Thinking Out Loud

April 15, 2010

Gay and Christian: The Jennifer Knapp Interview

By the time you read this there will probably be over 300 comments.

Christianity Today posted a long, online interview on Tuesday afternoon in which Jennifer Knapp ends a 7-year media silence, announces her new album, and admits to being involved in a gay relationship for several years, though maintaining it was not a factor in her original decision to take a hiatus.

First of all, let me say that I applaud CT’s decision to run this.   Jennifer Knapp was at the top of the “most wanted ” list of “missing in action” Christian singers.   Turns out she was in Australia for five years, but has been Stateside since September.   Interviewer Mark Moring asked all the right questions and wasn’t afraid to ask a few of the harder questions, too.

The magazine has endured some persecution in the comments, but I was more challenged by their decision to link to a GayChurch.org commentary on the “clobber verses” used against Christian gays.  (The hyperlink doesn’t work however, it’s meant to take you to this page.)  Any “reporting” of this kind is often considered “endorsement;” possibly including the very blog post you’re reading now.

This is the tough issue for the (capital C) Church.   If it hasn’t hit your church yet, it will at some point in the future when you least expect it.   My personal view is that it raises two issues:

  1. Can a person be following Christ and be gay at the same time?  Notice I didn’t say “struggling” with being gay.   Those very same “clobber passages” will yield one answer, but I challenge you to get to know people in this situation and then tell them that they are not moving toward the cross.    It’s complicated I know, and many will mis-read the statement I just made.   Which brings us to the next question…
  2. What is the measure of our compassion and what kind of face does our version of “grace” wear?    Many, if honest, “Hate the sin and hate the sinner.”   That’s just sin of another kind.   I’m not saying that if someone is caught in what we view as sin we should do anything other than what scripture says, “restore them gently,” but when and how we do this is going to say a lot more about us as local church or as the (capital C) Church in general than it’s going to say about the gay person.

In the meantime, the new album, Letting Go releases May 11, though she says. “The Christian bookstore thing is probably not going to happen; this isn’t a Christian record, and it’s not going to be marketed to Christian radio.”  Jennifer is back on tour, describing her audience in these words:

My concerts right now include the ultra-conservative hand raisers that are going to make this bar their worship zone. And there’s a guy over on the left having one too many, and there’s a gay couple over on the right. That’s my dream scenario. I love each and every one of them. At the end of the day, it’s music.

Her Wikipedia article claims that she recently announced tour dates with Derek Webb.    This blog mentioned Webb’s appearance at the Gay Christian Network conference early in the year.    Chris, a gay blogger writing about Webb drew this comment from Jon:

I was at said gay christian conference in Nashville this year, when Derek Webb said “If the church were to force me to pick sides [about where he stands on homosexuality], I’d be on y’all [gay people] side”. We also have very popular Christian speakers coming there. This year we had Tony Campolo as our keynote, next year, we have Philip Yancey as the keynote. Those names mean nothing to people who aren’t a part of evangelical subculture, but in the evangelical world, those are big names coming to talk at the Gay Christian Network conference.

(Sometimes these blog posts evolve as I’m writing — suddenly we find Philip Yancey’s name invoked in connection with next year’s conference.)

Another Gay blogger posts the lyrics to Webb’s What Matters More along with the music video.    I recall Webb saying at the time — but cannot locate it for you here — that he had a friend who was gay, possibly referring to Knapp.

I recognize that I’ve probably given more space to this issue than some feel it deserves, and there will be blog readers who think I’m being soft on the moral issues of homosexuality.  I’m just trying to take the focus off item #1 above and focus on item #2.

The point I want to make is that there are a number — a growing number — of people out there who are truly striving to understand what it means to be a follower of Christ but are also involved in a gay relationship, are dealing with the issue of friends who have come out, or are dealing with latent gay feelings.   Some of these were gay before they investigated Christianity, others were Christians before they confronted with the gay issue.

This issue matters.   How we interpret scripture is one thing.   Most people reading this blog would agree that scripture is very clear on this issue.   How we respond to gay and gay-inclined people in the Church at large is a very, very different issue altogether.   In fact, a poor, wrong or ill-chosen response could leave us in as sinful a state as those we would condemn.

And remember, you can’t obsess about Paul said about homosexuality and ignore what Jesus said about materialism.  And gluttony.  And hypocrisy.  And worry.  And so on…

Here’s the CT link again to the Knapp interview that started all this.

Two really good blog posts at Mere Orthodoxy on this topic:  The Objectification of Jennifer Knapp (April 13) and Why Jennifer Knapp Matters (April 14). Also Justin Wise’s post at BeDeviant, Unfriending Jennifer Knapp.   As of 10 PM last night, these were the only mentions in Alltop Church and Christianity pages, but you’ll find dozens of blog posts at this WordPress link.

UPDATE – JANUARY 2011 — At the end of 2010, I was asked to be part of a blog tour for a definitive book on this subject, Turning Controversy into Church Ministry by W. P. Campbell.  You can find my review of a small section of the book, and links to the rest of the blog tour here.

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32 Comments »

  1. thoughtful post, paul…thanks for your courage.

    Comment by randy morgan — April 15, 2010 @ 12:28 pm

  2. Homosexuals who attend church often have a greater commitment to promoting homosexuality, than in exalting Jesus. The number of homosexuals who are interested in promoting faith in Jesus and living holy lives are small indeed [may their tribe increase].
    The Anglican church is, sadly, a fine example of this tendency.

    Comment by brian — April 15, 2010 @ 1:31 pm

    • Whether or not that’s true — and it may be — I’m not sure it’s any different than the guy who shows up at my church on Sundays and passes out business cards for his mortgage financing business, or the woman promoting a parachurch ministry that does mission work in Japan, or the family that comes all dressed up like it’s a fashion show who just happen to own a family clothing store downtown. Heck, I’m not sure of my own motives some Sundays: I’ve been accused of wanting to promote the Christian bookstore more than I want to worship God. So bottom line: I don’t know.

      One of the great challenges facing the local church on Sunday morning is how to encourage true Spiritual fellowship, not fellowship around how the local sports team is doing or how the weather turned out nice for Saturday’s big yard sale. Mention Jesus specifically in one of those after-service fellowship times, and the room will clear out rather quickly.

      But I realize this may viewed as sidestepping the question. The limited contact I’ve had with one gay couple in particular, they were looking to be somewhat low-key about the whole thing, yet still be in a church where it could comfortably come up in conversation. I think the only places where you would find anything close to people “flaunting” the gay thing is at those very specifically gay churches in large metropolitan cities.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — April 15, 2010 @ 3:30 pm

  3. Lively and thought-provoking discussion at the Arts & Faith message board. Start at post 13: http://ArtsAndFaith.com/index.php?showtopic=15426&st=0

    Comment by N.W. Douglas — April 15, 2010 @ 4:03 pm

  4. Thanks for your comment on my blog. I agree with your thoughts that the Christian response to this subject is so critical, and has often been lacking in love or truth or both.

    As a college pastor, I see so many young people dealing with homosexuality, and they are often quite confused about how their faith interacts with this struggle. The subject is in some ways simpler and in other ways more complex than many in the church realize.

    At any rate, I’m grateful to those who are seeking to approach the subject from a truly biblical standpoint, reflecting the unconditional love as well as the passionate holiness that Jesus represents.

    Comment by Matt Morton — April 16, 2010 @ 11:01 am

  5. Michael P.:

    I think that’s the first time we’ve ever had someone cut and paste a book-length manuscript into what is supposed to be a space for comments.

    Here’s my suggestion:
    (a) learn the art of concision; say what it is you want to say in 500 (not 3,640 as yours was)words or less; or,
    (b) if you really want to get this content online, start a blog of your own, leave a comment and then a link.

