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. God

    This is what God says about being gay (pretty clear how evil it is):

    Leviticus 18:22 Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.

    Leviticus 20:13 If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them

    There are a lot of other versus; but you should get the point.

    May 19, 2010 at 4:56 pm |
    • Proud Gay Woman in North Carolina

      Explain your support of those verses also in Leviticus that validate slavery and violence towards women...

      May 19, 2010 at 5:25 pm |
    • Manny

      So you do you believe in the following:

      “When a woman has her regular flow of blood, the impurity of her monthly period will last seven days, and anyone who touches her will be unclean till evening.” Leviticus 15:19

      “And the swine, though he divide the hoof, and be cloven footed, yet he cheweth
      not the cud; he is unclean to you”.
      “Of their flesh shall ye not eat, and their carcass shall ye not touch,
      they are unclean to you.” Leviticus 11:7-8

      This is all in Leviticus as well. Please let me know why some items are still accepted as God's law today and others are dismissed as simply being in the Old Testament.

      May 19, 2010 at 5:26 pm |
    • Human

      True, the bible does say that. But God didn't write the bible.

      May 19, 2010 at 5:41 pm |
    • God

      Proud Gay Woman – The Bible does not validate slavery or violence towards men. You have it all wrong in your interpretation.

      Manny – Yes. Don't you know what unclean means? As for swine, God made a new covenant with man after Christ died. He declared all food clean.

      Human- Yes, man wrote the Bible. But what's unique is that it's divinely inspired by God and not a word of it is false. If any of it was false, then the whole thing should be deemed as false.

      May 19, 2010 at 6:27 pm |
  2. nice

    You have to look at it this way: her music has been permanantely influenced by the fear and insecurity that she has faced, internally and outwardly, and she is probably a better artist because of it. So for all of the people who are quick to cast stones, you are partially responsible for who she is, and you have made it an even bigger deal when she chose to go "main stream".

    May 19, 2010 at 4:55 pm |
  3. ElectObama2012

    Curious how the hateful comments from those who support this woman. I'll pray for your empty, Godless lives and pity your need to justify them. 🙂

    May 19, 2010 at 4:55 pm |
    • bluefan

      Funny...sounds like some pretty hateful, judgmental comments coming from the "we are better than thou" crowd too!

      May 19, 2010 at 5:11 pm |
  4. Ughh!!!

    PainoMan--read or study before you debunk....but then again text books are no different from the Bible...huh?

    May 19, 2010 at 4:55 pm |
  5. Oregon

    Jennifer . . . please receive the friendship and acceptance of many of us, you admire you. I'm a Christian who sees this sort of thing from a different angle. Some assertions, whether in the Bible or elsewhere, are morally reprehensible and wrong. Their role isn't to serve as expressions of truth. Instead their role is to show that people of God sometimes attribute evil and bigotted attitudes to God, in their own path from darkness to light. How else to explain the Old Testament's claims that David raped and slaughtered innocent women and children with God's approval? The point isn't that God approved it, because God surely didn't. Instead those are teachings about how malevolent people tend to use religion as cover for their own animosities. Jennifer, you've written a beautiful column, and I salute you.

    May 19, 2010 at 4:53 pm |
  6. Kristin

    I find it so sad that people will judge someone on their lifestyle no matter all the wonderful, good things they contribute to their communities, families, schools, and churches. Judge not, lest ye be judged...it's something to live by. If people spent more time trying to build each other up and encouraging the positive instead of constantly tearing each other down and being so negative, what a wonderful world we could live in. If you have a gift, use it for good, and share it with others...the haters will always be there, but it's important for the one's who listen and learn and in turn share...

    May 19, 2010 at 4:48 pm |
  7. Dayna

    Jennifer, you knew exactly the kind of hate that people would spew when you returned to the music scene and wrote this article. I know it must still sting to see the ignorance and small-mindedness of others as they attack your faith, calling you non-Christian, but I do hope you have a strong network of people to bring you back to reality. Good for you for standing up for your beliefs and sharing your heart! It DOES encourage others, rest assured! You are brave and wonderful.

    May 19, 2010 at 4:47 pm |
    • bluefan

      Amen, sister! We love you and support you, Jen!!

      May 19, 2010 at 4:50 pm |
  8. nice

    Maybe she and Melissa Ethridge should do a duet? "Come to my Tabernacle"?

    May 19, 2010 at 4:46 pm |
  9. CATOm

    I hope this little stunt helps her record sales. God knows her music won't.

    May 19, 2010 at 4:46 pm |
  10. Mortaeus

    I'm going to burn in hell and ENJOY IT just to spite all you idiot Christians! You passing the judgment of "God" unto your fellow man is the most sinful thing you can do! I wish I could play God on all of you...

    May 19, 2010 at 4:46 pm |
    • JR

      Mortaeus, you'd better read up a little about hell – it is a place where you will scream in constant pain, claw your own body with your own teeth, flames burn hot constantly, you will know NO ONE....sure you want to spend ALL of eternity in a place like that? Better do some more research – choice heaven – it will much better!

      May 19, 2010 at 7:43 pm |
    • Joe

      Exactly where is hell? Seriously, do you delusional twits still believe that if you dig down far enough underground you'll hit it?


