Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Facing the Music by Jennifer Knapp

In 2002, at the top of her career in Contemporary Christian Music, Jennifer Knapp quit. Several years later she revealed that she way gay. She finally tells her story.

Her parents divorced after two years of marriage and Jennifer and her twin sister were raised by their father on a farm. She struggled with her stepmother and writing poems became her release. A teacher introduced her to music. Playing her plastic recorder, she felt alive. “Music was a part of my body, a part of my experience that allowed me a safe place to feel and express my heart.” She played trumpet in junior high and high school. “...I could breath into life every dream and hope that was trapped, unspoken inside my heart.”

She found solace in alcohol in high school then in college. She was converted as a freshman in college and began to write songs, picking them out on an old guitar she bought at a flea market. She was in a band, then went solo, then signed with Gotee Records. “Music, for me, was about what it did when you told your secrets.” She won the Dove Award for New Artist of the Year.

But all was not well. She tells of the pressures of being a Contemporary Christian Music star and role model. Then the implosion. She finished out her contracted tour and left the Christian music scene. Jennifer needed time away to clear her mind. She pack away her guitar. She and her supportive friend (and partner), Karen, traveled. Years later they ended up in Karen's native Australia where Jennifer finally again picked up her guitar. She now performs and tours extensively, engaging in advocacy work for LGBT people of faith.

I know there will be many who will be very critical of this book because of the stand Jennifer has taken. I am very impressed with it. It is very well written. Jennifer has a beautiful way with words and she is able to communicate her feelings with clarity. She tells her story in a compelling way. Reading through the book helped me understand Jennifer's journey and perhaps others on a similar path.

Also, this book brings up issues not related to the LGBT community. One issue is the use of God given gifts. Jennifer was told early on that the sole purpose of her gift was for nurturing the church. Do Christian artists always have to sing songs about Jesus? Do Christian authors always have to write books with strong Christian themes? Do we expect architects to only design homes for Christians, or for dentists to only work on cavities of Christians? Why are such narrow demands made upon Christians gifted in music and art?

Reading this book helped me get an idea of the pressure under which Christian musicians must operate. It was not a pleasant picture. It was very understandable that Jennifer imploded under that kind of pressure.

Jennifer Knapp has had the courage to tell her own story. Whether you agree with the position she has taken on LGBT and faith or not, this is certainly a book worth reading.

Howard Books, 304 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.
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