Just over a month ago I blogged about the incident that ended my interest in Christian music. After years of brick walls and disappointments, one day out of the blue I asked Jennifer Knapp backstage after a show how to get into the musicians’ union. She responded with contempt, as though I were little more than an irritation to be gotten rid of. I gave up on my music and didn’t touch my guitar for years, only recently picking it back up to play a few acoustic gigs (my first times onstage without a full band). Later I told of hearing that Knapp was making a comeback and the rumors that swirled surrounding her sudden disappearance. Chief among those rumors was one that she was gay and living in Australia. At the time, all she was admitting was that she had, in fact, been living in Australia.
The cat was let out of the bag almost two weeks ago. Jennifer Knapp is gay and is living with her partner.
In the comments section of the article in Christianity Today, I engaged several readers in “debate” (if you could call it that) about whether Knapp is sinning or not. Don’t ask me why…I got the typical handful of responses. Homosexuality is sin. Leviticus 18:22. Romans 1. It’s so sad that she’s gay. We need to pray for her repentance. God gave her up to unnatural desires because of other sins. God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.
Deep thoughts, I tell you. Nothing new. I grew up with all the same stuff. I even taught it for a while. By the time I was 23, I had never had sex (as I vowed not to until getting married), had never used narcotics, didn’t start drinking until I was legal, and was essentially only listening to Christian music. I lived a pretty pious life and was very self-righteous about it. Anybody who didn’t believe the same theology I believed was, in my estimation, not a good Christian. By age 23 I was a worship leader, a youth ministry intern, and involved in every facet of my church that I could get involved in. Church and music were my whole life.
That said, I fail to see which sins caused God to “give me up to unnatural desires.” Sure, I was pretty holier-than-thou, but I was also young and had a lot of lessons to learn. This is a commonly used argument today, particularly when Old Testament scripture is knocked down by putting it in context with the events of the Gospels and the fulfillment of the law with the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Where, though, in any of scripture do we see God giving up the faithful to such an unspecified unnatural desire? And how is this unnatural desire defined? In reality, it isn’t. In fact, there were no words to describe homosexuality in either ancient Hebrew or Greek. Certain words commonly translated to mean “effeminate” and “homosexual” actually probably meant something closer to male prostitutes and men who pimped out young boys (a practice which was, and remains today, popular in Arab culture).
As for the so-called “clobber passages,” they always, always, ALWAYS begin with Leviticus 18:22, which forbids same-sex relations. The same set of laws, which runs from Leviticus chapter 17 through chapter 20 (with regulations concerning priests surrounding), also describes how to atone for sins through animal sacrifice, tells you what kind of animal to use and how to kill it, then goes on to tell you not to eat meat with any blood remaining in it, that if you do you will be cut off by God, and gives part of the moral law which is later repeated: do not withhold wages from a hired man overnight, do not breed two different kinds of cattle, do not plant two different kinds of crops in your fields, do not wear clothes woven of two different materials, do not eat the fruit of conquered lands for three years, do not trim your beard, get tattoos or piercings – anybody who breaks the laws are to be put to death, including for cursing one’s parents.
Obviously, we don’t follow most of the Levitical law. I have both facial piercings and near-full tattoo sleeves. We certainly don’t put people to death for pre-marital sex and and cheating on their spouses. If I were straight, according to Levitical law alone I’d be condemned just for my ink. My friend Michael, however, brings up a very good point.
The bible calls Jesus the Living Word of God. Throughout the New Testament, there are numerous references to the apostles “preaching the word of God,” yet since scripture hadn’t been written, what could they have been talking about? They were talking about sharing the gospel, the good news of Christ’s sacrifice to pay the penalty for all sin. And, Jesus cut the entire law down to two things. In Matthew 22:34-40, He stops the Pharisees in their conniving tracks by telling them that the law and the prophets are defined by loving God and loving one’s neighbor as oneself.
In an interview with The Advocate, Knapp described getting an email from a fan who begged her to come out because “that would make [me] feel less alone.” I would remind all of those who say it’s sad that Knapp is a lesbian just how sad it is that anyone feels alone when in your midst. There is no reason for that. In light of Jesus’ teachings, you are completely and totally wrong for allowing that to happen.
By the time Jesus was born, very specific prophecies about the promised Messiah and a very specific timeline had all the mothers of Jerusalem arguing whose son was the Christ. The Jews expected God to send a powerful man to conquer and kill their Roman oppressors and give the land of Israel back to them (which God had taken away in the first place because of their refusal to obey). As He had many, many times in the past, God did not fit their plan or narrative. Jesus was the first born of a working-class family, the son of a carpenter meant to be a carpenter Himself. He was not interested in war or glory. God’s plan was to offer a single sacrifice, one that would atone for every sin and strike down the old ceremonial laws – and offer salvation to all, both Jews and Gentiles alike. When Jesus finally revealed Himself the Pharisees, intent on finding the Messiah they expected, did everything they could to silence Jesus. In the end they had the whole of Jerusalem convinced to free a murderer in place of a battered and bleeding man who had fed them, healed their sick and raised their dead. They were so convinced of their version of what the Messiah should be that they offered to let His blood be on their heads.
Are we any different today? We have certain expectations of God. There are many things that most Christians are certain of, chief among them that homosexuality is sick, wrong and sinful and an indication that God has given up on a person. At the same time they ignore the majority of Levitical law right along with some of the commands that Jesus specifically left us with.
Human beings have proved two things throughout history: first, that we are shallow, fickle creatures and perpetually imperfect. Second, that our definition of who God is and what He is supposed to be is nearly always wrong. Yet we continue to pass judgement and blame it on scripture. For that we can fully expect to answer to God.