“Seven years ago, while at the top of her game, Jennifer Knapp announced what seemed to many a sudden decision: She was stepping away from Christian music, taking an indefinite hiatus. Rumors began to swirl—she was burned out, she needed a rest, she was upset about something, she was gay. Turns out that all the rumors were true,..”
And thus begins a long, rambling, and very honest interview with Christianity Today. In the interview Jennifer Knapp reveals several startling revelations, most of which have to do with her sexuality. Specifically, she shares that she has been living together with her lesbian partner for almost 8 years now and is very happy and content with her life. This is quite the revelation, though I suspect there will not be that many people who are disappointed by it. Surprised, perhaps, but I think most people will applaud her for her honesty and for being herself and finding a way to articulate her situation and feelings in a manner that is refreshing and genuine.
My concern though, is the theology of the situation. Indeed, what we have is a trainwreck. Jennifer Knapp has found a few ways to justify actions which are, according to scriptures, shameful abominations. She has attempted to in one hand, hold unto the hand of Christ, and with the other hold unto what is clearly unrepentant sin. This is tragic because it will ultimately it will bring her ruin and destruction. And so I want to examine what she has to say about this, and make a few observations.
At one point she writes
“…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’m the happiest I’ve ever been. But now that I’m back in the U.S., I’m contending with the culture shock of moving back here. There’s some extremely volatile language and debate—on all sides—that just breaks my heart. Frankly, if it were up to me, I wouldn’t be making any kind of public statement at all. But there are people I care about within the church community who would seek to throw me out simply because of who I’ve chosen to spend my life with.
First of all, I think it’s terrible that the Church has not acknowledged her as a human being and that they have been cruel to her, That’s not what the Church ought to do. We ought to uphold and support as much as we can any brother or sister who is either struggling with sin or caught up in sin, and seek to bring them to repentance. We in the Church ought to love and edify and connect with anyone who is struggling with sexual sin, especially that of a same-sex nature. These people aren’t second class citizens, nor is their sin grotesquely repulsive compared to our own. Not at all! All sin is dirty and distasteful, and I’m crazy if I think I can say something like “yeah, but they’re gay“. Ridiculous!
On the flip side, it’s clear that she does not understand the purpose and use and legitimacy of Church discipline. We see this by her line “there are people I care about within the church community who would seek to throw me out simply because of who I’ve chosen to spend my life with.” What she has done is she has minimized her sin and then played the victim when someone seeks to magnify it in order to place it into its proper context. Does the woman engaged in premarital sex while living common law with her boyfriend have the right to say the same thing? To act indignant and disbelieving and hurt when she’s confronted by it? How about the man who is committing adultery and has spent years in a relationship with another woman? In 1 Corinthians 5, do we say that it was unfair for Paul to throw out of the church the man who was sleeping with his fathers wife? Should we have instead opposed him, because after all, Paul was going to throw him out simply because of who he chosen to spend his life with”? I don’t think so. What she is doing is a big deal. It’s not something than can be overlooked, but rather must be dealt with for the health of the Body of believers.
“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. 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.”
…The Bible has literally saved my life. I find myself between a rock and a hard place—between the conservative evangelical who uses what most people refer to as the “clobber verses” to refer to this loving relationship as an abomination, while they’re eating shellfish and wearing clothes of five different fabrics, and various other Scriptures we could argue about. I’m not capable of getting into the theological argument as to whether or not we should or shouldn’t allow homosexuals within our church. There’s a spirit that overrides that for me, and what I’ve been gravitating to in Christ and why I became a Christian in the first place.
This is where much confusion comes in. Most people aren’t oblivious to the fact that there may be people in Church and especially in our communities who are dealing with same-sex attraction. We know they’re there. But here’s the thing- God’s law is clear. His intentions are clear. His desires for mankind within creation are clear. And part of that clarity, as revealed in the sacred scriptures- the revelation of God, is that he hates the sin of homosexuality. You cannot bridge this gap. You cannot say on one hand “I love you, Lord, and I want to be obedient to you and rest in the grace of your son’s blood and death on the cross” and yet on the other say “that having been said, I don’t care that you consider this an abomination. I don’t think it is, and I don’t have to justify everything to you. I will live how I please and refuse to give up these actions. I won’t be clobbered by your word. I don’t have to justify whom I love and how I express that love. ” There is a huge disconnect there. This is wilful, arrogant, purposeful defiance and unrepentant disobedience. Don’t accept her games where she tries to confuse Old Testament dietary laws with New Testament revelation of morality. We read in Romans 1 that Homosexuality is a consequence of mankind’s abandonment of the truth, a just punishment for exchanging the truth for a lie (1:24) and thus a revelation of the wrath of God upon unrighteousness (1:18). The context reveals homosexuality as a further manifestation of the “ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness”(1:18). You can’t get clearer than that.
It is difficult to understand how one can read Romans 1 and not conclude that homosexual behavior is wrong and antithetical to the divine order. Paul, like Moses in Leviticus, clearly uses terms and expressions w which leave no doubt as to what he means. He states that God has given the Gentile world over “in the lusts of their hearts to impurity” (1:24). In this he identifies both lesbianism and the gay lifestyle. The list of expressions used for these vile affections clearly condemns homosexuality: “dishonored among them” (1:24) “degrading passions” (1:26) “exchange the natural function” (1:26) “unnatural” (1:26) “burned in their desire” (1:27) “indecent acts” (1:27) “penalty of their error” (1:27) “worthy of death” (1:32). As such, I have heard no hermeneutical gymnastics clever enough to convince me that God has revealed in the Bible any other plan for families than one man loving one woman for life as a clear picture of the love of Christ for the church.
