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. Ughh!!!

    OMFG!!!! That's Oh My F*$#ing God...if any one was wondering.. Seriously waiting for some truth. Hey hypochristians did you know that many culturals around the world view/ed "gays" as the third spirit? And that they held great honors with their communities...Like the Native Americans or that in India they are considered saints. Soon you will be out number by knowledge and truth. Girl keep singing your heart out and run em' over with fearlessness!!!

    May 19, 2010 at 4:38 pm |
    • PainoMan

      >did you know that many culturals around the world view/ed "gays" as the third spirit? And that they held great honors with their communities...Like the Native Americans or that in India they are considered saints.

      Not that I'm defending religeon, but I've gotta call shinnanigans on those statements.

      May 19, 2010 at 4:44 pm |
    • Alecto

      Actually, Ughh!! is correct. Do a little research and see for yourself. There are culture that see gay people as on the next spiritual level ... above the traditional and closer to the spirit. And yet in our so called "civilized" world, gay people are treated like less than citizens and denied basic rights. Why? Religion mostly. Ain't it grand?!

      May 19, 2010 at 6:42 pm |
  2. nice

    Miss Knapp is quite attractive... is her music any good?

    May 19, 2010 at 4:36 pm |
  3. DJLR

    In the bible there are many things we should do or not do, and we pick and choose. In the same chapter of Leviticus that says homosexuality is an abomination it also claims that eating shrimp is an abomination. In addition to shrimp, wearing clothes of two different fibers is an abomination, yet churches are full of poly-cotton blends. In Exodus it is ok to sell your daughters. Lets stop using the bible to hate, and use it to teach us to be more like Christ, loving all of God's children.

    May 19, 2010 at 4:35 pm |
  4. alpo

    I always loved your music. You are amazing just the way God made you. Bless you!

    May 19, 2010 at 4:35 pm |
    • crib

      God didn't make her that way your way off the mark. She made a choice and that's to live a sinful lifestyle.

      May 19, 2010 at 5:07 pm |
  5. PainoMan

    Simply by posting here you've thrown your stone.

    Oh wait... damn!

    May 19, 2010 at 4:35 pm |
  6. ha27

    I beleive that nature teaches us what God's true intentions are. in his nature he created with such diversety that allowed for all things to exist in the own right. Yet we believe what others want to interpert that right to be.........He made for me and for him, he blessed me with the fullfilllment of being whole within my self and no one can tell me how he is going to judge me in death.......when he has made me perfect in life and given me a consiousness of his love.
    Live that turth and you fear not what the words of others may mean to you........I read the bible – i interpert God's words with great care......but i do understand that Men and women, whom interpert there own version... exist like me!
    So let me not judge your conversation with God .........but i ask you not to refferance your convinent selction of words to fit my existance........for is that not one of his first requests?

    May 19, 2010 at 4:34 pm |
  7. EH....

    religon is so twisted now these days.........

    let people live their lives and don't judge

    May 19, 2010 at 4:27 pm |
  8. Johnna

    I actually attended a children’s camp where Jennifer was our camp musician. I think I still have her "tape" so that tells you how long ago that was. All I remember about her was that she seemed lost. Not quite sure where she belonged. I honestly felt like Christian music wasn't what she wanted to be performing, but somehow got caught up in it. Now that she is coming out maybe all that makes more sense. I agree with some of the posters and some I do not agree with. I just know that she is a person and I won't be the first to throw stones. Whether I agree with her or not I still see her as a person first, as everyone should.

    May 19, 2010 at 4:26 pm |
    • JJJ

      You gleaned all of that from a children's music camp performance? Are you serious?

      May 19, 2010 at 4:41 pm |
  9. kate

    Jennifer- As a Catholic lesbian I know it can be hard. But you are who you are because God made you that way! Keep singing and keep loving. I'm proud of you for having the courage to come out. Hopefully you've changed some people's minds with your songs and your love. Don't let the haters bring you down.

    May 19, 2010 at 4:25 pm |
    • Paul

      what do you think about Romans 1:18-32

      May 19, 2010 at 4:26 pm |
    • crib

      I see this theme a lot here "God made her this way" I'll repeat this for the sake of all the folks here that keep saying this. Read Genesis. God created man not sin so to say God created gays is impossible because God can't create sin. God created man then man fell and sin enetered in. We have a choice to sin or not. being gay is a sin..

