Years ago — it must have been around 1999 or 2000 — when I was the youth pastor at Colonial Church, I brought Jennifer Knapp in to play a concert. She was just being discovered as a potent Christian singer/songwriter, and we had her perform just before her career blew up (in the good way). Suddenly she wasn’t playing solo acoustic shows in church sanctuaries, but instead playing the Lillith Fair and the National Youth Workers Convention with a full band.
The show she put on at Colonial was astonishing. She held the room spellbound with her powerful lyrics, strong voice, and strumming that seemed like an assault on the guitar. But backstage, she admitted, even then, how tired she was. She wore a brace on her right (strumming) arm to combat carpal tunnel, and she admitted that she couldn’t practice guitar because it hurt too much.
And then, as quickly as she arrived on the scene, she disappeared. I heard rumors that she was a lesbian, which I found not-at-all scandalous, but I also knew the behind-the-scenes fatigue that she battled.
Well, she’s back, and she’s been interviewed by Christianity Today about her new album and her sexuality. Not surprisingly, CT’s intro includes this dandy,
In one of her first extensive interviews since announcing her comeback, Knapp, 35, talks to CT about why she quit music in the first place, her lifestyle choice, her rekindled passion for songwriting, her faith, her new album, and more.*
OK, so they’re on the record that they consider Knapp’s identity as a lesbian to be a choice. A few questions into the interview, however, Knapp comes up with a great response to the Christian euphemism, “struggle with same sex attraction”:
I understand. But I’m curious: Were you struggling with same-sex attraction when writing your first three albums? Those songs are so confessional, clearly coming from a place of a person who knows her need for grace and mercy.
Knapp: To be honest, it never occurred to me while writing those songs. I wasn’t seeking out a same-sex relationship during that time.
During my college years, I received some admonishment about some relationships I’d had with women. Some people said, “You might want to renegotiate that,” even though those relationships weren’t sexual. Hindsight being 20/20, I guess it makes sense. But if you remove the social problem that homosexuality brings to the church—and the debate as to whether or not it should be called a “struggle,” because there are proponents on both sides—you remove the notion that I am living my life with a great deal of joy. It never occurred to me that I was in something that should be labeled as a “struggle.” The struggle I’ve had has been with the church, acknowledging me as a human being, trying to live the spiritual life that I’ve been called to, in whatever ramshackled, broken, frustrated way that I’ve always approached my faith. I still consider my hope to be a whole human being, to be a person of love and grace. So it’s difficult for me to say that I’ve struggled within myself, because I haven’t. I’ve struggled with other people. I’ve struggled with what that means in my own faith. I have struggled with how that perception of me will affect the way I feel about myself.*
I, for one, am looking forward to hearing Knapp’s new album, and I’m hoping that our paths cross so that we can continue our friendship. I also hope to meet her wife.