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. RIPScottBaio

    1. No one is "choosing to be gay".

    2. It is a sin to use "cuz" when you should be typing "because".

    Got that?

    May 20, 2010 at 2:45 pm |
  2. Bubba

    Religion is the opiate of the masses, but on some people it's more like PCP.

    May 20, 2010 at 2:35 pm |
  3. Jeremy

    This, coupled with the "stop, drop, and roll" image in the margin sums up the biggest problems with mainstream churches. They are so worried about the fear of damnation, they are missing out on the fruits of salvation.
    Fear of damnation does not equal salvation!

    Salvation is a gift, freely given, that we can accept or not. And it is my fear that many of those clustered in church houses, simply out of fear of hell, will find themselves there in the end. Because they've been so worried about where they are going, they have never accepted the gift that may get them there.

    The way I look at it, the scripture tells fundamentalist that their will be people left in the church houses after Christ comes to rapture the church away. Where do you think these folks will come from? Not from the true faithful that were raptured away (and, no matter how much it bugs you, just may include some gay people), but from those fearful of hell who've never experienced true salvation.

    It looks like Jennifer is on that path to truly experience the fruits of her salvation. My prayers will be with her on her journey.

    May 20, 2010 at 2:29 pm |
    • YHWH reigns

      My friend, I would like to suggest to you something that hopefully you would consider prayerfully and through searching the Word of God.

      What if the rapture is not actually Biblical, but rather a misinterpretation of Scripture and how things will really go down? What if the tribulation is starting around us already and the Messiah told us how to prepare and what to watch for because we will be here and we will have to go through the persecution, the destruction, etc?

      I am not trying to argue with you... I would only like to suggest to you, as I have considered and studied such things. I believed in the rapture for 25+ years of my life.. but after careful consideration, I have begun to see the events unfold around me and have begun to ponder the words of my Master. Just something to consider.

      May 21, 2010 at 10:15 pm |
  4. righteous-in-Christ

    @ Alma Jackson – So tell me, what is hate to you? Telling the Truth to those that are deceived? It doesn't make any sense for anyone to proclaim to be a lesbian/gay Christian because there is no such thing! Unless they are following false doctrines outside of the Living Word of God! Let ALL truth be known and ALL evil be exposed!!!

    May 20, 2010 at 2:21 pm |
    • Alma Jackson

      I am gay and I am a Christian...........do the math.

      And I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that God not only loves me as i am, I am as he made me.
      -Ever wonder why Jesus never said not one word regarding homosexuality?
      -Ever wonder why not one of the Ten Commandants has "unless you're gay attached to it?"

      May 20, 2010 at 2:43 pm |
    • Alma Jackson

      I am gay and I am a Christian.............do the math.

      Hate is the human mind desperately striving to condem anything it cannot understand.

      May 20, 2010 at 2:44 pm |
  5. In The Present

    Since God IS Love, then love - true love - can NEVER be wrong whether it be in a gay or a straight relationship.

    And THAT is all any of us needs to know, understand and accept.

    May 20, 2010 at 2:09 pm |
    • YHWH reigns

      This is true only if we define love as what love really is.
      It has nothing to do with intercourse or related acts.

      'the greatest act of love is this, that a man would lay down his life for others" .. in a lesser sense to put someone before myself.

      I can love someone without even knowing their name. I can love someone who has cheated on me, tried to kill me, or tried to make my life miserable. None of this has anything to do with intercourse at all.

      Love in a relationship comes way after the intercourse and lust has gone by the wayside. It is the decision that is made when you aren't as attracted to them anymore. The decision to put them first and not think about yourself and the other options you have that would make you feel good or reignite some kind of passion or lust.

      May 21, 2010 at 12:44 am |
  6. Gerald

    to Rev. Sam

    If you are a lesbian minister can you please explain Romans 1 to me? It's new covenant and not old law, yet in my reading of it Paul teaches that homosexuality and a list of other things are a result of God releasing people to their fleshly desires because of their rejection of God's truth. Is this not what Paul is saying?

