncle, the biblical scholar who has read the Bible in languages much closer to "original text" than most other people on the planet. Who, by the way, does not condemn or hate gays and lesbians.

      May 21, 2010 at 9:20 am |
  2. Chante

    LOL to that article

    May 20, 2010 at 10:59 am |
  3. Okie

    I am a gay christan. I thank God for his grace and my blessings frequently!

    May 20, 2010 at 10:42 am |
    • David Johnson

      I respect you. But have you read the bible? It is filled with hate. Ignore it if you want, but If the bible is the word of a god, then that god does not love you. Consider letting go of god.

      May 20, 2010 at 11:20 am |
    • mobadthangood

      david johnson. I don't respect you. Your blasphemy will be your down fall.
      Just think about when you die. There you will be in your coffin. All dressed up and no place to go.

      May 20, 2010 at 1:45 pm |
  4. Carol

    Jennifer, thank you for making me feel less alone. And thank you for helping to open my eyes so that I can listen. God's peace.

    May 20, 2010 at 10:41 am |
  5. righteous-in-Christ

    I understand what you are saying and are correct. We all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God. But God also says that we should pray for one another. It is easy to point fingers as we also have failed God Almighty. How many can any of say here that none of us have gone through what you have, Mark? We all have gone through some experience, one way or another, but as it is written, "The steps of a righteous man are ordered by the Lord, though he stumbles and falls, he shall not be cast out, but will be lifted up by the right-hand of the Lord." This is the very hope we have in Christ Jesus and I know that there are many religious and luke-warm Christians who have not know how to love thy neighbors. I am surrounded by them. If the love of God is not fully rooted within our hearts, we are like those who have been blinded and deceived. They walk by sight, and not by faith or they have faith without works or they have works without faith. "Faith without works is dead; we have to put them together." GOD BLESSES YOU!

    May 20, 2010 at 10:19 am |
  6. Gary

    What would Jesus say to a person invovled in homosexual life style? The same thing he said to a woman in adultry. The people (self-righteous) were going to stone here. Jesus said "he who has never committed sin cast the first stone". They dropped their stones and walked away. Jesus said to the woman (and would say to you) "Were are your accusers?" "They didn't condemn you to death and neither do I". And he commanded her as he would you and me "Go and sin no more".

    May 20, 2010 at 10:05 am |
  7. Viola

    I think the big deal for most people is that if she is going to promote herself as a "Christian" artist and life a lifestyle that is spoken against in their scriptures, it's not a good thing. If anything, she should just not label herself as a "Christian" artist anymore if she wants to continue in that lifestyle. I can't imagine the Muslims putting up with something like this...

    Just playing devil's advocate for a minute....what about other people who are born attracted to things other than the norm, i.e. children or animals, or people who are attracted to people they cannot have (married to someone else, a relative, etc.) Just because you're attracted to something doesn't mean it's necessarily good to have it.

    May 20, 2010 at 10:00 am |
    • robli143

      I think the big deal is that God told us, none of us could earn salvation on our own. All have sinned. Thats why Jesus came to pay a debt He didn't owe, because we owe a debt we cannot pay. No sin, save denying the holy spirit, is unforgivable, but Christians and others often treat this one "sin" of loving an adult who loves them back, as being the worst possible thing a person could do. Sitting in judjment of others sins is not something God asks people to do. Teaching people to live better lives in Christ, welcoming and loving them as Jesus would – is indeed what we've been called to do.

      May 20, 2010 at 11:27 am |
  8. Tony

    I had this story passed onto me. Very thought provoking and eye opening. Kudos to you Jennifer for the courage to stand up for who you are. A spiritual journey is a very personal thing, and I appreciate you sharing a part of yours.

    Personally, I've taken a vacation from religion. The negative judgements and ostracism are just too prevalent. It seems like people are way too wrapped up in what the bible says they shouldn't do, and not wrapped up in what they should do. Where's the love and compassion? Where's the care and concern?

    If the predominant message of the bible is, "God is love", then why condemn or judge someone because of one aspect of their life?

