Jennifer Knapp Comes Out

“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.

And

“…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.

5 thoughts on “Jennifer Knapp Comes Out

  1. I think you dealt with this really well, Dustin. In my heart I really wish I could just say “Homosexuality is not a sin and you can love whomever you want to love”, but I just can’t ignore scripture on it. That’s why this issue is just so difficult for me: On the one hand I recognize how awful that struggle must be and what you must go through when dealing with it. On the other hand, I just can’t dismiss the fact that God’s Word does have a lot to say about this issue. I do wish the Church would do better with dealing with this particular topic though.

  2. “Jennifer Knapp has found a few ways to justify actions which are, according to scriptures, shameful abominations.”

    Leviticus 20:13 (KJV) If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

    You can’t just pick one scripture and take it at face value. That disregards several very important things. Only a few verses before that, leviticus teaches that it is an abomination to eat shrimp. It also says that you shouldn’t plant two different seeds in the same hole, and that it is an abomination to eat a rabbit. You have to read the bible in context. When the term abomination is used in the Hebrew bible, it is always used to address a ritual wrong. It is never used to refer to something innately immoral. Eating pork was not innately immoral, but it was an abomination because it is a violation of a ritual requirement. You have to recognize the historical context in which this was written. That particular section is about a nation trying to grow, it’s about procreation. The Hebrew people, at that time understood that women had nothing to do with birth except for incubation. So that verse is about saving seed only to procreate so that the nation could grow. It was a violation of a cultural norm, because there is no ability to procreate when you’re involved in a homosexual relationship. In the old testament, Onan was killed as punishment after he purposely did not impregnate Tamar. It was ritually impure, it was an abomination.

    “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.”

    I’m sure you won’t agree with me on this, but just indulge me for a moment.
    Aside from Romans, the only other New Testament references to homosexuality occurs in two passages known as “vice lists,” in which Paul mentions the “arsenokoitai” as a group of sinners.  People spend a lot of time debating about the translation of this word, because it appears only rarely in ancient writings.  Even the translators of the NIV couldn’t seem to make up their minds about it; it’s translated as “homosexual offenders” in 1 Corinthians, but as “perverts” in 1 Timothy.

    The word arsenokoitai is a compound work in Greek, and the parts of the word make reference to “male” and “bed,” which indicates that this word probably referred to some kind of male homosexual behavior.  The same Greek words (“male” and “bed”) appear in the Greek translation of the Leviticus passage, which tells men not to lie (“bed”) with a man (“male”), giving support to this theory.  On the other hand, we must be careful not to assume, as Greek compound words don’t always mean what they might appear to mean.

    It’s fairly safe to assume that the arsenokoitai of Paul’s day were men engaging in some kind of homosexual behavior.  But what kind of behavior?  That’s impossible to know for sure.  Whatever it is, it would have to be something fairly common and well-known to Paul’s audience; these are very short lists of common sins that everyone would be familiar with.  The most likely explanation is that Paul is referring to a practice that was fairly common in the Greek culture of his day – married men who had sex with male youths on the side. The extramarital relationships of men with boys in ancient Greece are infamous even today.  Archaeological and literary evidence prove that these relationships were common for centuries in Greece, though they were frowned upon by many even while they were publicly practiced.  This would explain why, in both lists, he mentions the sin of the arsenokoitai separately after he mentions adultery – because by Greek thought, having a boy on the side wasn’t adultery.

    There is in fact another word for homosexuality and homosexual acts, paiderasste. If Paul’s intent was to condemn committed and loving relationships, this would have been a much better choice of words. His audience was not educated, so to use a rare word like arsenokoitai when he could have used the much more commonly known paiderasste just doesn’t add up.

    This passage speaks negatively of homosexual behavior, but on the other hand, it does so in a context which is clearly sinful.  Paul does say homosexuality is “shameful” and “unnatural,” but he says the same thing (using the same Greek words) about men with long hair in 1 Corinthians 11:14, and we generally consider that to be cultural.  Is this a prohibition for all time, or is it a matter of context, like with the tax collectors? 

    This idea that the bible should be read literally is based on the idea that we need to follow Biblical standards for right and wrong, even when it doesn’t make sense to us.  Even though the these verses could have been explained in other ways, and even though none of them referred to gay marriage or covenant gay partnerships of any sort, we still decided that the most straightforward reading of these verses said that homosexuality was wrong.

