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. Edward Bauerle

    As a christian man let me start off by saying there are many people out there who claim to be "christians", but totally misrepresent God. Jim the wiccan brings up an excellent point when he posted the Ghandi qoute. I think the real issue is why do people choose to engage in a gay lifestyle in the first place. As much as people want to believe that some of us were born gay, it's simply untrue. We we're created straight. The real reason that someone chooses to be gay is that deep down in their heart, their desires to be wanted and loved were met poorly by those around them or by the opposite sex. It's natural for someone to seek a place to fit in, and belong, and that's where the gay lifestyle comes in. You find people who will except you, and tell you that the reason you didn't fit in is because you were born different. It's a lot easier to accept that answer, than to face the pain of the reality that has been their life to that point. It is not fun to endure suffering at all. As Christians we need to be reminded that God does not hate the person, just the choice., and it's our respopsibilty to love them, (not their lifestyle) just as christ would.

    May 19, 2010 at 6:08 pm |
  2. EvilBible

    (Deuteronomy 20:10-14)

    As you approach a town to attack it, first offer its people terms for peace. If they accept your terms and open the gates to you, then all the people inside will serve you in forced labor. But if they refuse to make peace and prepare to fight, you must attack the town. When the LORD your God hands it over to you, kill every man in the town. But you may keep for yourselves all the women, children, livestock, and other plunder. You may enjoy the spoils of your enemies that the LORD your God has given you.

    May 19, 2010 at 6:06 pm |
    • LookWhosTalking

      Nice Excerpt. However without the context of knowing that the people being offered surrender were sacrificing children to their Gods and doing other detestable things, not to mention slaughtering neighbors. The offer was a generous one, and usually not accepted any way.

      May 24, 2010 at 2:34 pm |
  3. Benjamin

    Also, I wonder what female exec she had to sleep with to get this story on CNNs hotlist... There are tons of lesbian artist, etc etc etc... There's no way I believe they were like "aww what a cute article' sounds like yet another picture perfect article to stereotype christians and slowly chip away on the image of the modern day believer. CNN is doing everything they can to slow but surely support the spirit of the ANTI Christ. If you read their media, the spirit of the anti – christ and anti-christian is so evident is appalling.

    May 19, 2010 at 6:02 pm |
    • BMR

      Fairy tales are for children.

      May 19, 2010 at 6:04 pm |
  4. pockets

    There is no god, so relax and enjoy your lives. Religon poisons everything.

    May 19, 2010 at 6:02 pm |

    I have really enjoyed Jennifer's music. I saw her in concert in Denver several years ago. It was superb. Reading these comments breaks my heart. I believe [Jesus'] love covers a multitude of sin for those who believe and for those who don't. He is no respector of persons. Stop being so dang mean!

    May 19, 2010 at 6:01 pm |
  6. J Phillips

    she cant be a christian if she's gay and anyone that tells you otherwise is leading you to hell. Religion does not conform to you. You conform to it. Either you find the narrow path to heaven or you decide on the easy way and take the highway to hell. It's a choice we all have to make. You either do or you dont there is no middle ground, you can't sit on the fence with your faith.

    May 19, 2010 at 6:01 pm |
    • Jeanine

      You're right; the next time my husband and I find ourselves in an argument, I totally give him the right to beat me for insubordination, since it's in the bible and all. Can't pick and choose, can we?

      May 19, 2010 at 6:05 pm |
    • Greg

      My oh my now aren't you just the perfect Christian

      May 19, 2010 at 6:10 pm |
    • J Phillips

      Jeanie- Sadly, you've missed the mark and your half wit knowledge of the word of God is what has infested the church for far to long. I suggest you further read the bible for a better understanding of what you clearly lack.

      Regardless it doesn't change the truth. You either do or you don't there is no middle ground.

      May 19, 2010 at 6:14 pm |
    • Jeanine

      Clearly your reading comprehension isn't as great as you think; It's JeaniNe.

