When we first think of Christian musicians, a few come to mind, including Hill Song United. However, until now, Jennifer Knapp was not one of these familiar musicians. Jennifer Knapp’s decision to visit Villanova seemed to be one full of determination and faith. Considering that Villanova is a Catholic school, it must have been a tough decision for her to visit the campus and share her great music with the students. But living her life as a musician and a dedicated Christian for 20 years, as soon as the stage was lit for her, she seemed full of confidence, with a slight but steady smile on her lips. For those who have never heard of her, like me, the significance of her visit to campus is not readily apparent.
The pamphlet indeed explained it all, but of course in a superficial manner. Jennifer Knapp identified as homosexual when she was in college, but her sexual identity has never seemed to disturb her faith at all. The fact that she was still making and singing music, and that she was able to give a beautiful performance, conveyed to us the implicit message that she was indeed a person of faith.
During and after the performance, thousands of thoughts ran across my mind, like a stream of consciousness. I thought that there must be some underlying connection between music, faith, and sexual identity. It was truly amazing how she could bind us all with her music, despite her sexual identity. After that, it made me think that music can become one great tool that can create unity.
The second thought that kicked in was her faith. She got me thinking about how I define faith. There are numerous people who hold strict Christian values and blind ‘faith’ towards the Bible. This influence might have challenged Jennifer’s faith given her homosexual identity. In fact, it is very commonplace for homosexual people to remain aloof from this realm of religion, because their sexual identity would remain very much of a nuisance to the majority of people who believe that homosexuality is against God.
However, that was not the case with Jennifer. According to her, by the time she realized that she was being attracted to the same sex, she was severely criticized and had to encounter a long period of ordeals that ensued after she admitted to her sexual preference, including an instance when she was forced to leave the Church. This type of situation has affected numerous other people who have encountered the same problem. However, what distinguished her was the fact that she managed to keep her Christian faith unscathed. That is what I believe faith is all about. The most crucial element of faith is not being disturbed by external factors and keeping up with your strong belief.
Through this experience, I wish to convey two lessons that I got from her performance. First, even though very religious people may have strong distaste towards her, it seems as if they are the ones who should learn from her. True faith never gets disturbed by some minor external adversities. They can only serve to bolster her faith into a more pure form.
Villanova University requires students to take theology as part of a core curriculum. I was no exception. The day before the first theology class, I was very anxious. My family is Buddhist, so I thought that I would be in a disadvantageous position. I thought that the theology professor was going to discriminate against those who have different religions. However, after having completed the course, I can confidently say that this was not the case at all. My professor was truly warm-hearted and respectful to all kinds of religions. Though she had to deal with sensitive topics every once in a while, she managed to get through them in an accepting and respectful manner, which I truly appreciated. One of the biggest lessons that I internalized from this course was the fact that God is love, not discriminatory, but one love.
I believe this is the attitude that people should take towards people who have different sexual preference. They did not choose to have natural predilection for the same sex. Like Jesus, it is imperative that we have the ability to accept those people as who they are, not being discriminatory. Ultimately, no matter the sexual preference, we all have one faith and love towards God, as does God towards us.
By Yongjun Lee, ’17