If you’ve been involved in the evangelical Christian community in any way in the last 15 years, the name Jennifer Knapp is probably as familiar to you as Kelly Clarkson. Knapp is a million record-selling, Dove award-winning artist, whose candid lyrics, raw voice and mad guitar skills rocketed her to Christian music stardom in the late ’90s and early ’00s.
In 2003, Knapp disappeared from the music scene and the public eye, and now, seven years later, she’s coming out with a new album — and she’s coming out as a lesbian.
Well, almost. Knapp isn’t really into the label, but in interviews with The Advocate and Christianity Today, Knapp has finally opened up about her sexuality, and her eight-year relationship with her girlfriend.
If you haven’t been involved in the evangelical Christian community in the last 15 years, here’s the best way for me to explain it to you: Jennifer Knapp coming out is HUGE. It’s the HUGEST thing I can think of to happen in terms positive gay representation in the Christian community in well over a decade — in large part because she seems to have reconciled her faith and her sexuality.
Knapp told The Advocate that she thought she had to choose one or the other, but after years of soul searching Down Under (she became an Australian citizen to live with her girlfriend), she realizes there’s not a necessary dichotomy between being a Christian and being a lesbian.
I was a full-on employee of a Baptist church, teaching Sunday School and Bible studies three times a week, at the height of Jennifer Knapp’s popularity, and I can’t even begin to explain what a big deal it would have been to me if she had come out then. When anyone asked where Knapp had gone, and when she’d be coming back with a new CD, someone would always whisper, "She’s working out some personal issues."
And I know I’m not the only one whose world would have been shaken by Knapp’s revelation. In her Advocate interview, Knapp says she once got an email from a young fan who asked her to please come out if she really was a lesbian, saying: "It would help me feel less alone."
If anything, the relationship between the gay community and Christian community has gotten even more acrimonious in Knapp’s absence, with James Dobson taking the helm after Jerry Falwell‘s death and steering the Religious Right directly into the Sea of Homophobia — but my hope has always been that something or someone would come along to open up a new dialogue between the two groups.
Knapp doesn’t sound particularly hopeful that it will happen. On "Inside," a track from her new album "Letting Go," Knapp sings: I know they’ll bury me / Before they hear the whole story.
I hope — for once — that she is wrong.
But even if they don’t hear the whole story, there’s no denying that the coming out door in Christian churches just got a little wider. And that’s the best news I’ve heard in a long, long time.