    May 20, 2010 at 1:48 pm |
  7. mobadthangood

    What a shame. She is a gorgeous girl. I wonder if her girlfriend looks as good as her.

    May 20, 2010 at 1:40 pm |
  8. Okie

    I am amused that the anti-gay commenters don't find it a sin to put sausage in their mouths, but they feel it is a sin for me to put sausage in mine.

    May 20, 2010 at 1:34 pm |
    • mobadthangood

      okie, that is really stupid.

      May 20, 2010 at 1:40 pm |
  9. Rev. Sam

    As a lesbian minister who fights against the perversion of God's word such as some of the venom I see spewed in these comments I offer this: Jesus never condemned & God loves everyone equally. God knew us all before we took our first breath & blessed us with the experience of life equally. We all have a purpose, some to combat ignorance, some to learn to overcome ignorance, some to test their ignorance but all are sent to learn to love and accept others.

    All religious scripture can be twisted to serve an agenda- serve your faith from the heart, not from the page. http://www.forgottenflockoutreach.info

    May 20, 2010 at 1:25 pm |
    • righteous-in-Christ

      You have been deceived as a lesbian minister. I don't know that a minister ministry is reall about. No one has claimed that God hates them except atheists. God loves His creation, but hates the sin we get involved.

      May 20, 2010 at 2:00 pm |
    • Alma Jackson

      rightous in christ..........you are doing a great job of making no sense whatso ever. thats what happens when you can't justify your hate.

      May 20, 2010 at 2:12 pm |
    • GaryG

      God would have us to be educated, but as far as that education being our "purpose in life" to overcome ignorance would be a call that anyone could do without Gods calling. God has one purpose i.e. to seperate us from anything and everything that dominates our self interest over Himself i.e. work,money, sex,food,possesions,education, family, church, religion, worry, literaly anything. He's a radical loving God.

      May 20, 2010 at 8:32 pm |
  10. Gerald

    Tares amongst the wheat ... that's all this is.

    May 20, 2010 at 1:17 pm |
  11. Kevin

    Notice how most of these anti-gay commenters are not able to write intelligent. grammatically correct, educated responses? Yeah – most people see this as one of many clues to their ignorance...

    PEACE =)

    May 20, 2010 at 12:55 pm |
  12. ann

    Knapp – have you ever read the bible?

    May 20, 2010 at 12:33 pm |
  13. Chris

    What's the difference between Zeus, Ra, Jesus, Isis, or Odin? None. They are mythological gods created by man. Why is Jesus real but Zeus is not? Or the other hundreds of gods invented by man for that matter. But Jesus is the "real" one?

    May 20, 2010 at 12:29 pm |
  14. Truly

    Nobody should/can condemn another except God and He is an all-forgiving God. Promiscuity is what is sinful, not a person's sexual orientation. We also have to take into account the fact that Jesus never said anything about being gay as being sinful. He just didn't. And if it was something worthy of note, then He would have mentioned something about it surely, as He came to SAVE the world. Let us also not lose sight of the fact that it is by the blood of Jesus that we are Saved, not by mankind and their prejudiced thoughts!

    May 20, 2010 at 12:24 pm |
  15. bap_nyc

    Hey, has anyone heard about new evidence indicating that Jesus was gay???

    May 20, 2010 at 12:14 pm |
    • righteous-in-Christ

      @ bap_nyc – I assume that you are gay? So, by saying that Jesus is gay, you think that it will help you justify your sins? Also, there are many Mexican- men named “Jesus”, so yes, some of them are gay. May God spare your soul and save you from eternal salvation and deliver you from the evil works of Satan.

      May 20, 2010 at 1:10 pm |
    • mobadthangood

      never heard that. Just heard that you were.

      May 20, 2010 at 1:42 pm |
  16. gretchen

    from Paul B:

    >...I won't encourage this lifestyle "CHOICE" by buying any of her music again. Or anyother gay/lesbian artist's music for that matter...<

    Then get rid of the following: any reference to Michelangelo, Walt Whitman, Peter the Great, Queen Christina, Sir Leonard Bernstein, Sir John Gielgud, Elton John, and Alexander the Great. Also get rid of your computer, because a GAY man, Alan Turing, cracked the nazi ENIGMA code in WWII.

