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. Tracy

    It's terrible the censoring that is going on with this blog.

    May 21, 2010 at 12:40 pm |
  2. jvPhdandChristian

    One thing I have loved about these posts is that I have learned there are so many perfect people. And I thought only Christ was perfect! How stupid of me.

    BTW John you are COMPLETELY wrong. Eg: There are 170 references in the Bible to the "sun". Not one of them mentions the sun"standing still". It took over 1000 years from Ptolemy to Copernicus to Kepler to Galileo (who paid a heavy Price) for the church to accept that the Earth was moving and the sun standing still. Why, because the church assumed that if in those 170 references all spoke about a setting and rising Sun it must be moving.

    Jennifer is a beautiful soul. Let certain parts of her life be between her and God, just like the Samaritan woman.

    May 21, 2010 at 12:38 pm |
  3. GI JOHN

    Actually Haller99 you are incorrect. Through the inspired Word of God, Isaiah told us the earth was in fact round. They may have not understood it, however, it is there. As to your point that your God is a God of love....well you stated it perfectly..."YOUR GOD". The God of the Bible and Creator of this universe has many other attributes than love. He is a holy, just, and righteous God. And to say you dont care what the book says is absolute spiritual suicide. So here is my stand Haller99...you are on the broad path that leads to destruction. You have no idea who God is based on your own words. You have created your own God and put your words in His mouth. Maybe you better read the Bible for yourself and seek Christ. God flooded the Earth and killed everything in it. Come on, you must know that account? Why would God do that Haller99? He is a just and righteous God thats why! If you choose to fulfill your fleshly desires you are being lead astray by Satan and not following Christ.Once again...following Christ is overcoming this fallen world. Without being Born Again you will never overcome this world. You may not like the fact that gay people will not share God's Kingdom, but it does not really matter what you think. Gay people choose to be Gay. Thieves choose to be thieves. Liars choose to be liars.....God made it quite plain as to what is sin. If you choose to love Christ you must turn from all sin. That is what Jesus said. There is a way that seems right to man but in the ebd it leads to destruction. I am sorry Haller99 you are not a follower of Christ Jesus. Repent and seek Christ and pray for your eyes to be opened to the Truth.

    Isaiah 40:22
    He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in.

    May 21, 2010 at 11:26 am |
  4. Haller99

    I'm a very conservative person, and I'm saddened and frustrated by the direction this country has taken. I think that the Christian ideology has a lot to offer our declining society...but I can't believe some of the comments on here. My God is a God of love, not judgement. He lifts up, not smashes down. You don't choose to be gay, and even if you did, it's not a sin. I don't care what the Book says. Scholars in the time of the Old Testament believed the world was flat. Any of my Christian brothers and sisters wanna take a stand on that one?!?

    May 21, 2010 at 10:12 am |

      Please know that Christianity is not an ideology but a Belief the Christ is who He is, and if You Love Him then you'll certainly want to have a relationship with him where You seek to know What Sin Is and what His Word says about Sin. A person cannot state that they Dont Care What the Book says and also Believe that they are in fact (Christian) which is in fact ChristLike.

      May 21, 2010 at 10:42 am |
  5. Chris

    Thank you Jennifer for writing a compelling piece. I also struggled with my sexuality in my youth. I had a true sense of comfort in my heart and soul for my feelings. But when the world around you in telling you the feeling are wrong, or worse evil, you can't help but question. Live and let live. Peace people.

    May 21, 2010 at 10:00 am |
  6. let's be real

    Ah, another well-placed article by CNN to bring out the narrow-minded religious fanatics and the narrow-minded egotistical athiests. In the end, no one truly wins. CNN sure knows how to get the web traffic rolling on a slow day.

    May 21, 2010 at 9:51 am |

    For All it is vital that We Read Scripture asking His Holy Spirit's Assistance in understanding His Voice so that We Seek to have a better relationship with Him so that we then grown in Spirit and Truth. Only then do we truly seek Repentence where we are then able to Believe in Our Hearts and Speak with Our Voices that We Believe and Will Change...

    May 21, 2010 at 9:49 am |
  8. Obama = Bush = Rubbish

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    May 21, 2010 at 9:28 am |
    • let's be real

      Either you are very talented or you did a great copy+paste job.

