on a fateful day in 1999, fragile, protected-from-the-evils-of-the-world christians learned of the shock and horror they previously thought unimaginable: amy grant, darling of contemporary christian music, got divorced.
shockwaves (yes, i too wish i was exaggerating) rippled through baptist churches from sea to shining sea. after cd-burning parties, a healthy dose of potluck dinner gossip and legions of once-diehard fans disowning their christian pop princess, the lingering effects of a fallen angel still remain in some corners of christendom today.
let us, now, rewind to just a year earlier in 1998. the previously unknown folk rock singer-songwriter jennifer knapp releases what will become one of the seminal christian music albums of the 90s. kansas received immediate critical praise from both the christian music and mainstream world & went on to be certified gold. with its release, knave became yet another christian music darling.
for me personally, the album was a significant piece that is still in regular rotation in my itunes. from songs such as martyrs and thieves to trinity to refine me, there isn’t a track on it that doesn’t stir something deep within me.
let us, now, build a bit of a bridge between subject A (amy grant) and subject B (jennifer knapp). in the latter part of the 90s, subject A was crucified by the christian community for severing her union to a man. just over 10 years later, subject B awaits judgment by a jury of christian peers for publicly announcing she is, in fact, a lesbian.
in a very honest, candid interview published yesterday by christianity today, knapp confirmed the rumors that had been making the rounds during her 7-year hiatus from music.
i’m genuinely curious to see what kind of reaction will flow from this. on one hand, knapp’s upcoming album, letting go, isn’t being marketed specifically to christian radio or bookstores, so she’ll avoid some of the scrutiny. on the other hand, though, it’s clear that she’s still got a foot planted firmly in that world, shown by her choice to publicly confirm her sexuality to christianity today (she also gives a worth-the-read interview with the advocate) and choosing to make her first tour a partnership with derek webb (which is a whole other story).
largely, i don’t really think she’ll care too much if we—like the amy grant fallout—see cd burnings and bans from christian bookstores. i think her personal faith trumps the need for christian subculture affirmation. one of the most compelling aspects of the interview with CT is her openness about the strength of her faith. it doesn’t seem as if her faith is any less today than it was when she was putting out her inherently “christian” albums. certainly, it’s safe to say that there are changes in her faith, but that doesn’t assume it’s any less strong or significant in her life. frankly, it’s likely stronger and more fully-realized after the—in her words—”struggle” she’s been through over the last 8ish years in making the decision to embrace her same-sex feelings.
for those who are learning of this news for the first time now and have a negative visceral reaction because of your faith convictions, allow me to pose a couple questions. first, if you’ve ever enjoyed her music or been moved or felt a faith connection with her music, let me ask you what you assume is any different now due to the fact that she loves a person of the same gender? what truths are undone? what scriptures are cheapened by her melodies? how is what moved you prior to this knowledge any less compelling now that you know this information?
second, what are the bounds of truth? are there places where truth cannot or does not exist? if god is present and working in all things, then where does truth cease to reveal itself? could it be, that—even if we conclude that homosexuality is the most vile & god-defiling sin of all—the faith of jennifer knapp is still able to create music and words and poetry and melodies that point toward the god revealed in the scriptures?
jennifer knapp is an incredible singer and songwriter that has deeply impacted the faith of both my youth and now my adult life. my story joins countless others. i’m glad that, now, she can live a truth instead of a lie. i’m glad that she’s processing life through the lens of honesty and openness and candid dialogue, rather than fear and uncertainty.
my prayer is that, now, the christian community can embrace those values as well.