Footage from Jennifer Knapp at The Living Room in New York City on October 28th 2009.
Christianity and homosexuality notoriously don’t always mix.
Grammy nominated singer and songwriter Jennifer Knapp is successfully a Christian, a lesbian and a musician. Last night in Marsh Memorial Chapel, Knapp once again showed off her musical talent.
It all started in college when she was attending Pittsburg State University in Kansas to study music education.
“I was at a state school and there was just a huge group of Evangelical students on campus,” said Knapp. “We had a big group called Fellowship of Christian Athletes that met once a week on campus. It wasn’t church, but it was kind of like church and a lot of my friends [did it]. That really made me curious about Christianity.”
Knapp’s newfound interest for Christianity then directly affected her music.
“As I began to get involved in the church, a lot of people started to ask me to participate in the church in musical ways.”
After playing at several different churches across the country, Knapp landed a record deal. Her new record deal immediately gave her a spotlight in the Contemporary Christian music industry.
Six years later, Knapp landed her first Grammy nomination.
“It’s amazing to feel like you’ve done something in the universe that people recognize,” said Knapp. “Artists make hundreds and hundreds of records without ever getting that kind of recognition.”
After dedicating almost 10 years of her life to the Christian music industry, Knapp decided to call it quits. Over the course of those 10 years, Knapp started to feel differently about her Evangelical beliefs and making Christian music in general.
“I just got to the point where I couldn’t imagine doing another Christian record,” Knapp said. “I couldn’t imagine making another record knowing that somebody wanted me to stand for something I didn’t necessarily stand for.”
The turning point for Knapp came when she was doing a local concert. A young girl came up to her with one of her albums in hand asking for her autograph. She then proceeded to thank Knapp for creating music that had saved her from a homosexual lifestyle.
That was it for Knapp.
Her ensuing hiatus from music lasted for seven years. During this period of time, she moved to Australia and lived in the outback. While living in Australia, she was nominated for another Grammy, but didn’t find out about it until years later due to the seclusion she lived in.
“Finally, I woke up one day and said, ‘Listen, I’ve made music my whole life, why am I not making music right now?’”
Right when Knapp was making her comeback, she announced she was a lesbian and that she had been in a same-sex relationship for eight years.
Her career was changed forever after that.
“I didn’t anticipate the impact it would make with people. I just thought people would either decide to continue to support me or not.”
“I didn’t understand the impact of me being able to stand up and say that I still have my faith, and I’m gay, and I’m still doing music, and all of these things connect differently than the way you might imagine them to be.”
That’s why David McMahon, Director of United Campus Ministry and Spiritual Life, chose to bring Knapp and her story to SC.
“My office tries to encourage thinking about engaging in spirituality in different ways,” said McMahon. “[Knapp is] an out woman who identifies herself as a woman of faith and that’s a unique dialogue to bring to campus.”
“We’re here to educate you in spirit, mind and body, and finding different ways to bring different perspectives to campus is important,” he added.
Although Knapp has been through a lot concerning her spirituality and sexuality, the one thing that hasn’t changed for her is her love for music.
Today, Knapp is putting out music that is mostly folk rock.
“It has a lot of that country, storytelling-type thing going for it, too.”
Her music now has a story. She’s finally making music that she truly feels compassionate about.
Gabby DeMarchi may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org