The Love that Dares to Speak Its Name (HuffPost Blog 5.10.12)

From the moment that I publicly revealed my sexual orientation the whirling vortex of religious authority has not ceased in its attempt to claim sovereignty in defining the rights, privileges and value of my most intimate relationship. For all the ways that my faith has come to shape the integrity with which I hope to love and be loved, I, and others like me must contend with the irony that it is from those who teach love we are most often wounded. After two years of listening and comforting the countless heartbroken religiously induced casualties of this era-defining social issue, I committed to launching Inside Out Faith as a NPO for LGBT faith advocacy. It has been a challenging endeavor, as it often requires stretching the bounds of available grace when many refuse to acknowledge the diversity of human sexuality. Asking folks to stop bullying gay people is one thing, getting endorsements of same-sex marriages can be an entirely different matter. In a foolish attempt to keep some sense of remaining favor with my religious opponents, I have spent considerable effort in hedging my public answer to the marriage equality question with all the adroitness of a dancing hippo. But yesterday, the President called me out. If I intend in any manner to lead, then I must speak plainly: human dignity demands marriage equality.

Blog Image 5.10.12

There is no way around it. President Obama’s endorsement of same-sex marriage strikes at the deepest nerve of religious conscience. I admit, I openly wept at his candid account of personal “evolution”; a conversion he credited to both his faith (as Christian) and his experience in listening to the accounts of his LGBT friends and colleagues. I wept because my own experience was echoed in his confession. I wept because his interview was, at its core, a model of all that I’ve hoped to replicate in my own life as well as Inside Out Faith. The President was willing to expose how his faith was not the impediment to LGBT equality, but rather the inspiration for it. Humbly, he chose the familiar language of his faith to express the significance of his own transformation. And he did so without apology.

Though the faiths we practice are often subject to tradition, we must be wiling to encounter the reality of lived experience. We must be willing to listen, encounter and believe in the experiences of those who dare to speak love’s name. By acknowledging the impact in meeting and hearing the real people who live out love’s hope, President Obama gave value to innumerable families, friends and children in our midst. At the heart of effective social change is the undeniable power of story. Few of us change our traditions or prejudices without a meaningful encounter to lead us there. Our President has experienced how silence is often confused for consent. It is a heavy reminder that without taking individual responsibility to act with compassion and courage we concede authority to those who claim it at the expense of our loved ones.

If our religious institutions and leadership make any claim to speak as authorities on love, then the practiced action must corroborate the claim. Love’s many faces do not threaten the beauty of my faith, but it is easily mocked by refusals to recognize its appearances. If, indeed, I speak with the tongue of angels but have not love I am but a clanging cymbal. If love is patient and kind, then it must also be courageous to speak of its presence. So, after ten years of monogamous, joy-filled and devoted union, my relationship may not be recognized as marriage, but it is sacred and it speaks. Thank you, Mr. President for listening.

  1. As always, an eloquent baring of yourself in words. I think what American Christians seem to gloss over is the whole point to being Christian is to love one another. That’s to accept someone unconditionally, not shun them because their life choices make you feel “icky”.

  2. As always, this was so wonderfully written Jennifer! Thank you for your voice! I could not agree more and I’m so excited for this GIANT step towards equality. Thank you Mr. President!

  3. Well said, Ms. Knapp. Many are focusing on the political nature of the President’s statement and more than one LGBT person I know has lamented that they feel that this can be reduced to the administration using LGBTs for political gain. One straight ally I know, long too jaded with politics to see past the haze of their own frustration, noted that the “process” of coming to embrace equality isn’t the important part and that discussing the “process” is clouding the real issue.

    I disagree with both and I believe you’ve struck a chord (!) between the practical and the real – the process of becoming affirming is a personal one for each individual and each community and the process is, indeed, meaningful. What you are doing with IOF is creating a safe haven and a call to action for people of faith to accept that they must begin that process, lest they be cast into irrelevance. Unless faith communities embrace change and do so with true love towards those who differ from themselves, they will wither and fade away within a few generations. And while my personal belief is that faith is personal and that getting more people involved in one’s faith necessarily corrupts it, I do recognize the celebratory and reaffirming aspects of community, and why communities of faith should survive for those who find them a positive thing.

    Well played. You continue to inspire us.

