Veteran artist returns after seven-year hiatus with a feisty new album, Letting Go, while also revealing that she’s gay
Seven years ago, while at the top of her game, Jennifer Knapp announced what seemed to many a sudden decision: She was stepping away from Christian music, taking an indefinite hiatus. Rumors began to swirl—she was burned out, she needed a rest, she was upset about something, she was gay. Turns out that all the rumors were true, as Knapp reveals in this rambling, exclusive interview withChristianity Today. The one-time Grammy nominee ended her hiatus in late 2009with a few small shows, an updated website, and an announcement that she was writing new songs. Many of those songs will be featured on Letting Go, releasing May 11, her first album since 2001′s The Way I Am.
In one of her first extensive interviews since announcing her comeback, Knapp, 36, talks to CT about why she quit music in the first place, her lifestyle choice, her rekindled passion for songwriting, her faith, her new album, and more.
You announced your “hiatus” in 2003. Was that a sudden decision, or was it boiling for a while?
Jennifer Knapp: It was boiling for me. I think people thought I just fell into a hole and disappeared, but I had been trying to get out of being on the road 250 days a year. Lay It Down was a 2000 release, andThe Way I Am was 2001; those records were literally back to back, and I was touring while recording The Way I Am. I was telling people “Man, I can’t keep up the schedule. This is just a little bit crazy.” I didn’t have any space to just be a normal human being. I finally realized nobody was going to make that decision for me, so I just said, “I’m not kidding. I need a break, and it starts now.”
That decision came mid-2001, but my schedule didn’t allow me to stop until September 2002, when I did my last show; I basically still had about a year and a half worth of contracted concerts and other things before I could stop.
A lot of people hit burnout, but I don’t think many think, I’m going to take seven years off. What were you thinking?
Knapp: At the time, I literally thought I was quitting. I needed such a break, and I needed the silence to be deafening. But in the back of my mind I thought, Maybe in a couple of years I’ll come back and give this another go. It was a huge risk to say I may never do this again. It was a real heart wrenching decision.
Once you fulfilled your last obligation, was there a big sigh of relief? Or what?
Knapp: I was scared to death. You just don’t leave something that everyone else says is extremely successful. Some people close to me said I was doing something wrong—that [quitting] was a denial of the gifts I had. I was like, Whoa, hold on a second. I’m just asking for a little bit of time. That was a lot to deal with. It took two or three years to get over the rollercoaster ride of emotions. One day I’d be completely angry; the next day completely heartbroken and devastated; the next raging jealous because somebody’s out there doing something that I love doing and I can’t do it. And some days I was in complete denial. It was almost like a psychological profile of grief. [It took a while] to let the dust settle and figure out what kind of human being was left.
There were rumors that you left music because you were gay.
Knapp: That was a straw [in my decision], but there were many straws on the camel’s back at the time. I’m certainly in a same-sex relationship now, but when I suspended my work, that wasn’t even really a factor. I had some difficult decisions to make and what that meant for my life and deciding to invest in a same-sex relationship, but it would be completely unfair to say that’s why I left music.
Were you involved in a relationship at that time you left?
Knapp: Around 2002, I was starting to contend with this new-found “issue” in my life. But I’d already decided to leave music before I knew I was going to contend with that. I don’t want anyone to think that I ran out of town with my tail between my legs because I had something to hide.
Or that you were run out of town.
Knapp: Or that I was run out of town. Neither is true.
When you wrote The Way I Am, was that a veiled statement about being gay?
Knapp: That record means a lot more to me now than it did at the time. That whole record for me was an exercise in the carnal body of Christ manifested. One of the biggest decisions I was wrestling with then was, If I don’t do Christian music, am I not a believer anymore?
Why come back now? What has changed?
Knapp: At some point [last year] when I started to write again, I realized that the process was rather organic. I started playing at home, and my friends are going, “Oh wow, that’s pretty good. What are you going to do with that?” I said, “What do you mean, what am I going to do with it? Nothing!” The return has been a lot like the way I started music in the first place. We’re doing a four-day run of concerts right now, I’m in a van, I just spent half my afternoon driving, and if I’m lucky I get dinner before I play tonight. There’s something about that process you’ve got to love. I just think it took me a lot longer to figure out if that passion was a safe one for me.
You spent about five of the last seven years in Australia, right?
Knapp: Yes. But I’ve been back in the States since September. During those seven years, I entertained myself for quite some time by traveling. I traveled all through Europe. I traveled through the U.S. for about a year. I was basically a transient for about four years.
Traveling alone or with your partner?
Knapp: With my partner.
Have you been with the same partner for a long time?
Knapp: About eight years, but I don’t want to get into that. For whatever reason the rumor mill [about me being gay] has persisted for so long, I wanted to acknowledge; I don’t want to come off as somebody who’s shirking the truth in my life. At the same time, I’m intensely private. Even if I were married to a man and had six children, it would be my personal choice to not get that kind of conversation rolling.
I understand. But I’m curious: Were you struggling with same-sex attraction when writing your first three albums? Those songs are so confessional, clearly coming from a place of a person who knows her need for grace and mercy.
Knapp: To be honest, it never occurred to me while writing those songs. I wasn’t seeking out a same-sex relationship during that time.
