Arguably one of the shortest books ever written—A History of the Gay Contemporary Christian Music Scene—just got a bit longer with Jennifer Knapp’s coming out, after a seven-year hiatus from recording and touring for the multiple Dove-Award winning artist. You can check out her compelling interview with Christianity Today.
I’m not a big Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) fan in general. I tend to come from the school of thought that I’d like to see less “Christian artists” and more artists who are Christian, whose artistic passion influences them to explore meaning and relevance throughout different areas of life with honesty and integrity, in a way that will probably be driven in large part by their faith, but without necessarily inserting an overt and obligatory scriptural reference at every turn. That being said, Jennifer Knapp is a pretty decent artist and musician, not just a good CCM artist and musician. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
No doubt Christian music has had its so-called prodigals through the years: Michael English with his extra-marital affair, Amy Grant with her perceived selling out to the secular mainstream via her crossover hits. For Knapp, I think the conversation will take a slightly more complex turn, as the church continues to wrestles with and be divided over its rocky and complicated relationship with the homosexual community.
There are those who see potential for Knapp to be an agent of vindication against the church’s historical attitude toward gays. A friend of mine, for example, relished in the aspect of Knapp’s “pointing the finger back” at hypocritical Christians who would judge her, and yet continue to eat shellfish or wear clothing woven from multiple fabrics (prohibitions in Deuteronomy 14:9-10 & Leviticus 19:19, respectively). To be fair, I didn’t gather from the interview that Knapp is looking to adopt that role for herself, and I don’t think her bringing up those Levitical law scriptures in the interview was for such an adversarial purpose as that. (Moreover, a Christian is not a hypocrite for violating old-covenant ritual purity/cleanliness/ceremonial laws—tattoos, clothing, dietary restrictions, atoning animal sacrifices, circumcision, and the like—much of which was fulfilled in the person of Christ. But that’s a topic for another post.) I’ve also heard reaction to the effect that maybe this will begin to convince more people of the overwhelming research that being gay is an inherent trait rather than a choice. And of course you get the standard cynical sentiment from many that the church is full of judgment and hate and will never change.
But here’s the bottom line: We would do well to be governed by the law of love in all things. I don’t even view the nature-versus-nurture debate as being particularly relevant, at least not insofar as we are driven to treat one another. Is there a single verse of the Bible that isn’t ultimately, in its proper context, about relationship—either with God or with our neighbor? The commands to love the Lord and love thy neighbor sum up the entirety of the law and the prophets, per Jesus himself (Matthew 22:37-40). While I might share a degree of criticism toward the church for its shortcomings throughout history, I tend not to dwell in the realm of absolutes embodied by the statement that attitudes will never change. I prefer neither finger pointing, nor pointing the finger back, because I don’t think the solution is to achieve a state of adversarial reciprocity. Whether in politics, religion, or anything else, hate-mongering toward those you perceive as hate mongers simply breeds more hate. I hope, rather, that we can rise to a level of discourse that explores what is good and right and just and loving in a world where we are destined to be in relationship always. I am thus hopefully intrigued by what coming directions our conversation might take.