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. Vikki

    I'll be sure to buy all of her music because she is gay. I gave away my bibles to goodwill....

    May 19, 2010 at 6:51 pm |
  2. Delores

    God honours honesty. He will honour Jennifer's honesty and her continuing search for what is real.

    When we hide behind judgement and condemnation, there is little honesty to be had! It all starts from within – with our hearts. When we grow our hearts in His likeness, then we can let God work through us to others, in true love.

    May 19, 2010 at 6:44 pm |
  3. Squeaky

    Wow, clearly this is a very heated discussion. I met Jennifer Knapp on a missions trip back in 1999 at a WorldServants home in a very poor area of the Dominican Republic. She sang beautifully about God's grace and mercy. It is true we are all sinners and by God'd grace we can be saved. I believe that with all of my heart and being. The nasty things said here aren't helpful by either side. But God's grace and mercy is helpful, it's actually the only thing that helps with sin. I hope that people realize that -Jesus didn't just go to the cross for righteous people, but for us–sinners, gay or not gay, doesn't matter in the scheme of things–it matters, when you get before God–who is your advocate? Jesus is......

    May 19, 2010 at 6:41 pm |
    • God

      But....willingly living in sin is a clear indication that you are not amoung the saved/elected.

      There is a big difference between battling sin and accepting sin. The elect spend their life battle sin trying to overcome and grow past it.

      May 19, 2010 at 6:46 pm |
  4. jimmyjamesdickyrichard

    Christians are gross, lesbians are not.

    May 19, 2010 at 6:39 pm |
  5. Toby

    Once we outgrow our need for religion and the "comfort" it provides us and learn to live with the fact that death ends all, THEN we will value what we have. "I find it curious how the invisible and the non-existent look so much alike." -Christopher Hitchens

    May 19, 2010 at 6:35 pm |
  6. Lucy

    What one must realize in all of this is that people interpret the Bible, or any religious text, according to their own personal experiences. People find a way to connect with religion in a way that feels natural to them. The Human Genome Project mapped the human genome in 2003, and it has been proven that being gay is a genetic trait, over which no one has control. For heterosexuals, it is easy to say that being gay is a sin because the Bible says so. However, being gay does not make some one bad or damn them to hell, and I strongly encourage anyone who feels uncomfortable by homosexuality to make an effort to get to know someone who is gay.
    People who believe that being gay is wrong are often chastised by today's liberal and secular society, of which I am a part, but this only causes homophobia to increase. Both gay and straight members of the Christan community should make an effort to open conversation about sexuality in order to make the Christian faith and the community in which we live safer and more accepting to all.

    May 19, 2010 at 6:33 pm |
  7. fred

    you need to listen to preachings of gino jennings on you tube. there is even one he debated a gay minister

    May 19, 2010 at 6:31 pm |
  8. Jamin0


    May 19, 2010 at 6:29 pm |
  9. Cooper

    JR we tried that during the 60's and it didn't work out.

    May 19, 2010 at 6:29 pm |
  10. Bob Ingersoll

    The Bible is not the word of God; it is the words of men is search of God. Ignorant, frightened, biased men desperately trying to make sense of something they cannot possibly understand. No one of you can realistically claim to know what God wants. It's all projection. Have these opinions if you must, but please stop hiding behind this God and this book.

    May 19, 2010 at 6:26 pm |
  11. mary J

    God settled this with paul. and paul wrote about it when discussing cleanliness of things with God on that rooftop. I believe the saying is, "If I have taken it and made it clean why do you call it unclean". Jennifer has been washed in the blood and made clean, therefore who are we, if she is living her faith, to have the right to call her "unclean" . Paul also talks about as someone wrote before about "all things being permisible, just not all things are good for me." I don't care if you are gay, straight or tri.. if it is something that is emotionally&physically unhealthy then it isn't right. But if the whole relationship is healthy and thriving then it is right for you to be. I am a christan and have resolved this issue with myself. I was in a unheathy hetero relationship and was saved from it by someone in a healthy same sex relationship that showed me the error of my thinking and self esteem. What right do we as humans and created humans at that to argue with what has created before we were all made. We are all made in his image and that is a multi hued and sided image. We just need to stay ourselve healthy and support those who live emotionally,spiritually, mentally, and physically healthy. Way to go Jennifer for not subverting yourself as God made you anymore and making that step to be whole within yourself.

    May 19, 2010 at 6:24 pm |
  12. freddy

    Have you ever died and gone to "Heaven"? have you been judged? do you know just how its done? God knew us before we were born. He knew what and how we would be, if Gay or not, he knew. He allows all to happen. If he did not intend for people to be gay, then it simply would not be in our genetic code. He allows all. We don't ask to be born boy or girl as well, it just happens. We must accept his will and love each other according to his will.

    May 19, 2010 at 6:23 pm |
    • Greg

      couldnt have said it better

      May 19, 2010 at 6:24 pm |
    • Designer M

      what about free will?

