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.
I know that when you came out, you had the big Larry King interview, and Christianity today did a big piece about it. I was curious to know, having had time since then, are there questions that they asked that you would answer differently now?
You know, that's a good question. I don't -- I feel like I've been very fortunate at this point, and I can't really claim any personal victory in it. But I think I've been pretty lucky to feel like there's nothing that I would take back. There are moments that I'm just going, "Oh, I could have said that better. I didn't quite know how to articulate the experience that I was having for other people." But I'm not sure that I would say that I would change any answers. I think some of my answers have evolved. in terms of not just having my own experience but meeting other people that are having similar experiences to myself, has broadened some of the answers that I might give today. And I think even helped… but I'm getting to a more narrow point actually, in just being able to just pound the same point over and over and over again, which is that, regardless of your sexual orientation, your faith and your spiritual experiences are valuable and they matter. And no matter who you are, what tradition you come from, the perspective and experience that you've had are important to being proclaimed not just for yourself, but are important for other people to be able to share about the differences in how you've experienced that faith.
If I can slip into a religious-based language for a second, and say that if God, in fact, is greater that we can possibly imagine, then perhaps, the experiences that we will see in any one given individual will be extremely diverse, extremely broad-ranging. I can only probably represent so much of who and God what might be and what He does and how He acts in my own life. But by meeting another person and by continuing to expand our knowledge of diverse people and diverse experiences and having the courage to be able to tell that story ourselves and having the courage to listen to other people when they're sharing that experience becomes a really profound experienc. And so, I think that's the thing - out of all the Q&A that I've had to do over the last couple of years about it, is that I don't think there's any one answer or any one correct answer to anything that anyone asks. But I think I've been really grateful to see an evolution. I have been really grateful for each question that allows me to actually meet some new person or to consider perspective of what do I agree or disagree, and just really think about the other people that are involved in this process; because I think that is a part of me that gets really frustrated because you go through experiences like that. I think often, what happens…[is that] those who're coming from a more conservative angle, and then trying to understand where I'm at, as a lesbian, they're only seeing me as a lesbian. Well, [they ask me to] justify it… that's to me like saying, "Well, justify yourself, Jennifer. You're from Kansas and I am from Tennessee, and I don't understand how you could possibly be the way you are."
Photo courtesy of Fairlight Hubbard and Amy M Phillips of EYE
Most of us -- those who are answering the questions of who we are, who am I, take a lifetime to be able to get to, and I think a lot of patience and a lot of courage to do individually, as well as an extraordinary amount of courage, to be able to express to other people around you. And I think that's -- if there's any criticism I think I have of the line of questioning that the conservatives right has put up, is that the questions are a little bit short-sided. For a good, solid year, for example, the question was, basically, "How do you justify your sexuality and holding to your faith?" And people still ask that question, and to me, I think it's more of learning how to reframe where I think that question is meant to lead, which is, ultimately, "Explain to me how you hold on to your faith. What does faith mean to you and why is it important?" "And what allows you to continue on that path? What encourages you to go on that path? "Those are, to me, the questions, when I meet someone else, that I'm really interested in hearing. I think we all get very bored, very quickly, when somebody begins to justify their behavior; to say, "I am like this, and I hold this disagreement way or a prejudice behavior or a poor behavior that is clearly affecting you." You're communicating to me that I'm doing something that you don't like. Well, when I justify my behavior, it basically says, "Well, I don't care how it affects you." And I don't think it's an appropriate language to get into. I think what we need to understand is the human experiences. And so, I think that, at this point down the road, whenever I get questions like that, that are a little bit behind the speed of where our intellects actually -- our intellect, our spiritual understanding is capable of going. That's usually more of what I'm trying to do these days; to kind of elevate the conversation.