    May 20, 2010 at 9:54 am |
  9. Dave

    When asked which was the greatest commandment of the law, Jesus said "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and Love your neighbor as yourself.'And then He said that "All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." As Christians, we should be able to Love God and love people, with all their imperfections (just like us), their hurts (just like us) and their need for something greater than ourselves (just like us) without pointing out how their sin differs from our sin. As my sister in Christ, Jennifer's music helps me (and millions of others) understand my relationship with God. Nothing about her article above changes that. I've bought her cds in the past and if the music of the new cd speaks to me, I'll buy it too.

    May 20, 2010 at 9:50 am |
    • robli143

      Well said Dave – following Jesus' example to walk in love; how can so many of our fellow Christians vehemently believe it is better to walk in hate? There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Let's keep praying for them.

      May 20, 2010 at 11:16 am |
  10. slice

    I have been a born again Christian for over 6 years now. I used to live a life that was completely opposite of what now I understand is, "walking in obedience to Christ", and in the beginning of my new faith I found solace in Christian music. Most artists that I listened to were men and there was only one female artist that I clung to.... And that was Jennifer Knapp. Her music captivated me, it inspired me, and it helped mend my broken heart, and wooed me to seeking and pointing to Jesus Christ. And that is what true Christians are supposed to do which is so different from the world and that is to point people’s eyes towards Christ and to nothing else. Jennifer’s music did that for me. I loved her music and inherently I loved her as a sister in Christ. I have never met her nor have I been one who has been involved in the Christian "church" scene, but to me I know that I know that a person does not sing that kind of music or have those types of words unless they have had true brokenness and fellowship with the Spirit. I am not angry with Jennifer I am simply wounded by her current lifestyle. I have never been one for church theology, but I do know and trust in Gods word, and his word tells us that homosexuality is wrong. Yet I have confidence that Jennifer is a true Christian and in first John it states that a person who has the true seed of God in them cannot continue to sin. We all make mistakes and at times in our walks stray from the Lord. But his Love is greater than our sin. Not that he will allow us to continue in sin, but he by his mercy will lead us back to a walk of obedience with him. I am confident that this will be so for Jennifer. I love her and I will be praying that the Lord will clear her mind and set her path back on the path that is glorifying to his name.

    May 20, 2010 at 9:48 am |
  11. Ms. Kay

    Bottom line is we are all sinners. Sin is sin great or small. That is why Jesus came to die for us. John 13:34 So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. 35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples." Let's except one an other regardless of our circumstances or choice of living. We are to be Christ like.

    May 20, 2010 at 9:33 am |
  12. BUCK


    May 20, 2010 at 9:32 am |
  13. Bongisa Grey

    Wow... its a same that we can be so harsh with one another. I wonder how all of u will justify these comments of hatred and judgement when the Lord truely comes. Never has the Lord spoken down to sinners, never did he seperate himself from us – he ate with us, loved us and nurtured the intellectual approsch to all the 'big' questions in life. They are so wrong to misunderstand and form their own opions – we should have none but the Lords. As he is good and kind so should we be. As he said we should be like a child in our acceptance of the truth of His word – be open minded, for nothing is set in stone except the old law; which is succeeded by the nee convant. The latter is not more righeaous but it is more relevant and true for society as God saw it not in a linear way but in a continum of time as he is of time yet he is not limited by it. Hopefully we all come to the realisation that we are not masters of our own fall or rise – in the end he controls it all. He gave us choices so that we might live to our full potential in our different circumstances. It is so easy to think that you have it all figured out when you are staring in through the fogged up window panes of ur own life in to that of anothers. Let he who has no sin cast the first stone...It truely saddens me that we have so little faith n empathy that we should say such cruel things to one another. God bless us n save us – no matter what our sin may be for we have all sinned and fallen short of righteuosness and glor. Remember all sin is sin, it doesn't matter how u lable it – judgement, blasphemy or hypocracy! These are the times that He spoke of, He cried about and He died for; because He saw n He and He knows it all. Love, peace and Happiness be with you, A Sister in christ is a Sister or mine 🙂 Thanks for your Bravery Jennifer. Surely onl God will know what is right for you – regardless of what the masses may say, trust only in your relationship with the Lord. God has created us all to do great and mighty things

