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. NIK-NAK


    May 24, 2010 at 12:36 pm |
  2. Jp

    Lets start loving each other instead of judging each other. Lets start celebrating the love of God and Christ instead condemming one another. Being who we are is not an offense to God, it it was then God wont make sense since we are his creation. Jennifer Knapp, may God bless and keep you, may good light always shine on you! May God be kind to you and give you peace. Jennifer Knapp, remember always that fear is the opposite of faith!

    May 24, 2010 at 12:18 pm |
  3. Lisa

    I am gay and go to Catholic Church. The Catholics teach that being gay is not the sin but the action. They expect us to remain celibate. I don't fully agree with that. I DO think that I am expected to live morally, and if I should ever meet someone, monogamously. I don't live what most straight people think of as the "gay" lifestyle. I don't hang out in the bars, I don't sleep around... wait that sounds like what straight people do too doesn't it? Anyway, I work, go to church and like everyone hope to meet the person I spend the rest of my life with. There is nothing wrong with that. It amazes me how people interpret the Bible for other people to follow. They don't read the rest of Leviticus and discover eating shellfish is an abomination or the rest of Sodom and Gomorrah where Lot's daughters seduce him in the cave or even that the guy in Sodom offered his daughters to the mob to be raped. Jesus preaches tolerance and love. That's the Jesus I know.

    May 24, 2010 at 11:54 am |
  4. Julie - Gay Christian

    Skee – I've read the Bible and actually, Jesus never mentions gay people. Saint Paul mentions men loving boys, which is not the same thing. I would never proclaim that I will get into Heaven and it has never been because I'm gay, but because I have to pray everyday for God's forgiveness because I truly hate people like you and greedyma everyday. I just can't get past my hatred of those who choose to oppress me because God made me gay. I know I've done my fair share of sinning, as we all have. And, I know that God forgives me, as He forgives all people. But, I know my flesh is weak when it comes to my anger and hatred. So, when judgment day comes, I'll save you and her a seat next to mine in Hell. Unless, I can be the Christian I should be and stop hating you long enough to earn God's grace to be allowed in Heaven.

    May 24, 2010 at 11:45 am |
    • Joe

      I don't even believe in god. But I do believe that if by some strage chance he actually does exist, the bible thumpers who spend their lives openly condemning gays because of what it says in a 2000 year old work of fiction are going straight to hell in a hand basket. I guess they never considered that satan may have played a part in the creation of said book.

      That would be the ultimate irony. Gay haters: – "Sorry God, we thought you wrote it" God: – "Do you really think I would have written something that would make it ok to hate and judge people, seriously?"

      Sure as heck would be funny to watch them try to explain that on judgement day.

      May 24, 2010 at 2:12 pm |
  5. Pastal

    It seems to me that if major religious denominations can ordain openly gay and lesbian people, including BISHOPS, as is now being done, and it is alright for the majority of the Christian congregations who ordain them, knowing they are going to lead their flock, then why does it come as such a shock for a singer to come out openly and freely proclaim who they are.

    May 24, 2010 at 10:07 am |
  6. Suz

    If you're going to hand-pick one verse out of Leviticus addressing homosexuality, you really should be observing ALL of Leviticus – no? Have fun with your burnt offerings! Say bye-bye to bacon! Shellfish, too!

    I thought this was a beautifully written article.

    May 24, 2010 at 9:55 am |
  7. Suz

    What a beautifully-written article. My own experiences with faith and music are so intertwined, and I, too, experienced great moments of faith AND disillusionment in my own journey as a musician. I grew up Baptist – I converted and am now Jewish – but the main thing is that I never gave up on deepening my faith, faith as it fits ME. G_d made us all different, with different fingerprints – I don't think that faith is "one-size-fits-all," either. We come to G_d in ways that resonate with us individually – and some are virtuous without coming to G_d at all.

    And to all the Bible-quoters out there who are calling homosexuality an abomination... remember that next time you chow down on a piece of bacon (Leviticus 11:7); or when you give birth (Leviticus 12); and don't forget that you can't drive a car or go to work on Saturday or Sunday, depending when your Sabbath is (Leviticus 19:30)... get my point? If you're going to decide to observe one antiquated verse in Leviticus (re: homosexuality – Lev. 18:22), then you should observe them all. Have fun with your burnt offerings!

    P.S. Christ accepted everybody. Shame many CHRISTians can't.

    May 24, 2010 at 9:16 am |
  8. vandy

    Why do I need to know if someone is gay? An adulterer? A thief? A murderer? Other than to be convicted from within and desire change, no one needs to acknowledge any sin to any man! The Bible is clear that God loves mankind! He hates sin! To hate sin (not sinners) and to turn from sin glorifies God. Any attempt to justify (born that way?) sin suggest lack of knowledge (ignorance) of Gods intent. We are all sinners. Only God, through the Holy Spirit, can convict and clense us internally. Those blessed with the knowledge are not obligated to accept the sin as OK! Nor is it our place to condemn! We are to stand firm against sin within ourselves an live our life as an example. God hates divorce! Most divorces are the result of unfaithfulness. Mankind should stand as firmly against adultry as they do gay lifestyles. Read the Bible to learn Gods ways. Not to justify, excuse, or overlook bad behavior. There are consequences to all of our choices. Good and bad. Jesus died living and teaching nothing but good! Those wishing to live sinful lives without boundaries killed him.

