Picture it: Kansas City, 2001. I’m riding along in the Mustang my secret crush /teenage BFF’s parents bought her. Music cranking. At the time, it was Christian artists like Nicole C Mullen, FFH, and Nicole Nordeman narrating our lives as we traveled to the mall, movie theatre, choir practice, and Bible study. Such is the life of a Midwestern girl. A constant on our playlist, and one of my favorites, was Jennifer Knapp. We’d drive down dusty side roads, over railroad tracks, belting along with her moody and heartfelt music of praise. Our youth group texted each other verses of her songs as words of encouragement and quoted her on our Xanga blogs.
I’m sure by now you’ve all heard the story. 2001, nominated for a Grammy. 2002, falls off the face of the earth. In 2010, she fell smack dab back into my life by announcing she was a lesbian, and even better, that she was making new music. Once again I found Jennifer Knapp narrating my life. A new again constant while I drove to bars, coffee shops, and concerts in the Land Rover my secret crush’s parents bought her. Text messages flew between our group of friends: “How amazing is this line?” “Did you SEE her on CNN?” “Man, she’s hotter than I remember!” She quickly became one of my favorite quotations on my facebook profile.
I saw her after her coming out, not too far after my own coming out, at Lilith Fair. It was hot and sweaty and there was no time for chit chat. I wanted to ask her about her faith. I wanted to ask her if she still prayed. If she still felt God in her life. I wanted to ask because I struggled with my faith a lot after coming out. Being Gay and Christian seem to be two wholey incompatible things. Two totally different worlds that really didn’t like each other. And yet I found myself with a foot in each. How did she make it work? How was she still able to sing such pretty words about it? She said she was still spiritual, she still had her own path. Was the God I heard in her music the same God it had been before? Had her path led her away from God? Was I also going to eventually find I couldn’t keep my faith in a community that largely shunned me?
I saw her again on 11/25. In the latest stop on her ‘Inside Out Faith’ tour. In an old wooden church, a crowd gathered to hear the story of this woman and how she reconciled her faith. With a guitar and a music stand, under a large cross, she sang and she spoke. She said the word lesbian, in a church. I cried, I held the hand of the woman I love and I shook my head in agreement. Coming out is scary. It does feel like you have to choose sexuality or spirituality. The other side of the journey is sweeter and richer and more beautiful for the struggle. She, like her music, was the perfect mix of humility, honesty, trust, and humor. In a room full of old bitty church ladies, she spoke about how church often gets it wrong with regard to the LGBT community. She spoke about how she had never wanted to speak in churches again but that God and her inner voice had told her she needed to do something. She talked about how in her quiet moments, being gay felt as right as being a musician felt. She compared it to a gift bestowed upon her.
In a post show Q&A, she talked and laughed with the group assembled about CNN, comfortable footwear, and gay teen suicides. One might think she carefully chooses her words to sound non-judgmental, but the image I got of this woman was that she really is this non-judgmental. She was honest and endearing and I had to fight an overwhelming urge to hug her. Until later, when she joked with my Johnson County girlfriend about the ridiculousness of Kansas street names. Then I hugged her and I didn’t even get arrested for it. Jennifer is an artist who loves her fans. And this is one fan who loves her for it.
Check jenniferknapp.com to find out about more ‘Inside Out Faith’ tour dates coming next year. Follow her on Twitter @Jennifer_knapp.