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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