    What do all of the above have in common: They were/are GAY.

    May 20, 2010 at 12:12 pm |
    • Alecto

      Let's not forget that King James ... the man who commissioned the King James Bible (you know the one that all the fundies use as the "one true English source") ... was, in fact, GAY.

      *and all around gasps of shock could be heard from the fundies – oh no, say it ain't so!*

      And what about this:

      "I love the Earl of Buckingham more than anyone else," James announced to his councilors, "and more than you who are here assembled." He compared his love for the earl to Jesus's affection for the "beloved disciple" John. "Jesus Christ did the same," the king said, "and therefore I cannot be blamed. Christ had his John, and I have my George."

      –Royal Panoply, Brief Lives Of The English Monarchs
      Carrolly Erickson

      Ironic, isn't it?

      May 20, 2010 at 1:37 pm |
  17. ET

    For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosever shall belevie on him shall not perish but have everlasting life. One thing that Christ shows us is that we win souls by our love for one other. You cant show the
    love of Christ by spewing hatred. Regardless of whether you believe that you are born gay or you make a choice we all come up short. We all have sinned. That is a fact. Thats why Christ came so that we may have life and have it more abundantly. You cant teach people anything if they dont trust you and they dont trust you unless you show the love of Christ. You cant force people to do or believe anything. Christ never did that. All he did was show his love for us all by dying on the cross for our sins whether we choose to beleive in him or not. There is no other person who has ever done that willingly knowing that he would be hated by the very person that he died for. Thats why I love him because he first loved me. Thats what drew me to him, his love for me

    May 20, 2010 at 12:03 pm |
  18. GI JOHN

    No one here seems to understand what it means to follow Christ. It is about love for your Creator. It's not about you. The only way you will ever understand the spiritual things of God is to have a Godly sorrow for your sins and Repent. That means to turn from and abhor your sin because it hurts your Father in Heaven. Most people have a worldly sorrow for their sin. This will never produce the supernatural act of being born again. You must die to yourself and your fleshly desires. 95% of those calling themselves Christians are deceived. They live just like the world does. The Prince of this world is Satan. As a soldier I will warn you, you will not outwit Satan. The whole purpose of life is to overcome this world, not become part of it. Wake up luke warm Christians....Jennifer wiil be cast into hell because she chose to fulfill her fleshly desires over her love for Christ. Along with liars, thieves, adulterers.....There seems to be a new Jesus being preached. One who can overlook sin and allow you to enter Heaven to worship Him for eternity. Wake up.....we were warned about people preaching another Gospel. It does not matter what you feel is right. You will have no excuse on that great and dreadful day when you stand before Christ to be judged. The Bible and Christ made it clear as to what it takes to follow Him. Who are you to talk back to your maker? As for those of you who believe God is make believe....Satan has got you. Open your eyes and look around. Quit letting a man in a white coat tell you where you came from. To trust a man with your eternity is absolutely absurd. Very few are able to follow Christ. Why? Because in great American fashion, you want the best of both worlds. American Christians are more of an abomination to God than evolutionists. In the words of Christ....Repent! Narrow is the way that leads to life and very few find it. Those of you who want to save your life will lose it, those who lose their life will save it. Pick up your cross, deny yourself, and follow Christ. Christ did not die to give you a license to sin....He was our example of how a spirit filled follower of Christ will live in this unholy world.

