An Interview with Jennifer Knapp Part 2: Church, Sexuality, and Progressive Christianity
Beliefnet continues chatting with Jennifer Knapp in the second part of this personal interview.
So I know that you said that you don't necessarily run in any specific Christian circles, but I also know that the other weekend you were with the Association of Welcome and Affirming Baptists (an organization who affirms homosexuality in the Baptist tradition). And so, I was wondering, have you found some kind of a spiritual connection with them?
Well, one of the things that has happened over the last couple of years since my coming out, is I've been recognized as a very public person of faith and whatever that means. But it's been interesting over the last couple of weeks for me, because I definitely am not interested, as an entertainer, in creating Christian music anymore. There is no bent in me, in terms of [being[ a public figure to create merchandise, if you will, for that market. I'm not interested in the marketplace at all. So when I talk about the pop culture Christianity, I have no idea what's going on in Christian music. I don't know who the pop authors are. I would look back at Philip Yancey and Tony Campolo and those guys and whatever they're doing today, I don't really know. I tend to have to go out of my way to find that.
I can send you a care package of things that come across my desk, if you want to get caught up.
You know what? To be honest, you'd be wasting a stamp. All that stuff does continue to come my way as well. I have people sending me Christian books of fiction and wanting my endorsement, things like that. There's an idea that I keep being asked to go into it. And to answer your question about the AWAB, the Association of Welcoming & Affirming Baptists, and in particular, religious things that I do actually end up participating in, are far more a conversation level. It's difficult to explain to people who [think that] if someone engages with their creativity or their art or their person in a religious environment, then they must be doing Christian "this." And it's really frustrating for me, but it doesn't really stop me from going to the places. Nine times out of ten, if somebody invites me to go some place, I'll go, if I can. And I go because I'm interested to meet people and not just deliver what I have to deliver, but to learn from the other people that are there, and whoever the people that have invited me, that I’d be a part of their world and their conversation for a while.
Photo courtesy of Fairlight Hubbard and Amy M Phillips of EYE
The Association of Welcoming & Affirming Baptists and Robin Lunn, it's a really intriguing paradigm to consider that -- one which I actually enjoy. People think all of a sudden that when you say the word "Baptist," they get a very distinct view of what they think they're going to get when they meet a Baptist. They're going to be homophobic… especially right now, in our current climate, you're going to get a lot of conversation about what God wants the country to look like, how He wants you to vote, how He wants you to spend your money as a Christian and, certainly, how He wants you to build a family and what that looks like, in terms of sexual orientation, which does not include any conversation of the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) people. It's really fun for me to be able to go and have access to those kind of environments that really challenge that. Yet, at the same time, I think one of the things that I learned in response to that is, how important people's traditions are, in which they have come to approach their faith, and what language they use that helps them continue to be comfortable. Meaning -- the example I would have -- it spun my head off, the first time that I met people that were saying, "Yes. We're Southern Baptists and we're going to an open and affirming church." I'm like, "What? It's not possible." It's the same way that I felt that that section of faith might look at me and go, "It's not possible for you to be a Christian and gay." And it's not fair for me to look and say, "What? How can you be a Baptist, a Southern Baptist and open and affirming." So you kind of have to go. You have to meet people. You have to talk with them. You have to figure out the lay of the land.
Through all that, I am realizing that’s a very important thing, especially in terms of the LGBT issues and today. I think a lot of times, we encourage people to just move on. If there's a tradition that's not including you in your conversation, we think it's really easy to just move on. If the Southern Baptists don't like you, then get out and go somewhere else. But if you spent your whole life there and your family is there, and that's your tradition and that's your language and your culture, it's like saying if you're American, you don't like what's going on in the American political scene right now, “well then, get out and go to Korea. It doesn't work that simply. And to try and hard-wire someone's native language is -- or you rewire someone's native language, it's not necessarily helpful. It's not necessarily accurate to their growth process either. So I definitely learned through experiences like that to be in there has some sacred respect, the varying traditions, at which people approach their faith.