Christian Pop Star Jennifer Knapp Comes Out


My praise goes out today to the courageous and talented singer Jennifer Knapp , a star of the contemporary Christian music scene, who has come out as a lesbian and a person of faith. The Grammy nominee and Dove Awards winner stopped recording in 2003, and now her fans know why.

Though she is no longer on a “Christian” record label, her statements to the media suggest that she still considers herself a believer. The evangelical magazine Christianity Today ran an exclusive interview that is sure to cause controversy among its largely non-affirming readership. Though interviewer Mark Moring can’t resist calling her orientation a “lifestyle choice”, I think the magazine still deserves props for giving her a respectful forum to discuss an issue that many would like to pretend doesn’t exist. Here’s an excerpt (boldface emphasis mine):

Were you struggling with same-sex attraction when writing your first three albums? Those songs are so confessional, clearly coming from a place of a person who knows her need for grace and mercy.

Knapp: To be honest, it never occurred to me while writing those songs. I wasn’t seeking out a same-sex relationship during that time.

During my college years, I received some admonishment about some relationships I’d had with women. Some people said, “You might want to renegotiate that,” even though those relationships weren’t sexual. Hindsight being 20/20, I guess it makes sense. But if you remove the social problem that homosexuality brings to the church—and the debate as to whether or not it should be called a “struggle,” because there are proponents on both sides—you remove the notion that I am living my life with a great deal of joy. It never occurred to me that I was in something that should be labeled as a “struggle.” The struggle I’ve had has been with the church, acknowledging me as a human being, trying to live the spiritual life that I’ve been called to, in whatever ramshackled, broken, frustrated way that I’ve always approached my faith. I still consider my hope to be a whole human being, to be a person of love and grace. So it’s difficult for me to say that I’ve struggled within myself, because I haven’t. I’ve struggled with other people. I’ve struggled with what that means in my own faith. I have struggled with how that perception of me will affect the way I feel about myself.

Are you beyond those struggles?

Knapp: I don’t know. I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. But now that I’m back in the U.S., I’m contending with the culture shock of moving back here. There’s some extremely volatile language and debate—on all sides—that just breaks my heart. Frankly, if it were up to me, I wouldn’t be making any kind of public statement at all. But there are people I care about within the church community who would seek to throw me out simply because of who I’ve chosen to spend my life with.

So why come out of the closet, so to speak?

Knapp: I’m in no way capable of leading a charge for some kind of activist movement. I’m just a normal human being who’s dealing with normal everyday life scenarios. As a Christian, I’m doing that as best as I can. The heartbreaking thing to me is that we’re all hopelessly deceived if we don’t think that there are people within our churches, within our communities, who want to hold on to the person they love, whatever sex that may be, and hold on to their faith. It’s a hard notion. It will be a struggle for those who are in a spot that they have to choose between one or the other. The struggle I’ve been through—and I don’t know if I will ever be fully out of it—is feeling like I have to justify my faith or the decisions that I’ve made to choose to love who I choose to love.

Have you ever felt like you had to choose between your faith or your gay feelings?

Knapp: Yes. Absolutely.

Because you felt they were incompatible?

Knapp: Well, everyone around me made it absolutely clear that this is not an option for me, to invest in this other person—and for me to choose to do so would be a denial of my faith.

What about what Scripture says on the topic?

Knapp: The Bible has literally saved my life. I find myself between a rock and a hard place—between the conservative evangelical who uses what most people refer to as the “clobber verses” to refer to this loving relationship as an abomination, while they’re eating shellfish and wearing clothes of five different fabrics, and various other Scriptures we could argue about. I’m not capable of getting into the theological argument as to whether or not we should or shouldn’t allow homosexuals within our church. There’s a spirit that overrides that for me, and what I’ve been gravitating to in Christ and why I became a Christian in the first place.

Some argue that the feelings of homosexuality are not sinful, but only the act. What would you say?

Knapp: I’m not capable of fully debating that well. But I’ve always struggled as a Christian with various forms of external evidence that we are obligated to show that we are Christians. I’ve found no law that commands me in any way other than to love my neighbor as myself, and that love is the greatest commandment. At a certain point I find myself so handcuffed in my own faith by trying to get it right—to try and look like a Christian, to try to do the things that Christians should do, to be all of these things externally—to fake it until I get myself all handcuffed and tied up in knots as to what I was supposed to be doing there in the first place.

If God expects me, in order to be a Christian, to be able to theologically justify every move that I make, I’m sorry. I’m going to be a miserable failure.


Amen to that! Enjoy this 2008 live performance of her song “Whole Again”:

Daddy, daddy do you miss me.
The way I crawled upon your knee.
Those childish games of hide and seek
Seem a million miles away.

Am I lost in some illusion.
Or am I what you thought I’d be.
Now it seems I’ve found myself
In need to be forgiven.
Is there still room upon that knee?

If I give my Life, If I lay it down
Can you turn this Life around, around
Can I be made clean
By this offering of my soul.
Can I be made whole again?

Have I labored all for nothing.
Trying to make it on my own.
Fear to reach out to the hand
Of one who understands me
Say I’d rather be here all alone.

It’s all my fault I sit and wallow in seclusion.
As if I had no hope at all,
I guess truth becomes you
I have seen it all in motion
That Pride comes before the fall.

If I give my Life, If I lay it down
Can you turn this Life around, around
Can I be made clean
By this offering of my soul.
Can I be made whole again?

Can I offer up this simple prayer.

Pray it finds a simple ear.
A scratch in your infinite time.
Not withstanding my fallings
Not withstanding my crime!

If I give my Life, If I lay it down

Can you turn this Life around, around
Can I be made clean,
By this offering of my soul.
Can I be made whole again?

If I give my Life, If I lay it down

Can you turn this Life around, around
Can I be made clean
By this offering of my soul.
Can I be made whole again?

(Lyrics courtesy of allthelyrics.com)

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