During my college years, I received some admonishment about some relationships I’d had with women. Some people said, “You might want to renegotiate that,” even though those relationships weren’t sexual. Hindsight being 20/20, I guess it makes sense. But if you remove the social problem that homosexuality brings to the church—and the debate as to whether or not it should be called a “struggle,” because there are proponents on both sides—you remove the notion that I am living my life with a great deal of joy. It never occurred to me that I was in something that should be labeled as a “struggle.” The struggle I’ve had has been with the church, acknowledging me as a human being, trying to live the spiritual life that I’ve been called to, in whatever ramshackled, broken, frustrated way that I’ve always approached my faith. I still consider my hope to be a whole human being, to be a person of love and grace. So it’s difficult for me to say that I’ve struggled within myself, because I haven’t. I’ve struggled with other people. I’ve struggled with what that means in my own faith. I have struggled with how that perception of me will affect the way I feel about myself.
Are you beyond those struggles?
Knapp: I don’t know. I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. But now that I’m back in the U.S., I’m contending with the culture shock of moving back here. There’s some extremely volatile language and debate—on all sides—that just breaks my heart. Frankly, if it were up to me, I wouldn’t be making any kind of public statement at all. But there are people I care about within the church community who would seek to throw me out simply because of who I’ve chosen to spend my life with.
So why come out of the closet, so to speak?
Knapp: I’m in no way capable of leading a charge for some kind of activist movement. I’m just a normal human being who’s dealing with normal everyday life scenarios. As a Christian, I’m doing that as best as I can. The heartbreaking thing to me is that we’re all hopelessly deceived if we don’t think that there are people within our churches, within our communities, who want to hold on to the person they love, whatever sex that may be, and hold on to their faith. It’s a hard notion. It will be a struggle for those who are in a spot that they have to choose between one or the other. The struggle I’ve been through—and I don’t know if I will ever be fully out of it—is feeling like I have to justify my faith or the decisions that I’ve made to choose to love who I choose to love.
Have you ever felt like you had to choose between your faith or your gay feelings?
Knapp: Yes. Absolutely.
Because you felt they were incompatible?
Knapp: Well, everyone around me made it absolutely clear that this is not an option for me, to invest in this other person—and for me to choose to do so would be a denial of my faith.
What about what Scripture says on the topic?
Knapp: The Bible has literally saved my life. I find myself between a rock and a hard place—between the conservative evangelical who uses what most people refer to as the “clobber verses” to refer to this loving relationship as an abomination, while they’re eating shellfish and wearing clothes of five different fabrics, and various other Scriptures we could argue about. I’m not capable of getting into the theological argument as to whether or not we should or shouldn’t allow homosexuals within our church. There’s a spirit that overrides that for me, and what I’ve been gravitating to in Christ and why I became a Christian in the first place.
Some argue that the feelings of homosexuality are not sinful, but only the act. What would you say?
Knapp: I’m not capable of fully debating that well. But I’ve always struggled as a Christian with various forms of external evidence that we are obligated to show that we are Christians. I’ve found no law that commands me in any way other than to love my neighbor as myself, and that love is the greatest commandment. At a certain point I find myself so handcuffed in my own faith by trying to get it right—to try and look like a Christian, to try to do the things that Christians should do, to be all of these things externally—to fake it until I get myself all handcuffed and tied up in knots as to what I was supposed to be doing there in the first place.
If God expects me, in order to be a Christian, to be able to theologically justify every move that I make, I’m sorry. I’m going to be a miserable failure.
You’re living in Nashville. Are you in a church these days?
The Christian music industry can be fickle. Fans, radio, and retail were angry at Amy Grant for her divorce, at Michael English and Sandi Patty for adultery. But eventually, they were “welcomed” back. How do you think your fans and radio and Christian stores will react to the news that you’re gay? Or do you care?
Knapp: I do have a soul! (laughs) I care deeply. It’s a very heart-wrenching decision to come into a room knowing that there are many people who just won’t come with me. The Christian bookstore thing is probably not going to happen; this isn’t a Christian record, and it’s not going to be marketed to Christian radio.
K-LOVE won’t pick this one up?
Knapp: I doubt it, but there’s no reason they can’t play it. To me, my faith is fairly evident in what I’m writing, but it’s not a record for the sanctuary. That in itself is a huge risk for me—to be able to write without feeling like I’ve got to manufacture something that’s not entirely genuine, to take a song and feel like I have to make an obvious biblical reference. That’s not there anymore. I’ve actually buried it; for me, it’s an exercise in liberty. In a spiritual context, will God still be evident in me when I write songs? I sort of nervously wring my hands together and go, Please don’t leave me.
You’re saying Please don’t leave me to God, or fans, or whom?
Knapp: To me, and the divine experience of being a musician—that private world of where I integrate that into my life and where it comes out on a public level, as a song. I have a lot of fans who live in real-life scenarios, not just live within the walls of their church. They aren’t surrounded by Christians all day long; they don’t just listen to Christian music. I have a lot of critically thinking fans who are trying to sort out their lives as Christians as best they know how. I think as a result of that, a lot of them have been marginalized; they’re still seeking to be Christians but not always measuring up to the marketed idea of who they should be.
You’re playing live shows again …
Knapp: Yes. My concerts right now include the ultra-conservative hand raisers that are going to make this bar their worship zone. And there’s a guy over on the left having one too many, and there’s a gay couple over on the right. That’s my dream scenario. I love each and every one of them. At the end of the day, it’s music.
Are you still playing your old songs in concert?
Knapp: A bit, yeah.
Knapp: “Martyrs and Thieves” I’ll probably always play off of Kansas. “Fall Down” off of The Way I Am. The songs still have to speak to me. I had to go back and learn my old songs, but that’s been part of my process too—feeling like because I was gay that I couldn’t sing those songs anymore. I even said, “Don’t give me a [live] set longer than what I can play with this new music, because I just can’t play the old music.” I just flat out said I wouldn’t do it.
But you’re already rethinking that?
Knapp: I’m enjoying what I’m playing now. It’s been organic. Amy Courts, a gal who’s joined me on this tour, said she wanted to sing some of the old songs with me. I was like, Man, I don’t know. I swore I’d never play that song again. But we start playing it, and it just hits me right in my heart. It’s like somebody else wrote it. I realized that it comes from a very honest, genuine place. I’ve started to make those connections between the old songs and what I’m doing now. It was an extraordinarily helpful connect, because for a long time I thought it was old life vs. new life. But it’s not. It was a real comfort to me to realize I’m still the same person, that the baggage or new scenarios we pick up along the way are part of the long-term story.
The new record is called Letting Go. Is that a statement?
Knapp: Oh, I love record titles! (laughs) I suppose. There’s a song called “Letting Go,” and it’s basically just a struggle to hold onto the things that have been valuable to me. That was one of the last song I wrote going into this, when I started to have a panic attack going I can’t do this. People are going to chew me up and spit me out and tell me that I’m worthless. I think the process of writing that song was really helpful to realize that I really enjoy what I’m doing, and I’m not going to let go of my faith and I’m not going to let go of the passion to do music the way I want, in case there are other people telling me I can do neither because of personal decisions I’ve made.
In the lyrics to that song, who is the you when you sing, “Holding onto you is a menace to my soul”?
Knapp: It changes nightly. It seriously does. And it can change three or four times while I’m singing it. Some days it’s my faith. Some days I’m singing to God, like You’re a menace, man. It’s hard to keep my faith. Sometimes it’s music, and sometimes it’s being on the road. It’s a lot of those scenarios. That song is a bit of a chameleon, because it’s all of those fearful moments that want to handicap me from not moving forward, when I’d rather move forward with grace and as much kindness as I can—and make my mistakes and hope that grace will follow me.
So it turns out to be the title of the record. I think a lot of folks around this process have been excited about what it’s taken for me to get to this point—to be able to pull a trigger, to be able to go, Okay, really I want to play. A few years back, people were offering me five and six figures to come out and just do one show. I’m like, No, you cannot pay me enough. So that idea of letting go, and just the celebration that this record has felt like—finding music again, finding the passion to face up to a really challenging career but one that’s extraordinarily rewarding, that when you lay your head on the pillow at the end of the night you go, Man, I’m bone tired, but that was good. For me, that’s what it means.
I’m tired of spending hours and hours thinking about what if scenarios—what if nobody wants it, what if everybody is mad, what if I’m a complete disappointment. Now it’s, Here it is. I’ve got to let it go. That’s one of the frustrating parts of my Christian walk, the scenario that if I don’t get it right, that I’ve somehow failed God and failed my faith.
There are a few songs here that I would call angry songs. Is that fair?
Knapp: Which ones do you call angry songs?
Well, there’s “If It Made a Difference,” where you sing, “Sorry I ever gave a damn / Sorry I even tried to waste all the better parts of me / On not just anyone who came to mind.” And “Inside,” where you sing, “I know they’ll bury me before they hear the whole story … / Who the hell do you think you are?” Sounds angry to me!
Knapp: Okay. I’m okay if you call them angry. I prefer to think of them as, well …
Knapp: I’m just really enjoying the opportunity as a writer to be able to put a kinetic energy into what’s been welling up inside of me. It’s great to be able to not feel like I’ve got to turn that frustration into a happy, cheery …
But you’ve never been like that, Jennifer. I don’t listen to your old albums and think Oh, this is all happy, shiny music. I hate happy, shiny music!
Knapp: I think “angry” is probably … I’m not really an angry person. I’m passionate, and I’ve certainly been known to raise my voice and pound my fists, but in the heart of me it’s not a destructive thing. It’s more the type of energy of what it takes when a person’s being thwarted. I wrote “Inside” in complete and utter fear to voices in my head that told me that I couldn’t be a person of faith.
In the song’s third line, you sing, “God forbid they give me grace.” Do you really believe that no believers will show you grace?
Knapp: It’s a much larger picture than that. I don’t want anyone to think the song is targeted at the church, or at the ways we find judgment cast upon us. It’s a challenge to break free of that and to own who you really are. That’s my heart’s cry for anyone I’ve ever met. It’s not on my agenda to convert the world to a religion, but to convert the world to compassion and grace. I’ve experienced that in my life through Christianity.
“Inside” isn’t about the church. It’s about me, and how I struggle to be myself daily—honest and truthful to who I really am. It would break my heart if people got through this [album], especially the Christian audience, and found themselves with another artist that was just angry at the church. That’s not where I’m at. If there’s any anger or frustration on this record, it’s the desperation to hold onto what is honest and true, and let the rest of it just burn.
I would be really sad if people thought this was a sword trying to cut up something I’ve been deeply moved by. Christian music has been a great surprise for me, but I didn’t aspire to be a Christian music artist. I aspired to be a Christian in my private life, and I think it’s a wonderful side effect that can happen with music—that you can get a lot of people to share in that specific experience. So it would be a tragedy if people couldn’t see the forest for the trees, to see the connectivity between Kansasand Letting Go. It’s there for me, gratefully, with a big, huge, massive sigh of relief. It’s not like I left Christian music because Christian music was bad, or that I’m not participating in church because the church is evil. It’s none of those things. For me, it’s the journey that I’m on, trying to figure things about as best I can.
