Responding to Jennifer Knapp’s “Coming Out”
EXODUS INTERNATIONAL–ORLANDO, FL (April 20, 2010) –
by Randy Thomas, Exodus’ Executive Vice President
As you all are probably aware, Jennifer Knapp stated last week that she has embraced her same sex attraction and is now identifying as gay. She has done a number of interviews including this one with Christian Today. From the article (Article In Italics):
Now, the finished product (her new album), titled Letting Go, is slated for a May 11 release and will be the first test of her fans’ loyalty given confirmation of her sexuality.
While the decision to “come out” one month before her new album’s release is a risky one, The Advocate said Knapp chose to do so partly because she didn’t want people to love her music and then discover that their own values won’t let them sing along full-throated.
“I think it’s going to be shocking and feel like a betrayal to some people who live their spiritual lives through the music they listen to,” Knapp told the LGBT publication.
Furthermore, the move provides Knapp a chance to be “wholly myself”.
Over the past week or so I have fielded a lot of questions and one interview concerning Jennifer’s decision to “come out.” There has been a lot of conversation with a lot of various viewpoints. Whether you agree fully with the following quote from this post or not, I thought this was a very interesting insight:
In all this, Jennifer Knapp–the singer and songwriter–will likely be forgotten. Her status as a person, a person with sinful inclinations that obscure the radiant, recalcitrant image of God, will be pushed to the background as we focus on the only salient fact for us: that instead of simply being a minor Christian celebrity, she’s now a gay minor Christian celebrity.
Jennifer Knapp, object lesson. For whatever we want to say. Objectification happens in many forms–and turning someone into a flash card for our broader spiritual lessons is only one of them.
Of course, such objectification is probably inevitable. After all, Jennifer Knapp isn’t in your church. I’m going to guess she’s not reading our blogs. And she’s probably not your friend. She exists for most of us only as an icon of that funny phenomenon we call “Christian culture.” And so because she has lent herself and her music–as all successful musicians must–to the objectifying press-machine that is Nashville, it’s tempting to say that she deserves whatever she gets.
But that doesn’t mean it’s good, or that it justifies our own objectification of her. Especially when in every interview I’ve read, she’s expressed reluctance and dismay that her sexuality will be used as a political football. And she seems, if nothing else, to be properly respectful of her differences with the Christian community. In other words, she seems to be want to left alone, even if her status as minor gay Christian celebrity doesn’t allow it.
And so maybe, just maybe, we should respect her subjectivity, not turn her into an object lesson, and move on.
Jennifer has made a lot of money and fame in the contemporary Christian music scene. Just as she rightfully earned her recognition as an amazing artist, she has also earned the scrutiny that comes along with all of that celebrity. At the same time, we as Christians are called to see beyond the hype and to the real principles being played out on the national stage in front of us. With the Spirit’s help we can consider Jesus’ sacrifice for us corporately and for us individually. The Spirit will also help us consider Jesus’ sacrifice for Jennifer as well.
One example of the objectification of Jennifer came when someone who was obviously very angry with her decision asked me:
So when do we come to the point of just flat out telling her that her “loving relationship” with this woman isn’t love at all? … that she is offending a Holy God?
I told this person that we need to step back and realize that God is fully aware of Jennifer’s love for her partner. He understands the legitimate needs seeking to be expressed in both of their hearts and He also, fully understands the reasons why both have turned to sinful behavior to try and meet those needs. The truth is, Jennifer probably really does love her partner. We don’t need to minimize or dismiss that. The beautiful and sometimes tragic nature of love is that we have free will on where and whom to invest it. Jennifer is investing hers into her partner. This ability to steward love is why God is so jealous for our love, it’s a huge investment of our entire being. He entrusted that to us with free will so that it would be authentic. Rightly or wrongly, when one invests love in another … that’s an investment of the heart, soul and sometimes body of the person.
A very big deal indeed.
I have a feeling Jennifer isn’t clueless that most Christians believe homosexual behavior is sin. I just wonder if anyone ever offered to share with her a redemptive view of sexuality instead of being heavy handed on condemning the behavior. To ask Jennifer to “repent” is to ask her to give up her hard fought battle to reconcile her life to herself. It’s to ask her to sacrifice two of the biggest investments in her life (her partner and identity.) That is no small thing and should not be treated lightly.
Temptations, if they are of any worth as temptations, usually latch on to a legitimate need and point to sinful behavior as a way to meet those needs. However, in Christ, temptations are also an opportunity to recognize legitimate needs and pursue meeting those needs in biblically appropriate ways. Jesus was tempted in every way but never sinned. His Spirit can empower us to discover, learn and implement ways to meet our needs and turn away from sin. Right now, and not knowing her personally, it would seem that Jennifer is seeking to meet her needs in the only way she knows how or feels is an option. God understands this and I have no doubt is working in her life to provide His redemptive perspective.
Later I thought about this person saying Jennifer was offending a Holy God. That irritated me at the time and didn’t quite know what to say without getting upset. So I was silent in the conversation but I wished I had said that instead of God manifesting in all His glowing glory and declaring how offended He is, He manifested as Jesus Christ. He didn’t cross His golden robed arms, roll His heavenly focused eyes and snarkily guffaw a lightning bolt out of His mouth to express his offense. A tortured, grieving Jesus willingly outstretched His arms and was nailed to a cross. As He died, He didn’t lament how badly His Bride, His Church, was treating Him. He asked the Father to forgive us for we know not what we have done.
If anyone had a right to abandon everyone who offended him, Jesus was that person. But He didn’t. Instead He paid the highest price possible to forgive us in spite of us.
Jennifer says she knows the Lord. I assume that is true. And if it is true, He never lets go. He wants her and her partner (all of us) to know that He offers a greater love than we could ever imagine or think. His love outshines any human love and can satiate any soul.
Lord, empower us to invest our love wisely … starting with You. Amen.