Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Supporting Jennifer Knapp

The way people behave on the internet astounds me sometimes. I read a number of different blogs, and it seems that for every intelligent comment there are at least five that have next to nothing to do with the topic, or are downright ignorant and/or hateful.

I think perhaps it's a combination of the instant nature of online communication and the anonymity that the internet provides that take away the usual filters that most people have in almost every other form of communication. If you sat down and hand wrote a letter, you'd probably not say every single thing that comes to your mind, because your hand travels at a much slower speed than your brain. Not so with a computer keyboard. And if you were face to face with someone expressing an opinion, there would be some kind of filter between your brain and your mouth. But on the internet you may only know someone's screen name, and having no idea who they are, normal restraints fly out the window. (I've only had a few instances of this kind of thing happening on my blog, thankfully)

I have to confess that I'm often tempted to do these kinds of things, especially when I see posts or replies that drive me up the wall. At least once a day I'm about to post a reply telling "ignorantcommenter666" (I really hope that's not anyone's actual handle) where they can stick their ill-informed, hateful opinions. I am usually able to stop myself, because I don't want to stoop down to their level, but I'd be lying if I said I haven't written a couple "anonymous" replies saying things I would never say or write under any other circumstance. I think many of you can identify with this.

The reason I bring it up today is that I'm nervously awaiting the blowback from the "Christian" blogosphere regarding Jennifer Knapp's admission in an interview with Christianity Today that she is gay. Thus far the only things I've seen have been supportive posts from progressive thinkers like Tony Jones, and admittedly I haven't gone trolling for the hateful stuff yet because it only tempts my judgmental spirit and increases the likelihood that I will post a mean "anonymous" comment.

But I know it will come, and it's probably already out there. There is plenty of indiscriminate hatred out there toward people with different sexual orientations: witness the Westboro Baptist Church phenomenon. And the Christian-media-industrial-complex has a track-record of being ruthless in enforcing their standard of morality. One only needs to remember how CCM magazine invented an apology from Amy Grant  to her fans following her divorce (you can read about it in Matthew Paul Turner's excellent book, Hear No Evil) to know what levels these corporate entities will often stoop to.

Regarding the interview with Christianity Today, I admire Jennifer Knapp for being willing to discuss the issue when she knows full well what kind of treatment she will receive. I especially admire her for rejecting the premise of some of the interviewer's questions (on pg. 3, if you're reading it online). When the interviewer asked if she was "struggling with these issues" at certain points, she refuses to characterize her sexual orientation as a sin or some kind of fundamental defect. Her only struggle was to be fully who God created her to be, regardless of how some allegedly Christian people might respond.

Here's my pledge: when I see negative reactions to Jennifer Knapp, I'm going to respond with positive, thoughtful, loving words. I'm not going to stoop down to the level of the haters. I'm going to keep the conversation civil and invite others to do so, too.


Caitlin at Healthy Tipping Point said...


i was just looking at tweets about jennifer knapp, which is how i found your post. i'm neither gay nor a christian, but it was wonderful to hear from someone with a levelheaded view of a christian singer. thanks for being positive and not judgemental. more people should be like you.

John Meunier said...

That is a wonderful spirit, Matt.

Do you draw a line between "haters" and people who have deep theological differences about sexual sin?

In other words, can someone disagree with Knapp's views - even about herself - and not be lumped in with Westboro Baptist?

Matt Kelley said...


Great question. The answer is an emphatic "yes". One can disagree and still love the one with whom they disagree.

I recognize the inherent tension and labeling some of those with whom I disagree "haters", and yet I can't find a nice way to call out hate without using the term.

One can accept those who are different than the "norm" and be hateful toward those who disagree with them. I am committed to pushing back against hatred, even if it is coming from those with whom I stand on a particular issue.

A Queer Folk Art Activist said...

Thanks for your post on Jennifer's coming out. I've written a great deal about it as well, here: