Jennifer Knapp

When I was a teenager, the first and only concert I went to (read was allowed to go to) was D.C. Talk. I remember thinking that this whole world was out there of live music, that had been hidden from me, I wanted to run away from home and join the first Christian band that would have me. Unfortunately, that would require talent of some kind, and I was running dangerously low on that. So I just sat back and enjoyed the show, including D.C. Talk’s opener, Jennifer Knapp.

Some of you may already know that Knapp dropped off the Christian music scene about a decade ago, returning only recently…with an announcement that she is gay. When I heard this, my heart sunk, not just because of Knapp, but because now the same old party lines were going to be drawn, and Christians who shouldn’t be talking at all would be the first ones lining up to say things. And the ones who should be talking don’t actually know what to say or how to say it.

I was right.

Within a matter of days, Knapp was on Larry King Live and the fight was on. Every time these conversations go public like this, it’s only a matter of time before things get really ugly, and this was no exception. But I did find one Christian theologian (who I respect a lot) who I’m glad is speaking out about this. His name is Scot McKnight, and here’s what he had to say:

“When I posted last week about Jennifer Knapp’s decision to come out and openly tell folks, on a place like Christianity Today, my one and only concern was what folks would say about her. I feared the wrath that would come her way. I did my best to avoid deleting comments and being busy that day made it easier. But I grieved over some of them as I read them later that day.

So I want to return, not to her decisions, but to a parable by Jesus and to how we are living it out. Jesus told a parable that we call the parable of the wheat and weeds. (The whole parable can be found after the jump.) I begin with how the parable is to be interpreted:

“The field is the world,” Jesus says, and once we see that line the whole parable becomes clear. In this world, Jesus is saying, the wheat (his kingdom people) and the weeds (non kingdom people) will co-exist. They will be near and next to and intermingled with one another. He describes a peaceable co-existence.

Furthermore, Jesus says clearly, it is not the task of the kingdom people to rip out the non-kingdom people. So, his point: live together, discerning differences, with non-kingdom people and let God be the judge. Kingdom people are to wait for God to judge and not take judgment into their hands.

It begins for me with this: Jennifer Knapp is a person, a human being, an Eikon of God, someone who says she’s a Christian. I begin there. She’s not an abstract ethical position but a concrete human person. Now, to some questions…

What does it mean for kingdom people to dwell with Jennifer Knapp? (I’m not saying Jennifer Knapp is a non-kingdom person but it is patently clear to me that many commenters and bloggers think so, which makes this parable all the more significant for what they write.) Or, what does this parable tell us about how to dwell with those we don’t agree with? How have Christians responded to her? According to this parable or not?
Matthew 13:

13:24 He presented them with another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a person who sowed good seed in his field. 13:25 But while everyone was sleeping, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. 13:26 When the plants sprouted and bore grain, then the weeds also appeared. 13:27 So the slaves of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Then where did the weeds come from?’ 13:28 He said, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the slaves replied, ‘Do you want us to go and gather them?’ 13:29 But he said, ‘No, since in gathering the weeds you may uproot the wheat with them. 13:30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At harvest time I will tell the reapers, “First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned, but then gather the wheat into my barn.”‘”

13:36 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.” 13:37 He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 13:38 The field is the world and the good seed are the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, 13:39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 13:40 As the weeds are collected and burned with fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 13:41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather from his kingdom everything that causes sin as well as all lawbreakers. 13:42 They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 13:43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. The one who has ears had better listen!”

So what do you think? Do you like the way that Scot is framing the conversation? Notice, he’s not saying that this isn’t a sin, but he’s trying to redirect our public conversation about sin toward ourselves first. And his primary point, one that I think Christians would be served well by paying attention to, is that Knapp is a person, not an ethical issue.

And I think he raises a fair question, How does this parable change the way we talk about these kind of moments in our world?

How does Jesus’ parable about us not having to have everything figured out about who’s in and who’s out change the way we react in these kind of cultural events?

About jonathanstorment

My family and I love reading, traveling, daddy/daughter dates, playing hide and seek, good music, and long meals with friends. We still miss LOST, and all four of us have Superman uniforms. We are passionate about bringing Heaven to Earth and want to follow Jesus while repainting discipleship for those around us. We are followers of Jesus and I preach at the Highland Church of Christ. We participate in something called A Restoration Movement, and we've come to realize that might be larger than we thought.

24 thoughts on “Jennifer Knapp

  1. My first reaction was, “Well she should at least be convicted by scripture that this is a sin and is wrong and the Bible clearly tells us what happens to people who get into this sort of thing…” Then I realize that my own heart has issues. There are things that I have gotten soft about in my own walk that need cleared up. That doesn’t mean Jennifer is right and I am wrong or that she is wrong and I am right. It just means we all need to be seeking out holiness and a crystal clear understanding of the areas of our life that are still in process. To me this should become a partnership where we all are here to help each other understand that rather than an adversarial relationship where we shout each other down. I have never seen anyone won over to righteousness by an adversarial approach. So why do we keep on trying it?

