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. Jae

    Honestly, I just don't much care for lesbians. As a straight guy who was prettty open minded 20 years ago, I've seen the man-hating thing way too much. So, I'm not supportive of the lesbian lifestyle or the choice this particular lesbian made to work in Christian music. It seems like a dumb strategy to me. Plus, there is this huge parade of lesbians – this lady, the country lady, the Glee lady, the Family Ties lady, Lindsay Lohan, Anna Paquin, Wanda Sykes, Lady Gaga, and of course, the old ones. I'm not feeling it.

    May 23, 2010 at 12:29 pm |
  2. dow

    Seeing some of these comments, I can see the reason why this country has strayed so far from the word of God. Our founding Fathers were men of God; read the declaration of independence and you will see. It is sad to know that so many Americans are not going to make it into heaven. It is because of us Christians that God's judgment has not fallen on this country yet...but it is coming. How long do you think the Lord will tolerate evil?

    May 23, 2010 at 12:09 pm |
    • Trey

      "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
      So give the lady her liberty and her life and her unalienable right to pursue her happiness. - And keep in mind the Founding Father who wrote this was carrying on an affair with his slave (Thomas Jefferson). So before you go casting stones, think about that in glass house we all live in. Land of free and home of brave not land of narrow minded and controlling.

      May 23, 2010 at 12:32 pm |
  3. Dave Gill

    God was never alive. Men made god to be able to control masses. AND masses are still fooled by talk of HIM. Now they want HER to represent HIM, equality indeed.
    If we all could love each other more than the SELFISH god the world wud be a better place to be in. god does not need love we do.

    May 23, 2010 at 10:38 am |

    There is no God so you have noithing to fear from your lifestyle

    May 23, 2010 at 10:03 am |
  5. rdc1622

    she's hot.

    May 23, 2010 at 4:26 am |
  6. jvPhdandChristian

    For those haven't watched Jennifer's interview on LKL I highly recommend it. It might not change your mind, but hopefully you will come out respecting this beautiful woman that God created.

    By the way she was by far the most intelligent and articulate person being interview.

    May 22, 2010 at 9:42 pm |
  7. jvPhdandChristian

    I just watched Jennifer's interview (had not seen it before) on LKL. Whatever one's belief on homosexuality I was so impressed with her honesty and compassion. What a loving spirit she has.

    BTW she was by far the most articulate and intelligent of anyone on that interview. For those that want to sit in judgement of her I highly recommend you watch the interview. It might not change your mind, but hopefully you will come out at least respecting this beautiful woman.

    May 22, 2010 at 9:37 pm |
  8. Nicky Ceucescu

    I found out that secretly I wanted to be a dictator for life. This has been hidden in me for ages. What should I do?

    May 22, 2010 at 8:09 pm |
  9. mcBlueFire

    Sam – look outside (by using the amazing things called eyes) There is your proof

    May 22, 2010 at 8:06 pm |
  10. sam borstadt

    k, for all the greedymas on here, i have but one request: prove it.

    May 22, 2010 at 5:54 pm |

    The more of these comments I've read the more I realized, there is no point in making a point here. Most of you who quote scripture are wrong about what you quoted and most of the anti-God comments are coming from mouths that are speaking without the benefit of a fully functional brain. " No evidence that religion is real" ????? What ?!? And to those who think they speak for God. God already has spoken. I hope you all find your way.

    May 22, 2010 at 12:59 pm |
    • ChipS

      So everybody's wrong except you. Ever wonder why you have no friends? You and only you know the truth. Gosh – except for the loneliness – must be wonderful to be you.

      May 22, 2010 at 1:36 pm |
    • Michael Wong

      I like the way you dismiss the accusation that religion lacks objective evidence by simply insulting the people who say it.

      Hint: the proper way to refute such an accusation is to list some of this evidence you claim exists. Of course, you won't be able to do that. Every time Christians claim they have evidence for their beliefs, it's really just evidence that mankind does not understand everything in the universe. That is NOT evidence of the Bible's veracity.

      May 22, 2010 at 2:09 pm |

    Quite frankly I'm sick of people judging Christains. Who do you think you are??? Those who don't believe or those who hate God, think it's OK for them to tell Christians to shut up but feel they have all the right to spout off what they believe and feel is right. You say Christians are a bunch of hypercrits but you need only look in the mirror to see one.

    May 22, 2010 at 11:41 am |
    • ChipS

      Christians love to dish it out, but can't take it in return. Keep your wacky religious ideas in the closet where they belong, and no one will judge you. Remember – judge not, lest ye be judged. I have no problem with religion – just don't rub it in my face.

