So if you’re not tapped in to the queer community or the Christian community, you might have missed this particular bit of news:
If you’ve been involved in the evangelical Christian community in any way in the last 15 years, the name Jennifer Knapp is probably as familiar to you as Kelly Clarkson. Knapp is a million record-selling, Dove award-winning artist, whose candid lyrics, raw voice and mad guitar skills rocketed her to Christian music stardom in the late ’90s and early ’00s.
In 2003, Knapp disappeared from the music scene and the public eye, and now, seven years later, she’s coming out with a new album — and she’s coming out as a lesbian. (source: AfterEllen)
Big news for someone like me, a former church member and Jennifer Knapp fan.
Jennifer, who has always been a fairly private person, has given some fairly open interviews on the subject. Most interesting to me is her interview with Christianity Today, in which she respectfully states that she will not discuss her relationship, but talks fairly openly about her struggle to come out – not her struggle with her sexuality, but her struggle with the church:
The struggle I’ve had has been with the church, acknowledging me as a human being…it’s difficult for me to say that I’ve struggled within myself, because I haven’t. I’ve struggled with other people.
Jennifer’s story has personal relevance to me. When I left my ex-husband, I was fully entrenched in the church. I was a Sunday school teacher, I’d been a deacon, I was part of the machinery that made the services happen. Todd was a musician in the church band, also a deacon. His parents had been elders, directors of the services, Alpha leaders. His brother and sister-in-law, and their children, were also fully involved. Leaving Todd was not just leaving Todd – it was leaving a family, a huge church family, a place I felt very much a part of. But I left, and my perception of what happened next is probably very different from any member of that church might say. But I suddenly felt extremely isolated, and I started examining the definition of loyalty, and how that definition was different for every person.
Months later, I found myself looking for a new definition, for something to explain how it was possible for me to care for someone who was not Todd, and was not, in fact, a man. It’s taken a few years now to really figure out this is a piece of me I’ve carried all my life, and just didn’t recognize for what it was. But in the first months of trying to identify what was happening, I really struggled with my faith, too. I discovered that my faith was really a symptom of a desire to belong, to feel accepted and approved of. I wanted a sense of community, a sense of feeling at home. I had it in the church. And then, very suddenly, I didn’t have it anymore.
Today, I don’t much care about where I find a sense of community. I’ve looked in a lot of places for it: the church, the queer community (which has its downfalls), the feminist community (which, again, has its downfalls), the poetry community (oh boy, does it ever have downfalls). I’ve learned I need to create my own community, to create my own sense of family, and I’m doing that, and I love it.
But I still find it frustrating when the Christian community so easily and summarily dismisses their own behavior. Jennifer talks in Christianity Today about her struggles with other people and with the church, because of her decision to be truthful about who she is and what she wants. On her Facebook fan page, there are too many examples of exactly what she’s talking about:
I am saddened that she has made the lifestyle choices that currently define her. Unfortunately, I will cease listening to her music. Not because I judge her, but because there are always consequences for sin, especially when we one [sic] finds nothing wrong with directly violating Scripture. I will pray that God will heal her, as I must pray the same for myself everyday so that God through Christ can restore her life to his original intention. – Facebook posting
The news of your personal choice to be like the rest of the world saddens me and no amount of anything I could say would make a difference.
Although I do not agree with your lifestyle choice in the end you are accountable to God and despite the world making changes to accept things I cannot support you in what has transpired, I will pray for you and that is all I can do.
I am not here to condemn you, you are a sister and it is out of love that I post my concern. – Facebook posting
David was sorry for his sins and repented for them, and God did punish him for it, God would not punish someone if they had not done something wrong, and i will be praying. The Bible clearly staes that homosexuals shall not inherit the kingdom of God, if the author does not know that God considers homosexuality a sin then his speculative theory does not line up with God’s Word [sic] – Facebook posting
It’s frustrating to see so many people who feel they can clearly define for someone else what the right path is, and wash their hands of any responsibility for how their words and actions affect that person. Coming out is a difficult thing, more so as it relates to faith, and especially when that faith is full of black-and-white moments that leave little room for gray area. And yet, others are so quick to assume that it’s a simple concept. So many people give so little thought to what it might be like to live as someone else for a day, and are so quick to judge and rest easy on the phrase, “But I say this out of love.”
The concept of accountability, within the Christian community, is one that I have never fully understood. It’s tied so closely in my mind to the idea of judgment. The idea is to point out to your fellow believers when they are doing something that is unChristlike, or to point out when they are doing something that might cause you to be unChristlike. Essentially, the concept of accountability gives people permission to be judgmental, but to excuse it by saying, “I’m just holding you accountable.” In providing a ready-made excuse for this judgment, though, the sense of accountability for one’s own actions has been removed. It’s an astoundingly simple and obvious twist, and one that too many people are willfully ignorant of.
I have my own bitterness about the church, and lots of reasons for not believing that Jesus was anything more than a man. I am guilty of having judged too many people too quickly. But I want to add my voice to the chorus saying to Jennifer Knapp: congratulations, and thank you, and good luck.