Last night on Larry King Live, recording artist Jennifer Knapp discussed her recent coming out as a lesbian. This likely would have made about as big a splash as Wanda Sykes recent announcement, which is to say almost none, except that Knapp was for several years, before taking a five year hiatus, an artist in the Christian music industry. The above clip was the longest that could be found this soon and, apparently, is well short of the entire interview which also featured former pastor Ted Haggard. The three, including King, teamed up on San Diego pastor, Bob Botsford, of Horizon Christian Fellowship, who ostensibly was there to question or challenge Knapp.
What makes Knapp’s announcement, which was also featured in Christianity Today, newsworthy for Christians is that she, like Ray Boltz, is holding to her “faith” rather than renouncing Christianity altogether. She does not claim to justify sin, but that her lesbianism is part of her faith. Consider this from the CT interview:
CT: What about what Scripture says on the topic?
Knapp: The Bible has literally saved my life. I find myself between a rock and a hard place—between the conservative evangelical who uses what most people refer to as the ‘clobber verses’ to refer to this loving relationship as an abomination, while they’re eating shellfish and wearing clothes of five different fabrics, and various other Scriptures we could argue about. I’m not capable of getting into the theological argument as to whether or not we should or shouldn’t allow homosexuals within our church. There’s a spirit that overrides that for me, and what I’ve been gravitating to in Christ and why I became a Christian in the first place.
Admittedly, I am a heterosexual male and, admittedly, don’t share the feelings of any woman, whether heterosexual or gay. So if we were merely talking about feelings or loving relationships, then I would just go cut grass or eat some Corn Flakes and not be writing this article.
The issue that puzzles me in this is that, though Knapp makes clear that she cannot argue the theology surrounding her decision, she continues to do just that. In the Larry King Live clip, she badgers Botsford (who is totally overmatched) with questions like, “What separates that particular sin [homosexuality] out from the fact that I’m angry or mad at someone or that I cheat, or maybe, uhm…What separates that out as so grievous to you that we have to sit here and have this type of conversation?” She goes on to ask Botsford, who agreed that “sin is sin,” this question:
Then why aren’t I in that seat and you’re in the other seat condemning you on national television?
Knapp’s erroneous conclusion is that if homosexuality is sin and all sins are equal, then Botsford has no business questioning her life unless he would subject her to the same scrutiny over anger, greed, hate, etc.
Unfortunately, at least from this clip, Botsford missed the easy answer. If I announced on public television that I was a professional thief and a Christian, or that I lived a life of unabashed greed and a Christian, or that I had a sexual partner on the side and enjoyed prolific adultery as Christian, then anyone would have every right to challenge both my accuracy and my understanding of Christ, the Bible and righteousness. I have not burned my Jennifer Knapp cd’s, in fact, I wish Kansas didn’t have scratches on it. But that is a far cry from saying, “Aww, she finally got up the nerve to come out.”
Knapp’s muddled attempt to justify homosexuality (since no one keeps the laws about shellfish or mixed fabric clothing) are only further evidence of a Bible that might have “saved [her] life” but has not helped her thinking. If the only verses that had to do with homosexual behavior were in Moses’ law, then she might have a point. As it is, however, the whole of scripture points toward heterosexual relationships as ordained by God. The creation of Adam and Eve did not primarily set a pattern of relationships, it reflected the pattern of relationships set in eternity past with God’s plan for His Son to have a bride. If Knapp wants to live her life in a “loving relationship” with another woman, I’m not going to stand in her way, but to accuse some conservatives of using “clobbering verses” while appealing to an overriding spirit to reject a primary biblical theme does not demonstrate either spiritual growth or biblical fidelity.
I do agree with Jennifer Knapp that Pastor Botsford is not a spiritual leader in her life and, realistically, she should not give him any more time of day than I would Joel Osteen were he to call and castigate me for having bad neckties and yellow teeth. For her, though, I am troubled that those she calls her spiritual authorities seem to have given her a green light for her lifestyle in spite of the scriptural admonition against calling evil good and good evil.
Knapp also refers to “what she has been gravitating to in Christ” as part of her decision. This is a most puzzling statement to me; simply because someone makes an assertion and assigns it to Christ or believes their assertion about Christ to be accurate does not make it so. Jesus warned against “false Christs” and it seems likely that a “Christ” who affirms what the Bible rejects would probably, if not certainly, fall into the realm of the false.
I am not condemning Knapp or any person who is trying to seek Jesus and, simultaneously, working through issues of their own sexuality, especially in the time in which we live when many lines are less defined than in the past. What I do condemn is the idea that each of us can invent, create or imagine our own theology, call it Christian and expect other Christians to accept it uncritically. Some lines are blurred, but there still are lines and we do ourselves nor our culture any good by trying to move them or obliterate them altogether.