      May 21, 2010 at 9:53 am |
  9. Spinning in Michigan

    I was raised in the Baptist church my entire life. Church on Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night. The Baptist church instills fear and as a young child, I feared doing anything lest I spent an enternity in damnation. Now that I am 41 I question their teachings and have not attended church in many years. Do I believe in God? More than belief – I think I HOPE there is a God. But one thing that really has me stumped is this: I have witnessed first hand children who from 2 years old exhibited signs of homosexuality. They are not choosing at this point – how would you choose at that young of an age? I work with a man who is clearly gay who will not admit who he is because his parents are so strongly opposed to homosexuality and whom I believe KNOW that their son is gay but have strong armed him into not being this person. I believe you are born to be who you are meant to be. And if that is so, that means that God is placing people on this earth already destined to fail if we believe the bible. Why would a loving God do this? Placing people on this earth knowing they are destined to spend a life in hell as they are what the bible says they cannot be? Do you really think they wake up one day and think, Gee, I think I'll be gay. Come on! None of us know for sure – but one thing i think we can all agree on is God is the ultimate authority and running around spouting hatred towards others is also something God says is unforgivable. Love thy neighbor – no matter WHO they may be!

    May 21, 2010 at 9:25 am |
  10. Claudia

    A distinction needs to be made here. The point of the article was that Jennifer Knapp claims to be gay and a Christian. It's not about whether non-Christians or Atheists believe that God or a religion should dictate their sexual preference. Since she professes her faith, Christianity, the discussion should stay within those boundaries. In the New Testament, Romans chapter 1 to be precise, God's view on our sexuality is clear.

    May 21, 2010 at 8:24 am |
  11. Not blind

    It is nearly impossible to have a rational conversation with someone that for every argument quotes scripture. If scripture is the basis of all truth for someone, there is little good in having a discussion. There are so many many discrepancies in the bible, it really takes a huge leap of blind faith to believe completely in its entirety. I don't understand how an intelligent person can study the bible and not have issues with its incongruence. Such a person that believes every word is God-breathed is not going to change their mind about an issue, despite they many thing they over look (cover your heads women, don't sit next to a man in church, and slaves obey – yes that's in the New Testatment). Lets not forget that the Bible didnt exist until relatively recently. The catholic church pick and chose what they wanted to include and burned (even letters from Paul) that they didn't agree with. Come on people use your brain!

    May 21, 2010 at 8:20 am |
    • YHWH reigns

      I choose to use my brain and my heart in combination. A mixture of knowledge, life experience, and humbleness is a better option for me, but hey, maybe that's just me. I haven't always believed the same, I've taken the time to try my beliefs and come into my own instead of just trusting what I grew up believing.
      At the same time I realize that I don't know everything, nor will I pretend to. I am so small in size compared to this planet, which is so small in size compared to this galaxy, which is so small in size compared to this universe. How can a speck of dust really think it knows it all?

      We should share what we want with others and live it out, leading by example, but we shouldn't try and make people feel silly or inferior for believing what they believe. Do unto others the way you would have them do unto you... that's something probably at least 95% of these posters would agree upon.

      May 21, 2010 at 8:52 am |
    • let's be real

      I agree with YHWH reigns. Regardless of your stance on the issue at hand, no one can say they truly know everything. We will always be in pursuit of the truth. People choose to have the faith to follow God just as there are those who choose to go with facts they see right in front of them. But even with that said, you can't really say a Christian is any better/smarter than an Athiest, or vice-versa. You choose to believe some things, and you choose not to believe others. It is your free will to believe whatever you want. People spend so much time bickering in such a useless manner that it just leads to people getting annoyed/angry/upset. It's not a problem if people want to debate, but people start getting so deep into it that they lose full sight of the ARTICLE and venture into their own personal beliefs/vendettas.

      Agree to disagree? I am by no means saying that arguments should not happen... but I am saying that they should not take you away from the focus of the article. That's my opinion, and if you disagree, that's fine. Let me know what you think.

      May 21, 2010 at 10:01 am |
  12. Viola

    Dave Thrush.....I agree. I'm thinking PR move. I also thnk it's interesting how she looks a lot more feminine now than she did before she came out. Way back in the early days, I always thought she looked more butch and had wondered if she was gay. Most of the real-life lesbians I've known take great pains NOT to look very feminine, but it seems celebrity lesbians are usually very pretty or glamorous. Wonder why that is....

    May 21, 2010 at 6:51 am |
  13. Dave Thrush

    Controversy sells and I'm sure now Ms. Knapp will sell 10 times the c.d.s of her last recording...very shrewd business move don't you think? I'm sure her record company approves. Just think of all the young girls who will want to be gay and a christian singer so they can follow in their idols footsteps. I can't wait.

