The reflection below was written by singer and songwriter Jennifer Knapp, it was featured on the blog of Believe Out Loud. I remember rocking and praising to Jennifer’s songs back in the day…her earthy, folksy, and rockish tunes were food for my soul and faith. After I came out, I lost touch with the contemporary christian music world and years later found out that Jennifer herself had come out and experienced rejection from her fans and wider Christian world (much like Stacie Orrico and Jaci Velasquez experienced for “secular” releases, but more on that in another post). Her story is powerful and similar to the stories that many of us have lived, individuals reconciling in holy harmonious tension our sexuality, faith, race/ethnicity, culture, and our many interlocking identities. I hope that her story sharing of faith inside and out sparks you to share your stories.
Written by Jennifer Knapp, from Believe Out Loud: http://www.believeoutloud.com/latest/inside-out-faith-accepting-call-tell-my-story
Ironically, it wasn’t until I came out that I began to discover that being gay wasn’t the end of my relationship with the church. In fact, I couldn’t get those loony Christians to stop calling me. Hadn’t they heard I was queer? What use could I possibly be to the church?
In a strange twist of events, my coming out didn’t end my dialogue with the church.
Instead, the revelation of my sexual orientation prompted Christians to seek me out. All of a sudden, churches, pastors and lay-leaders were calling me to let me know they were present and actively cultivating fully inclusive communities of faith. They wanted me to know I was invited to attend.
The question was: did I have the courage to accept the invitation?
Many of the faith leaders who contacted me simply wanted to hear my story. They wanted me to share the reality of what it was like coming out. Others wanted to know how in the world I managed to stay sane. How did I balance my faith and my sexual orientation in the midst of the religion vs. gay culture war?
It was hard to know where to begin, so I started by accepting requests to tell my story.
Over the past three years, that story has become a dialogue that I now call Inside Out Faith. It’s not too complicated. Churches that want to serve the LGBT community invite me to come and share my experience. I tell my story, I sing a few songs and we talk.
Many people I meet want to know how I’ve survived such a harrowing and public experience of religious-fueled animosity. In the end, it’s as simple as the fact that churches want to know how they can help. It takes us coming together, being honest about the challenges behind and ahead, in order to figure out how we start reclaiming our spiritual journey.
After I came out, I had a choice. I could either run from those who had hurt me or help those who shared my faith in a quest to heal. I’ve chosen to be available. It hasn’t always been easy to share my story, but it never is.
No matter who you are, it will always take some measure of courage to be yourself.
People always find a way to judge, but it is how we move forward that really matters. In as much as I’ve discovered no one can take my faith from me, it is equally true that I cannot take away the church’s passion for serving the spiritual needs of all comers.
It is in that sense that Inside Out Faith aspires to be a resource to religious communities whose faith is inclusive of all humanity. I’m beginning by telling my story in sanctuaries around the country, but I hope to see Inside Out Faith become more than just my story.
I hope our dialogue will grow to include a variety of public speakers who show the diverse experiences of living out a life of faith. We need to get together. We need more people speaking in affirmation.
We need to gather and celebrate those who have created safe spaces, and we need to respond by accepting invitations to tell our story.
Inside Out Faith is about aspiring to live up to that noble calling. It is about being willing to ask, courageous to respond, and patient to listen…and in doing so create community.
Over the last few years, I’ve found myself in a variety of environments: college campuses, churches, special interest groups and more. I’ve been to small churches, supported student groups and participated in conferences that face LGBT faith head-on.
The reality is that religion’s response to the LGBT community has eclipsed the four walls of the church. What is disturbing is that what echoes the furthest is the need to heal.
Faith doesn’t end when you come out, nor does it cease if you walk out of church.
Like sexual orientation, for many, faith is something you carry with you wherever you go. Faith is a part of our everyday lives and present in full picture of who we are. It is time that we begin to share this part of our journey as well.
I hope you will join with me in adding to the narrative.
featured image from Christianity Today article about Jennifer’s coming out: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2010/aprilweb-only/jenniferknapp-apr10.html