  4. Well said. I think that a lot of churches, especially in the evangelical fold, do not allow for this kind of evolution, either of understanding or character. It’s a big part of why I left evangelicalism, and several years later, the church at large. The leadership didn’t practice the love that it spoke, and neither did much of my family when I came out. I remember several conversations with my brother, who made a point of telling me how much he loved me, but hated my sin. All I took away from those conversations was how much he hated *me*. You can say you love a person all you want, but until actions prove those words, they’re empty of any meaning.

    I think President Obama’s statement can be partly construed as a political stunt, but I think on the heels of Amendment One in North Carolina, it also speaks of his own evolution, even if just as a politician. Letting the states decide for themselves is all well and good up to the point that people start losing their civil rights, and maybe Obama was trying to avoid the firestorm until it became necessary to speak up. The federal government is well overdue stepping in on the right side of this issue, but I’m glad that it has, even if it’s only the President.

  5. Been a big fan of Jennifer’s music ever since the day I got a cassette tape from her promoter in Kansas back in the day. I’m a fan of the music and not so much the philosophy behind the lifestyle she has chosen. To push so hard for “equality” seems to be saying that they are wanting “sameness”. I can affirm civil unions, that should give homosexual couples protection. To try to squeeze christianity into a samesex mold is to dismiss Genesis 2:24 which clearly states that a man shall leave his mother and father and cleave to his wife and they shall become one flesh. Marriage is a blood covenant designed for a man and a woman. Obama is wrong.

    • Jason – who is speaking in Genesis 2:23-24? Is is Adam, or God? Hint: its not God. Is verse 24 giving us a command for how marriage should be, or a reason why men and women get married? From a literal reading of the text, all I see is Adam telling why he did what he did with Eve, and then giving one reason why men and women get married (“That is why…”). But nothing in there that says that God says that a marriage has to be between a man and a woman. Its just not in that scripture.

      • Hey Matt – I fully agree with Jason here. (Off course God said that. Moses is actually the one who is speaking here, and GOD briefed Him on what to write. If you want to believe any of the Bible, you might as well believe 100% and don’t alter the 2% you don’t agree with. God CREATED a woman for the man – He didn’t create another man. (Add to that actions speaking louder that words..)

        One can hide behind scriptural technicalities and translation flaws to say that marriage is actually intended for the same sex, but look at the human biology and how we’re created.

        Dude, I’m not out here to bash you or make you feel guilty – but you can’t use the Bible to justify same sex marriages… Listen to the still small voice in your heart..

        And I’m not judging you or anyone that’s gay – I say: Run to Jesus and walk in a relationship with Him and hear from Him and let He deal with whatever you’re struggling with because no other human can work that out for you.

  6. You music inspires me. Your stepping out encourages me. I spent 20 years hiding inside myself,
    and now I’m trying to make up for those lost years. I am now very happy, being myself, and having a companion
    who loves me dearly. I believe people are reading way too much into scriptures that they don’t understand.
    These days everyone is familiar with John 3:16, how about 3:17 “For God sent not His Son into the world that He might judge the world,but that the world might be saved through Him”
    (Interlinear Greek-English N.T.)
    I think that when the general public decides it is not a choice, maybe things will get better. i think we having a choice is like a left-handed person having a choice. dwell on that for a moment…….
    I’ d like to talk to you about an ex-gay documentary ,about 30 minutes
    long. It shows what lengths people go through to be straight. You tube search ; Abomination trailer, or
    Abomination clip

  7. Gilbert Beaume, born USA, French celloist and American singer, retired Minister of the Reformed Church of France and the United Church of Zambia... says:

    Dear Jennifer,
    I have been following your site since I came across your debate on Youtube… One of our children is in a lg relationship and three others in hetero-relations… Six grandsons and not a single granddaughter!! I just read on Facebook the following text from an Egyptian friend who’s husband studied in France where I was a pastor and then they moved to California and have become US citizens… their Egyptian Evangelical Church has congregations in California and they seem to be quite Evangelical in leaning….