      May 19, 2010 at 5:14 pm |
  10. gretchen

    Jennifer's article was very well written, and does indeed show, if by hints, of the vast differences between the 'church' (christians) and the Lord that they claim to know, and follow. Jesus did not judge, criticize, or cast to hell those in sin (who admitted it) but instead showed them The Way, The Life, and The Truth – Himself (according to the Bible). Jesus Himself did not come to judge (cast to hell) but to save, give life, offer forgiveness. Oh that those who claim to know Jesus would offer that same compassion and kindness to others, that they themselves claim to have received. Let him/her without sin cast the first stone of judgment, Jesus said...and Jesus Himself did NOT judge either. If one claims to know and follow Jesus, show it...by compassion and kindness for the others on this planet searching for Truth.

    May 19, 2010 at 4:24 pm |
    • gretchen

      fr greedyma:

      >...i have nothing against this lady i just hope she finds the correct way to choose her life with what God wants for all of us. ...<

      Yes, you DO have a LOT against Jennifer, with your anti-gay rants.

      Nobody "chooses" to be glbt or straight. You are BORN gay or straight.

      May 19, 2010 at 7:33 pm |
  11. Wraith

    The one thing I've never understood about Christians (I do apologize to the more moderate of your faith... The most vocal seem to be the most unhinged)... So quick to cast judgement, but yet your god says he is the only one to judge. So, does your god demand you, "love thy neighbor," or, "hate everyone that isn't you?"

    Judeo-Christian faiths confuse me immensely.

    May 19, 2010 at 4:24 pm |
  12. markd

    It takes a of courage to come out and to deal with all of the closed minded people out there. Many quote god but forget that god is also a understanding and forgiving being.
    Those judging need to look at themselves and most of the time you will find they are looking for others to point the finger at because their own issues are greater

    May 19, 2010 at 4:23 pm |
  13. Paul

    Romans 1:18-32 is very clear

    May 19, 2010 at 4:22 pm |
    • Michael

      Who cares? Get a clue that the Bible was written by humans many many centuries ago who were writing in the context of their time. It needs to be interpreted in that context. It is not "set in stone" as you would claim.

      May 19, 2010 at 4:43 pm |
    • Mark Young

      No it's not. Have you not noticed that the list includes wickedness, evil, greed, depravity, envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice, gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant, boastful, disobedient to parents, senseless, faithless, heartless and ruthless. Which one are you? Need some help? Try on arrogant and heartless, you pharisee.

      May 19, 2010 at 4:45 pm |
    • crib

      Crystal clear! There is no interpretation here its very straight forward.

      May 19, 2010 at 5:17 pm |
  14. Rip

    religion is personal. We should not judge people by their religion views. That is All.

    May 19, 2010 at 4:22 pm |
    • Peet

      You said it Dude!

      May 20, 2010 at 10:10 am |
  15. JD

    damn she's hot..she 'shouldnt be gay lol

    May 19, 2010 at 4:21 pm |
    • jane mccarty

      i love ur wit

      May 19, 2010 at 10:42 pm |
  16. Fred

    Did she take any pictures? She's smokin' hot ... I'd love to see her in a little girl on girl action!

    May 19, 2010 at 4:21 pm |
    • bluefan

      LOL. I'm sure if it exists, there are several Evangelical ministers out there, who preach family values, that have it downloaded on their computers!! Hypocrites!!

      May 19, 2010 at 4:48 pm |
  17. Truth

    CB Psalm 14:1 says, "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God..."

    May 19, 2010 at 4:19 pm |
    • Jeanine

      "The fool hath said in his heart, there is no Flying Spaghetti Monster"

      That was fun!

      May 19, 2010 at 4:48 pm |
    • thebigatheist

      Matthew 5:22"...but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire."

      Same bible....
      Oh BTW while were at it, should we believe in the magical cratures the bible mentions? Dragons..(Isaiah 34:13, Psalms 91:13) or what about unicorns (Job 39:9-10, Numbers 23:22,Psalms 92:10; in these verse they are presented as real)? Selective observation at it's finest! Or maybe we should take he the proper handling of slaves per the SAME bible. civilization now believe slavery is wrong. Are we wrong or is the bible wrong?

      May 19, 2010 at 8:35 pm |
  18. Ken

    Jen. You are so loved. Loved completely and unconditionally. Welcome back, we've missed you.

    May 19, 2010 at 4:19 pm |
  19. unbelievable

    May God grant you repentence from the passion of lust. God came down and became man in order to deliver us from sins which we are held captive to through the passions. Our focus is, through struggle, to ask for God's help in delivering us from the passions which bind us to sin, bodily corruption and death.

    Read the theology which hasn't changed from the time of Christ, as handed down to the apostles and the saints – Orthodox Theology.

    May God forgive you. But you must remember the other side of the equation which is repentence.

    God Bless

    May 19, 2010 at 4:19 pm |
  20. Truth

    Luke 24:6 He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee,7 Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.8 And they remembered his words,

    May 19, 2010 at 4:13 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.