  2. That’s a good word Matt! I love those last two sentences, McKnight’s words worked to remind me to check for the log in my own eye before looking for the speck in someone else’s, that’s not to discount the speck, but just to reevaluate the way we’ve been going about looking for them (and why). Thanks for sharing Matt!

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  4. The parable of the weeds in the wheat speaks less to our relationship with Jennifer Knapp (which, realistically, none of us really have unless we’re in the recording business), and more about our relationship with our neighbors, friends, co-workers, and the folks in the pews with us. Nonetheless, I think McKnight makes a good point. I grieve for her and her family. I know the pain that homosexuality can cause in a family. If I did know her well, I’d counsel her to get help to leave that lifestyle–just as I’d counsel a loved one to leave an illicit heterosexual relationship, or a greedy lifestyle, or . . . I think you get the point.

    Some other things about that parable:
    1. There will be weeds among us. It’s a fact of life. How many times did Jesus confront demons in church? Lots.
    2. In the end, the weeds get burned up. I don’t want that for anyone.
    3. It’s easy to take a parable too far and apply it to what it was never meant to address. We know that some of the “weeds” among us become “wheat”. That’s not addressed in this parable.

    Good thoughts, Jonathan.

  5. Woah… this is code for the LOST finale isn’t it. The candidates are the wheat, and Ben Linus is the weeds, and now…

    j/k

    I don’t like the way Scot is framing this. So the normative posture to take when you discover a brother or sister in impenitent sin is aloof individualism? “Oh well, that’s a pity. I suppose I should just focus on being the best wheat I can be & mind my own business, resigned to the fact that those weeds/sinners will be ‘thrown into the fiery furnace.'” Huh?

    I guess I don’t see how this parable is THE normative text when there are other passages that suggest a different course of action. I do think that Scot’s question (“What does it mean for kingdom people to dwell with Jennifer Knapp?”) is probably the most important question. It’s the question that took up the most space when I decided to blog about Jennifer. And Matthew 13 seems to address that question. But so does 1st Cor. 5, and several others.

    It is regrettable when people like Jennifer (on one side) and Carrie Prejean (on the other side) become objectified ethical issues. And people aim their rage at them, making them scapegoats to take all the blame for why the world seems such an unpleasant place. And people talk about their hearts as if they understand their motives, usually making blunt & indelicate judgments about what kind of people they are.

    It does stink that Jennifer is in great part a personified case study. As I sit here, I can’t conceive of any way to lessen that burden on her.

    One last thing… kinda weird that you & I both brought up dcTalk when we blogged about Jennifer Knapp. Jonathan… are you my constant??

  6. I think this topic is more about judging her community, or folks doing life with her than it is about judging her. I don’t see it as my job to call her on her sin as much as I see it as the job of the people walking with her. My feelings for Knapp haven’t changed in the slightest bit because of this. I still think she’s a great songwriter, but her sin is no different than my pride or any one of my vices (there are plenty).

    I think Dan makes a great point about none of us truly knowing her, too. So, like I said, to me, she’s still just a singer/songwriter who claims Christianity and is sinful…just as she’s claimed through her songs all along.

    Now, if someone I was in community with were to be going through the same situation, I would then feel the weight and burden to call their sin out in love – just as I would expect them to do with me. Would I be judging that person? Yes…absolutely. We can’t hold “the weeds” to the standard of striving for holiness, but we’d dang sure better hold “the wheat” to that standard. If we held off from “casting judgement” on believers because we knew we weren’t perfect, no one would ever be sharpened by community – and that’s..you know…the OPPOSITE of community. We should welcome our brothers and sisters bringing our shortcomings to our attention (easier said than done) because all it does is exposes where we need Christ more in our lives.

  7. Storment, Thanks for keeping things relevant. I have no idea who this child of God, Jennifer Knapp is other than what you’ve shared about her. I can admire her courage and honesty for sure, though. What is it about our Christian sub-culture that freaks out about one or two issues, hyper-cultural and hyper-political issues. I say God Bless Jennifer Knapp and I think His Children, the Church, should surround this child of God, love her to pieces, encourage her daily, and support her in any way they can and otherwise sit down and shut up. She likely knows the Word and the Lord, she doesn’t need to be reminded of Hell and demons and political platforms. She needs to rekindle a passion for Jesus, who loves her knowing that she sins. So what, she kissed a girl and she liked it? Why pick on her? I’m not about to make a case for or against her salvation, but I think it’s clear how His Children, the Church, should be treating her. It’s sad to me that this even has to be a topic. God bless and keep Jennifer Knapp!

    Thanks for challenging us, Storment.

  8. Overall, I appreciate the way this guy frames the conversation; particularly the part about not dehumanizing her. I have felt for a long time that the only adequate definition of sin is dehumanization. I can also understand the point made above: what precisely makes this passage normative? It seems that it’s human nature to only emphasize those texts which re-enforce our own prejudices. Yet it is these very prejudices that lead to us dehumanize others: so we all fall short of the glory of God, and the glory of Jesus’ legacy which was a life that maintained the humanity of others.

    Frankly, I find all the Scripture-quoting that accompanies the discussion of homosexuality to be a complete joke. The Bible says lots of ridiculous things that we never take seriously, and I don’t find its limited commentary on gays and lesbians to the end-all for the discussion. People quote scriptures to fortify their ideological stances, but this generally has nothing to do with the heart of Jesus’ message. More often than not, proof-texting is the first sign that we never understood his message in the first place.

    So, while it is true that the parable under consideration is not the ultimate norm on the subject at hand, I find it to be a much better option than the patriarchally biased, peripheral, and otherwise inconclusive texts that most people cite to prove homosexuality is a sin.

  9. This is along the same lines as Randy Fullers comment…
    I think it’s important for us (Christians) to remember to not be afraid of judging each other. It does seem to be a trend even in the world to caution judgement. Dangerous as it sounds, we are to judge each other; not the world.
    the end of I cor. 5 says: ” 12 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside.” So we are to judge those inside…but also think hard on what “judge” means. Love must be the center of all our decisions.

  10. This is a tough issue. Unlike Maynard, I do not see this as a political issue but simply as a Biblical issue. If Christians don’t speak out against sin, who will? There are many people who know God’s word and yet they do not follow it or find ways to rationalize their own way of thinking. Well, at least I have done it far too many times so I know at least 1 who has had that issue.

    I’m thankful for the people who love me and point out my sin in their love for me. They don’t throw rocks knowing they battle their own demons but they share love knowing that if they can help me get back to God’s purpose and plan, I will help them.

    I’m fortunate to be surrounded by a very loving group of friends. Sure, there have been those who have said some really stupid stuff to me but it only helps me realize how many people don’t have a real, intimate relationship with God.

    I don’t know Jennifer Knapp and won’t speak to her specifically but the Bible is very clear on homosexuality (just as it is on adultery, murder, stealing, etc.) and as we all know, we will meet God one day and He will make judgment on our decisions. I hope Jennifer will seek God with all her heart and heed His words for her life.

  11. Phillip, yes. It’s like we are so close we can finish one another’s….

    About Matthew 13 and 1st Corinthians 5, I think you’re (and others) are right, it’s not the normative text for this particular situation, but in a broader sense for all Christian situations. Here’s my point, I’m not saying that any kind of sin should not be dealt with or even lovingly confronted (in relationship). But it does seem that behind a lot of these conversations is the subtext that someone is either in or out, and that doesn’t seem to be a luxury Jesus was allowing his followers.

    Randy, that’s a good word brother. It’s an indictment on community more than on an individual. With that said, we need to talk, it’s about all your vices…

    Maynard, thanks for that man. You always draw us back to the very personal part of it. I think that if there wasn’t so many political issues under the surface of this would be a different conversation. Jeff, the thing I think Maynard is getting at isn’t the individual nature of this, a girl likes a girl, as much as he is the broader social context that it is happening in. Knapp no longer is a person who’s made a decision, she is a ideological stance that people should line up and support or critique. That’s what I’m hearing everyone on my blog saying should be reacted against…and I’m glad. Thanks both of you for your words.

    Joe, we agree on a lot of stuff, but I do think that I’d probably come off as more conservative on this. What’s harder for me to reconcile is that historically all 3 major religions have been sexually specific. I was talking to a friend yesterday about this and his point was that Genesis 1-3 was the most compelling case, but lest Conservative Christians forget, it has a lot more indicting things to say about them than anyone else.

    Wes, that’s a great point. I think that if the church just followed Scripture on this one thing it would change our perception in society a ton. We don’t judge the world, we discern/judge/guide each other. Typically, what I’ve seen the most of is the reverse. Good stuff, thanks for sharing!