    May 21, 2010 at 3:10 am |
  14. Burt

    If you saw someone drowning, would you help them?? As man, we are all flawed and fall short of the kingdom of God as we all sin. The bible says that only God is to judge and that seems to be an accepted belief from all the postings I've read so far. What I do know is this, I am my brother's keeper. If I see my brother or sister, in God, drowning, I will step in to help save them. If I see someone drowning in sin, I'll let them know according to God's word, the Bible, they're not right and at that point, I will have done what is expected of me by God. Will I not show love or compassion towards that person should they continue to live in their wicked ways? By all means no, I live by the idea that we are all children of God and that when we leave this earth we will be judged, by God and God alone. There's so much hate in this world that it saddens me that we do such things to each other and often times, it's in the name of our Lord. It honestly breaks my heart. I'm pretty sure there are those of you who will agree with my comments and I'm sure there are even more who will hate what I've said. I am a sinner just like the rest of you and the only way we will see the kingdom of God is to repent our sins and live God's will. This doesn't mean confessing your sins once and thinking that is sufficent, we must be active in our faith in God, not idle assuming we've recieved God's Grace and are automatically going to be recieved into his kingdom. May God Bless you all and his peace be with you. Thank you

    May 21, 2010 at 2:41 am |
  15. Yoel

    Bible is Bible. Gay is Gay. Choose one and reject the other. Stay peaceful !!

    May 21, 2010 at 1:41 am |
  16. YHWH reigns

    Everyone posting things like "Jesus loves everyone", just don't forget this.

    Although Yahshua did say to many "your sins are forgiven", He also said to probably more people "go and sin no more".

    This tells me that to all whom He calls to partake in His atoning sacrifice, He also tells to live a set apart life without sin. This is only possible when we choose to follow Him, as He was sinless and can lovingly help us 'be perfect, as He is perfect".

    Who did He say He laid His life down for? "For he who does the will of My Father".

    The Bible also tells us in 1 John.. "if we love Him, we will keep His commandments" and "sin is the transgression of the Torah"

    I do not wish to point fingers at anyone, as I have sin in my life that I am allowing Him to lovingly remove. But I can tell you this: once I acknowledge that it was sin and felt remorse and regret, He moved and has greatly helped me to get rid of it. Once it is gone, the blessings return. To Yahweh be the glory.

    oh, and if some might be curious.. no I don't eat pork, shellfish etc. Yes I strive to observe the Sabbath (Friday sundown to Saturday sundown), etc Why wouldn't I? It's for my own good. Why wouldn't I trust the one who made me for what is best for me?

    May 21, 2010 at 12:30 am |
  17. YHWH reigns

    To the Christians (or anyone that wants to listen)

    Here are interesting words of Yahshua (often called Jesus) that many Christians and non Christians don't often talk about:
    Matthew 18:15-17
    “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. "

    Before I go on, I know this doesn't necessarily relate to the article. Jennifer hasn't sinned against me. (and I have been listening to her music since around 2000, saw her in concert around that time with 3rd Day)

    I think that we often use the word "judge" when we should be using "accuse". Think about it. A judge doesn't just tell someone they have done wrong, they determine they have done wrong, then give them their punishment, or their 'judgment'.

    Anyways.. everything must always be done in love. Even if someone is in sin or has sinned against you, any kind of pointing out or accusation shouldn't be done with anger, or self-righteousness, but rather with concern and with love, because after all it should be only because you care about them.

    Let me point this out. Yahweh (God) gave us his Torah. This is really defined as 'instructions to hit the mark'. We have somehow gotten to a point of thinking His Law is bad or over-bearing. This is foolish, as really it is for our good and to help us have fruitful lives of blessing and abundance.

    Think of this analogy. A just judge has a son (or daughter). He/she instruct them on how to live to stay out of jail. Eventually they get to the point where they have to make their own minds. They eventually make bad decisions. If those decisions are bad enough, they will have to go to jail for the punishment, even if they go before their dad, as he is a just judge. Not a fool proof analogy, but one can get the point if they want.

    These are just some of my thoughts to contribute. (although they probably relate more to the comments than the article)

    May 20, 2010 at 11:02 pm |
  18. Ife

    I choose . . . to listen. I give thanks that she is brave enough and compassionate enough in her own being to share her spiritual journey to Self with such openness. An openness that is an invitation to us all to join in the song of just living! All the best Jennifer, I admire your courage and love.

    May 20, 2010 at 10:11 pm |
    • Bert

      You shouldn't listen to this crap. It's immoral. True Christians should take a stand and NOT buy a single bit of her music to support her sinful self. Don't admire sin. It's not courage. It's not love. It's sin and it warrants a severe punishment.

      May 20, 2010 at 10:15 pm |
  19. Bert

    This girl should be executed according to God's law.

    May 20, 2010 at 10:08 pm |
    • Proud Gay Woman in North Carolina

      and you sound like a stalker........

      May 21, 2010 at 5:27 am |
    • Tony

      God Bless another hatemongering Christian.

      May 21, 2010 at 10:17 am |
  20. try2blk1

    what's the topic about?

    May 20, 2010 at 9:52 pm |
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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.