Monday, April 19, 2010

Full of grace

I did not know who Jennifer Knapp was before last week. Really, no idea. You could have told me we went to high school together and I would have smiled and nodded. But then she came out, and all of a sudden I know and care about who Jennifer Knapp is. It’s not just that she’s gay – though congrats and expect your toaster oven in four to six weeks. It’s that she was a hero to the evangelical Christian community and is now openly gay. Which, you know, whoa.

Religion is not a topic I talk about with any authority or frequency. I grew up in a liberal household, science was our champion. Church happened sometimes at Christmas, but basically just for the music as midnight mass. I don’t believe you need religion to teach you right from wrong, but I understand the inclination to feel faith in something larger than yourself. It’s the application of faith by some that bothers me so. They use it as a weapon to deny, denigrate and dominate others. And I have a big, big problem with that.

So to see someone who has so clearly thought long and hard about what it means to be a person of a faith in a faith that does not necessarily have faith in her is both fascinating and inspiring. Jennifer has sold a million albums, won a Dove award and has been nominated for a Grammy. Apparently there had always been rumors throughout her career that she was a lesbian. But then in 2002 she left music, for seven years. And now she is back with interviews in The Advocate and Christianity Today (that’s not a combo you see every day, eh?), where she comes out and talks about her long-term relationship with her girlfriend. [Also, look for her interview in the coming days with Heather Hogan at]

Having heard her new album, “Letting Go” (available May 11), I can tell you that it is very gay. Not Katy Perry gay, but gay-gay. There is nothing coquettish or teasing about her words. They are straight-forward, open. They speak of a love that is finally now speaking its name. They’re freeing. They’re lovely. Have I mentioned that they’re so very gay?

For those unfamiliar with her work, she sounds a bit like a younger Melissa Etheridge. She is also a Kansas gal with a big booming voice, deep in that way that tends to weaken gay gals’ knees. She is a classic singer-songwriter type who would fit seamlessly into a Lilith Fair lineup, which she just so happens to be doing this summer. Her new album is not explicitly Christian, though that is very firmly her background and her fanbase. So for her to come out is – to get all Joe Biden on the situation – a Big Fucking Deal.

And now we wait and see how it all turns out. I have to say, I’m not too optimistic that everyone will embrace her. I went to find her music on YouTube and the first video that came up was titled “Jennifer Knapp symbolizes hell-bound Christianity.” It went on to explain how there is no such thing as a gay Christian. You know, kind of like a unicorn – a gay unicorn. P.S. Don’t read the comments on some of her videos. They’ll just make your head explode. At times it seems that the chasm between us and those who think we are abominations will never be bridged. It only grows deeper and darker. The will is just not there, at least from their side. But perhaps people who loved Jennifer then will realize that she is the same Jennifer now. Just happier. Honest. Loved.

Still even if those who once flocked to her now turn their backs, she should certainly find a warm and welcoming home among her gay fans – the old ones and what I suspect will be many more new ones. I think that she will discover that we, too, are a faithful lot. Once we love you, we’ll love you forever. And your cat. Hey, we’re being honest here.

A few live sampling:

“Letting Go”

“Dive In”


See what I was saying? She is so gay. So gay.



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Norma Desmond said...

Chances are I will have a talent crush on her as soon as I let myself take the time to check out those videos (gal from the Midwest with a big voice? TROUBLE. I acknowledge that I am weak)... as it is, though, I'm too wrapped up with my current obsession with China Beach. Nevertheless, as always, thanks for the enlightenment!

karen said...

Couldn't make it through the first video without jumping to iTunes to preorder the cd. Nice :o)

Anonymous said...

Allah is a lesbian. Peace be upon, under, over, behind, and in her.

Celine said...

I just pre-ordered the new record. It's very brave of her to do what she's doing, and the live stuff sounds great.

Kate said...

Add me to the preorder list. I loved the songs posted, especially the last one.

Anonymous said...

Um, I liked her back when I was a straight-edged, evangelical kid who would never have listened to heathen music, no way - I liked her because she wrote incredible lyrics and um, that voice. (Should probably have known I was a lesbian at that point.) And now? To hear someone who values her faith so incredibly deeply be so honest about also being gay is a gift. I suspect I am not the only gay Christian who feels a wee bit less alone now.

(Also, SO THRILLED that she is making music again. Seriously.)

Anonymous said...

Oh, and the interview with Christianity Today is beautiful, but people, DON'T READ THE COMMENTS. They will burn your retinas.

Alana said...