  12. I had been deeply impacted by Jennifer Knapp’s music in the past and every time I hear it. To hear of this news is shocking and greatly puzzeling. But yes, I completely agree with you that we can’t make this about an issue. She is a person and needs to be treated as a person and not like an issue.
    With all of that being said, Paul was pretty clear with the way Christians are to behave and treat Christians when they fall into immorality. But of course we must do this in love.
    Thank you for talking about this Mr Storment! God bless. Grace and Peace.
    Zack
    http://zackblaisdell.wordpress.com

  13. The 3 Abrahamic faiths have also been specific about the barter-value of women, the ethnic preferences of God, and structure of society that bears no resemblance to our own. All of these are things that we rightly disregard in the modern world in favor of the heart of these religions, and against the all-too-human authors of their central texts. Yet, God’s heart comes through these texts anyway, and no where do I find it obvious that God shares our intolerance toward those who are different from ourselves.

  14. Could it be that we are all somewhat guilty of making our subject an ideological issue or the object of political, societal, or cultural debate to the same extent each of us theorizes about God instead of living in relationship with Him?

    Storment, I love your ability and passion to challenge all of us. I grow not only from your writings, but your followers comments feed me, too. Joe is so much deeper than me, but I loved his thoughts on this one though I’m still processing his remarks.

  15. Zack, good to hear from you man. Hope everything is going well in Lubbock.

    Joe, I think we would treat someone who is gay the same way. I know you know my heart, and that this isn’t about an “issue” for me. i think we’ve talked about this before in person. While your right there are a lot of things that we disregard because the 21st century West isn’t like the 1st century East. The trajectory of God’s progression has always been more restrictive sexually. I think it’s because God knows the power of what we are dealing with. Obviously the heart of God is pro-people, and I think that the best response is two fold. 1. To people who aren’t Jesus-followers we love them, that’s it. We aren’t trying to wage some kind of cultural war or dehumanization campaign. 2. To Jesus followers, I think that God has got something to say about our sexuality. I think of several well-known and not so well-known Christians who dealt with this and were able to choose a life of celibacy, Henri Nouwen for one. Pastorally, this is hard for me. I’ve had this conversation a ton in my office, with people who are really struggling with this, and my main thing I try to communicate is that God isn’t angry with them, and can redeem this.

    But my real thing is that I think our culture has taught us that we are our sexuality and that’s just not true. To disagree with someone is not to deny their basic humanity or to not be able to see them as an icon of God. You are (still) a beautiful person.

    Maynard, I agree Joe’s always got good stuff to say.

  16. I fully agree that we are not merely our sexuality. I think this is something we are told because it makes us into fantastic consumers, who will buy whatever makes us the sexual beings we are identified as (i.e. beer, clothes, cars). I also believe that God demands that we restrict our sexuality. I have seen the effects of libertinism, and they are quite dehumanizing. I believe fully that sex is a matter for consenting adults, and that detached from relationships of sacrificial commitment it tends more often than not to be destructive and sinful. Yet, where homosexuals, as consenting adults, commit to another in sacrificial love, I cannot see how this demands that they be excluded from the category of ‘Jesus-followers’. I also cannot see how the only option for God’s redemption is to essentially divorce from their loved one.

    While I respect figures such as Nouwen, I know that for every saint there is also a pedophile priest. I don’t want to over-simplify, because it is certainly more complicated than cause and effect, but I know that some of the Roman Church’s problems have arisen due to an inability to properly address homosexuality. I feel that Nouwen sublimated his desires, and the others repressed them. I think that repression is more common. I think that neither is necessary or ideal.

    I realize that you and I are not so far apart in practice (in how we treat others), but I do think that this underlying conversation we have had is also quite important. And, I’m glad that you make room on your blog to have it.

  17. Thanks Joe, I appreciate you and your thoughts man, even if we don’t always line up together. Thanks for being kind on here brother. I know this is something that you are passionate about too. Remember when we were in San Francisco on that mission trip? I know that the underlying reason you and I are talking about this is because both of us care about people.

  18. Jonathan,

    Thanks for this thoughtful post. I was looking for blogs on Jennifer’s announcement and this came up. My biggest problem with how many have reacted to Jennifer is the tone of their comments. If reconciliation (as in 2 Corinthians 5) is what we’re after, the “us” and “them” thing really doesn’t work. Period. Jesus makes it crystal clear that our primary job is to love other people as we love ourselves. It’s up to the Spirit to bring conviction (John 16:8-11). Maybe we should give the Spirit his job back 🙂

    Sins below the belt take up way too much space in our conversations. I preached on Matthew 5:27-30 today. My inbox is stuffed full. I love the dialogue you’re facilitating here.

  19. Thanks for this Josh! That’s a good word, and you’re right. Part of the most damaging things about these kind of conversations in the media is that it only reinforces the “us” vs. “them” mentality, it goes counter-cultural to the new humanity that is at the heart of what Jesus is trying to create. I would have liked to heard that sermon. Are you using Willard’s stuff? I really lean heavily on him for Sermon on the Mount stuff, particularly on that passage. Glad to hear from you brother!

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