Thank God Jennifer Knapp Faced the Music

71sIhSWMaqL._SL1500_Jennifer Knapps’ personal memoir, Facing the Music, was released this week.  And I’ve read it cover to cover in 2 days.  Knapp is perhaps best known these days as the Christian rock star who left Christian music to be a lesbian.  Despite much googling on my part, the details of her personal life have remained rather quiet.  Much to the disappointment of scores of Christian lesbians (okay just me) who were desperate to hear exactly what that process was like for her and perhaps find in her someone like us.  Perhaps that pressure was why she kept those details to herself for so long.  Perhaps she was waiting until she had the story fully ready rather than share it in disjointed segments as songwriters so often do.  Anyway, she’s ready now, and the story was well worth the wait.

“From glass alabaster she poured out the depths of her soul. Oh foot of Christ would you wait if her harlotries known…”  “Hold Me Now”  Kansas. 

The song echoed through an empty cabin, a group of camp counsellors enjoying a bit of music before the next wave of kids arrived and the boom box was stuffed back under the bed for the week.  That was my introduction to the music of Jennifer Knapp during the late 90’s.  She became a part of my steady diet of Contemporary Christian Music in those days.  I even went to see her perform live twice.  Jennifer Knapp was the one famous Christian whose style I wanted to emulate.  She rocked the guitars, the jeans, the leather.  While there were men in her band and she toured with men, she carried herself with such independence it was clear that she didn’t need a man.  I connected with that image and looked to her as my proof that a woman could be straight without being feminine.

Jennifer Knapp left Christian music abruptly in 2002 while I continued to have an on again off again relationship with it.  I noticed her absence, but I was moving away from a lot of artists at that time.  Her songs stayed on my iTunes account longer than many, but tended to get lost amidst the new.  It was with great delight that I discovered in 2010 that she would be releasing a new album after all that time away.  2010 was also the year that Jennifer announced to anyone who was listening that she was a lesbian in a committed relationship with a woman.  So much for my straight role model.  At the time I was dealing with a lot of feelings that didn’t make sense and beginning to wonder if perhaps just insisting I was straight was really an effective course of action for me.

I watched Jennifer Knapp’s interview with Larry King Live on youtube, eager to hear what she had to say about Christianity and homosexuality.  At that point I had heard that there were some heretical folks who were saying you could be gay and Christian, but I had never heard anyone articulate a theology to that effect.  Well, Jennifer Knapp is a songwriter not a theologian so I didn’t hear one that day.  Reading her book now and looking back on that interview, I can tell that Jennifer would probably have some better answers to give now than she had then.   2010 was only 4 years ago, but so much of the best work that has been done in articulating gay-affirming theology has been published since then.  There weren’t many people who could articulate that theology well at that time.

I was sad that she chose to call herself a person of faith rather than a Christian, but as she explains in Facing the Music, the word Christian can carry a lot of baggage.

“Like so many other Christians of my time, I couldn’t see how to describe my faith as Christian without attaching so many of the beliefs that were demanded by the church and my peers in Evangelical culture. ”

Excerpt From: Jennifer Knapp. “Facing the Music.” iBooks.

However, she still had faith:

“One might argue that I had lost my religion, but no one could take away my faith.”

Excerpt From: Jennifer Knapp. “Facing the Music.” iBooks.

Facing the Music put to rest a lot of the question’s I’d had back then regarding Jennifer’s experience.  I wondered if she knew she was gay all along and just lied to make music.  I wondered how long she hid her lesbian relationship.  I wondered if she was in one committed relationship all this time or many.  I wondered if she abandoned her faith completely to pursue that relationship or if she’d found a way to have both.  I wondered how she survived the homophobic climate in Nashville.  On and on my wonderings.  So intrusive really, given that she is just a person with a right to her own personal life.  But in 2010 I didn’t know of ANYONE who was doing gay and Christian so she really was the only target for my curiosity.  Oh by the way, the answer is that Jennifer was kind of a lot like me in that she poured herself so deeply into her career that she didn’t even realize that the way she was feeling was actually gay until it was showing up in her life in an undeniable way.  It’s totally possible to hit late 20’s early 30’s and have that OH moment.  So she did live with integrity in terms of her sexuality throughout her Christian music career.


“Being around her did something to soothe my spirit. Personally, I felt alive and refreshed, but I was also pleasantly surprised that I wanted to know more about her. I wanted to know that she was doing well. I was motivated to hear about what was going on in her life.It would take years before I would realize that these are the kinds of feelings that happen when you find the person you will fall in love with.”

Excerpt From: Jennifer Knapp. “Facing the Music.” iBooks.

I won’t give the whole book away, but I do believe my favorite part was the story of what she did after Christian music.  Exploring Europe and the Australian outback.  I can totally see myself loading up a jeep with another woman and heading out on a similar adventure.  I pretty much do that already, by myself, so the idea of having a female companion in that is fascinating.  Knapp also has a way with words, with expressing what it feels like to be the first Contemporary Christian Music artist to come out as a Lesbian.  Jennifer Knapp doesn’t avoid the difficult moments but exposes them, letting the reader get to know what it was really like for her as a Lesbian Christian.  If you’ve never met someone who bears both of those labels, or just want to meet Jennifer Knapp.  If I ever choose to come out to my family, I think this would be the first book I would hand them.

Also, her new CD comes out October 14.  Yup.  Today.  Set Me Free.


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