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. steveip


    According to the Bible it's also ok to kill your kids. Guess you need to read it all also.

    May 19, 2010 at 5:13 pm |
  2. vh

    You are a typical non-beliver who does not know any thing about the Bible. So I would recommend you first read the Bible and then ask your questions. You must be a product of a Godless American public school system ....
    Jenifer Knaap has sinned, and being gay is detstable to God. Yes all liars and gays will burn in hell and so would you if you don't repent and accept Jesus as you personal Savior. Jenifer will have to repent of her sin as well and not to repeat it again....

    May 19, 2010 at 5:12 pm |
    • Alecto

      It's interesting that you think you can speak for your god. That you are so privileged to divine what she meant and what she would do with a soul ... her so called children .. Truly, you are blessed.

      Why don't you just take care of yourself and quit judging people more intelligent, more talented and more enlightened that you will ever be?

      May 19, 2010 at 7:10 pm |
  3. twisted.factor

    I have to quote this –
    "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. "

    I am happy I am not the only one who notices this.

    It is indeed sad, yet funny, how people take the bible out of context, and argue that there way is right and that the other way is wrong.

    Anyways –
    If a couple is happy, leave them be, for who are you to judge? How do you know what is a sin and not a sin?

    Simply put, the biggest thing Jesus taught was to "LOVE" one another.
    Its a wondrous emotion is it not?

    its something many people will not truly experience because they are all to busy trying to make everyone miserable and telling them what they are doing is wrong.

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

    Funny stuff! A couple of points:

    1) Thank you to the wack-o's for clearly identifying yourselves as ignorant wack-o's. Please keep using capital letters inappropriately (like GOD, GOd, NOT ONE, etc.") and cool Yoda phrases like "Be not deceived" and "He spake". A sure sign you are crazy, which makes it easier for me to find your comments and laugh my butt off!

    2) Jennifer, good for you! I would however suggest that you broaden your spiritual horizons, and take a break from Judeo-Christian philosophy. They (as a whole) obviously do not like you! Gays who profess to be Christian (or Jewish or Islamic) are like chickens professing to like Col. Sanders.

    Seriously, spiritual insights are not limited to the Judeo-Christian tradition. Furthermore, you don't have to be a "Christian" to read the bible and understand the real teaching of Jesus…love. Continue to love, while you ignore and feel pity on the intolerant. Their hatred will carve a hollow spot in their soul throughout which their empty proclamations of piety will echo until their lonely and trumpet-less deaths.

    Peace and Love folks!

    P.S. GOD can be mocked. In fact, I called her a ninny-poopy-farty head just yesterday. We both had a good laugh over that one.

    May 19, 2010 at 5:10 pm |
    • BMR

      I like your comment about mocking God. I honestly think that if some such being exists, it probably regards us much in the same way we regard ants in an anthill. I certainly don't think it is pathetic enough of a being to care one bit what we humans think of it.

      May 19, 2010 at 5:14 pm |
  5. Richard

    A wise astronomer pointed out to me that mirrors are more powerful than magnifiers -- in astronomy as well as the Bible. The point of God's word is to examine ourselves – not our neighbors.

    If this woman's sexual orientation is a sin – I don't think it's any greater than any other sin.

    When we gasp and gufaw and elevate one sin over another (the Bible makes it clear we all fall short of His glory) – we fool ourselves – not God almighty – and not anyone else.

    May 19, 2010 at 5:09 pm |
  6. bap_nyc

    Never heard of Jennifer Knapp, but see she is truelly gifted as a writer. What a beautiful way to articulate the spiritual journey–if that is even possible. Reading just a few of the "religious comments" just makes me want to puke. Clearly the ones who are most zealous about religion are that way because they are totally missing the point about spirtuality. It's OK though, God loves them too, and as for the rest of us–can just pitty them.

    May 19, 2010 at 5:08 pm |
  7. Tdogg

    Great advice Mark! For all you haters out there, you know the ones who rant on and on (selectively) about the Bible says this and the Bible says that – please, have your say, shake the sand out of your behind and leave the rest of us alone. Go save yourselves, thanks anyway.

    Selective Bible reading is definitely taught in church, as is people-bashing, self-rightousness, hypocrisy, hateful speech, etc. I know because I spent years and years going to church and experienced all of this firsthand. No one can tell another their relationship with god/God is or isn't real, where they supposedly will spent eternity, what the Bible means to them – because that is something personal between the believer and their God. It has nothing to do with another human. So Jennifer and others, ignore the haters here, let them go away to save someone else and live your life.