      May 22, 2010 at 12:56 pm |
    • Michael Wong

      Yes, you can really see how obnoxious this behaviour is when you finally get some of it in return, can't you? Too bad you won't stop doing it yourself. What was the last time you heard a Christian speaking respectfully of Scientology, for example? It's OK to mock and insult other beliefs; just don't do it to yours, right?

      May 22, 2010 at 2:10 pm |
  13. Ruben

    CNN should not be censoring the posts that people take time to write here by not posting them along with the others if they do not contain offensive language. It should be All Inclusive if we are to have a truly fruitful discussion. Selective discrimination of posts should not be allowed from a reporting facility like this. That is why the Equal Protection Law is so sorely needed in America today! Call your Congressman and Senators to Enact It Now!

    May 22, 2010 at 11:23 am |
  14. Colossus

    For those who are saying "Hate the sin, not the sinner", know that there is no reference in the Holy Bible to this saying. It is not Scriptural nor any references with those words is to be found anywhere. With the belief that the Holy Bible is the inspired word of God, if this saying is not in the Bible then it cannot be the inspired word of God, but rather of man. What it, in effect, does is to marginalize a class of people who are also equally created by God. Sin is no respecter of which group of people commits it. Be they gay or straight. Promiscuity is what is sinful, not the people who were born of an orientation others may not approve of. God makes no mistakes and that orientation, so many learned people believe, is not a choice but inherent and innate at birth.

    May 22, 2010 at 11:13 am |
  15. Deb S

    Hi Jennifer. Thank you for sharing your story & exposing your vulnerabilities once again. at first, only Jews were chosen, and gentiles were thought to be doomed. How many of your detractors are Gentiles? When Christ came, he taught that even the gentiles could be equal & loved. this was one reason he was reviled. Just as believers did not understand then, I think we have seen the same through the years; most clearly in the mainstream rejection of people of other cultures, races ( other than caucasion, including Jewish!),people with drug & alcohol problems and gays. I believe gays, like people of color are made in the image of God, & that God does not create trash! Being gay is not a sin, & perhaps Christians need to open their eyes, rather than follow man's tradition likie the Pharisees did. We are told adultery is a sin, but we don't condemn abused spouses who re-marry. Biblical references to homosexual behavior seems focused on groups that raped other men, but were not gay. Clearly different from a loving gay relationship. Christ never mentions gay/lesbians in the New Testament, but we repeatedly read of Him loving people that others condemned, and teaching that all are sinners. Christians re-examine your hearts & the love of Christ before choosing to judge through human eyes & make the same mistakes made in the days of Christ. God bless you, Jennifer, as you continue to walk & learn from Him

    May 22, 2010 at 10:41 am |
  16. norm

    Terrible waste of a nice body. Being Gay is a choice-a choice between sharing your life with a family and being too greedy and self-absorbed to do so. In the end, you end up alone with nobody to remember you or care if you lived. Your Gay lover just moves on to another pervert, plastic doll, or sheep, whatever is available. Sad.

    May 22, 2010 at 8:49 am |
    • Joe

      Wow, I think you just won an olympic gold medal in ignorant

      May 24, 2010 at 2:20 pm |
  17. bill

    Ironically it was the gay issue that finally allowed me to break free from Christianity. Having been gay for as long as I can remember (no, I did not choose to be), I never could square a God who made me that way with a God that would then turn around and condemn me for it. That's one sick sob. I no longer need a religion that can't make sense of that simple fact. And I find I've never been happier, no longer playing the guilt game for something I don't feel guilty about. And no longer needing religion to get me through my day or protect me somehow from the world around me. I will admit I really miss the old hymns and singing, which was my favorite part of church all along.
    So don't quote your scripture at me. I long since gave that up in favor of living my life truthfully as who I am. Yes indeed, the truth will set you free.

    May 22, 2010 at 6:02 am |
  18. SonOfSteel

    When the so called 'established' religions are exposed as false, it is time to seek your own path to god. No one needs churches, bibles, priests or divine MYTHS to explore their own spirituality and discover what god would have you know.
    Seek love and give love ...then avoid those who see you as some imperfection that THEY must correct by invoking their exceedingly narrow and primitive grasp of religion.

    May 22, 2010 at 2:22 am |
  19. Yetunde

    Stop bashing Christianity
    Turn off your computers and read the Bible for yourself, start with the Gospel of John
    Stop persecuting Christians
    Stop blaspheming God

    May 21, 2010 at 11:46 pm |
  20. Yetunde

    Don't listen to the lies about Christiantiy on this post

    May 21, 2010 at 11:35 pm |
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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.