It comes down to the simple fact that her experiences and senses tell her that her relationship is enjoyable and pleasing to her, and so she disagrees with the Word under the guise of humility. It comes off as if she’s struggling and searching and initially I read this interview and felt bad for her. I really did. Because she didn’t try to make excuses for herself or justify her homosexuality, or try to find some clever hermeneutic to absolve her of guilt. She didn’t say “Back then the sin of homosexuality was that of forced rape, or was only temple prostitution, and therefore…..” and went that route. I found that refreshing to a point. But then I read more and more, and I think what she has done is actually something much worse. The people who argue those verses, they are least recognize that they are a problem and that they have to do SOMETHING with them. But not Jennifer. She way of rationalizing involves simply bypassing them altogether. To wit- her heart isn’t soft, but rather it is hardened. 8 years of unrepentant sin and abuse of God’s grace will do that to a person. I don’t want to belabour the point, but it’s not just lesbian sex that is the sin, but pre-marital sex as well. And if she justifies it by saying they’re married in their hearts, then they have a illegitimate, sinful marriage in God’s eyes- one which again defies his intent for creation and for humanity, as the Lord’s purposes for marriage are the oneflesh union of a man and woman.
…I’ve always struggled as a Christian with various forms of external evidence that we are obligated to show that we are Christians. I’ve found no law that commands me in any way other than to love my neighbor as myself, and that love is the greatest commandment. At a certain point I find myself so handcuffed in my own faith by trying to get it right—to try and look like a Christian, to try to do the things that Christians should do, to be all of these things externally—to fake it until I get myself all handcuffed and tied up in knots as to what I was supposed to be doing there in the first place, If God expects me, in order to be a Christian, to be able to theologically justify every move that I make, I’m sorry. I’m going to be a miserable failure.”
Scripture makes it clear that they will know we are Christians by our love for others, and by our fruits. Jesus says if we love him, then we will obey his commandments. The whole arc of Scripture shows that we were dead in our sins, but once we are born again we are new creatures in Christ, we have a new nature, are no longer enslaved to sin, and now have the power and ability to be sanctified into Christ’s likeness. We read in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God”. That’s the thing. They WERE those things. There were some people who were homosexuals and who probably felt exactly as Jennifer Knapp does regarding their emotions and feelings and attraction. But then we see that though there were deeply engaged in those sins, that they were washed, sanctified and justified by Christ, and are no longer those things. “You used to be a homosexual, BUT NOW you’re sanctified and saved, and that’s not what or who you are anymore”
Lastly, Jennifer does two interesting things in that last paragraph, The first is that she twists the scripture. In Matthew 22, Jesus is being tested by a man. Regarding the greatest commandment, he says “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” That’s the summary of the law. Two things. The first is that she says she has found no law to command her other than this one, when the apostles Paul and Peter and Jude, as well as James give some clear laws that Christians ought to follow. The second is that love is the law. This vague, esoteric, amorphous and all-purpose love is not what Jesus was talking about, but rather the first commandment is love for the Father. Jennifer is deceived if she thinks that she is indeed fulfilling the law and loving God with her whole heart and mind and soul when she is engaged in open rebellion and defying the Lord’s plans for human sexuality by living in an open, unapologetic homosexual relationship. That’s a a problem. She wants to hold unto it as a belief and a banner- she just doesn’t want to be open or responsible for the implications of what is required of her. The last issue is her comment about how she can’t, and shouldn’t have to theologically justify every move that she makes. That’s not good enough. Again, we don’t let the adulterer say “God can’t expect me to theologically justify every move that I make. If i want to have sex with another woman’s husband-I shouldn’t have to justify that. ” The word of the Lord is our canon, and we must accept that and honor it as such.
Let me unpack it one last time- I know this seems honest and genuine and real- this interview where she lays it out. Perhaps on a level it is, but at the same time it’s incredibly arrogant and defiant. It’s like she’s saying “I don’t think it’s a sin, you do, let’s move on from that.” She’s not dealing with the Scriptures or the implications of Scripture or what God says and has revealed- she just knows that God is a God of love and that she’s happy and how could this be wrong? Because of this, it is defiance under the veneer of honesty- flagrant disregard for scriptures existing under the guise of personal piety. It’s reminiscent of the humble hermeneutic employed by the emergents, except Jennifer is not interested in what God really said, but rather what her heart really tells her. She’s not speaking from a tender heart, but rather as one whose foolish heart has been darkened and hardened.
Lastly, I hope people who read this blog know I’m careful enough to differentiate between someone who has homosexual thoughts and inclinations and struggles to resist acting on them, and someone who is unrepentantly homosexual. Because I do, and this post is not talking about the former at all. What Jennifer needs to see though is that God does in fact have sexual standards, and they’re based on His creative intent which is made clear in both the Old and New Testament. He did not put forth this standard to enslave us but rather to free us. When God prohibits something He always has something better for us. All of us are inclined to trust our own instincts and desires more than the revealed will of God. Whatever our desires may be and however right and/or powerful they may seem, God’s desires for us must always take precedence. That may not bring immediate gratification, but it will bring the slow burn of sanctification and a genuinely beautiful walk and relationship with Christ.