    May 19, 2010 at 5:08 pm |
    • pplr

      I think you summed it up well.

      May 19, 2010 at 8:49 pm |
  8. Rickey V

    I do what Jesus said to do, I love them. If he ever said anything about homosexuality, it was never quoted in scripture. I knew JK was gay the day we met her, that was about ten years ago. I still love her music.

    May 19, 2010 at 5:07 pm |
  9. Fuyuko

    not everyone who doesn't want to 'get married and have babies' is gay. and some gay women do want to get married and have babies- with other women. I'm glad she's found out who she is. But I'm not sure what the point of this is...

    May 19, 2010 at 5:06 pm |
  10. BMR

    Christianity is a hateful religion. I used to be a part of it back in Jennifer Knapp's days as a popular Christian musician. I'm happy to say that I am no longer a part of that religion or the hatred and judgment it teaches. I'm glad to see that Jennifer Knapp doesn't let an outdated religion diminish her as a person. She is who she is, and God, if it/he/she exists, loves her just the way she is.

    May 19, 2010 at 5:06 pm |
    • The Other Side

      ... so your okay with her being part of an outdated hateful religion ..... right? Interesting.

      May 19, 2010 at 5:08 pm |
    • BMR

      Her religious beliefs are not my business.

      May 19, 2010 at 5:11 pm |
    • pplr

      I've been in Christian churches as a volunteer in a campaign against a gay marriage ban.

      I know a member of one of the churches and she is friendly and helpful-once walked a strangers daughter home when she realized the young girl (at the time) wasn't even on her own block.

      I can agree with you that God loves her as she is. But much of Christianity is not hateful and to use a broad brush to paint it as so is not fair to Christians who are anything but-including those who have no problem with gay couples.

      May 19, 2010 at 8:35 pm |
  11. rrb333

    Christians are called to surrender. Little things (like their favorite food for a time) or the biggest things like their lives (great love has no man then to give his life.......). Not my will but God's be done is message of Christ. Our sexuality is fair game for God who called his Son to give everything. That could be for a person who gets married and by some misfortune can not have sex. That Christian is call to surrender. The single Christian is call to surrender sexuality. Both cases through no fault of their own. The person who is a homosexual must also fall under this surrender. But is not given up on or unloved, it is through not fault of their own.

    May 19, 2010 at 5:05 pm |
  12. Patrick

    As an ex-student minister, and someone who struggled with his sexuality for SEVERAL years, I promise you 'faithfully' no-one decides to live a 'gay lifestyle'. You are either gay, lesbian, transgendered, bisexual or heterosexual. It's not a case of 'oh, what sexuality do I think I'd 'like' to belong to! We're not picking out paint at Homo Depot!

    Anyone who truly opens themselves to God, or any higher power in this lifetime, is usually so consumed with their own improvement of self, and their own pursuit of inner truth, that they cannot possibly find the time to look at, and judge others.

    For myself, when I realized just how much work I had to do, I immediately dropped a good half of my judgement against others. I simply didn't have the time. Now, I spend each day trying to make one less judgement against one less person. It works! Try it!

    For some reason God challenged me in this life-time by making me gay. I certainly did not choose it. I nearly chose death rather than face it. Is that what some of you would prefer? If so, I forgive you, and I understand you. I hated myself once, so I fully understand why you would hate me. It's something you are uncomfortable with, and don't understand.

    I get it. Been there, struggled with that!

    I now believe I was made this way for a reason. It will probably never be fully clear to me until I reach my journey's end. For now, I try to love myself, respect my partner, my family, and live out God's love in my life in how I treat and try not to judge others. It's a tough lesson, and one I usually fail at once daily!

    Wonderful, brave article!

    God bless us all:)

    May 19, 2010 at 5:02 pm |
  13. Tdogg

    "I like your Christ. I do not like your christians for they are nothing like your Christ." Gandhi

    Go Jennifer – you go live your life and be yourself. If you have a relationship with god/God that is your personal relationship and not the business of anyone reading or posting here. You are wonderfully and fearfully made – just the way you are.