By Jennifer Riley
CBS reportedly told a gay dating site that its proposed Super Bowl ad would be reviewed for possible airing and would be considered if a spot becomes available.
ManCrunch.com submitted a 30-second commercial to CBS on Jan. 18 and, as of Jan. 22, CBS reportedly said “the spot hadn’t been officially approved yet” by the network standards and that all spots for the big game on Feb. 7 had been sold out, according to Fox News. But CBS agreed to consider running the ad if an advertiser dropped out.
The ad involves two men watching the Super Bowl when their hands touch as they reach into a chip bowl. The two men then begin to kiss each other as another man sitting nearby watches in shock.
In response to the purported ad, a spokesperson for the conservative pro-family group American Family Association said it would be “totally irresponsible” of the network to air the ad during the most watched TV program of the year.
“CBS should not put parents in the position of answering embarrassing and awkward questions from their children while they’re just trying to enjoy a football game,” said Tim Wildmon, president of AFA, in a statement Thursday. “CBS should quit dithering around and reject this ad out of hand.”
In addition to pressure from pro-family groups, CBS is also coming under fire from pro-choice groups for approving an ad featuring college football star Tim Tebow and his mom, Pam.
Though the exact content of the ad has not been revealed, many are speculating that it will recount Pam Tebow’s refusal to have an abortion while she was pregnant with Tim despite having suffered from a life-threatening infection at the time.
Focus on the Family, which produced the ad, said earlier this month that Pam Tebow would share a personal story centered on the theme of “Celebrate Family, Celebrate Life.”
“The Tebows said they agreed to appear in the commercial because the issue of life is one they feel very strongly about,” Focus on the Family reported.
“Tim and Pam share our respect for life and our passion for helping families thrive,” added Focus on the Family president and CEO Jim Daly.
Focus on the Family’s Super Bowl ad, which still needs to receive final confirmation, will be Christian group’s first Super Bowl commercial.
Super Bowl broadcasts are typically viewed by over 90 million people each year.
This year’s Super Bowl, which pits the Indianapolis Colts against the New Orleans Saints, will kick off at 6 p.m. ET on Sunday, Feb. 7.
The Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback says he stands up for what he believes. Even so, the Tim Tebow Super Bowl ad against abortion threatens to politicize ‘Super Sunday’ and turn some fans and NFL coaches against him.
By Patrik Jonsson
In a historic career at the University of Florida, Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Tim Tebow has kept his faith and his convictions confined mostly to a few square inches beneath his eyes: Every Saturday, he would write a Biblical citation on his eye black.
Now, at the very moment when his hope of becoming a pro football quarterback hangs in the balance, Tim Tebow is taking on perhaps the single most divisive topic in America – abortion – in an advertisement set to air during the single most-watched television program of the year: the Super Bowl.
For a handsome and humble young man, who has become revered throughout much of the South for his devoutness as well as his on-field skill, it is an astonishingly bold decision. In the 30-second ad against abortion, he will speak from his own experience of how his mother did not abort him despite medical advice to do so.
Abortion-rights groups are already calling for the ad’s removal, saying that the group behind the ad is “anti-woman” and “anti-equality.” Online chatter is expressing an unease about Tebow’s willingness to infuse Super Bowl Sunday – an apolitical American rite – with politics. And, perhaps most concerning for Tebow himself, pro football teams already skeptical of his ability to transition to the National Football League might see this as further reason to avoid him on draft day.
“I do stand up for what I believe,” Tebow told Sports Illustrated last summer. “And at least you can respect that.”
Raised on a farm outside Jacksonville, Fla., by the son of an evangelist preacher and a mom who home-schooled him, Tebow is an amalgam of charismatic leader, world-class athlete, and devout Christian Southern boy. His faith resonates among fans in the Deep South.
But by targeting the Super Bowl, his “Celebrate Family, Celebrate Life” ad ranges far beyond the familiar confines of the conservative South. Fans and coaches in the NFL might resent him for pushing a cultural message on a day usually reserved for quarterback matchups and halftime extravaganzas.
“We’re going down a road here that is filled with potholes, moral and otherwise,” writes Orlando Sentinel sports columnist George Diaz, suggesting that the ad could lead to more advocacy ads, which Super Bowl broadcaster CBS has said it will consider.
The ad, funded by the Focus on the Family organization, is expected to tell the story of Tebow and his mother, Pam. Ill while pregnant with Tim, Pam refused suggestions to abort her son. Those who have seen the ad describe it as “uplifting.”
“I asked God for a preacher, and he gave me a quarterback,” Tebow’s dad, Bob, has famously said about the trying pregnancy.
The appropriate venue?
But various groups, including the National Organization for Women, have called for CBS to withdraw the ad. They say that both the ad’s advocacy content, as well as the group behind it are unacceptable. So far, CBS has said it intends to run the ad.
“This un-American hate doesn’t have a place in this all-American pastime,” Kierra Johnson, executive director of Choice USA, told Fox News.
Tebow has for years had to walk the line between the conviction of his faith and open proselytizing. But the ad comes at a crossroads for Tebow. Professional scouts have said Tebow’s throwing motion and skill-set are poorly suited for the NFL, and his preparations for the upcoming Senior Bowl, which offers coaches a first up-close look at college prospects, haven’t gone well so far this week.
“The anti-abortion ad that he’s in that will possibly run during the Super Bowl will likely create an uproar for him as well that some teams might not want to get involved in,” writes Mark Miller on Yahoo! Sports.