    Take this verse, for instance:
    1 Corinthians 11:3-10
    Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is just as though her head were shaved. If a woman does not cover her head, she should have her hair cut off; and if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut or shaved off, she should cover her head. A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. For this reason, and because of the angels, the woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head.

    It doesn’t make sense to argue here that this is only a cultural command if we’re not going to accept the same argument for the homosexuality passages.

    How about Romans 13:1?
    Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.

    A conservative minister once used this passage to argue that both the American Revolution and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s civil disobedience were sinful acts.  Using the traditionalist view, we’d have to agree.  Furthermore, we’d have to condemn even the actions of German Christians who resisted the Nazi government.

    When it comes right down to it, no one consistently applies Scripture passages in a literal, word-for-word, direct application to today’s problems in every case. You have to admit that there are at least some passages that either a) don’t apply today; b) still apply but don’t mean what they seem to mean on the surface; or c) are overruled by other passages or biblical themes.

    Why should we apply this view to same-sex marriage and yet not follow the letter of the text on issues like slavery, women in the church, hair length, money lending, and so on?  Most Traditionalist Christians are content to simply change standards as they go, arguing for a cultural reading of one passage and a literal reading of another, without any reason for doing so other than their prior beliefs about what they think the Bible ought to say.

    Suppose my friend Tom meets someone and falls in love with someone named Sam.  Tom and Sam get to know one another, and as they grow closer to each other and to Christ, they decide to form a lasting bond, to promise to be together forever in a marriage in front of God. So Tom comes to me about it and I, being a Traditionalist, say to him, “That’s immoral and disgusting!  You and Samuel are doing a terrible thing before God!”  Tom then replies, “Sam is short for Samantha.  She’s a girl.”  Suddenly, my opinion changes.  “Oh, well then, that’s wonderful!  All the best to you! What a blessing!”

    Nothing has changed about Tom’s commitment, motivations, or relationship with Christ, or even his actions. Everything is the same except for my perception of the situation. This brings up an even bigger problem. The Traditionalist argument is built one one very important premise, that all people are either male or female. This is how we distinguish the “holy” relationships from the “sinful” ones. But suppose that Sam is neither male nor female, then what?

    Although they are rare, gender anomalies do exist. Some people have abnormalities that keep them from being classified as male or female. Some have bodies that don’t match their chromosomes, others have chromosomes that are not XX or XY but XXY. Most of us don’t have to deal with this problem, so we ignore it, but the fact of the matter is that this is a very real problem that affects very real people. Are they an “exception to the rule”? They cannot be if we believe that gender marks the difference between a holy marriage and living in sin. So how to we distinguish which is right and which is wrong? Do we go by the gender they identify with? The one that matches their chromosomes? What about ambiguous cases?

    Even if you could come up with a standard, it would be awfully arbitrary. Yet somehow we have to go on believing that gender is crucial to God – so crucial that marrying someone of the wrong gender can keep you out of his kingdom.

    “Scripture makes it clear that they will know we are Christians by our love for others, and by our fruits.”

    If same-sex relationships were sinful, we wouldn’t need theological debates to tell us that; it would be readily apparent from the fruit of those relationships. Of course, the fruit of many same-sex relationships through history has been bad.  Just take a look at how Paul describes the fruit of the Romans’ actions in Romans 1. The same can be said for the secular gay community today; a promiscuous, bar-hopping lifestyle filled with drugs, alcohol, and short-lived relationships bears the fruit of emptiness and despair. 

    But if you’re fortunate enough to know a Christ-centered gay couple, you’ll notice something remarkably different.  These relationships are actually bearing good fruit.  The fruit of the Spirit are in abundance in such relationships. You can argue all you want about the meaning of this passage or that passage; the fact remains that there are monogamous, Christ-centered gay couples whose relationships are living proof of God’s blessing on them.  Bad trees don’t bear good fruit.

    We may always have questions, but in the end, sometimes we just have to accept the evidence of God’s work as the only proof we need.  It was the deciding factor for the early Christians (Acts 11:15-18), and perhaps it will one day be the deciding factor for the church on this issue as well.

  3. We have to be careful with Greek words though because etymology is always misleading. I’ve been looking at this passage in my Greek bible for a couple days now, and I don’t think there is any way to deny that Paul was referring to homosexual acts of any kind. I might come back to this later when I don’t have three papers to write. :)

  4. Pingback: Responding to IrisDawn on the topic of Homosexuality « The Paperthin Hymn

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