This past week, shockwaves went through the Christian music community when Jennifer Knapp, one of the genre’s most critically lauded singers and songwriters, announced that she’s been in a same-sex relationship for the past eight years.
This time coincides with a seven-year sabbatical Knapp took after quickly becoming one of the genre’s most popular artists in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Feeling a lack of enthusiasm with music where she once felt joy, she wrapped up any commitments she had to promote her then-current album, 2001’s The Way I Am, and proceeded to drop out of sight.
Knapp, who releases her first album in nine years next month with the appropriately titled Letting Go, spoke with a few select media outlets to discuss her coming out.
When asked by Christianity Today about the extent of her relationships with women prior to her hiatus, and whether or not it was a struggle for her, Knapp responded, “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.”
In spite of these struggles, Knapp has managed to find peace reconciling her spirituality and sexuality. Even though she’s coming out, though, it’s not something that thrills her to do, nor does it mean she wants to be the poster child for a gay Christian movement.
“I’m in no way capable of leading a charge for some kind of activist movement. I’m just a normal human being who’s dealing with normal everyday life scenarios. As a Christian, I’m doing that as best as I can,” says Knapp.
She continues, “The heartbreaking thing to me is that we’re all hopelessly deceived if we don’t think that there are people within our churches, within our communities, who want to hold on to the person they love, whatever sex that may be, and hold on to their faith. It’s a hard notion. It will be a struggle for those who are in a spot that they have to choose between one or the other.
“The struggle I’ve been through—and I don’t know if I will ever be fully out of it—is feeling like I have to justify my faith or the decisions that I’ve made to choose to love who I choose to love.”
Perhaps in light of a potential backlash, Knapp is targeting a different audience with her new album. Letting Go will be released to mainstream audiences through Sony-owned independent distributor RED, and neither the album nor any potential singles are being specifically targeted to Christian audiences.
“But there’s no reason they can’t play it,” she says. “To me, my faith is fairly evident in what I’m writing, but it’s not a record for the sanctuary. That in itself is a huge risk for me—to be able to write without feeling like I’ve got to manufacture something that’s not entirely genuine, to take a song and feel like I have to make an obvious biblical reference. That’s not there anymore. I’ve actually buried it; for me, it’s an exercise in liberty. In a spiritual context, will God still be evident in me when I write songs?”
Judge for yourself. Knapp’s new album, Letting Go, hits stores on May 11.