Yet it is the timing of his ad – and not necessarily the content – that could knock Tebow down a few notches among NFL fans. Indeed, a May 2009 Gallup poll found that, for the first time since the poll began in 1995, more Americans are anti-abortion than pro-abortion rights. But timing is everything.
“There are going to be about 100 million of us who won’t be happy for 30 seconds of the Super Bowl,” writes CBS Sports’ Gregg Doyel. “I’m not complaining about the ad because it’s anti-abortion and I’m not. I’m complaining about the ad because it’s pro-politics. And I’m not. Not on Super Sunday.”
Outspoken Christian Quarterback Kurt Warner announced his retirement from the National Football League on Friday, thanking God for the opportunities he received both on and off the field.
“As always, as it started in 1999 when I was up on the podium holding up a trophy, the first thing I want to do is give thanks to God,” Warner said during a press conference in Tempe, Ariz., referring to his widely-heard shot out to the Almighty following his Super Bowl win with the St. Louis Rams.
“My Lord Jesus brought me here. I know he brought me here for a purpose. And it’s been an amazing ride,” he added.
Though Hall of Fame-bound Warner stands out as one of the top quarterbacks in NFL history – with an impressive list of achievements that includes three MVP awards, a Super Bowl win, and the second-highest completion percentage in NFL history – Warner is most noted for his King David-esque rise to stardom, which was twice witnessed.
Not only did Warner go from stocking shelves at a grocery store in 1994 to a winning a Super Bowl in 2000, he also returned to the spotlight after his time appeared to be up, leading the Arizona Cardinals to the franchises’ first-ever Super Bowl in 2009.
“I don’t think I could have dreamt out that it would have played out as it had. But I’ve been humbled everyday that I’ve woke up for the last 12 years and amazed that God would choose to use me to do what He’s given me the opportunity to do over 12 years,” Warner said Friday.
But the one-time Super Bowl MVP made it clear that the opportunities he was given were not only on the football field. For him, it’s not just about the successes and the Super Bowls and the wins and the losses.
“[I]t’s also been the opportunities that He (God)’s given to me off the football field,” Warner stated.
Since his rise to stardom, Warner has been a featured speaker across the country for numerous churches, non-profit organizations, men’s conferences, and corporate events.
Warner’s work both on and off the field, meanwhile, resulted in him being awarded the NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year Award in 2008 and the Muhammad Ali Sports Leadership Award in 2009. Warner was also selected by USA Weekend as the winner of its annual Most Caring Athlete Award for 2009 and, just last month, topped a Sports Illustrated poll of NFL players to name the best role model on and off the field in the NFL.
First Things First Foundation, a non-profit public charity that he and his wife established in 2001, has been involved with numerous projects for causes such as children’s hospitals, people with developmental disabilities and assisting single parents.
“So I hope that when people think back over my career – maybe it’s just over the next couple of weeks as they reflect on it or maybe it’s years to come – that that’s what they remember more than anything else,” Warner said Friday.
“Not the way I threw the football, not particular games that I won. But that they remember that here’s a guy that believed, that worked hard, and – although things didn’t always go in his favor – he continued to press through. And with his faith in himself and with his faith in God, he was able to accomplish great things,” he concluded.
As for his future plans, Warner said earlier at the press conference that he’s just as excited about the next 12 years as he has the past “12 unbelievable years – 12 of the best years of my life.”
“I’m excited about what lies in front of me. I’m excited about spending more time with my family and seeing what God’s going to do next,” he reported.
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Warner will keep his charitable foundation going, perhaps do some speaking, writing, ministry work, and maybe some football analyst work on TV or radio.
First Things First Foundation, which draws its name from Warner’s famed post-Super Bowl response in 2000, is dedicated to impacting lives by promoting Christian values, sharing experiences and providing opportunities “to encourage everyone that all things are possible when people seek to put first things first.”
The charity’s guiding principle is Matthew 6:33, which states “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
By Lillian Kwon
Globally recognized pastor Joel Osteen has been drawing some flak from the press and the public in the past few months over his comments on homosexuality.
His remarks last year on “The View” and “Larry King Live” that “homosexuality is not God’s best” drew fire from the gay rights community and from Christians for avoiding to identify the behavior as a sin.
More recently, his participation in the inauguration of Houston’s first openly gay mayor has also drawn some – but less fiery – attention.
Pastor of America’s largest church, Osteen was invited to offer the opening prayer at the inauguration of Houston’s elected city officials on Monday. While praying for the 14-member City Council, he also specifically thanked God for the new mayor, Annise Parker, a partnered lesbian.
“She’s our mayor. Joel doesn’t view Annise through a gay lens,” Don Iloff, Jr., spokesman for Lakewood Church in Houston, told The Christian Post. “He sees her as a person.”
And the Bible instructs believers to pray for and respect those who govern us, he added.
“If you ask Joel he’ll tell you ‘when I can pray at an event over government leaders and in Jesus’ name it’s hard to resist,’” Iloff said. Osteen prayed for the previous mayor, Bill White, at his inauguration.
The spokesman also pointed out that Parker has never pushed or highlighted any kind of gay agenda during her time in government and during her campaign.
“She’s an all business kind of gal,” he said.
During the swearing-in ceremony Monday, the former city controller addressed the economy, public safety and education. She also briefly addressed the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community saying, “I feel your excitement and your joy, your apprehension and your longing for acceptance. I will gladly carry you forward. But today is simply one step toward a tomorrow of greater justice,” according to the Houston Chronicle.
If Parker begins pushing a homosexual agenda, Iloff said Lakewood Church and Pastor Osteen are likely to distance themselves from her.