      Secondly, I'm not sure how you can say I'm mistaken. There are MYRIAD examples of misogyny in the Bible. Exodus states you can sell your daughter into slavery, but not your son.

      "I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you." -Genesis 3:16

      "If, however, the charge is true and no proof of the girl's virginity can be found, she shall be brought to the door of her father's house and there the men of her town shall stone her to death. She has done a disgraceful thing in Israel by being promiscuous while still in her father's house. You must purge the evil from among you."
      -Deuteronomy 22:20-21:

      Come on, seriously?

      May 19, 2010 at 6:28 pm |
    • Jeanine

      "As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church. " Corinthians

      I guess that was Ms. Knapp's first sin, eh?

      May 19, 2010 at 6:29 pm |
    • J Phillips

      Jeanie – sorry I missed a N. I understand your frustration. My kid does it all the time when I tell him no.

      NIV, seriously? No wonder you are so messed up.

      May 19, 2010 at 6:34 pm |
    • Greg

      Mr. Phillips.
      What is your problem. Jeanine makes totally sense and all you seem to be able to do is insult her repeatedly. All her answers make sense, and you are completely irrational. All you have to say is don't be gay or go to hell. And then instead of responding to Jeanine's questions you simply insult her. Thanks. Way to be.

      May 19, 2010 at 8:06 pm |
    • Alma Jackson

      Explain your "conforming' to the acceptance of slavery in leviticus

      May 20, 2010 at 8:27 am |
  7. Benjamin

    Jennifer Knapp, you can't embrace the bible yet deny it with your life. Your a living hypocrite, end of story, If you are going to be Gay, then don't try to sell christian-bible-based-music.

    May 19, 2010 at 6:00 pm |
    • BMR

      She does not sing Christian music. She used to.

      May 19, 2010 at 6:05 pm |
    • bluefan

      AMEN!! Leave that to the hypocrites!!

      May 19, 2010 at 6:07 pm |
  8. BMR

    Everybody is one at least one god's bad side. So all of you who loudly proclaim how Knapp is sinning against one particular god, how about you stop and take a moment, do some research and realize just how many hundreds of other god that you are sinning against. If you don't care, because you don't believe those other gods are real, then you will understand how the rest of us feel about your god.

    May 19, 2010 at 6:00 pm |
    • Greg

      "Christianity and Islam are both offshoots of Judaism. They are all evil and immoral."

      So your not Christian are you. Is every Christian person evil and immoral?

      May 19, 2010 at 6:02 pm |
    • BMR

      The religion is evil and immoral. If you adhere to everything the bible says, then you too are evil and immoral. But most people don't adhere to much of the bible. There are approximately 667 "sins" listed in the bible. ALL people commit several every day.

      May 19, 2010 at 6:07 pm |
    • Greg

      It's pretty clear that the Bible was not meant to be taken word for word completely literally.

      May 19, 2010 at 6:15 pm |
    • Jeanine

      Greg, unfortunately it wasn't clearly enough.

      May 19, 2010 at 6:20 pm |
    • Greg


      May 19, 2010 at 6:26 pm |
  9. Tim from N

    All of thks talk about acceptance and tolerance, so where's the tolerance for those of us who believe being gay is wrong???? How about you haters practice what you preach....

    May 19, 2010 at 5:59 pm |
    • Greg

      Who gets the worst? The gay people or the ones accusing them?

      May 19, 2010 at 6:00 pm |
    • BMR

      LOL! You want tolerance for your lack of tolerance! Get REAL!

      May 19, 2010 at 6:01 pm |
    • Jeanine

      I snorted. Out loud. Really, this is just like white males claiming they've been oppressed.

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

    All you people need to calm down. People all have different beliefs. If you think that being gay is a sin, good for you. If you don't think that it matters, then that's wonderful. Whatever you believe, nobody else really cares, all they want is that you respect their opinion.

    May 19, 2010 at 5:55 pm |
    • BMR

      I respect people's right to HAVE opinions. I do NOT always respect their opinions, however.