    To Greedy, JW and all the other naysayers posting here – I sincerely hope you do not eat shellfish, for you will surely burn in hell for eternity. According to your own beliefs. Seriously, hell? You shoose to believe in some diety that would create such a heinous place, torture people that he/she supposedly created and them toss them into it forever? What kind of sadistic being would do that? Tell me, for those of you so obsessed with hell, what would it take for you to toss your child, your spouse or other loved one into hell – what would they do to incite you to condemn them into an eternal burning pit of fire forever and ever? So quick to judge, so quick to condemn, so quick to jump on someone just for who they are – when you should be looking into your own mirror at your own imperfect relfection and figuring out how you can be more like the Christ you profess to believe in.

    May 19, 2010 at 5:01 pm |
  14. The Other Side

    Thank You Jennifer!!!!!!!

    I read your testimony a number of times and I now know I am truley free!!!!!

    The only difference is that I inserted the word 'adulterer' where you had gay. I can now proclaim from the roof tops (using your form of logic/feelings/experience) that God made me this way!

    Besides .... the bible's view of fidelity is so passee as it is with the 'unnatural relations' that men/men women/women create !

    May 19, 2010 at 5:01 pm |
    • The Other Side

      ...just in case some didn't catch it ...... I'm being sarcastic!!!!

      May 19, 2010 at 5:06 pm |
    • BMR

      Most people don't take the bible any more seriously than they take other mythological storybooks. Do you care what is written about what Thor thinks? Isis? Pan?

      May 19, 2010 at 5:10 pm |
    • bluefan

      Funny but so many of your "Men of God" obviously were made the same way. Jim Baker, Ted Haggert, Jimmy Swaggart! The list goes on and on!!

      May 19, 2010 at 5:14 pm |
    • Human

      "The Other Side," please give your head a shake. Adultury is a sin because you hurt someone. Being gay doesn't hurt anyone, but clearly it makes you uncomfortable so therefore God must hate it.

      Wow... Christianity is great, as long as you check your logic at the door.

      May 19, 2010 at 5:49 pm |
  15. Sam

    Read Romans chapter 1 to see what God thinks about "women exchanging the nature use".

    May 19, 2010 at 5:01 pm |
    • BMR

      Who cares what some figment of a few ignorant goat herders imagination in the Bronze Age thinks?

      May 19, 2010 at 5:07 pm |
    • Proud Gay Woman in North Carolina

      Read Leviticus and explain your support of slavery and violence towards women...

      May 19, 2010 at 5:24 pm |
  16. waitasec

    clearly christians have the ok to judge. religion opens the door to hate and intolerance and people that CHOOSE to be ignorant perpetuate this vile side to humanity. live and let live. forget about the bible being a book that was written by men with biases... remember women were also looked upon as property in the bible
    are the christians also going to use the bible to justify slavery? PLEASE!!!

    May 19, 2010 at 5:00 pm |
  17. Sam

    It's because of people like this false Christian who lives in sin, that God's "name is blasphemed amongst the gentiles".

    May 19, 2010 at 4:59 pm |
  18. nice

    I'm praying to god that she makes a video with Lady Gaga. That would be pretty awesome.

    May 19, 2010 at 4:59 pm |
  19. chris

    you have to be filled with the holy spirit to even make it to heaven so forget worrying about what sin your creating or doing, go find a church that u find god moving in and dont be afraid to speak in tongues! and there are definetly more gay/ lesbian people today because he told us the earth would get worse and worse, that isnt near as bad as anything we are all about to see.

    May 19, 2010 at 4:57 pm |
  20. mark

    everyone is forgetting one very important part of Jennifer and her story. Jennifer claimes she is and was even then a christian. For those gays, lesbians, bible thumpers. and pharasies that have all chimed in, don't over look that very important part, Our sister claims to know our Lord, Jesus the Christ. Let us not brothers and sisters argue amongst ourselve before unbelievers, yes gays and lesbians i am speaking to you, but rather let us pray that our sister Jennifer finds her way back to Christ. In the end, he is the only one that can save us and her. As for the rest of the haters, gays, lesbians, transgendered or any other, pray for them, but do not let there anger of confusion fustrate you into anger brothers and sister, simply tell them the truth of God and leave them to him. And never forget, after you tell them (villiage) and they do not listen, shake the dust from the sandles of your feet......................

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

      She's already found her way back to Christ. It's just the church that left her.

      May 21, 2010 at 8:33 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30
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.