“Annise says she’s a believer. Let her stand before God; that’s kind of where Joel is,” Iloff noted. “He’s not going to tell homosexuals they can’t come to our church. If the Holy Spirit convicts them, then they’ll change.”
Osteen does not affirm homosexual behavior. Though the pastor himself has never specifically called it a “sin,” his spokesman Iloff says they believe homosexuality is a sin. But sin is sin and homosexuality is no worse a sin than others, such as adultery, Iloff pointed out.
Lakewood Church maintains good relations with city officials, some of whom attend the megachurch. Two of the City Council members are regular Lakewood attendees. Politicians, however, are not allowed to speak from the pulpit.
A Ugandan legislator who proposed the highly contested Anti-Homosexuality Bill insists the measure is being misconstrued.
“There has been a distortion in the media that we are providing death for gays. That is not true,” ruling party MP David Bahati said on BBC. “When a homosexual defiles a kid of less than 18 years old, we are providing a penalty for this.”
The bill, which is currently being debated by a parliamentary committee, has drawn global attention from gay rights advocates and religious leaders alike, many of whom are condemning the legislation for promoting hatred and handing down severe penalties against homosexuals and their family, friends, and even pastors. Punishments range from a fine and a three-year imprisonment to life imprisonment and the death penalty.
Homosexuality is already illegal in Uganda and can be punished with life imprisonment. But the anti-homosexuality legislation was designed to “fill the gaps” in the provisions of existing laws and “strengthen the nation’s capacity to deal with emerging internal and external threats to the traditional heterosexual family.”
Bahati told BBC that homosexuality is neither a human right nor is it in-born.
“It is a behavior learned and it can be unlearned,” he said on BBC.
Some religious leaders in Uganda are backing the legislation, but many more within and outside the country are gravely concerned.
“Regardless of the diverse theological views of our religious traditions regarding the morality of homosexuality, in our churches, communities and families, we seek to embrace our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters as God’s children worthy of respect and love,” said a group of U.S. Catholic, evangelical and mainline Protestant leaders, in a statement Monday.
Most recently, on Thursday, evangelical Pastor Rick Warren released a video to Ugandan pastors detailing his opposition to the bill and correcting media reports that state otherwise.
As a pastor, he said it is not his role to interfere with the politics of other nations, he said it is his role to speak out on moral issues.
Warren called the Anti-Homosexuality bill “unjust, extreme and un-Christian” toward homosexuals.
Passing the bill would have “a chilling effect” on the HIV/AIDS ministry of churches in Uganda, the southern California pastor added. With the proposed legislation threatening to penalize those who provide counseling to someone struggling with their sexuality and work with people infected with HIV/AIDS and who do not report the homosexual within 24 hours of knowledge, fewer people who are HIV positive will seek care from the churches out of fear of being reported.
“You and I know that the churches of Uganda are the truly caring communities where people receive hope and help, not condemnation,” the megachurch pastor said in his video message.
While affirming that marriage is intended to be between one man and one woman and that all sex outside of marriage is not what God intends, Warren also stressed, “Jesus also taught us that the greatest commandment is to love our neighbors as ourselves. Since God created all, and Jesus suffered and died for all, then we are to treat all with respect.
“The Great Commandment has been the centerpiece of my life and ministry for over 35 years.”
According to Bloomberg, a refined version of the bill is expected to be presented to Parliament in two weeks. Dr. James Nsaba Buturo, minister of Uganda for Ethics and Integrity, told Bloomberg that the draft bill will drop the death penalty and life imprisonment for gays.
Before the changes, which have not yet been made, the measure stated that persons who commit the offense of “aggravated homosexuality” – where the offense is committed against those below the age of 18 and where the offender is living with HIV – shall be liable on conviction to suffer death and to imprisonment for life. Another provision nullifies international treaties, protocols, and declarations that are “contradictory to the spirit and provisions enshrined in this act.”
Openly ‘gay’ Adam Lambert simulates sex acts with men on ABC broadcast
Editor’s Note: This story contains references to very objectionable adult material, which also is included in the video of the Lambert performance.
Openly homosexual former “American Idol” performer Adam Lambert shocked the American Music Awards audience last night by shoving dance team members’ faces into his crotch, leading others around on dog leashes and delivering a passionate on-stage kiss to his male keyboard player during theABC broadcast.
The performance of his new song, “For Your Entertainment,” marks his first public appearance since his “American Idol” competition loss to Christian Kris Allen.
According to the London Telegraph, Lambert was unapologetic to anyone who might have been offended, saying, “Maybe I’m not your cup of tea.”
Lyrics of the song included: “Hold on until it’s over. Can you handle what I’m about to do. It’s about to get rough with you.”
The video (Viewers please be aware this includes offensive material):
Shortly after word of the performance started spreading, the video was withdrawn from YouTube because of a “copyright claim” from Dick Clark Productions.
Immediately following the performance, Adam Lambert was the most trending topic on Twitter. Lambert was defiant on his Twitter page, proclaiming, “All hail freedom of expression and artistic integrity. … fans: I adore u.”
But viewers were not necessarily responding in kind. One observer described the performance as a “modern Sodom.” On a New York Daily News poll asking, “Do you think Adam went too far with his performance?” two out of three respondents agreed.
Sixty-four percent said, “It was unnecessary and inappropriate for television.” Only 24 percent said, “He took a risk and did something different that was worth watching.” Another 12 percent said the show would have been more appropriate for cable television.
Lambert’s provocative performance began with him dragging a leather-and-fishnet-clad dancer across the stage.
