A decade ago, Christian singer Jennifer Knapp was riding high with a successful music career, a Grammy nomination and numerous Dove Awards under her belt. But, in 2003, she turned her back on her evangelical fame and virtually disappeared. Years later, Knapp is back — but with a few surprises.
She’s now an out lesbian who, in the minds of many, is starkly different from the girl who once performed and toured with her famed Jesus-inspired tunes. TheBlaze recently interviewed Knapp to discuss her career and her shocking transformation.
KNAPP DISCUSSES HER BACKGROUND & CAREER
The singer explained that she had never aspired to be a rock star. In fact, she said that prior to entering the faith-based music industry, she had little, if any, knowledge about it. Her journey, though accidental, did, indeed, lead her to monumental music success. It wasn’t until Knapp went to college that she was exposed to intense religious adherence.
As a child, she recalls growing up in a somewhat non-religious family. When the singer turned 18, she said she “made a concerted effort” to truly begin exploring Christianity. While she remembers being “really inspired to follow this mystery of Christ,” the singer said that it took her quite a bit of time to figure it all out.
“In evangelical terms, I accepted Christ and then it was like six or eight months before I was deciding about how much I was going to engage in the church community,” she recalled.
A fact some may not know about Knapp is that she didn’t come to Christianity with a clean slate (then again, many faithful share a similar experience). She described herself as “a woman of the world” prior to becoming a Jesus follower, and explained that she had “a lot of sexual experience, drank [and] smoked” in the time leading up to her conversion.
“I was all the things that were preached against,” she said.
All that changed, of course, when her career commenced.
Considering her level of fame and this startling decision to leave it all behind back in 2002, naturally, there are many questions worth asking Knapp. Among them: What was her reasoning for quitting her music career?
WHY KNAPP LEFT CHRISTIAN MUSIC BEHIND
While some may assume that her sexuality played a role, Knapp is adamant about proclaiming that this simply wasn’t the case. Instead, she said she found herself exhausted and in need of a break. The exit process wasn’t easy.
“I spent a year trying to extricate myself from Christian music — I had a really tough schedule and I was tired,” she explained, going on to say that she also realized that her unconventional views were creating issues for her career. “Any time that I would express my own theological view in public that didn’t fit the evangelical mold, I was finding it was making my job difficult.”
So, Knapp divorced herself from Christian music.
“Nobody does that. It just didn’t make sense to anyone,” she said of her decision. “It took me a year to clear my schedule — and to convince people that I was not going to work again.”
TheBlaze did push her a bit on the homosexuality front, asking her to describe if, at all, the decision to leave faith-based music was based on her realization that she was attracted to women. She maintained that it was not and that other issues forced her to take time away.
“It’s really important to me that the timeline is really well respected, “She explained. “I didn’t leave Christian music because of my sexual orientation.”
In fact, it wasn’t until her late 20s that Knapp recalls starting to have an inkling that she might be a lesbian.
Throughout the majority of her music career, she remained celibate “to avoid [an] appearance of evil.” The music industry experience left her somewhat disconnected, she said, claiming that she “didn’t [even] know how to be friends with people.”
“I didn’t want to exercise a rebellion, but I wanted to sit down and ask myself a hard question,” she said of her sexuality when it came time for her to address it, saying that she wanted to explore the question rather than simply ignoring it.
Unlike other performers who have come out vocally to tell the world about their same-sex attraction, Knapp decided not to make a big announcement. Having already exited the Christian music world, she quietly entered into a relationship with a woman and refrained from touring and album-making. Today, she’s in the same relationship — one that has lasted a decade.
THE SINGER’S CHRISTIAN FAITH IS STILL STRONG
Knapp says she’s still very in-tune with her faith. And, in many ways, she says that she’s able to be more genuine than it was a decade ago. In fact, she called it “more heart-driven and spiritual than some of the efforts I had to make 10 years ago.” Knapp says she’s less concerned with engaging in “traditional” actions to express her faith in Christ.
“I’m still very serious about my faith,” she said. “It really becomes a daily component that you have to walk through — your faith is still your faith.”
But the journey wasn’t easy. Knapp admitted to walking away from her faith briefly to explore herself a bit throughout these monumental transformations and realizations. While she’s never questioned her sexual orientation since accepting it 10 years ago, Knapp said she spent a fair amount of time “trying to undo” her religion.
“Most of my struggle was, ‘how do I deal with a faith community that doesn’t understand me,'” the singer explained. “I wasn’t willing to exchange my value of myself.”
When she first met her partner, Knapp’s Christian friends told her to exit the relationship — something she wasn’t willing to do. This, of course, was challenging for the musician, who described feeling as though she was being asked to “sell” her partner “down the river” simply because she was a lesbian.
KNAPP WEIGHS IN ON THEOLOGY AND HOMOSEXUALITY
Throughout the interview, the singer maintained that her sexuality was part of her very person and that she is doing the right thing — at least by her own standards — in embracing it.
“I’ve never heard an audible voice from the heavens — and you go ahead with as much as you can with your head and your heart,” she said when asked to weigh in on where she believes God stands on same-sex attraction. “There’s a point where I just accepted who I am and that may be right — that may be wrong.”
When asked to explain why so many Christians reject homosexuality, she was candid.
“There are over 34,000 denominations [and] there’s a wide variety in the way people navigate experience and scripture,” she claimed, remaining respectful of the divergent views that people have on the subject.
Below, see a portion of an interview between former CNN host Larry King and Knapp back in 2010:
“The reality is this is the choice,” Knapp maintained, although she said that she “hate[s] using that word. “I am who I am. If God is a God who judges and strikes people of same sex attraction — then he’s going to strike me down. This is the way that I am and now I know what it means to fear God.”
Knapp remains hopeful for Christianity on the whole, as she said she’s looking forward to a day when the church is interested in truly delving into peoples’ unique stories.
“I’m dying to see the church get back to stop throwing people out and start listening to the stories that people are having on a day-to-day basis,” Knapp concluded in her interview with TheBlaze.
Knapp came back on the music scene in 2010 with a non-Christian album called “Letting Go.”