      May 19, 2010 at 6:29 pm |
    • David

      Free will is choosing what to do with whatever you were given. You didn't choose to be human – there's lots of things about you that you didn't choose. There's someone who can find fault with each one of your personal attributes if you look hard enough for them – their opinion doesn't make you evil.

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

      God created some people for the purpose of destruction and others for grace. We won't clearly understand why until the end times when all will be made known to mankind.

      People don't choose God but rather God predetermined his people before anyone was ever made.

      So, if you are gay and willingly live that life in rebellion to Gods laws its a clear sign you are most likely not among the elected. However, if you are elected and are gay the Holy Spirit will work in you a change that will pull you from that sin over the course of your life.

      May 19, 2010 at 6:35 pm |
  13. Tasha

    I think the last scripture you quoted sums it all up.

    May 19, 2010 at 6:21 pm |
    • David

      Thanks Tasha...it gets frustrating out here....it'd be nice to find a decent community who believes in this without piling their crap on top if it.

      May 19, 2010 at 6:27 pm |
    • Greg

      you da man David, you know what your talking about =]

      May 19, 2010 at 6:33 pm |
  14. Carlos

    Christians conveniently ignore a huge logical problem if you try to follow the Bible. They all acknowledge that it is full of rules that no longer apply – keeping the Sabbath, eating pork, clipping your beard, stoning adulterers... They claim these rules can be ignored because Jesus established a New Covenant on Holy Thursday. The problem is that this New Covenant provides no detail at all. Presumably it's ok to keep Sunday instead of Saturday and not to stone adulterers, but there is no way of knowing specifically which things can now be ignored and which cannot. If you can now ignore the Sabbath, maybe gays are ok too.

    May 19, 2010 at 6:19 pm |
    • God

      The new convenant is clearly defined. As for rules like clipping your beard this was done to set the Jews apart from the people they were with. It was never a rule meant for Gentiles (non-Jews). Same with other rules for the Jews.

      However, when it comes to gays God made it very clear in the OLD and NEW testement this is an abomination.

      May 19, 2010 at 6:29 pm |
    • A more reasonable God

      You've heard that Satan doesn't come to as some horribly frightful thing but rather in the guise of a favorite uncle? Has it ever occurred to any of you that the Bible has been and continues to be Satan's greatest deception?

      May 19, 2010 at 6:46 pm |
  15. David

    As with anything leading to wisdom, one must understand the big picture first, then measure interpretations of the details against it. the ONLY commandments we have are to love each other as ourselves, and to love God. The rest of this is "ethical" behavioral judgmental gibberish .

    Matthew 22:37-40 (New International Version)

    Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'[b] 40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

    1 John 4:8 (New International Version)
    "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love."

    May 19, 2010 at 6:18 pm |
  16. monkey

    be my slave evilbible by water and bread thou shall drink and eat and be glad that you survived another day

    May 19, 2010 at 6:16 pm |
  17. WiseBeyond

    Accepting her and her music and applauding her is the same as applauding someone who is an open, un apologetic murderer and doesn't care that it's a sin....we don't celebrate people who live in open sin. We tell them there is a better way. There are absolute wrongs and absolute rights. Period.

    May 19, 2010 at 6:15 pm |
    • Alma Jackson

      WiseBeyound.........slavery is a sin, violence towards women is a sin. Explain your support for those verses in leviticus that support both these sins,,,,,,,,,unless you think that's ok but being gay isn't? Picking and choosing are we??

      May 20, 2010 at 8:30 am |
  18. JR

    Religion is nothing but a drag on human progress. It serves absolutely NO good purpose whatsoever.
    Until humanity can rid itself of this 'security blanket' that is now more of a straight jacket, we will continue to be limited in our ability and potential to discover, understand, love eachother and live in peace.

    May 19, 2010 at 6:14 pm |
  19. Designer M

    Romans 1:21-32

    21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. 24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. 25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions ; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural , 27 and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. 28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil ; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice ; they are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful ; 32 and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.

    May 19, 2010 at 6:13 pm |
    • Jeanine

      That's nice; now what's your point?

      May 19, 2010 at 6:17 pm |
    • Tom Nunnery

      Did you know that the book of Romans is written to the Christians at Rome? These are not written to non-believers. You are talking, I assume, to yourself.

      May 20, 2010 at 12:44 pm |
  20. Tasha

    I think that when people post their comments saying "Gay people are going to burn in hell because it's a sin." you lose people's respect to accept and tolerate what you have to say. Honestly you don't know what God's plan is. You don't know anything. None of us do. Have you died, sat down with God, had a cup of tea with him, and talked about whether or not being gay is a sin? I didn't think so. How do you know that hatred for gay isn't satan hardening you heart to not accept people that aren't like yourself. Hitler thought he was doing the "right" thing by killing millions of Jews. The KKK think that they are doing the "right" when the speak their intolerance. What makes you think you are right?

    May 19, 2010 at 6:12 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.