Wearing eye makeup and a pompadour, he then grabbed the head of a male dancer and pulled him into his crotch.
He broke off his gyrations long enough for a long kiss with his male keyboard player and finished with a high-pitched howl he’s known to deliver.
ABC producers were unaware of the planned same-sex make-out session, reports Rolling Stone. However, Lambert’s performance was advertised as “eye-popping” and something “you’d be talking about tomorrow.”
Lambert told Rolling Stone he didn’t do anything female performers haven’t done on television already – and that if ABC censored any part of his performance for the West Coast rebroadcast, it would amount to “discrimination.”
“It’s a shame because I think that there’s a double standard going on in the entertainment community right now,” Lambert told Rolling Stone backstage after the show at Los Angeles’ Nokia Theatre. “Female performers have been doing this for years – pushing the envelope about sexuality – and the minute a man does it, everybody freaks out. We’re in 2009; it’s time to take risks, be a little more brave, time to open people’s eyes and if it offends them, then maybe I’m not for them. My goal was not to piss people off, it was to promote freedom of expression and artistic freedom.”
The Telegraph reported the Federal Communications Commission was preparing for an onslaught of complaints over the graphic nature of the performance. The report said on Twitter and other Internet forums, watchers called the show “disgustingly vulgar.”
“Has ABC lost their minds? How on earth do they think airing this is OK?” wrote one forum participant.
Ironically, Sunday’s awards were opened by Janet Jackson, who was embroiled in controversy following her infamous “wardrobe malfunction” during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show. Pop star Justin Timberlake ripped off a portion of Jackson’s costume, exposing her breast to millions of viewers. The incident was investigated by the FCC and CBS was fined.
Lambert had been defeated on “American Idol” by Kris Allen, a mild-mannered Christian described as a “dark horse.”
The outcome of the vote stunned many who thought Lambert would be the victor.
“Huge upset,” said WFLX-TV news anchor Eric Roby, who said he and co-anchor Suzanne Boyd were shocked as they watched the program from their West Palm Beach, Fla., studio. “We were both screaming in the make-up room. Couldn’t believe it.”
Lambert had been dubbed a “rock god” by “Idol” judge Kara DioGuardi, a songwriter herself.
Simon Cowell, the judge known for his put-downs of less-than-stellar competitors, had predicted Lambert would win the contest and that he likely would become a worldwide star.
By Peter Ford
BEIJING – Chinese Foreign Ministry briefings are generally pretty dull affairs, the way such events are in many countries: reporters do their best to get the spokesman to say something newsworthy, and the spokesman does his best not to oblige them.
On Thursday, though, Qin Gang inadvertently broke the mold. He said that Barack Obama, being a black president who admired Abraham Lincoln’s role in abolishing slavery and preserving the Union, should sympathize with Beijing’s opposition to the Dalai Lama.
He seemed to be making two points. The first was that President Obama’s skin color should make him especially sensitive to slavery; the Chinese government refers to Tibetan society before Chinese troops took over Lhasa in 1951 as serfdom.
The second was that Obama should learn a lesson from Lincoln’s opposition to secession, and support Beijing’s opposition to the Dalai Lama, whom the government here accuses of “splittism.”
Leave aside the fact that the Dalai Lama has repeated until he is blue in the face that he does not support Tibetan independence – only autonomy. Leave aside the fact that Obama has no slaves in his lineage.
The ministry’s spokesman appeared to be trying to make foreign audiences believe that the Communist Party of China (CPC) is the moral equivalent of Abraham Lincoln, and that the Dalai Lama is a supporter of feudal serfdom.
Considering that most people outside this country’s borders see the CPC as the ones restricting freedoms, and regard the Dalai Lama as a moral giant, Mr. Qin showed a lot of nerve.
Nerve is a valuable quality in a press spokesman, of course. But Qin’s allusions to US history also displayed a complete disregard for – or misunderstanding of – how most of the rest of the world views the Tibetan issue.
Given that the Foreign Ministry is meant to be the agency of the Chinese government that is best informed about the outside world, and given that its spokesman is meant to be one of its diplomats best qualified to win foreign reporters over, that is worrying.
Ultimate 5th column penetration, warns best-selling ‘Muslim Mafia’
“Muslims should stand up and fight the aggressor.” That’s what Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan said about America before he and possibly other Muslim soldiers at Fort Hood shot 43 fellow soldiers, killing 12, who were returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
“He said Muslims had a right to attack” the U.S., said Col. Terry Lee, who worked with Hasan at the Texas post, where the devout Sunni Muslim refused deployment. “He said Muslims shouldn’t be fighting Muslims,” he added. “He was very clear on that.”
Shockingly, a growing number of other Muslim American soldiers as well as civilian contractors have put their religion before their duty. Some like Hasan have killed, or tried to kill, their fellow soldiers. Others have infiltrated the military in order to undermine it and aid and comfort the enemy.
According to an explosive new book, “Muslim Mafia: Inside the Secret Underworld That’s Conspiring to Islamize America,” Hasan is just the tip of a jihadist Fifth Column operating within the ranks of the U.S. military – which is too blinded by political correctness to see the threat.
Quoting from a classified military briefing, “Muslim Mafia” reveals that this Fifth Column has penetrated “every branch of the U.S. military.” The Islamist enemy has even infiltrated the al-Qaida detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Security officials at Gitmo have been investigating a possible new spy ring involving several “dirty” Arabic linguists who are accused among other things of:
- omitting valuable intelligence from their translations of detainee interrogations;
- slipping notes to detainees inside copies of the Quran;
- coaching detainees to make allegations of abuse against interrogators; and
- meeting with suspects on the terrorist watchlist while traveling back in the United States.