    I just couldn’t run it here in its present form. Sorry.

    Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — April 16, 2010 @ 5:14 pm

  6. Now nearly 400 comments on this at USAToday.

    Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — April 16, 2010 @ 6:41 pm

  7. Thanks for this blog post, and the links!

    Comment by Adam Clark — April 17, 2010 @ 8:54 am

    • Thanks, Adam. I just checked out your article as well. You might enjoy the item I posted two days later, “A Tree in the Garden;” which is directly related.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — April 17, 2010 @ 10:19 am

  8. It is my hope that many more gays and lesbians in Christianity will stand up and speak out, God loves Gays as much he loves heterosexuals. Jennifer Knapps ends speculation and there is no doubt in my mind that she will be welcomed with inner peace and joy, knowing that she doesnt have to carry the burden of lying about who she loves and want to spent time with.

    For the bible bashing people, know that God’s ineffable love surpasses any hatred.

    We are often concerned with the way people comment on the issue of homosexuality. Many people are ignorant on the definition of homosexuality. This is a fact that we must appreciate, we are all children of God, a homosexual is a person who is sexually, emotionally, spiritually and physically attracted to people of his or her own sex.

    You can be gay and still love God, let me quote a great man, teacher, Prophet Rev Dr Troy D Perry, the founder of the Metropolitan Community Church who said “The Lord is my Shepherd and He knows I am gay”.

    Jennifer you will be in our prayers for the forseeable future, because I know that coming out with the burden of success in Christian Music can be a challenge.

    At our churches in Lagos Nigeria and London UK, we would pray for you as you continue your journey of reconciliation with God and who you are.

    More love more power. Revd Rowland Jide Macaulay

    Comment by Revd Rowland Jide Macaulay — April 17, 2010 @ 3:51 pm

    • Background info for my readers (from Rowland’s website)–

      Reverend Rowland Jide Macaulay, LLB, MTh, FACT is an ordained minister, a Christian Theologian, openly gay, founding pastor of House Of Rainbow Metropolitan Community Church Lagos Nigeria, holds a degree in law and theology, PhD Candidate in theology.

      His website includes an embed of a CNN story on Gay Christians in Nigeria.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — April 17, 2010 @ 4:55 pm

  9. Everyone might also want to track another aspect to all this going on over at David Fitch’s blog:
    http://www.reclaimingthemission.com/on-being-missional-and-the-gaylesbian-peoples/

    Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — April 17, 2010 @ 9:25 pm

  10. I have known of Jennifer Knapp for sometime, but only within the past two years have I listened to her music. I wish I had listened sooner.

    I confess that I have always understood that homosexuality is wrong and a sinful lifestyle. Having said that, we ALL rely on God’s grace and that grace is available to the gay community, as well.

    I will continue remain a fan of Jennifer Knapp and her music. My prayer is that God continues to work in her life and at the same time may he continue to work in mine.

    Comment by Bill B — April 18, 2010 @ 9:15 pm

  11. A Scripture verse that has come to mind is Matthew 16:24 which reads, Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’. Sometimes ‘self’ wants to do things that are wrong. Yet, Jesus instructs us to deny our fleshly wishes, bear the cross of that decision, and follow him.

    Comment by Bill B — April 19, 2010 @ 2:44 pm

  12. What really concerns me is the fact that we tend to view homosexuality “Bigger” sin then lying.

    Many churches and so called Christians don’t worry to much when they find out that someone lied or stealed because most of us been there, did that, and we think that’s not as a “big” sinn.

    God view’s sin as sin, no matter what is the label on it. When you brake the law….one times it is borken!!! We all are fallen short of God’s grace, we all sin….and homosexuality is just one of the sins.

    JEsus said: who didn’t sinned is aloud to throw the stone…and they all left.

    We as Christians should first and most love the sinner and live a life that the sinners would LOVE to have it. LIVE IT UP.

    Blessings
    Work In Progress

    Comment by WIP Online Bible Community — April 19, 2010 @ 8:45 pm

  13. hmmm, definately the end times are closer….

    1 Timothy 4:1-3
    1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;
    2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;
    3 Forbidding to marry…

    2 Timothy 3
    1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.
    2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
    3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,
    4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;
    5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

    Comment by George — April 20, 2010 @ 11:23 pm

    • I’ll certainly allow the comment; but I think we’re all very clear on what the Bible teaches. What we’re trying to look at here is I think a bigger issue, namely how do we respond.

      James 1 (NIV) begins: Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.

      The passages in Timothy are true; but there are some who feel that there has been a general erosion of NT teaching with each successive generation; that, for example, we don’t pray in faith the same as the early Christians if someone is in need of help or healing. In other words, our casual acceptance of what was formerly blatant sin is important, but it is symptomatic of a larger problem.

      Be sure to read “The Tree in the Garden” on this blog posted a couple of days later.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — April 21, 2010 @ 9:08 am

  14. George, You aren’t pointing out anything, with these Scriptures, that hasn’t been going on all along. But yes, as each day goes by, the end gets nearer.

    Comment by Bill B — April 21, 2010 @ 9:08 am

  15. One thing that keeps coming to my mind is the difference between stumbling in sin and practicing sin. You can’t deny that the sin of hatred isn’t any worse than the sin of homosexuality. I think the issue come to what do we as Christians do with that sin? Do we drive ourselves toward that sin and continue in it? Or do we confess it and get moving toward the denial of self and allowing Christ to live in us?

    Comment by jesuslover — April 24, 2010 @ 2:27 pm

  16. […] the absence of my own words, I would like to refer you to two posts: Thinking Out Loud’s April 15th post and a college friend’s Facebook […]

    Pingback by My two cents: Jennifer Knapp « A Ragamuffin’s Reflections — April 26, 2010 @ 7:04 am

  17. I’m trying to understand, and perhaps I just miss something … but if in this conversation, everyone says we know what the bible teaches about homosexuality the question is how do we respond…does this mean i misunderstand what the bible teaches about a believer who does not repent… doesn’t somewhere it talks about confronting and if they who say they are a christian don’t repent we are to not have anything to do with them? This of course could apply to anything …but I just guess I don’t understand why if we are talking about people who say they are christians, am i misunderstanding what scripture says about confronting believers in sin and this is how to respond?

    Comment by leonard — May 3, 2010 @ 1:28 am

    • No, I don’t think you’re missing it. This particular conversation aims to focus on our response; our we still demonstrating Christian love and compassion.

      But there is the larger issue of homosexuality itself which is bigger than anything I’ve attempted to deal with on this blog, though I’ve hinted at a number of places where that conversation is taking place. The list has grown since then as well, the best thing is to go to Google; switch to Google BLOG search; and type in Jennifer Knapp.

      The way I’m hearing the conversation going most recently is that there are two conflicts here:
      (1) Interpretation of the texts themselves, i.e. “Is homosexuality really a sin?” (You’d be amazed at the range of interpretation here…) and,
      (2) The difference between someone who “falls into sin” and someone who “persists in sin.”

      The point is, if you go to church, almost anyone could wander in who has a sin problem that needs to be confronted, but experience shows us that confrontation should not be our act of first response. That just creates alienation.

      There is also a third issue that arises here,
      (3) The difference between judging the world and judging fellow-believers.

      Our first goal should be to see the person want to cross the line of faith (if they have not had this interest previously.) Our second goal (if they have previous identification as believers) should be restoration to the Father (not restoration to our particular code of conduct.)

