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. Dirk

    He (FSM) loves you all gay, straight, Christian, atheist (i.e. thinkers), Mormon, and even dare I say Scientologist.


    May 19, 2010 at 5:28 pm |
  2. Dirk

    May you all be touched by his noodly appendage-Ramen!

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

      Ramen and Ramen, my brother!

      May 19, 2010 at 5:28 pm |
  3. francisco

    We are saved by grace. Grace teaches us to turn away from ungodliness, For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age. PERIOD

    May 19, 2010 at 5:24 pm |
    • BMR

      And I'm sure you are godly, unworldly, self-controlled, and upright. Please! You're just as screwed up as the next person.

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

      I dated a girl named Grace. God I miss her.


      May 19, 2010 at 5:36 pm |
  4. robli143

    Jennifer – rock on!

    Hate is not a family value. Noone would choose to be subject to so much bigotry if they could simply choose otherwise. If people really want to defend marriage they should make divorce illegal and cheating a crime; not just simply try to keep gay people from being allowed the same rights.

    May 19, 2010 at 5:24 pm |

    We heard this the first time CNN lets move on nobody cares wht this chick is....

    May 19, 2010 at 5:22 pm |
  6. Brandon

    Reading the Gospels, it intrigued me how many times Jesus pointed out that those who thought they were OK with God were often the ones who were, in fact, not. Those who were stumbling through life with an earnest openness to learning, growth, change, and grace were the ones who met and recognized God in Christ. I think the account of the woman caught in adultery in John 7:53-8:11 makes this point beautifully.

    Live. Let live. Pray. Believe. Serve. Share. Let God be God. If the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ isn't sufficient, we are all damned anyway.

    May 19, 2010 at 5:22 pm |
    • BMR

      "Let God be God" – no religion ever has.

      May 19, 2010 at 5:25 pm |
  7. mnpacker

    A relationship with Jesus doesn't mean you don't sin anymore, but that your agreed with him about sin. He covers your sin that condemns you to hell, but your spiritual relationship with Him is hindered if you practice sin. To restore that relationship with Him you have to confess your sin to Him and ask Him for strength to mature as a believer. Your position in Christ ( going to heaven) isn't lost, just your relationship with him. We all sin daily known and unknown. It is the practicing of sin that puts guilt between us and Jesus. Confession and asking Him for strength builds the dependence on Christ. This strengthens your relationship. Read his Word, trust him to mature you to be more like him. The thing is we are all at different states of maturity, but sin is still sin. Don't rationalize are sin away, but confront it with his strength

    May 19, 2010 at 5:22 pm |
  8. francisco

    Jesus: My sheep know my voice and they follow Me. Here is the bottom line: Homosexuality is sin. We are not born homosexuals. We are born sinners and with a propensity to sin.

    May 19, 2010 at 5:21 pm |
  9. monkey

    dear BMR
    you say Christianity is a religion of hate:P look at islam. and what the thing with Jennifer Knapp goes, she knows in her heart that what she is doing is wrong. And she knows what God thinks about sodomites. God is faithful and Just.

    May 19, 2010 at 5:20 pm |
    • BMR

      Christianity is indeed a religion of hate. I didn't say it was the only religion of hate. Your god is a product of ancient mythology. No more real than Thor or Zeus.

      May 19, 2010 at 5:22 pm |
    • bluefan

      God is GREAT! It's religion that is BAD!!

      May 19, 2010 at 5:57 pm |
  10. Jim, The Wiccan

    I love how the "devout" Christians tear this woman apart for being gay. Was it not your Jesus Christ that said "Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke [reason with] thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him. Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the Lord. - Leviticus 19: 17-18 (KJV)

    I was raised to be a Christian, but have since walked away from Christianity, because Christians have forgotten how to care for their fellow man. In the words of Mahatma Gandhi : "I love your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."

    May 19, 2010 at 5:20 pm |
    • Sylvia

      Why walk away? why not be the example instead? Is that not how change starts, even if its only one? You never know the lives you could and still can change because you see the wrong, yet you choose not to do the right?

      May 19, 2010 at 8:21 pm |
    • JR

      Jim- there is no such thing as "walking away" from being a christian – you were most likely never truly saved in the first place – God disciplines his children and would not allow a true christian to walk away from their faith – you'd better double check where you will be spending all of eternity

      May 20, 2010 at 3:47 pm |
  11. ThomasPaine

    Why are there so many people worrying about gay people when there are so many more people EATING SHELLFISH! The Bible says it is wrong! We need to help all of these shrimp and lobster eaters learn the wickedness of their ways!

    May 19, 2010 at 5:19 pm |
  12. Observation

    It is clear just from the responses what a spectrum of beliefs are present. I don't wish to condem anyone's posting here. I would like to state, as an observation, how well the article was written. If Jennifer Knapp is as talented at writing songs as she is at writing essays...... I look forward to hearing her creations.

    May 19, 2010 at 5:18 pm |
  13. francisco

    there is no such thing as a lesbian christian. Jesus must be Lord and Savior, not just savior. The Lord knows those who are His and let everyone who names the name of the Lord turn away from wickedness. It's that simple. And yes we are required to judge those IN THE CHURCH.