More than 75 former Gitmo detainees have returned to the battlefield or anti-American jihad. Some met with the suspect Muslim translators. Others were privately counseled by chaplains also under investigation for security breaches.
Gitmo security officials recently met with FBI agents in Philadelphia to aid their investigation into one of the Muslim linguists under contract at Gitmo, according to sources quoted in the book who are familiar with the investigation.
They also this summer briefed members of Congress about the prison camp’s internal security breaches, according to “Muslim Mafia,” which is co-authored by former federal agent P. David Gaubatz and investigative journalist Paul Sperry, author of “Infiltration: How Muslim Spies and Subversives Have Penetrated Washington,” which is being used by law enforcement and the military.
“Three years of investigations have revealed the presence of pro-jihad/anti-Western activities among the civilian contractor and military linguist population serving Joint Task Force Guantanamo,” states a copy of the classified Gitmo briefing, which was prepared in May 2009 for the FBI and CIA, as well as the congressional intelligence committees.
The report explains that dirty Arabic linguists have gathered classified data involving detainees, interrogations and security operations in an effort to “disrupt” Gitmo operations and U.S. “intelligence-collection capabilities.”
It goes on to specifically finger the Muslim Brotherhood, which it calls a terrorist group, in the conspiracy. The Muslim Brotherhood and its U.S. operations and front groups are the subject of “Muslim Mafia.”
“These actions are deliberate, carefully planned, global, and to the benefit of the detainees and multiple terrorist organizations, to include al-Qaida and Muslim Brotherhood,” the briefing states, according to the bestselling book.
The enemy infiltration is not limited to Guantanamo.
The report strongly suggests that Islamist spies have penetrated nearly every sensitive U.S. security agency involved in the war on terror, potentially compromising intelligence government-wide.
“Persons participating in this activity move regularly between multiple contracting companies, various intelligence agencies in the U.S. government [FBI, CIA, DIA, NSA, etc.], and every branch of the U.S. military.”
The investigation comes on the heels of a major Muslim espionage ring that the FBI broke up at Gitmo in 2004.
A former Army Muslim chaplain was charged with espionage, mishandling classified documents, and lying to investigators, and served hard time in the stockade. Two of his Muslim brothers at Gitmo, both Arabic interpreters, were convicted of stealing or mishandling classified documents.
Hasan, the alleged Fort Hood terrorist, is a U.S. citizen whose Palestinian parents emigrated from the West Bank.
Col. Lee said Hasan complained about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He had hoped President Obama would quickly end them, but when they “didn’t come to a quick end, he got more agitated.”
This summer, Lee says he overheard Hasan praise the Muslim who shot two soldiers at a military recruiting station in Little Rock, Ark.
“He was happy” about it, Lee said in an interview with Fox News. “He said ‘Maybe we should have more of these people. Maybe people should strap [on] bombs and go into town squares.’”
There are some 40 Muslims at Fort Hood, and an estimated 15,000 Muslims serving throughout the U.S. armed forces.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations cautioned against a rush to judgment about the shooter’s motives.
“The motive of the attacker is not yet known,” insisted CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad. (The FBI recently cut off ties to the Washington-based group after identifying it as a front group for Hamas terrorists in the largest terror finance case in U.S. history. CAIR and its founding chairman were named unindicted terrorist co-conspirators in the case.)
But other current and former Muslims, who oppose CAIR and dispute its claims to representing American Muslims, say the shooter’s motive is clear: violent jihad in the name of radical Islam.
“America needs to awaken from its sleep and its unwillingness to face the issue of fundamentalist Islam in our midst which undoubtedly is the cause of the tragedy in Fort Hood,” said Walid Shoebat, a former Islamist terrorist.
“Some very serious decisions need to [be] made when it comes to having Muslims protecting our country, as it is impossible to know whether they may be honorable or foxes in the hen house.”
By Nathan Black
The majority of voters in Maine rejected a law on Tuesday that allowed gay and lesbian couples to wed.
After months of campaigning and millions of dollars in ads, traditional marriage supporters claimed victory at the ballot box with 53 percent of the vote.
“This has never been about gay rights,” said Marc Mutty, chairman of Stand for Marriage Maine, according to the Los Angeles Times. “It’s about marriage, and this is reaffirmation by the people of Maine that marriage between men and women is special and unique.”
The state law legalizing same-sex marriage was passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. John Baldacci in May. Before the law could go into effect in September, opponents submitted enough signatures for a “people’s veto,” subjecting the measure to repeal.
While gay rights advocates were hoping to make history by affirming same-sex marriage by popular vote, their votes came up short on Tuesday.
“Yesterday, hundreds of thousands of Maine voters stood for equality, but in the end, it wasn’t enough,” said Jesse Connolly, campaign manager for No on 1/Protect Maine Equality.
He assured supporters that their efforts would not stop and that they were in this for the long haul “because in the end, this has always been about love and family and that will always be something worth fighting for.”
Whenever given the opportunity, U.S. voters have upheld the traditional definition of marriage. Constitutional amendments affirming marriage as between one man and one woman have been passed in 29 states in the past 10 years and statutes to the same effect have been adopted in another 15 states, according to the Institute on Religion and Democracy.
Recent polls have also shown that the majority of American voters continue to oppose the legalization of same-sex marriage. According to the Gallup Poll, 57 percent of Americans say marriages between same-sex couples should not be recognized by the law as valid while 40 percent say such marriages should be legal.