      This is not an easy subject.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — May 3, 2010 @ 9:15 am

  18. I believe that part of our inheritance in Christ is freedom (“sin shall not be your master, for you are not under law, but under grace”), so I would never allow a brother or sister struggling with homosexuality to settle for defeat. I’m thinking about it in the context of alcoholism, for example. “Can someone be an alcoholic and be a Christian?” I think the obvious answer is yes. They may be struggling with addiction and longing for freedom, but God doesn’t kick them out of the kingdom temporarily until they find total victory over it. 2 Cor. 5:21 teaches us that His imputed righteousness covers us (ALL of us) while the weaknesses of our sin nature are being exposed and defeated. None of us can claim to have the absence of sin. So how do we harmonize the presence of sin with the promise of salvation when we know that “the wages of sin is death”? We trust in the cross and that grace redeems us from the curse WHILE we are being sanctified.

    To those who can’t seem to rid themselves of homosexual desires, I would remind all of us that God, in His wisdom, sometimes allows “a thorn in the flesh” to teach us His sufficient grace. In the same way that someone who struggles with rage should not give in to the impulse to kill, the one struggling with homosexuality shouldn’t feel permission to practice a gay lifestyle simply because the presence of desire remains. It needs to be seen as a tool to drive us toward trusting God and learning the great lesson of “abiding” (John 15): obeying in the absence of feelings. That one should practice abstinence, let some brothers/sisters know about the struggle, remember that there is no condemnation in Christ, and cease to make their struggle the center of their lives.

    Comment by Anonymous — May 22, 2010 @ 1:36 pm

    • We’re no longer approving anonymous comments, but I’ll let this one slide since I think you’ve added something to the discussion. However, not everyone views this discussion the same way. There are people who are not simply dealing with desires, but are actively involved in sexual acts with one (or possibly more) same-sex partners who are quite settled in that lifestyle and don’t see it as a thorn in the flesh. Nonetheless, they also have passionate beliefs about God which leaves everyone else unable to reconcile the two conditions. You’re talking about a more latent homosexuality which, while it may be an issue for some, may not be what others in the larger discussion are talking about.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — May 22, 2010 @ 1:44 pm

  19. […] the absence of my own words, I would like to refer you to two posts: Thinking Out Loud’s April 15th post and a college friend’s Facebook […]

    Pingback by My two cents: Jennifer Knapp | Notes from Crane Lane — January 15, 2011 @ 9:10 am

  20. Sin is sin. It is not a matter of “judging” her in terms of condeming, but simply speaking truth, and that in love. I am saddened that you adopt the language of those living in this sin, “gay”, instead of using homosexuality or biblical terms. I am sure if you were discussing adultery, you would not whitewash it with the terms “having an affair”, and so on. I cannot judge if she is a Christian or not, but the fact is that the Bible is clear that THIS IS sin, which God calls an abomination. We can love her in Christ without diluting the clear truth of Scripture. As far as confronting her, that is the job of her local church, if she attends one. We CAN struggle with particular sins (I do), but there is a difference between struggling, seeking to be free as Paul did, and celebrating a “lifestyle” as she seems to be doing. Let’s just pray for her and for God to lead her into the truth He desires her to see and live by.

    Comment by Brian — May 3, 2011 @ 10:33 pm

  21. I think that you have the right attitude, an attitude that i wish all Christians should have, but i think your perspective is off. Yes, love should dictate all of our interactions, but love is not tolerance. Sometimes the most loving thing we should do is be honest with ppl and tell them the way it is. Now i am not for stoning or crucifying ppl for claiming to be gay, but enabling them can be far worse. If we have a loved one who is a drug user, are we gonna let him be cause it makes him happy, or do we have the christian responsibility to help him see that what he is doing is hurting himself, others and God. The same is true with all sin. We have a responsibility to call all brothers and sisters into accountability, not condemnation, but accountability. I do not advocate being a rigid bible thumping, unloving person, but we need to be honest that homosexuality is a a sin of self worship. Now we all are sinners, every single one of us, and jennifer knapp’s sin is no worse than my pride, my lust, my self worship. But the issue is she is trying to justify her sin as not sin, according to a interview with Larry King, this is just compounding the problem. This issue is not whether homosexuality is a sin, cause the bible clearly defines it as such (and i have taken biblical greek and hebrew), but the issue is can a person be living in truly unrepentant sin and still be considered a Christian. While the final verdict rests with God, we must do the most loving thing for all ppl living in unrepentant sin, whether that is is homosexuality or hetero-sexual promiscuity, and be honest with them, not condemning but honest. You can be loving and honest with thier actions, much like when you discipline your children. cause while i know that spanking my child hurts them, that touching the stove or running out into traffic will hurt them more. So i discipline him so that a greater pain doesn’t befall him. Ppl today forget that discipline is a form of love, not one we like all the time, but it takes the stronger person to discipline in a loving way for the benefit of both. The problem is we have forsaken discipline for so long we dont know how to do it.