    May 24, 2010 at 8:36 am |
  9. Sydney Australia

    You don't need to worry about gay people. They will all die off. Gay people don't BREED, Its called attrition. Course the gay people are busy trying to convince everyone that it is cool to be a gay..........

    May 24, 2010 at 1:07 am |
  10. MrpoliceMan

    Career is Over!

    May 24, 2010 at 12:55 am |
  11. RexRegalis

    What really irks me about so-called arguements regarding 'gay is a choice' is this; If this is a nation based on Freedom of Choice, regarding everything from Faith to hot dog brands, then even if being gay was a choice (any fool knows it's not) has the RIGHT to choose to be gay. You're so up in arms about being gay, but you'd (hopefully) allow that a person has the right to practice their faith according to their own conscious? How does who someone else love affect you in ANY way...even if you think its repulsive, it does nothing TO you, it acts in no way towards your own detriment, so what right do you have in telling ANYONE on this entire planet who or who not they should love? I assure you, your biased, theocratic mindset & opinion are a hindrance in the social evolution of humanity. Your religions will slowly die, your innate ignorance will fall away & enlightenment, so long in developing, will defeat those of you still clinging to your Dark Age beliefs. You are the anti-thesis to what this Secular Nation was founded to represent. Choice or not, in the end it is absolutely none of your business.

    May 23, 2010 at 8:13 pm |
    • Jake

      It is SOOOO my (and many others) business when "some" people want to so "PROUDLY" come out. REALLY!!!!!!!!!! Stop forcing your crap down our throats. I humbly respect your lifestyle, but respect the fact that not everyone accepts that, and that not everyone agrees with your "lifestyle." Here I go ... getting the snappy gay community "jumping." I served 23 years on active duty military so not only can you thank than me for my service (and defending your right to be live however you want to live.... you're welcome). For all others... SUCK IT – this is America which I defended...

      May 23, 2010 at 10:23 pm |
    • YHWH reigns

      Although I love this great nation and I'm proud to be a citizen..

      there is no democracy that can be a nation of Yahweh's... His ways are not up for discussion. If a nation can vote to make something legal which He has forbid, then that nations is not serving Him, and in the end will probably lose His protection and topple like the empires before it did.

      May 24, 2010 at 4:18 pm |
  12. tom

    where does it say anything in any book of religion that was written god only by man that being gay straight bi lesbian is wrong man wrote all these books not god not any being only poeple interpet what they hate not god but they use his name to hate
    us gods laws ignorant poeple god loves everyone people choose to hate not god he created us gay straight lebian bi black white brown any race only people hate

    May 23, 2010 at 7:56 pm |
  13. Christian Music Fan

    My message to Jennifer Knapp – Don't be a hypocrite. Lesbianism and Christianity do not mix. They contradict each other. Get out of Christian music. Go play your worldly music. We won't buy your albums. We don't want you to sing about God and proudly profess to live in defiance of God's laws.

    May 23, 2010 at 7:18 pm |
  14. april

    One does not suddenly "realize" they are gay. They choose to be gay. Every person I have ever known who has chosen to be gay did it for selfish reasons. Every last one of them has some emotional problem they are trying to ease by engaging in physical "love" with someone of the same gender. I do not see anything at all positive about gay choices. The same can be said of all selfish s x u a l behavior. The difference between selfish straight people and gay people is that gay people make this selfishness their lifestyle. I can't support someone who makes this choice. It's wrong.

    May 23, 2010 at 6:50 pm |
    • Proud Gay Woman in North Carolina

      April: when did you "choose' to be straight. how long did you consider being gay before you "chose' to be staright? Are you afraid to answer. Every person I have asked this question on this board has not answered...INTERESTING

      May 23, 2010 at 6:57 pm |
    • Christian Music Fan

      You are so right April. People make their own choices in most things in life. When they suffer the consequences of their wrong choice, they start blaming all except themselves. They blame their parents, the church, their spouses, the Government and some even blame God. All except themselves. This is the 'i-do-no-wrong' generation.

      May 23, 2010 at 7:01 pm |
    • RexRegalis

      You're either a liar or perhaps a socially backward person with an incredible lack of logic & basic human compassion. You 'know' people who became gay for 'selfish reasons'. I doubt you 'know' anyone like that & I doubt even more that you are anything but a hateful, biggoted, vile, & the worst example of what human beings are capable of. If there was any kind of religious revolution in this nation, you'd be one those people wheelbarrowing gays, atheists, & anyone else you, (with your Divine sense of judgement apparently disposed upon from God Himself) into Ovens, & Gas Chambers, dancing around singing to their screams of agony. That is all I can think of when I hear words from people like you. Barely concealed anger that if not restrained would rain down murder & death upon the billions who don't believe exactly the way you do.

