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. PTrevino

    All the religions of the world share a comon message, "do unto others". They are a belief system. Having faith is a wonderful and beautiful thing, but Christianity is not the only path. Because someone believes in another God, but does right by man, condemn him to Hell? God is love. It is within us all.

    These stories are outdated, but their message was of love and forgiveness. Who are we to judge?

    On a side note, I believe that organized religion was designed to control the masses. Judgement and punishment were doled out by the most hypocritical of all people, those in power. We see this still today. Its quite evident that these messages of hate breed more hatred and intolerance.

    May 19, 2010 at 5:42 pm |
  2. Kevin

    Here's a scripture I learned from Jennifer Knapp: Tts 1:15 To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. (in the song Trinity).

    The scriptures do teach against homosexuality, but I have enough planks in my own eye that I'll let God talk to Jennifer about her own specks. Paul says that if we are judged by our own actions then we are all without hope.

    ..."What was that promise on the cross of Calvary? Confess the Lord and the Truth will set you free"

    Amen, and thank you Jennifer.

    May 19, 2010 at 5:42 pm |
  3. Bushpig61

    So she's a bushpig too!

    May 19, 2010 at 5:40 pm |
  4. Bushpig61

    She's gay? I'll straighten her out with my pig lovin'.

    May 19, 2010 at 5:39 pm |
  5. Art Marriott


    Thank you for your refreshing honesty and inspiring courage. Go where you're led by the heart God gave you.

    Don't look back, or like some of the other commenters, you could turn into a pillar of hypocrisy.

    May 19, 2010 at 5:38 pm |
  6. theBookisright


    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!

    GOD says HE made the animals and fish and it is good to eat...check out Corneilus in ACTs....he was trippin' about what not to eat and GOD told him "arise and eat" THE ONLY thing that can separate a person from GOD is UNBELIEF....

    May 19, 2010 at 5:35 pm |
    • ThomasPaine

      Isn't it so strange that all of the people who "God" tells things are either asleep or alone? Hmm, if I didn't know any better, I'd think they were making these things up...

      May 19, 2010 at 5:40 pm |
  7. John Timberlake

    Is it wrong that I would like to do her in a church while she wears a bun's dressy thing.

    May 19, 2010 at 5:34 pm |
    • Lucie

      ...go on!..

      May 19, 2010 at 5:37 pm |
  8. francisco

    felice No one trying to be mean spirited, just relay the truth so folks dont burn in hell

    May 19, 2010 at 5:33 pm |
    • BMR

      Don't worry about me! I'm not going to hell. Thor is way stronger than your god, so I'm going to his heaven, while your god treats a serious hammer wound.

      May 19, 2010 at 5:39 pm |
  9. francisco

    NnMm You got that riget. Christianity is NOT religion, it is the person of Jesus Christ. Religion is man's effort ot reach god. Christianity is a person, Jesus. know Jesus know life, no Jesus no life.

    May 19, 2010 at 5:33 pm |
    • BMR

      Know religion no peace. No religion know peace.

      May 19, 2010 at 5:38 pm |
    • Lucie

      "I is a Chirstian"

      May 19, 2010 at 5:38 pm |
    • bluefan

      And i want whirled peas!!

      May 19, 2010 at 6:03 pm |
  10. felice

    it is upsetting to read mean posts from christians about jennifer. from her article, it doesn't seem like she truly had a personal relationship with Jesus and got distracted by the christians themselves. a person could spend their whole lives on trying to figure out all the denominations and all the differences between the people in each one and never get anywhere.

    May 19, 2010 at 5:31 pm |
    • BMR

      Nobody has a "personal relationship" with a invisible being. You just have a personal relationship with your own voice in your own head.

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

      Your right, it takes a personal relationship with God. Still in the end her choice to run to him or run from him.

      May 19, 2010 at 8:18 pm |
  11. Bart

    After reading the comments, many of which are completely amusing, some of which are downright derranged, I would ask the folks quoting Bible scripture a few questions. One: have you ever read the Greek or Aramaic translations of the Bible (the word that has been translated in Leviticus in the verse "let no man lay down with another man actually comes from an Amamaic root that means "male prostitute")? Two: Do you know that the word homosexual was never used in any copy of a Bible until 1947? Three: Do you know why God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah in that story? It was not homosexuality. Read it again. Four: Do you realize that when the Bible was written people believed the sun revolved around the Earth and that the Earth was flat and that our knowledge and our science and our humanness and even our understanding of God has EVOLVED since then? Five: Wouldn't a more appropriate title for a person who condemns homosexuals using the Bible be an Old Testamite, a Levidicite or a Paulite...since Jesus Christ (you know, the man they named the religion after) never said a thing about homosexuality? Six: Do you understand ANY of the historical significance that influenced the writing of the Bible? Seven: Do you believe that God himself actually wrote the Bible or do you believe it was interpreted by man? Eight: Do you know there are different versions of the Bible, and that passages in each are often vastly different? Nine: Do you know that various books of the Bible were not always there but over history were added and others taken out? Ten: Why has nothing been added to the Bible in thousands of years...has God not spoken to anyone since then, or are we just not willing to listen because archaic rules are so much easier to live by than actual soul searching and listening to God in our own hearts and growing as humans?

    Answer the ten questions and get back to me. But just a couple things quickly...God DOES NOT expect us to be like him. Sorry, we can't be. Second, to the woman saying she loves her daughter but must repremand her when she does wrong...your analogy is weak because you aren't condemning your daughter, you're repremanding her. And to greedyma, I believe your hearts in the right place but you're wrong and I can't help but chuckle when people tell me how God thinks and feels. Sorry, he's not your sister in law who you have coffee with. Why must we always humanize God, when the point of God is he's anything but that (I guess it comes from how the writers of the Bible could best understand God hundreds of years before Christ was born. But we've grown, we've progressed...and that is because of God...he allows us to EVOLVE in our intelligence. Use it, folks.)