    May 20, 2010 at 12:00 pm |
    • femtch

      Seriously? That is your contribution to this discussion? Hate speech towards those that do not believe as you do? You really think GOD wants you to be sitting on a CNN discussion board talking about who will be cast into hell? Why don't you go out there and do some Christian-y stuff out in the world to help others? Nah, that's right, you're all talk about how great and righteous you are. Don't worry, us liberal heathens will do all the real work like trying to protect innocent animals, cleaning up oil spills, worrying about the environment, etc...You can do your "conditional" charity work, like feeding the poor as long as they subscribe to your Christian doctrine. My day to day actions involve a commitment to helping the world and humanity in everyway possible while taking the least amount possible in return. And I don't need some book to tell me why do to it. I don't believe in Heaven or Hell, and I don't need threats of being cast into firey pits to be a good person. Grow up and get your perspective on people and the real world right. Not all Christians are good people, and not all athiests are bad people.

      May 20, 2010 at 12:36 pm |
    • righteous-in-Christ

      @ femtch – Warning comes before destruction. The Word of God is to be preached through out the world, yes, including the internet. This is why it is called a blog, to express our opinion, to preach and for most, express their hate towards others, especially towards God. No one is self-righteous, but for us who have accepted the Truth that sets us free, we have been justified through the righteousness in Christ Jesus. I do agree that not all Christians are good people, some just proclaim to be something they are not just as some Atheists are not bad people, but are spiritually lost. It doesn’t matter if you believe in God or in the bible that is your right to chose life or death, blessings or curses, damnation or salvation. As I tell many Atheists, by they not wanting to accept the Truth of God, not man’s truth, we lose absolutely nothing. But the day will come that all men & woman, believers & unbelievers, Religion & cults will come face to face with God. That, friend, is a sure thing. But you don’t have to believe me because as GI JOHN said, it isn’t about mankind (you), it’s about what Jesus Christ did for us to connect us back to God for His Glory.

      May 20, 2010 at 1:05 pm |
    • femtch

      @ righteous-in-Christ – Saying I am "spriritually lost" because I don't believe what you believe is judgemental and wrong. I feel a connection to the Earth and it's creatures on a very profound, spiritual level. I just don't believe that there is an invisible man around there pulling us around by puppet strings. But that's the wrong way, right? Because it's not YOUR way?

      Do I claim to have all the scientific answers to how we were created? Of course not; not yet at least. But I have the humilty and modesty to say that I don't know yet. But you claim to already have all the answers; except your answers are just a bunch of nonsensical jibberish. I'm very sorry that your life mission is waiting around for Jesus to come back on a magical horse in the clouds. Have fun wasting what little time you do have here on Earth. I think I will go try to make the best of it. And that will include being gay with my oh so very hot girlfriend, attending all the Pride parades, and fighting as hard as I can against people like you who want to mold me into their ideal of a "perfect American".

      May 20, 2010 at 5:36 pm |
    • righteous-in-Christ

      You say that you are connected to the Earth, well let me tell you friend, Heaven and Earth shall pass, but God's Word shall never pass. No matter how much you try to fight against God, you will lose....period. My hope is in Christ, my connection is in God, not on Earth or just mankind! It is through Christ Jesus that I can be connected with others as His Love dwells within my heart.

      May 20, 2010 at 9:26 pm |
  19. robli143

    Skee is not correct – how can skee say that feelings are ok but activity is wrong when God's word says even thinking in lust makes you guilty of the sin. It is ok to think gay, but not be gay? Thankfully Skee is not God nor does Skee speak for God. God's word says 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.

    God is not a man that He should lie. I believe that you cannot lose your salvation – no matter how many bad things you may end up doing. The Bible says that we are “sealed” with the Holy Spirit at the moment of our salvation with the Lord and that nothing can break this seal – no matter how many bad and evil sins that person may commit after getting saved.

    Can I prove it to someone else – probably not. Faith cannot be proven. But someday I expect to be in Heaven and I expect to see Jennifer there too.

    May 20, 2010 at 11:12 am |
  20. David Johnson

    One thing for certain, fundies go nuts over gays. Remember God is watching you, even while you are on the toilet. The fundie desert war god is all powerful! All knowing! Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. No one has seen Jesus in 2,000 years, but we expect him back any day. The signs are out there! I have looked at the chicken entrails! I feel God in my heart! Or is it the burrito I had for lunch? No god guys. We are on our own. Lets learn to get along.

    May 20, 2010 at 11:11 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.