Christians Disappointed in Jennifer Knapp

Humane Religion: Christians Disappointed in Jennifer Knapp

Christians Disappointed in Jennifer Knapp

by Lindsey Kay

Jennifer Knapp is a lesbian. That probably doesn’t mean much to a lot of people who weren’t following contemporary Christian music in the mid-nineties. Yet there is a subset of people for whom this news is important. They seem to have already (in the short few weeks since the news became public) broken into three groups: the ambivalent, who say “Wait, now that she’s in the public eye again will she be releasing a new album?”; the supportive, “Well, good for her being open about it. Nothing good comes from secrets”; and the bitterly disappointed.

The bitterly disappointed Christians sort of frighten me. These are the ones who threaten to burn all the albums of hers they still have around. These are the ones who say that she was never a Christian at all if she could “go and do something like that.” These are the ones who threaten to picket the release of her new album, the ones who will refuse to let their kids listen to her music. I have to wonder why someone would feel betrayed at the revelation that a Christian musician is in a lesbian relationship. I don’t remember people burning Amy Grant’s albums when she got a divorce, and I haven’t seen them burn the Newsboys’ albums because they wear polyester/rayon blends. I even hear vicious rumors that Relient K eat shrimp and, hey, P.O.D’s frontman has a lot of tattoos, and I’m pretty sure the Bible says something about that being idolatry and we all know how God feels about that.

Let’s lay aside the arguments about Biblical consistency, though, and talk about something even more important: humanity. Jennifer Knapp never pretended to be anything more than human. The beauty of her music was in her acknowledging her own flaws. She struggled with her faith, with the Bible, with other Christians, with herself. She let us into the world between her ears and it was a fascinating place. Her music was so popular because she always came across as absolutely genuine. Yet, in the midst of that genuineness there was a side of herself that she felt she had to keep hidden. In her interview with Christianity Today she said she felt she had to choose between her faith and her love for another woman. If she chose to commit herself fully to her love, then she would have to deny her Christianity. What a struggle she must have gone through, feeling that she had to deny her own heart in order to keep her ministry alive.

Christians may (appropriately) point out that the Bible says a lot about denying ourselves. “What Jennifer went through,” one might say, “is no different than any other Christian having to deny their love for food, or for casual sex, or for bending the truth. We ought to deny ourselves, pick up our cross, and follow Him.” Well, that might be true, if it weren’t for the fact that what Jennifer was struggling with was not a desire to perform actions that were hurtful, but the need to deny her faith and her career in order to devote herself to loving someone else. It’s beautiful that she made that choice, and I can only imagine the happiness she felt in the seven years she spent out of the public eye and enjoying her relationship with her girlfriend. I can only imagine the fear and trepidation that she felt as she considered coming back into the public and exposing her love to the scrutiny and harshness of mass criticism.

I could write a long exposition on how Christians act contrary to their faith when they excommunicate homosexuals and forgive the hypocrisy and sin of the “brothers” they choose to embrace, but I won’t do that right now. Instead, I’ll ask a single question: what is best? Is it better that Jennifer pretend to be something that she is not, to allow us the comfort of who we imagine her to be? Or is it better that she allow us to see her fully, with her beauty and her flaws? I say we embrace her for who she is, and let God sort it all out in the end.

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