      May 23, 2010 at 9:00 pm |
    • YHWH reigns

      I'm not sure how you got from their words above this far-stretched imaginary detail of them finding joy in killing others or burning them or gassing them...

      This is obviously a passionate subject, so you might find people over reacting, that doesn't mean we should label them with such negative words or tell others they desire to kill off others.

      There is a point there though. One that we must face. When children are deprived of things growing up, it hampers their development. When a child is forced to grow up without a parent, it has an effect on them. When a child is molested, it does serious damage. Most adults have something that has happened to them that impact the person they become. These things are very difficult to deal with and they are very unfair, especially since the majority of these difficulties happened when they were innocent and didn't deserve it.

      We all want to be loved, accepted, cared for, and to fit in.. deep down. This world can be very harsh and people can be horrible to each other. In the end, we have got to try to overturn the damage that we have faced from the past with love for each other. Our Father Yahweh loves everyone and wants to remove that pain that we have all dealt with.. but He is also a gentleman who won't take it without our consent.

      May 24, 2010 at 4:13 pm |
  15. Christian Music Fan

    i won't buy her albums anymore because she publicly displays gay lifestyle contradicts the Scriptures. So bite me!

    May 23, 2010 at 6:49 pm |
    • Proud Gay Woman in North Carolina


      May 23, 2010 at 7:00 pm |
    • Christian Music Fan

      The bible says have nothing to do with evil doers especially unrepentant ones.

      May 23, 2010 at 7:05 pm |
    • Christian Music Fan

      My belief, my choice and most of all – MY MONEY . SO BITE ME !

      May 23, 2010 at 7:10 pm |
    • nOT Trash

      So she should hide it and become guilt ridden and kill herself. good plan goof

      May 30, 2010 at 3:41 pm |
  16. april

    Again, why are there so many atheists posting on a religion forum? Go post on your own forum and leave us alone. weirdos!

    May 23, 2010 at 6:44 pm |
    • nOT Trash

      So you want to put us in concentration camps and kill us slowly. how christian of you.

      May 30, 2010 at 3:44 pm |
  17. Jerri

    I read the article and realize this young lady did not say she is a christian. That's what makes the different. The Bible says you have to know God before you can obey him. One thing is for certain, God does not want us to sleep with someone of the same sex. He clearly says that in the first book of Romans. For a christian, we seek to do what God says to do. If not, then how can we be christians. We are never suppose to tell someone sin is ok, because it is not. In addition, we should not be having sex with anyone if we are not married. Our bodies is for the Lord and to do his will. I have read and hear alot of things about what God wants, what he wants are for his children to obey his Word. His word is the Bible. It is just that simple. We can't assume because we feel a certain way, it is ok. our natural minds can not fully undrstand Gods ways, we are sinful by nature. So, we have to study God's Word and live our lives accordingly. This is for the believers in here. We know our bodies are the temple, this where God lives that is why we can't practice sin any longer. Just saying!!

    May 23, 2010 at 5:44 pm |
    • nOT Trash

      i fear you and your god

      May 30, 2010 at 3:44 pm |
  18. Erin

    WWJD? He said so Himself, He'd love sinners. That's if you believe that Jesus said everything he did. Theology, literally translated, is the INTERPRETATION of scripture. "Go out and sin no more" seems to be taken very literally. Maybe, His point was that He didn't want us to wear our souls threadbare beating ourselves up because we're sinners? Maybe, His point was that we're ALL sinners? Maybe, just maybe, He really DID make people different for a reason, and that's so they could learn how to truly LOVE ONE ANOTHER, rather than be filled with judgment and bigotry.

    May 23, 2010 at 3:58 pm |
    • YHWH reigns

      I agree with you but must also pose this question..

      Is a parent full of hatred and bigotry when they tell their children to be good and not to do bad?

      There shouldn't be the labels of hatred and bigotry if someone tells someone (better yet, ENCOURAGES someone) to not sin, to give up certain sins, or to stop hurting themselves and/or others with their sin.

      Most things can be done with good or bad intentions, good or bad underlying reasons, good or bad purpose.

      May 24, 2010 at 3:54 pm |
  19. Rebekah Bennett

    Jennifer Knapp, your music has inspired me thru lifes good and bad times. I have cried to your music and I have danced to your music! Thank you for your honesty and truth! And I as a human who knows that God loves her and serves God with my whole person....I support you a fellow human, whom God loves and adores and who uses on a daily basis to minister to others!

    May 23, 2010 at 2:21 pm |
  20. Hairygoateeguy

    Mathew, Mark, Luke and John, saddle the cat and I'll get on!

    May 23, 2010 at 1:53 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.