      May 19, 2010 at 5:56 pm |
    • Greg

      Do you believe that being gay is a sin? Do you respect being gay?

      May 19, 2010 at 5:59 pm |
    • BMR

      Sin is a mythological concept. I don't "respect" a person for being homosexual, just like I don't respect a person for being a heterosexual.

      May 19, 2010 at 6:04 pm |
    • Phillip

      What you said is fair up to a certain point. It is okay to have your opinions. It is for instance, to have an opinion that homosexuality is not a safe or good lifestyle, fine. It is NOT okay however, to actually prevent homosexuals from marrying or having relationships. It's okay when you don't like it, but it's another thing when you actually interfere with the lives of others. And furthermore, you do not need to respect everyone's opinions. There are opinions that I absolutely do NOT respect, because they are wrong and immoral. However, that does not mean that just because you don't respect their opinion, that you still can't TREAT them with respect. For instance, I do not respect a person's opinion that homosexuals are immoral people, but I'm not going to hurt you if you think this way.

      Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are evil and are a threat to the happiness and lives of everyone on our planet. The sooner this trinity of evil goes away, the better we will be.

      May 19, 2010 at 6:04 pm |
    • ThomasPaine

      That would be fine if beliefs didn't inform our actions. Unfortunately, people who think being gay is a "sin" like to take away the rights of said gay people through political action.

      May 19, 2010 at 6:12 pm |
  11. Brad

    God LOVES dick.

    May 19, 2010 at 5:53 pm |
  12. BMR

    Christianity and Islam are both offshoots of Judaism. They are all evil and immoral.

    May 19, 2010 at 5:52 pm |
  13. Dban

    What a boring article by a generic artist. Why is this here?

    May 19, 2010 at 5:50 pm |
    • BMR

      Because they knew you'd reply.

      May 19, 2010 at 5:52 pm |
  14. Tasha

    Why are you people caring so much that she is gay? I have gone to church all my life. A church that told me that being gay is a sin. One day I finally realized to be a good Christian is to not judge. I LOVE GAY PEOPLE! I can't tell you either way if being gay is a sin or not. People wrote the bible which has been translated many times. Who knows if when it was translated it was done correctly. I also think that a lot of things in the bible are taken out of context. Lets talk about the book of Genesis. Do you really think that God created the world,sky, water, dirt, plants, animals, and humans in 6 days? I think it took a lot longer. So when all you good "Christians" out there are reading your bibles and taking everything word by word remember that there will be a day of judgement and I don't think that God will look kindly upon people who judge others. Love thy neighbor as thyself.

    May 19, 2010 at 5:48 pm |
  15. josei

    Yes, those of us that are Gay have chosen to be. I struggled with being attracted to the same sex for years. I got married 2x's. Ask God to help me find a woman to love and grow old with. Was faithful to both. Not even thinking/talking or fantasy of being with a man. Put all my energy into both relationships. What did I get? Unfaithful spouses who then blamed me. This time I asked God what he wanted from me rather than asking for me. All I can say is the last 3 years of my life have been full of surprises/ new friends/ more and better relationships (not sex you straight pervs) and way more love than I could’ve imagined. I was a happy person before this period. Now, unbelievably, I feel even happier than I have every known.
    I read the Bible. I studied the Bible. God said, don’t judge lest you be judged. And yet we have many so-called Christians here judging people. Hmmm. God made us all in his eyes. He gave us a mind to believe what we want and told us that whoever believed in him would have ever lasting life with him in Heaven.
    I believe in God. I believe he sent his only son into this world. I believe that Jesus dies for our sins. I try to follow the 10 commandments. None of which states anything about being gay. Go back and read about Sodom. People were having false idols/gods. Committing adultery, stealing, etc. All things the 10 commandments state are wrong, if you believe in God.
    So judge me if you will. I know God loves me and I will try my best to show God's love to you, even when you judge me.