    May 20, 2010 at 9:23 am |
  14. Breezy

    My name is Brittney. I am 17 years old, about to graduate high school. I play softball and work at Dairy Queen. I am a writer, a poet, an athlete, a musician, a sister, a daughter and a best friend. I had my first crush when I was in kindergarten. Her name was Annie. My name is Brittney, I'm 17 years old, and I'm gay. My point here is that instead of looking at me and slapping a "LESBIAN" on the caption underneath my picture, perhaps you could instead just put my name. Yes, I'm gay. But my orientation doesn't define me. It's one small piece of who I am. One part of the millions of parts in the jigsaw puzzle that makes me. So don't just dwell on that one thing. Take me as I am, all of me. And I promise I will look at you and put more than the word "STRAIGHT" underneath your picture.

    May 20, 2010 at 9:22 am |
    • Doyle

      Alot of people are gay but what is your faith?

      May 20, 2010 at 9:40 am |
  15. femtch

    Lesbian, non-thiest here looking for pity and prayers from the Christians on the board!! Oh save my misguided soul!!!...Sarcasm, I know it's hard to read in text. I really don't give a **** how Christians feel about me, and it's very freeing. Christians should really try not worrying about what others think about them, as well as not judging others. Does that strip away your power? Make you feel insecure about your faith and controlling others? Because that's all it is, trying to have the power over others to get them to believe what you do so you don't feel so stupid believing the asinine things you do. Anyway, why do we still debate the Bible as if it were a relevent piece of literature in which to govern and make decisions? It's 2000 years old people!! Does anyone know what those people lived like back then? You guys are like a wet blanket being thrown over the potential progress of man. Thanks for weighing the human race down. Feel free to throw some scripture up there in response to my post; tell me I'm a sinner, pray for my soul! Please, waste your time on me who doesn't give a **** what you say. That way you might leave others alone who haven't figured out your game of intimidation and threats.

    May 20, 2010 at 9:21 am |
  16. Unashamed

    Love. Can love ever be accused of being hate?

    May 20, 2010 at 9:19 am |
    • mobadthangood

      If you had been married to that last woman I was with you would understand you statement.

      May 20, 2010 at 1:47 pm |
  17. Steve From NH

    Googled "bible sin to be gay", found some stuff. Looks like it's a sin to be gay if you're a man, lesbians are fine. However, we're all going to hell, because it also says that we can't eat shellfish, pork, wear certain kinds of cloth, and if a woman having her period sits on a chair it's supposed to be burned afterward.
    I still can't figure out how Noah got all of those animals on the ark AND cleaned up the poop AND kept the lions from eating the gazelles 'cause I'm SURE there wasn't enough room for all the food too, and if Dinosaurs really were around there's a whole 'nother set of problems.
    Jonah? Belly of a whale? Please.......

    May 20, 2010 at 9:15 am |
    • Haze736

      You said it! Let's not forget to remind our good christian folk that every time they spoke with god, they had been on a fast for days, sometimes weeks at a time. So, seems to me the whole religion is based on hypoglycemia!

      May 20, 2010 at 9:46 am |
  18. who cares

    God obviously knows, no one chooses to be gay. However, it's their unfortunate cross to bear and I feel sorry for them. If a gay Christian (or Muslim, Jew, etc) doesn't act upon impulses, or entertain thoughts, there is no sin. We should not be slaves to our emotions or urges. Emotions are icing on the cake, but logic and reason should be our guide in life.

    May 20, 2010 at 9:12 am |
  19. 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 9:11 am |
    • Doyle

      I love Bible quotes. Are you married?

      May 20, 2010 at 9:14 am |
    • Alma Jackson

      Ms. Kay: Explain your support for these verses in leviticus:

      The Book of Leviticus prohibited the harsh ruling over other Israelites, but that slaves could be taken from the Gentiles.

      Leviticus 25:44-46 "Both thy bondmen, and thy bondmaids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy bondmen and bondmaids. Moreover of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you, which they begat in your land: and they shall be your possession. And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession; they shall be your bondmen for ever: but over your brethren the children of Israel, ye shall not rule one over another with rigour."

