On the weekend, I came across this article about Jennifer Knapp making a come back into the music business and also coming out about her sexuality. For readers who have never heard of Jennifer Knapp, she was a pretty big Christian music star, even winning at Christian music's Dove Awards in 1999 (which I guess, would be the Christian equivalent of the Grammys). After reading this article, which remarked a little on the backlash against Knapp being gay, I was curious to see what the general consensus was among either former fans or followers of Christian music. Now, personally I've never followed her at all, and I probably wouldn't even be able to pick out one of her songs from the radio, but I was saddened to read some of the responses from a significant portion of Christians (I want to clarify I'm not claiming these were the responses of all Christians). The negative feedback against Knapp could be categorized into three main opinions. First, there was a resentment that Knapp must have used 'Christian music' as a way to break into a niche market and gain some fans while not being a sincere Christian, which apparently is proven by the fact she is under a non-Christian label now. Second, there is a refusal to ever buy any of her albums again because she is a 'sinner.' Third, and last, the stance that Jennifer Knapp must have never been a Christian because of her now being an open gay. As I said before, I've never followed Jennifer Knapp at any point in her career and I know very little about her, but I still believe I can effectively respond to these criticisms and backlash.
I find it humorous that some would accuse Knapp of using the Christian music industry as a way to break in, and especially that their biggest proof is she is now under a non-Christian label. First of all, I don't think anyone can honestly challenge that her lyrics and Christian content was legitimate, because the creation of music is such a personal thing that goes deeper than what the audience hears or reads. Obviously, she was considered authentic enough to garner a huge following of mostly Christian fans, and she even won awards from Christian groups -- it seems clear that before now, there wasn't much question of her legitimacy as a Christian artist. The silliest thing about her being criticized about changing labels, is that it is quite obvious why it had to be done, and is also the same reason she disappeared from music since 2003 (and the same reason I am even writing this post). She is gay. The reality is, her coming out was going to create a huge backlash, and it was highly likely her label would have dropped her and Christian retailers would have refused to carry her albums. Anyone who is thinking reasonably about the situation, will agree that she had very little choice but to change labels. It is the simple reality of our society and how the majority of Christians feel about something like homosexuality (again, I want to clarify that I am not saying all have this view).
I find it sad, yet interesting, that a fairly large groups of apparent former Jennifer Knapp fans would go on record that they would never buy another album from her, since she is a 'sinner.' Maybe I was sleeping through church services far too often or wasn't reading the Bible close enough, but I was always under the impression that the Christian God saw us all as 'sinners.' So if one wasn't going to buy an album from a sinner,then that must mean this person wasn't going to be listening to any music. I am sure the response would be that this is a far heavier and vile sin (through my experience, Christians seem to see sexual matters as the most heinous, especially when outside of heterosexual marriage). Then again, I'm left wondering if I was listening and reading properly all these years, because I seem to remember the Christian God seeing all sin as equal. This would mean that things like losing your temper, not claiming all your income on your taxes, or even driving over the speed limit would be things that could be constituted as sin. I am not saying that I even consider some of those above mentioned to be bad, but if we are going to start labeling things as sin then you can't start leaving the 'smaller' stuff out (due to the whole all sin being equal). Of course, there are many other 'sins' that people struggle with every single day, some which they try to overcome while others are ones they are happily living with, but it seems rather unfair to struggle with 'sins' while also pointing out the flaws in someone else. Oh yeah, that reminds me of another sin, judging. The interesting thing is, Jesus talked a whole lot more about the evils of judging than he ever did about homosexuality. I know I mentioned that all sin is seen as the same, but if Jesus Christ is talking about one way more than the other, then it should give you an idea of which ones where seen as very detrimental and dangerous.
I know some are still stuck on the fact that she is gay. Maybe the even more 'sinful act' of being in an actual homosexual relationship. First of all, spending too much time on harping on her sexuality could risk one being judgmental. The even more important thing is, even if one wants to call homosexuality sin, it would appear to be a lot different than many others. Most sins would seem to be something that the committer could choose to do. Many would argue that isn't the case with being a homosexual (the ones who would say it is choice, are usually the same ones who are calling it a sin).
Is it a choice? The first thing that I would use to answer that question, is to ask if heterosexuality is a choice? Since I can't speak for anyone else but myself, I will look at my own foray into heterosexuality. Personally, I don't find myself waking up everyday and saying, 'Today, I choose to like boobies!' Basically, since I was a very little boy, I have always been attracted to girls. I've never had much interest in kissing a boy, or finding myself having to decide which gender I would like to date. I can't relate to a gays' attraction to the same sex, because I've never had that type of attraction. Speaking of attraction, I've never really found myself choosing or making a decision on who I am attracted to. I didn't just decide one day that I would find Emily attractive, but instead, it was something already ingrained in me. I found her pretty and there wasn't really any choosing about it. From my experience, people tend to be attracted to different looks or body types or kinds of people. I don't think any of those people really made a decision on the type they would be attracted to, but rather it was an attraction that came naturally to them. Using this type of logic, I find it hard to believe that homosexuality can be something a person chooses. Especially in Jennifer Knapp's case, I can't see why she would choose a lifestyle that jeopardized a successful career.
Finally, it brings me to the issue of questioning if Jennifer Knapp was ever truly a Christian because she is gay. I've essentially already addressed this in my previous paragraphs, but I'll try to pinpoint this more specifically now. The simple fact is, most of us are not Jennifer Knapp (and she is unlikely to ever see this rant). Which means, most of us really can't understand what she is actually thinking or feeling. We do know she was a successful Christian music star who then came out. We don't know how long she has been struggling with those feelings. We don't know if she ever felt massive shame about being gay. Quite frankly, we don't know any of those things. We all go on a journey that we call life, and we all wrestle with different feelings and emotions. But if you haven't ever had the experience of being in a religion that frowns upon homosexuality but also being a homosexual, than you really can not relate or understand what that person is going through. I know I can't relate to it, but I'm also not trying to declare what her true religious beliefs are, either. Being gay does not mean she can't still be a Christian or that she wasn't ever a Christian. I think, Jennifer Knapp said it best in the article, when she states this issue is between her and God. If one believes that God is the ultimate authority, then it should probably be left for him to decide if that person is still allowed to be part of the Christian club. As I've been told many times, the Christian faith can be a very personal one, thus others really don't have a place to decide where one stands in their faith.
I know there will be a lot of people that disagree with me or may be offended by my statements. I want to remind that the Christian faith is one of love. So even if you disagree with one's lifestyle, your first goal should still be to love that person and handle any situation in a delicate manner. After all, you're patterning your life after the man who hung out with thieves, prostitutes and drunkards (he didn't judge but he loved). I also understand that you may see homosexuality as wrong and evil, but you should keep in mind, of all the 'sins' it is one that does absolutely no harm to anyone else. Jennifer Knapp being gay will not cause your pants to catch on fire or puppies to explode. Nobody will be hurt by her lifestyle choice, but many could be hurt by a hate filled agenda that opposes one's rather benign lifestyle choice. I understand the argument may be that it goes against God's original design or that it destroys the sanctity of marriage. But I am also pretty sure that Jennifer Knapp being gay has not annulled my own marriage or anyone's, thus I don't see any harm done.
In the end, I can understand if one is bothered that their once favourite recording artist is gay. That person has the right to never buy one of her albums again. But hopefully, that person can leave it at that and not feel the need to spew anymore venom. After all, a loving religion works a lot better when it has love in it.