On May 11th, one of my favorite artists released a new CD after nearly a decade since her last studio recording. I was instantly struck by her return to a more rootsy, raw sound, for her last record was terribly overproduced, laden with strings and drum loops. (Read a review of Letting Go.) This one felt a little different than her previous three, though. More on that later.
As Jennifer Knapp’s new music blared in the living room, Cindy was disquieted. I was absolutely giddy to hear JK’s new songs, so I asked Cindy what bothered her. Why wasn’t she as excited? She liked JK as much as I did. We loved seeing her in concert at a small college in Bluffton in 2001, the same year she released the CD her producer disastrously extended his creative liberties with. Cindy said she was troubled by the new JK—the former Christian artist turned lesbian.
She Said She Said
Okay, I’d heard such rumors swirling years ago, perpetuated by some of the best gossipers in the world: Christians. Seriously, we can put TMZ to shame, though usually in the guise of prayer requests: “We need to pray for Bill and Sally; they’re having problems in their marriage.” It’s nothing new; Paul dealt with it too.
We hear that some of you are living idle lives, refusing to work and meddling in other people’s business. —2 Thessalonians 3:11 NLT
The rumors regarding JK attempted to explain her inexplicable absence from the Christian music scene. Why wasn’t she spinning out new music? Why wasn’t she touring?
I can’t stomach celebrity gossip. If you read those grocery-store-checkout-line rags, shame on you! You’re better off reading about a 65-year-old man giving birth to alien triplets than the latest involving Lindsay Lohan, Kim Kardashian, Tiger Woods, or the old standby—Brangelina.
Now, Cindy is not one to listen to or further gossip, so I decided to check it out. It was true. I was deeply saddened to read a short statement blog post straight from the horse’s mouth—JK’s website where she explains her relationship with a woman.
Bad Boy Franz Schubert—those musicians!
You should know that I don’t usually have qualms with the personal lives of the artists whose music I enjoy and appreciate, whether it’s John Mayer, John Coltrane, or Johann Sebastian Bach. Most of the music I listen to isn’t CCM (Contemporary Christian Music). I don’t even know how to find K-LOVE. I guess I prefer negative and discouraging music.
For me it’s different with JK than say Elton John or Katy Perry*. I’m burdened for JK. She has chosen to reject the truth of God’s Word regarding her sin, having exalted a person (a relationship) to the place of God. I’m not upset because she’s not writing CCM anymore. I’ll still buy and listen to her music, though it has changed. Songs like “Faithful to Me,” “Undo Me,” “A Little More,” “When Nothing Satisfies,” and “The Way I Am” really minister to my soul. Now her music is just good but not healing in the sense of … I hesitate to say … anointed.
Just a brief aside about anointed—There are some musicians and some songs that seem to have a special gifting of God’s Spirit. There was one such musician in the Old Testament who played healing music for a psychopathic king (see 1 Samuel 16:14-23). I’ll write more about this next time.
Sure, Why Not?
I give JK credit for her decision, however, if simply because she made her choice. See, not many of us are put in the obvious position where we have to make a conscious decision to either follow God or ourselves. JK had to do that because of her place in the spotlight. People in the Bible like Abraham and Daniel and Peter had to choose either God or themselves. But unlike them, we live in a comfortable society that may not like our gospel message but won’t kill us over it.
The truth is we do make choices every day—either we’ll listen to God or we’ll do what we want. As non-celebrities, we just make those decisions backstage somewhere out of the view of the public, though certainly not out of the view of our children. (Cindy often reminds me of ojos pequeños—little eyes.)
One of my most frequent responses is one Cindy hates: sure, why not? Do you want chicken for dinner? Sure, why not? Should we buy these new dishes? Sure, why not? Can you change Micah’s diaper? Sure, why not? Do you mind if I change the locks while you’re out? Sure, why not?
In one sense it took courage for JK to make her decision, whether I liked it or not. Of course, in another sense it doesn’t take much courage to give in to sin, since it’s usually a cop-out. However, in lingering on the fence we demonstrate little resolve; we’re noncommittal. But in not choosing we still make a choice.
At any given moment of the day, we must choose whether we’ll follow God or someone else—whether we’ll listen to God or the serpent concerning the fruit. That’s why it’s important, like the biblical songwriter, to take time out and assess where we’re at.
When I think on my ways, I turn my feet to your testimonies; I hasten and do not delay to keep your commandments. —Psalm 119:59-60 ESV
I’m going to miss JK as my worship leader. But I’m more concerned with becoming a better one myself from the inside out. And to various degrees of effectiveness, all of us as believers, whether we sing or not, are worship leaders:
Let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. —Matthew 5:16 NLT
Jesus said what we do and say will point people to him and they’ll praise our Father. That’s pretty much my job description as a worship pastor. I’ll write more about this and the healing effects of music in Part 2 of “Letting Go” on Wednesday.
*As a preacher’s kid, Katy Perry did start with CCM, but I’d never heard of her till her One of the Boys CD debuted, a far cry from CCM. Interesting article here.