Jennifer Knapp was the only CCM artist I could stand back in the days when I was listening to Christian music to appease my religious parents. Her CDs gotten a bit dusty on my shelf since then, but now I have a new reason to take them out and listen to them. She is an amazing artist, whether you are Christian or not, and I am definitely going to buy her new CD!

angstysarah said...

This is great. I loved Jennifer Knapp in high school and so pleased she is setting an example of how to be gay and a Christian. Those two things aren't mutually exclusive and it is great to see!

SopranoJKM said...

I've been listening to her and singing her songs for years! A friend and I were just talking about her a few weeks ago and wondering what happened to her because we love her music so much. This is a really big deal and I'm very happy for her. I highly encourage everyone to listen to all of her albums, especially the first one, "Kansas."

Phoenix Stone said...

Woah. Thank you, Snarker, for introducing me to this gem. She is going to be good for the team, I can tell.

Anonymous said...

I saw her in Birmingham, AL recently and believe it or not there were lots of lesbians as well as the thumpers. I really love her music, but if you listen to her earlier stuff you can hear self loathing lesbian or maybe just broken spirit. Either way, I totally related back then. The articles about Jen had not come out before this show, and I discussed with a str8 friend that night about how HUGE it would be for her to do so.

Anyway, the chick opening for her is pretty rad too. Amy Courts. She is married, and is spiritual but the fact that she is embracing JK is awesome.

CarlsonJohnson said...

She is amazing. Was back then and is now. I wouldn't go check out her Facebook page at this stage either. OMG.

sarah said...

Thank you for blogging about her. Knapp has always been a fav among those of us who are lesbian, Christian guitar players. She seemed more like your cool college roommate when you compared her to other CCM groups like Point of Grace, FFH, etc.

I think many of us have been waiting for Knapp to join the family. Her older music is just as gay (read: amazing/badass). iTunes has her albums for $5.99 a piece. Check 'em out.

Undo Me:

Anonymous said...

I'm SO EXCITED to check out her music! This is HUGE news for gay Christians. The psychosocial chasm that exists between Christianity and gayness is ENORMOUS. It's about time someone in a position of influence took a step toward publicly bridging that gap. I'm so very proud of her and her courage. Her gay fans will embrace her wholeheartedly; she'll likely experience more unconditional love from the gay community than she ever did from her Christian fan base.

And the photo on the cover of that new album... oh wow. LOVE IT! Enjoy your freedom, girlfriend!!!!

sarah said...

btw...Katy Perry is a former Christian artist - signed by Jennifer Knapp.

Making Space said...

Sweet - can't wait to check her music out. Love this!

Anonymous said...

omg- she is amazing!

Anonymous said...

it is gay blog about pop culture,
so people come here to read, or share
what is in there,

I came here part of that reason,
and some other reasons.
(daily communication maybe?
I have very few people who I like
in the u.s. and very very few little little
people who I want to hear about.)

today's news is about jen who came out?
and she is religious singer which is interesting.
I think it's interesting subject to think about
because spiritual part is important to keep
mental and physical balance.

the reason maybe people so much against religion,
I guess, mean people use it to bother others.

I'm religious but at the same time
I understand human right and
the pursuit of happiness.

also not republican at all, but dislike obama
because he didn't directly do anything
but the conclusion was I lost my first mac.

I don't want bother by others my happiness
cus it is none of their business,
so I don't touch theirs.

science and religion has different function for society they are not conflict.
human need both.

thanks for the post,
you make me thinking
and I feel somehow cold.

meredithgrace said...

This is great! I had no idea. I loved her music back in my Jesus lovin' days. Good to see that she's a sister in more than one way. :)

Bee said...

I do feel less alone now and maybe more validated and hopeful. If she can still be Christian and a lesbian, maybe I could, too.

betseyb said...

Can I just say, I think it's awesome that you have international readers here. Almost every post, or every other post, usually has someone who, to me at least, does not speak english as a first language. They always give thoughtful responses and sometimes seemingly random things pop up and I wonder what they were really trying to say. Of course, sometimes the responses are a little confusing and funny, like this:
"also not republican at all, but dislike obama
because he didn't directly do anything
but the conclusion was I lost my first mac"
ZOMG! Obama stole your mac?! Why did that not come up in the election!? LOL, I mean I kinda get where that one was going, but the end result....what?!

RHEA said...

I guess that I must be a unicorn then...and all the other gay Christians that I know must be as well. Seems like unicorns aren't really all that rare...I think of tons just off the top of my head.

Dim Lie said...

Not just Christian gay but Gay with faith.

Anonymous said...

Allah is a lesbian who likes the occasional ham sandwich.