    “i ve been always proud to be an American citizen i think today i am more proud of being an Egyptian than i am an American
    what a shame. the president’s declaration today is a slap in every moral person’s face.
    the amount of damage that this president have done to america in the last 3 years is immeasurable, our moral values are deteriorating, our families are broken and in addition we are rejecting God’s sovereignty and creation… where are headed america?
    “Truly i tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for this town” Matthew 10:15″
    And my reply :
    And this is my answer :
    Dear Maha : I was shocked and saddened by your violent statements about President Obama. My mother’s ancestors left Europe and took part in the American Revoloution to find a land where dissension would be respected. Where people of different religious, ethical, ethnic origins would be able to build together in compromise and mutual respect a land of freedom.
    Thanks to them, President Obama, will not send his secret police to arrest you for subversive views. My French father in his time and his ancestors as well, also fought against an all-domineering Church that pretended imposing it’s views on all of Society.
    As a Christian, I have learnt from them respect for opinions of others and that my own religious conceptions of ethics may not be the last word on things and that God doesn’t need me for any modern day Crusade… The Middle East suffered so deeply from those of former days and your beloved country Egypt may become a far less hospitable land if religious leaders are led to decide, some day, what all should think and do, in the name of God. With loving respect Gilbert Beaume (Pastor)

    Take courage… thanks for speaking up with words of truth…
    When you come to visit France, come to stay with us in Britanny, near St Malo, with your friend… a most beautiful region!!!

  8. Thank you for your bravery and honesty. Was a fan way back when and am even more a fan now. You are a brilliant and courageous champion for Christ and for the freedom that comes from Him and from the God who loved and made us just as we are – including queer. Thank you.

  9. I wasn’t going to comment, but I feel like I have to write something. There is a kind of passive-aggressiveness that doesn’t outright acknowledge those of us who accept the scriptural exhortations concerning homosexual behavior, but comes at them through the backdoor by implying that we’re bigoted, uniformed, unevolved, unloving, and on and on. That simply isn’t true. The words “homosexual behavior is sinful” are rooted in love when said with genuine care and concern for the person being addressed. And If evolving means I have to choose culture of over the Word of God, I think I’m good where I am.

  10. I believe I first started listening to your music in 2001. That was one of those “turning point” years in my life. From the time I realized I was gay, I had the hardest time reconciling my faith with who I am. But that year, I had no choice but to wrestle with God and find a way home to both parts of me. I can’t tell you the number of times I listened to Kansas. Or how many times in a row I would listen to “Martyrs and Thieves”. Don’t get me wrong, I was also listening to Ginny Owens and Nichole Nordeman and Sara Groves. But it was your music that spoke to the most hurt parts of my soul. It was your music that brought me to tears. It was your music I sang at the top of my lungs in my car. God spoke to me over and over again through you: through the music, the words, the voice. It wasn’t just the words that you sang, it was the way you sang them, as if you felt every bit of the anguish, love, or reverence they bespoke.
    I am blessed. I have found a church home that celebrates and loves all of me. I have rediscovered my relationship with my Jesus, who celebrates and loves all of me. I never stopped loving Him, but for the longest time, I could not hear Him, or find Him, or see Him. Now I see Him everywhere. I find Him where e’er I look. I feel His peace wash over me before I even ask. And at times, I hear His voice as clearly as I hear my own. Thank you for making all of the music you’ve made. God used that music. God will continue to use all of it, both old and new. God will continue to use you, ALL of you. He created you, just as you are and He celebrates the incredible beauty of that creation.
    When I went looking for Him, He led me to your music. And your music, led me back to Him, a lamppost lighting the way home.
    My sincerest thanks,
    Reita L. Lawrence

    PS. I did a happy dance when you came out!

  11. “The words “homosexual behavior is sinful” are rooted in love when said with genuine care and concern for the person being addressed” ha!

    I have seen time and time again, so-called “Christians” claiming that they are speaking the truth in love when they lovingly admonish a homosexual (love the sinner hate the sin! ). Is that really love? Doesn’t love take time? Like years and years of coming along side of a person, sharing their struggles? Their joys? I want to know, how many “Christians” are praying for the homosexual community? How many are serving the homosexual community in an effort to show love?

    Trying to clobber homosexuals to make them convert almost never works. In fact, it pushes them away from Jesus. So, which is the bigger atrocity? Using the word of God to push people away from Jesus or being a homosexual? I think when Jesus said “worry about the plank in your own eye” he meant “mind ya’ own business” Let God deal with His gays the way he choses to. If a person believes in Jesus and has a heart for God, they are not going to hell. They will be blessed.

    God blessed Jacob and he had 2 wives & 2 concubines. From what I can tell, that wasn’t a biblical definition of marriage, but God still blessed him.

    God loves gays. That’s it. Period. End of story.

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