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. Sean

    Hehe all these comments about religion it makes me laugh.

    I thought the post was well-written and I commend her on taking the brave step forward.

    May 21, 2010 at 11:29 pm |
  2. YHWH reigns


    I don't recall anywhere in the saying of Yahshua (Jesus) where He said to "be a Christian".

    The term Christian was derogatory towards His followers by the early Romans and it meant 'little Christs'. Christos is a Greek word that is the equivalent of the Hebrew word 'Moshiach', or 'Messiah', which means 'the anointed one'.

    What I do recall Yahshua saying was to 'follow Him'.

    To me, this means do whatever He did and do whatever He said to do.

    May 21, 2010 at 10:21 pm |

      You are wrong about the word "christian". But I agree with the last part of your post. Thanks

      May 22, 2010 at 1:03 pm |
    • YHWH reigns

      If I am wrong about the origins of the word 'christian', than i apologize.

      May 22, 2010 at 2:30 pm |
  3. Jose Dea

    Dear Jennifer Knapp. What a beautiful article. Your courage, authenticity and love h as clearly helped to expose what Jesus said on Mat 23:27 "How terrible it will be for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs that look beautiful on the outside but inside are full of dead people's bones and every kind of impurity. What a sad thing to see how many churches domesticate their attendants to use the Bible with the opposite purpose. They try to use God's word to kill the grace and to install the law has the way to get to God. What a strong judgment they will have to use the Bible in the way they used it. What a sad thing to see how waist their time trying find tee speck that is in others eye, instead to enter to grace and get help form Jesus to remove the log that is in their own eye. What a surprise they will have when the day will come that they will meet Jesus and heard some words such as Mat 7:22 On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'
    Thanks Jennifer for choosing to be embraced by Jesus' love and grace, and have the courage not to be like whitewashed tombs bringing hope and healing to those that pharisaic people have done so much harm.

    May 21, 2010 at 9:33 pm |
    • YHWH reigns

      'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'

      What do you think lawlessness means?
      My friend, allow me to suggest what it means. It means Torah-lessness. There is only one Law that Yahshua (Jesus) followed and that is the law of Yahweh (God). There was no 'Bible' or 'New Testament' when Yahshua walked this earth, there was only the Tanak [Torah (Pentatuch / first five books commonly called the Law), Neviim (Prophets), Ketuvim (writings / contracts)]. The Tanak is referred to commonly as the Old Testament.

      Those whom He is telling to get away who are workers of 'lawlessness' are those who don't obey Yahweh's laws. I don't see how that statement can be understood any other way.

      That being said, it is of utmost importance to love the Creator Most High and to love your neighbor as yourself.. the commandments hang on these two principles like curtains hang on a wall. The first 4 commandments are directed towards Yahweh, the last 6 towards your fellow man.

      I will not begin to accuse you or anyone here in this forum, Yahweh willing, but if I were to begin to point things out that I felt went against His ways and His Laws, I would do my best to do it out of love for that person. I would do it out of concern for their spirit, their well-being, and for their life. I would do it because I only want the best for them because I love them.

      May 21, 2010 at 10:01 pm |
  4. Vietnam Vet

    Why does CNN have a moral degenerate writing about Faith. Who will you have next, a child molester or a rapist?

    May 21, 2010 at 9:31 pm |
  5. Becky

    Dang, atheist are as mean as ultra right bible thumpers. You all realize that mostly the fanatics post and that you can't judge all atheists, all Christians from news story comments, right? Reality check.

    May 21, 2010 at 7:55 pm |
  6. PJ

    Kittykat the whole point to the argument is it's not clearly stated in the bible from the original text that homosexuality – that is based on a loving relationship, believes in God, who’s marriages have been blessed – is not a sin.

    May 21, 2010 at 5:31 pm |
  7. StopCensoringgoodcomments

    If you are not for the "true" Christian view your post does not get put on.

    May 21, 2010 at 5:30 pm |
  8. Censoring

    They are censoring the post so this is not a valid discussion.

    May 21, 2010 at 5:29 pm |
  9. pj

    Tthe whole point to the argument is it's not clearly stated in the bible from the original text that homosexuality, that is based on a loving relationship, believes in God, who’s marriages have been blessed, is not a sin. The homosexual acts so many are trying to use in the bible are not the same thing it is today. Those acts were based on abuse in pagan sexual rituals and they did not believe in God. The other text, such as males lying with males are being disputed since it was actually describing something else – adultery. Please don't start with the one man one woman argument since there was polygamy, levirate marriage and the part where you were suppose to marry your rapist. But, in today’s society we know better now. It’s all about that annoying perspective and historical reference, just like we had to do with slavery. We are talking about loving homosexual couples, who are saved through Christ, believe in God and have their marriages witnessed. We are not talking about those that choose to do it in other ways and that goes for both heterosexual as well as homosexual relationships. What you have to do is take it in the full context of the entire Bible putting it into historical reference to get the true meaning of the intent of the text The Bible is stories to show the magnitude of God’s love for us and our redemption through Christ.

    May 21, 2010 at 5:28 pm |
  10. pj

    You suck for censoring

    May 21, 2010 at 5:26 pm |
  11. bbssssss

    you suck for censoring!!!!!

    May 21, 2010 at 5:25 pm |
    • jzzlkkr

      Now there's an AMEN I'll holler... I guess we have to be actual journalists (subject to interpretation, of course) to have the privilege of "free speech"?

      May 25, 2010 at 5:36 am |
  12. Kittykat


    May 21, 2010 at 4:02 pm |
  13. Kittykat

    What did Jesus say to the woman caught in adultery. John 8:11 And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more. SIN NO MORE....can't be clearer than this.

    May 21, 2010 at 4:01 pm |
    • Tracy

      To the people monitoring this forum who gave you the right to judge what comments go through and what doesn't. Especially when they are not offensive in any way.

      May 21, 2010 at 5:15 pm |
  14. Gator72

    A note to my fellow true Christians out there, hate the sin, not the "sinner".

    May 21, 2010 at 3:37 pm |
  15. Magische

    It's a shame that such hate can pervade such a loving religion, at least that's what we're supposed to be as Christians. Jesus instructed us to love one another, not to hate or to judge. Jennifer, all the best of luck to you on your journey, God bless you. To everyone else, it's fine to disagree with others' opinions, we're all different, which makes this a beautiful planet to live on, but perhaps if we were all more a little respectful when we disagree with others, it would be a better place to live. It's sad when I see other Christians trying to follow the Bible with so much detail that they miss the big picture. How, in their effort to be righteous, they miss out on the main ideas, love and respect. It saddens me to see the Bible used to monger hate and fear. In the 60's, the Bible was twisted to make segregation seem appropriate. No one would dream of using it to that end now. In Antebellum periods, it was used to justify slavery. Please, I beg all of my fellow Christians, love first. Leave the judgements to God.

    May 21, 2010 at 3:36 pm |
  16. Gator72

    Doesn't matter what the year is, God is all knowing and while "we" change, the word of God is forever. Just read it, all the answers are there and everything is falling into place as the Bible says it will.
    2 Timothy 3: 1-4
    "This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God"
    * Seriously, just look around and deny this isn't coming to past in an undeniable way.

    May 21, 2010 at 3:35 pm |
  17. ghaste

    .....can we all be friends now??? Group hug? LoLLL.

    The conservative Christians that post here are embarrassing (***and I AM conservative Christian***). Let's respect others interpretations of the Word/original text (not modern translations), even if we don't agree? Why all the hate? Just like a punch of parol officers running around bumping into each other! Have some respect! You may face an awful judgement yourself, because you are busy pointing fingers at everyone else,....for shame!

    May 21, 2010 at 3:25 pm |
  18. cubfan

    This is without doubt WRONG! Folks you need to read your bibles and when I say read I mean not add to it to JUSTIFY YOUR SINS! I am not going to sit here and type for hour on hour and argue with you though.I leave you with this scripture 2 TIMOTHY4 3-4. For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to right teaching.They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever they want to hear.They will REJECT THE TRUTH and follow strange myths.

    May 21, 2010 at 3:11 pm |
  19. Christa Schneider

    What a beautiful narrative of an inspired and difficult journey. I have been a fan of Jennifer Knapp since her first album and I am even more a fan now because she articulates so authentically the core of a soul's evolution. Keep writing, and keep playing. Keep telling us what your spiritual journey is like because it helps us put our own in perspective.

    May 21, 2010 at 2:03 pm |
  20. ChipS

    GI John wrote: "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!"

    Makes perfect sense to me! What better way to demonstrate justice and righteousness than to flood the Earth and kill everything on it? Sinful babies, sinful animals – all dying a painful death at the hands of GI John's "just and righteous God." Hope those evil babies took some time during their convulsions and death throes to reflect on their SINS they as their tiny lungs filled with water. It's too late for them (they turned their backs on the just and righteous God), but let this serve as a warning to today's newborns!!! Babies, consider yourselves warned! Repent, or die an awful death at the hands of the "just and righteous God."

    GI John, Your God is an AWESOME God!!!

    All praise the Christian God!!!

    May 21, 2010 at 12:55 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.