    May 19, 2010 at 5:46 pm |
  16. Casual Reader

    It amazes me how far Christians are willing to be removed from Christianity – named for following the example of Christ. I am not talking about Jenifer Knaap, here either.

    May 19, 2010 at 5:45 pm |
  17. clarification

    Just a quick clarification about the Christian faith. Some on here have said that Christians are hypocritical for not supporting a gay lifestyle while they eat lobster and wear multicolored clothing. This assumes that followers of Jesus are bound to follow all of the Mosaic law set out in Leviticus and other Old Testament books. This issue was actually settled by the early church just a few years after Christ. The 15th chapter of the book of Acts records a lively debate about this among the early church leaders. They ended up deciding that followers of Christ don't need to abide by the old systematic Jewish rules. So Christians have not needed to follow the old Law for over a thousand years. The death and resurrection of Christ marked a new covenant with mankind, meaning that God dealt with mankind differently from then on.

    Now, it's important to note that the early church leaders concluded that Christians should follow the broad moral themes of Jesus' teaching and should avoid sin. One of the sins that they mentioned most frequently is sexual immorality. It was specifically mentioned in Acts 15 as something that people shouldn't do. The Apostle Paul was an early Christian leader who wrote much of the Bible's New Testament. He specifically mentioned homosexual conduct as a type of sexual immorality. Christianity's concern about homosexuality is not based on Leviticus alone, but in the New Testament also.

    Also, please understand, Christians who are mean-spirited or cruel in addressing homosexuality are actually doing something that is just as sinful as homosexual conduct. I'm sorry for the bad way that some of my "brothers and sisters have handled themselves. With that said, Christians do have an obligation to politely and lovingly deal with sinful conduct. In our faith, sin can separate us from God and possibly send us to a pretty bad fate. Because of this, it concerns Christians when we see people (or ourselves) engaging in sinful conduct. It's like if someone had a disease that was killing them, but no one every diagnosed the problem or politely suggested a treatment. Please note, I'm referring to all sin, not just homosexual conduct.

    As many of you pointed out, Christians also have an obligation to look in the mirror and address our own faults. Before trying to help others deal with their sins, we should correct our own and be open about them. We should confess our own deceitfulness, meanness, anger, and sexual immorality and pray for help with those problems.

    May 19, 2010 at 5:45 pm |
  18. lill25

    we are all sinners yes and we ask for forgiveness and quit doing the sin. and sometimes we fall and quit again. but the fact you continue to be gay you are not sorry. you are blatantly sinning against God and dont care.

    May 19, 2010 at 5:43 pm |
    • Ddubbya

      you assume it's some sort of a choice. how wrong you are, but have yet to remove the veil from your eyes.

      May 19, 2010 at 5:46 pm |
    • BMR

      I'm willing to bet that you've sinned against one of the hundreds of gods today. Aren't you worried? Go to the godchecker website to find out all of the gods you've probably angered today.

      May 19, 2010 at 5:46 pm |
    • Alma Jackson

      lill25....explain your support for verses in leviticus that support slavery and violence towards women. Are you picking and choosing which verses you want to support your belief?

      May 20, 2010 at 8:20 am |
  19. dldepa

    You are a blessing to life. You have a great talent and care and concern for others. Please continue and realize most who are condeming you will proubly show up in the news as child molesters or be having affairs. be kind and enjoy life

    May 19, 2010 at 5:42 pm |
  20. The Guy

    Why does cnn give her a forum. Why not give a real christian a forum?

    May 19, 2010 at 5:42 pm |
    • Ddubbya

      who are you to say she isn't a real christian? you don't know her heart. you judge her on one small aspect of who she is. one small part of her life.

      May 19, 2010 at 5:44 pm |
    • BMR

      Because nobody wants to hear your tripe.

      May 19, 2010 at 5:45 pm |
    • Morgan

      They did give real Christians a forum. All they did with it was spew hate and condemnation. The number of Christians who can actually get along with the world is so small, it's a wonder any find their way here at all.

      May 20, 2010 at 7:21 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.