    May 19, 2010 at 5:18 pm |
    • Proud Gay Woman in North Carolina

      sure there is; Lesbian Christian right here(raising hand) And if you're going to judge, explain why you're not judging those verses in the bible that support slavery; or is it because that is now illegal???

      May 19, 2010 at 5:22 pm |
    • bluefan

      I know lots of gay Christians and they exemplify God's teachings in a much better way than many of you do!!!

      May 19, 2010 at 5:55 pm |
  14. Dan

    I don't completely understand why people get on to a bandwagon about slamming Christians. That is certainly not what Jeniffer Knapp did in writing this article, and I don't think it was her purpose that it become a sounding board for hate from the other side toward Christians either. As a Christian, I will be the first to admit that Christians do not have it all 100% right all of the time. I fail all the time. But I don't look forward to when people who disagree with my beliefs fail just so I can tell them how their "holier than thou" attitude came back to bite them where it counts. Those of you who agree with Jeniffer, good for you. God does love each of you, no matter what decisions you have made. We are all individual creations and if God can love us in our imperfections, we should all be able to do the same.

    My God is a God of love, and it is His desire that all would come to follow and understand Him. He sent His Son as a living sacrifice, so that we can avoid the eternal penalty for our sins. If we would all come to understand Jesus Christ, and His complete teachings, not just what makes us feel good about ourselves, the world would be a much better place (sorry, couldn't avoid cliche on that one.)

    May 19, 2010 at 5:18 pm |
  15. nomatterwat

    I appreciate your sincerity. And I believe theres nothing wrong with being gay. As a matter of fact its good to encourage people to feel free to express who they are and be celebrated. I have a friend that for the longest time he doesn't wanna bring his emotions out only when u kno his had a couple of drinks and stuff. What hurst the most is that he loves my boyfriends and does tend to get in the way of all and nearly broke my relationship but I kno he does it out of frustration. I'd like for him to come out and be honest w everybody and that way I'll stop feeling harrased or like I'm making up stories since my boyfried is having a hard time admitting his best guy friend is gay.

    May 19, 2010 at 5:17 pm |
  16. Regina Philange

    What a joke.

    May 19, 2010 at 5:16 pm |
  17. Richard Dawkins

    I laugh at all these comments from "christians" telling others how to properly live their lives as a christian. Can you not remember more than 5 seconds in the past? How can you preach and at the same time contradict yourselves? Oh wait, I forgot, you have no idea what you believe in. You only think you're correct because it's human nature to be self-preserving. Sad thing is, you people can't critically think your way out of these animal instincts. Sadly, you still don't believe we evolved from single-celled organisms and that we are all animals in the end. The only ones who can realize that and overcome it are those who do NOT believe in a higher power. Those who most resemble chimpanzees still don't believe we are related to them. You're still waiting for the day the Great Flying Spaghetti monster comes and plucks you from where you stand, to send you up to heaven. HAHAHA keep on waiting. It's like when all the tea baggers warn about what is to come in November. It still doesn't change the fact that what you have faith in doesn't necesarily mean it's true will happen. A little common sense and the ability to think critically is all we have for weapons. Please use them in the fight against stupidity.

    May 19, 2010 at 5:16 pm |
    • Sylvia

      Richard, if God shows you mercy and changes you from a Saul to a Paul, the heavens will rejoice just for you. You still have time, but when its up remember this day.

      May 19, 2010 at 8:07 pm |
  18. theBookisright

    The Book says what the Book says. People believe it or not. Each will be judged for their actions. While on earth Christians are to live the book and if they or anyone else falls, put them in remembrance of The Book and Love Them Unconditionally God knows how to handle ALL His children. AND GOD Definitely is NOT DEAD though their are plenty of souls walking around earth that are.

    May 19, 2010 at 5:15 pm |
    • BMR

      You worship a monster. A devil. Plain and simple. Don't believe me? Read the Old Testament.

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

      If the Book is right, please explain why there are verses that support slavery and violence towards women; oh wait, that's illegal now, you'd get in trouble wouldn't you? SNAP!!!!!!!!!!

      May 19, 2010 at 5:20 pm |
    • Ddubbya

      A book is a collecton of writings of man. No one can actually know for certain the true inspiration behind them. One can assume, but that's irresponsible. Man lies. Man deceives – even Paul admited to deceiving in order to convert others to his following.

      God does not now, nor ever has lived inside the pages of a book. If God is real, then God lives within your heart.

      That is all that should matter.

      May 19, 2010 at 5:37 pm |
  19. spiritualOne

    Beautiful editorial. I am glad that she recognized that "...the intense personal nature of each individual’s specific spiritual journey.". Forget about all the bigots, Jeniffer. You can always loose your bondage to Christianity and be part of spiritual world.

    May 19, 2010 at 5:15 pm |
  20. whataJOKE

    i find it HUMOROUS that all of you "Christians" have different perceptions of the same Bible, and 'rules'. To hell with hell, and your preachings. Many individuals who dont practice your religion– BECAUSE OF YOUR HYPOCRITICAL RULES– are just as wholesome and HAPPY. Isnt that what LIVING your life is all about? Being happy and having faith in YOURSELF??? the funny thing is, all you church goers are more judgemental and discriminitive than any other being. All of you make me sick.

    May 19, 2010 at 5:14 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.