      May 21, 2010 at 9:56 am |
  11. Simple Truth

    True that no one is without sin. BUT it is a lie to suggest that no one can call sin sin. In fact the bible talks about going to a brother or sister in Christ to confront them over a sin issue. This can be done in love and kindness and without judgment and hatred in their heart. In the end it is only going to be the Holy Spirit and not a person that will change someone's heart. That doesn't mean that we don't speak the truth to someone though. Not one person here can KNOW what Jennifer's personal relationship with Jesus Christ is. I hope Jesus is her Lord and Savior and pray for only good things in her life. However, that doesn't change the fact that homosexuality is a sin to God. Whether people want it to be or not is irrelevant.

    May 19, 2010 at 4:45 pm |
  12. God

    I want all of you "christians" to shut the hell up. You are ignorant and full of hate. You totally missed the point. Stop reading that old book that wasn't written by me anyway. Don't make me come down there.

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

      HAHAHA, well said.

      May 19, 2010 at 4:55 pm |
  13. CarefulThought

    People who say "God is dead, catch up with the rest of us so we can move forward" kill me. they're implying that you're deluded into thinking something that most people don't, and YOU'RE the odd man out.

    Truth of the matter is 80% of America believes in a supernatural God in one form or another (therefore don't agree with the elitests who think God is dead, and everything happened by chance for no reason).

    God is certainly not dead, but one day we all will be and it's worth spending a moment searching ourselves to make sure we are comfortable with what is going to happen the split second after we do die. If it's "nothing" then you're right, and all you accomplished was annoying the majority of us your whole life 🙂 If you're wrong, then you may have some trouble on your hands. I'm not saying I'm right. You may be right. I may be crazy, but I'm sure treating you more politely than you're treating those who disagree with you. And that's one of the things that you learn when you find out you're not the top of the intelligence food chain 🙂

    God bless

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

      "but I'm sure treating you more politely than you're treating those who disagree with you."

      If only you had any idea what non-believers go through on a regular basis. Many of us have to live in hiding for the very real fear of being ostracized due to our non-belief. You would be amazed how cruel the people of faith can be, but you would never know until you were on the other side.

      May 19, 2010 at 4:56 pm |
    • Alecto

      Nice restatement of Pascal's Wager and a toe step into probability theory and making a decision under uncertainty!

      The idea of "what have you got to lose" is a juvenile thought process. And if you believe that your god is omniscient, then wouldn't she see through the ruse of "I only pretended to believe in case you were real"? The philosophy is flawed because it banks on the fact that your god would want you to be dishonest, just in case.

      May 19, 2010 at 6:32 pm |
  14. Francisco

    It takes so much courage your part to just be honest and lay it all out. Thanks Jennifer Knapp.

    I would consider myself a religious person except that at some point all of the horrible things and hatred and hypocrisy spread by christian, catholic and muslim alike that I refuse to pigeon hole myself along with all of their terrible misdeeds done in the name of god by people that have no clue what the hell they are talking about.

    I'm glad that you shone through and were just honest. Maybe people can start seeing that taking things so literal is wrong and that religion and spirituality are just a code of ethics to follow so that we can be good people and not fear mongering, fascist.

    May 19, 2010 at 4:44 pm |
  15. nice

    If her music isn't very good to begin with, does being a gay Christian deflect from that fact?

    May 19, 2010 at 4:44 pm |
  16. BethyBooW

    You were one of my favorite artists back in the day, and The Collection was my most listened to CD for ages. I was extremely disappointed when I learned you wouldn't be coming out with new stuff for awhile, but I'm really glad that you're back. I can't wait to check out your latest music.

    I 'm sorry you've faced so much judgemental negativity about your orientation. It annoys me to no end when homosexuality is the sin that is put under the spotlight by so many Christians. It only takes one sin to separate us from God, no matter what it is. It's so unChristlike to stand on a soapbox and specifically point one out.

    Thank you for coming back.

    May 19, 2010 at 4:43 pm |
  17. Jack

    Being gay isn't a choice. NONE of us who are gay woke up one morning and decided, I want to be a homosexual and endure abuse from religious and backwoods nut jobs. This isn't a choice. This is a matter of being. This is who we are, this is who we are created to be. Just as I didn't wake up and decide to be gay, YOU didn't wake up and decide to be straight.

    The end!

    May 19, 2010 at 4:43 pm |
  18. suzy89

    here is my take: who cares.

    May 19, 2010 at 4:43 pm |
  19. nice

    I don't understand what any of this has to do with religion?

    May 19, 2010 at 4:41 pm |
  20. JJJ

    Alecto = my soul mate.

    The thing about being an atheist is I live by a stronger set of morals than most "christians" I know because I don't get to so "oh I am sorry. do over?" when I hurt someone or do something morally questionable. I have to look at myself everyday in the mirror and live with what I have done, so I make moral decisions very carefully.

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

      And, unlike many others, we choose to live our lives at a higher moral standard than most not out of fear of burning in Hell, but out of a true, burning desire from the heart to do good.

      Many claim that religion is necessary to keep order in the world. I don't understand how people who can believe that they would not be able to do good without fear of eternal damnation claim to have the moral high ground here.

      May 19, 2010 at 4:53 pm |
    • Jarod

      "There are those, of course, who deny that they need any form of authority. They are the popular atheists and agnostics. Such men say that they must be shown by 'reason' whatever they are to accept as true. But the great thinkers among non-Christian men have taken no such position. They know that they cannot cover the whole area of reality with their knowledge." – Cornelius Van Til

      May 20, 2010 at 7:54 am |
    • LookWhosTalking

      Like most Atheists you cite the conscience which is in fact God Given, however the rest of it is typical Write your own rules as to what is right and wrong...which has a shelf life that's about to expire.

      May 24, 2010 at 2:23 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.