    May 19, 2010 at 5:31 pm |
  12. Christian

    Jesus saves me – not my faith. I never met faith. I met Jesus. He will return for a bride without spot or blemish. Being gay is sin – women laying with women and man laying with man. Those who seek Him and follow the narrow path He will take as a bride. When I sin I ask for forgivness and run from it. Being gay is sin. Jesus will have no bride that is gay. Knapp needs to turn from her sin instead of remaining in it. Sounds like she has religion and not Jesus.

    May 19, 2010 at 5:31 pm |
    • Jeanine

      Are we all marrying Jesus now? Even the men!?

      May 19, 2010 at 5:35 pm |
    • bluefan

      Christian, hope you are saving your virginity until your wedding night!!

      May 19, 2010 at 6:02 pm |
  13. Kirk Cameroon

    Have any of you seen my banana?


    May 19, 2010 at 5:31 pm |
    • R. Comfort


      I have an extra one.


      May 19, 2010 at 5:35 pm |
    • Phillip

      HA HA HA!!!!

      May 19, 2010 at 7:23 pm |
  14. theBookisright

    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!!!!!!!!!!

    murder is illegal to but people still do it. adultery is illegal but people still do it... could it be that the bible was giving a historical account of that time? the book is JEsus the WORD manifested. THE FULFillment of THE LAW... the ONLY man BORN of a WOMB who ALWAYS pleased GOD.... As you say PROUD GAY woman...well SIS I love you and as a BIBLE believing CHRISTIAN I say your life is yours to do as you please.... and Let's have lunch some time....

    May 19, 2010 at 5:31 pm |
    • Alma Jackson

      thebookisright...if the bible is giving a historical account of the culture at that time, why would you then take those verses literally, instead of using the whole theme of the bible as a guidebook? Why pick and choose those verses that support whatever belief you want to hold on to? And I like italian..

      May 20, 2010 at 8:17 am |
  15. francisco

    Dirk Sure God loves you..all the way to hell if you don't repent and turn from your sinful ways. Just remember the scriptures, God hates the wicked every day.

    May 19, 2010 at 5:31 pm |
    • Dirk

      You my friend need to know him-The Flying Spaghetti Monster-for only he can get you into heaven Where there is free beer, my friend.


      May 19, 2010 at 5:33 pm |
    • BMR

      Francisco: you do realize that while your middle eastern god may have you on his "heaven" list, hundreds of other gods have you on their "hell" list. I, for one, think I might go to Valhalla – Thor's Hall, if you please.

      May 19, 2010 at 5:37 pm |
    • Alma Jackson

      Francisco....God don't like hypocrites either. Explain why you are picking and choosing which scripture you want, but disregard those verses that don't support your bigotry...

      May 20, 2010 at 8:15 am |
  16. NnMm


    May 19, 2010 at 5:30 pm |
    • txjewboy

      You are so right about that! Christianity was a system to keep a certain elite class of men in power, subjugate the masses and attempt to kill off the Divine Feminine half of our nature that kept their power in check.

      May 20, 2010 at 8:26 am |
  17. francisco

    ThomasPaine Forget the shellfish argument, it will not hold water under the disensation of GRACE. We are no longer under the Law of Moses. Please read the new testament.

    May 19, 2010 at 5:29 pm |
    • Jeanine

      You can just... choose which one to believe in? Why are there multiple? Are they all God's work?

      May 19, 2010 at 5:33 pm |
    • BMR

      Or not. It's a raging bore! Other religion's mythologies are far more engaging and interesting than that drivel.

      May 19, 2010 at 5:34 pm |
    • Alma Jackson

      Francisco. so you're going to toss out those parts of the bible that don't support your bigotry?

      May 20, 2010 at 8:13 am |
  18. Huh?

    Is this still a News Service? There has been so much absurd faith-baiting the last few weeks in conjunction with half the articles being about fluff. I'm very close to turning my back on this site.

    Oh and all you Christians in-fighting about who is a real christian merely elucidate the idiocy of your own lifestyles.

    May 19, 2010 at 5:29 pm |
  19. Ddubbya

    Good going, Jennifer. Admist all of the criticism, you have held onto who and what you are. Kudos, sister.

    I have to admit, I do not possess the same strength you do. I was not able to stay close to the religion that had for almost 2 decades embraced me – but then turned on me in an instant once I came out. You and I know the truth about us and those like us. It's ok if people call us names, beat us up, hate us – in the end of it all we can stand tall knowing we did what was right.

    Is better to be honest and hated, and lie and be loved.

    May 19, 2010 at 5:29 pm |
    • Ddubbya

      sorry – Better to be honest and hated, THAN lie and be loved.

      May 19, 2010 at 5:31 pm |
    • BMR

      That's what is so jacked up about Christianity. They love you one minute and damn you to hell the next. They say WWJD, but they clearly have no idea, just judging by their treatment of fellow humans.

      May 19, 2010 at 5:32 pm |
  20. francisco

    Proud Gay Woman in North Carolina Paul condemned slavery and I do too. 1TIM 10) or adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine (So don't hide your sin behind the scriptures or it will find you out)

    May 19, 2010 at 5:28 pm |
    • Alma Jackson

      Francisco: you did not answer the question. Do you support those verses in leviticus that also support and instruct on slavery and violence towards women? Are you afraid to answer? Are you picking and choosing those verses you want to believe?

      May 20, 2010 at 8:12 am |
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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.