    Comment by joe rowan — December 20, 2011 @ 3:39 pm

    • It’s hard when people respond to a blog post that’s 18 months old, because I have to go back and re-read everything from the beginning. It’s also hard to respond when the comment is one long paragraph with no spacing.

      I’ve been working more on the idea of sin as “missing the mark” which is the literal translation of the word. You can read some of that here:

      https://paulwilkinson.wordpress.com/2011/09/08/wrestling-with-the-gay-issue-at-church-when-good-is-not-good-enough/

      We tend to think of sin in terms of “wickedness” and “evil” and there are a number of gay people out there in monogamous relationships that should not be so characterized. However, they are still missing out on God’s best. And the rest of us are expected to “lovingly guide” any person to a place where they can see and experience God’s best. But the outworking of Biblical expectations in terms of holiness and sanctification may be a process that takes years or even decades. The whole problem with persistent sin is that it is persistent.

      Can a person be living in truly unrepentant sin and still be considered a Christian? Again, I think we have to look at the overall direction of a person’s life: Are they moving toward the cross or away from the cross? I know a rather large number of Christians who are living with unrepentant materialism and people still consider them Christian. I don’t know if a self-centered, materialistic person with a large house with a 3-car garage and 4 bathrooms can change overnight. They would have to come to the end of that lifestyle, and sell everything and donate the proceeds, or even give everything away.

      I would never expect a person who is in a happy, loving, committed gay relationship to change just because I read them a few verses in Romans 1. I wouldn’t be afraid at all however to ask them, “Do you think this is God’s best; God’s highest plan?”

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — December 20, 2011 @ 7:29 pm

  22. We assume that the mainstream evangelical Christian interpretation of biblical scripture is correct. What if that interpretation is wrong as many who interpreted the bible to condone slavery 150 years ago go it wrong? I’m sure many will respond with their long list of scholarly articles and perspectives from translators who claim that the mainstream interpretation is correct and anything is at the very least heretical but probably Satanic. I could quote just many back who would refute that but I am not going to write a thesis on a posting.
    My question to some of previous posts are;
    How is a person who is in a gay monogamous loving relationship hurting themsleves?
    Why do we always want to categorize gays as being in the boat as sexual predators and drug addicts? It’s not the same; being gay is not an addiction and doesn’t have anything to do with getting sexual gratification from domination of another as a sexual predator would. It’s about who you love and who you are attracted to. I don’t know any of my friends who are gay who would say they are celebrating that they are gay. Maybe embracing or accepting after a long of battle of denying it. Anyone in their right mind knowing the obstacles and ostracizing they face as a homosexual would never choose this for themselves I am quite sure.

    Comment by Jeremy — March 9, 2012 @ 12:50 pm

  23. […] weapon at times to enforce individual silence in exchange for job security.”  (Also, JK previously here at […]

    Pingback by Wednesday Link List | Thinking Out Loud — May 8, 2013 @ 7:07 am

  24. […] What about his tour with Jennifer Knapp after she came out, (10) should he be sorry about that? […]

    Pingback by Derek Webb homosexuality, and being sorry - a brief history — March 14, 2014 @ 4:16 pm


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