      Also, in Leviticus, a distinction is made between the hired servant and the slave.

      Leviticus 25:48-53 "After that he is sold he may be redeemed again; one of his brethren may redeem him: Either his uncle, or his uncle's son, may redeem him, or any that is nigh of kin unto him of his family may redeem him; or if he be able, he may redeem himself. And he shall reckon with him that bought him from the year that he was sold to him unto the year of jubilee: and the price of his sale shall be according unto the number of years, according to the time of an hired servant shall it be with him."

      If one were to purchase his own brother into slavery, laws in Leviticus prevent treating him as other slaves, but rather as a guest or servant. The Living Bible refers to "a fellow Israelite" rather than "brother."

      Leviticus 25:39 "And if thy brother that dwelleth by thee be waxen poor, and be sold unto thee; thou shalt not compel him to serve as a bondservant: But as an hired servant, and as a sojourner, he shall be with thee, and shall serve thee unto the year of jubilee: And then shall he depart from thee, both he and his children with him, and shall return unto his own family, and unto the possession of his fathers shall he return."

      May 20, 2010 at 9:21 am |
    • Tony

      But, didn't Jesus make a new covenant with the people when he died on the cross? For me, that makes anything in the Old Testament null and void.

      May 20, 2010 at 9:57 am |
    • righteous-in-Christ

      @ Alma Jackson – Do you honestly think that you understand the verses that you have given Kay? You read it, and interpret it with your own self-destruction flesh and eyes. For us who have accepted the gift of salvation and the gift of the Holy Spirit are guided into the path of God righteousness. He reveals all things that come from God. Many of you are so stuck on the Old Testament that you seem to us God's word against God and His children, the body of Christ. We are not longer under the law; we are under God's Grace. Jesus Christ came to set us free from all of the bondage that even the people of God, Israel, were under. Read the book of John in the New Testament and you will know who our Most Loving Lord is.

      May 20, 2010 at 10:31 am |
    • Proud Gay Woman in NC

      RightousInCrist: Sounds like you can't handle anyone questioning Ms. Kay...opps. You also don't explain your support for the same verses I provided to her. Ohhhhhhhhhhh, thats, right, the Old Testement isn't relevant, only the New Testement...wow, throwing away hafl the Bible because you can't argue your points. Well, then there the fact that slavery and beating women is illegal too, can't support that now can you?

      May 20, 2010 at 12:33 pm |
    • Alma Jackson

      Hey RightousInChrist:
      This is really funny, you state we're stuck on the Old Testement, but you're fine with Ms. kay quoting scripture from the Old Testement..........but when I question it, suddenly its not relevent.....WOW!

      May 20, 2010 at 12:37 pm |
    • mobadthangood

      AWESOME Ms Kay.

      May 20, 2010 at 1:49 pm |
    • YHWH reigns

      Regardless of what anyone says about slaves, look into something that Yahweh instated called 'Jubilee'

      He commanded that all slaves be freed and all debts be released every 50th year. There were lesser Jubilees every 7 years, but the 7th 7year, or during the 50th year, was the Jubilee year.

      If we lived by His principals, we wouldn't have debt, interest, slavery, or the other things we suffer these days at the hands of the elite who aim to create their new world order. They look to destroy the middle class and only have the elite controlling the poor.

      All it takes is to open your eyes and see what they are doing with world economies and stirring hate in the hearts of men toward their fellow men

      May 22, 2010 at 10:48 pm |
  20. hhart

    What this woman wrote was a beautiful commentary on her sprituality and art. It was both profound and enlightening. To read all the ensuing responses, you would not know this. As usual, the homophobes debase beauty with their obstinant obsession with the one book, the Bible. This ignorance is outcast in today's larger worldview of acceptance and unconditional love. Words like redemption, sin, forgiveness...have no place whatever in a society where evolution and greater understanding, and a poetic expression of truth throw their light on to your blind, dumbfounded darkness.

    May 20, 2010 at 9:11 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.