By Dan Merica, CNN
Washington (CNN) - Timothy Kurek’s motivation to spend a year pretending to be gay can be boiled down to a simple conviction: it takes drastic change to alter deeply held religious beliefs.
The experiment began after a lesbian friend opened up to Kurek about being excommunicated by her family. All Kurek, an avowed evangelical Christian, could think about, he says, “was trying to convert her.”
He was quickly disgusted by his own feelings, more pious than humane.
In fact, Kurek was so disgusted by his response to his friend that he decided to do something drastic. Living in Nashville, Tennessee, he would pretend to be gay for a year. The experiment began on the first day of 2009; Kurek came out to his family, got a job as a barista at a gay café and enlisted the help of a friend to act as his boyfriend in public.
The experience – which stopped short of Kurek getting physically intimate with other men - is documented in Kurek’s recent book “The Cross in the Closet,” which has received international attention, landed him on ABC’s "The View" and elicited some biting criticism.
The book is the latest entry on a growing list of experiential tomes revolving around religion. They include Rachel Held Evans’ recent “A Year of Biblical Womanhood,” in which the author follows the Bible’s instructions on women’s behavior and Ed Dobson’s “The Year of Living Like Jesus,” which had the author “eat as Jesus ate. Pray as Jesus prayed. Observe the Sabbath as Jesus observed.”
For Kurek, his year as a gay man radically changed his view of faith and religion, while also teaching him “what it meant to be a second class citizen in this country.”
A yearlong lie
For years, Kurek says, the only life he had was “his church life.” Being an evangelical Christian was his identity.
He was home-schooled until seventh grade, almost all of his friends were from church and his social life was a nightly string of faith-based events, from church sports to a Christian Cub Scout troop. “It was the only thing I was used to doing,” said Kurek, who attended Liberty University, the largest evangelical university in the world, before dropping out after freshman year.
Kurek grew up in an “independent Baptist church.” “We were evangelical,” he said, “but we were more conservative than evangelical, too.”
His churchy lifestyle led to some deeply held views about homosexuality. Most evangelical churches condemn homosexuality as sinful. Many rail against certain gay rights, like gay marriage.
“I had been taught to be wary of gays,” Kurek writes of his beliefs pre-experiment. “They were all HIV positive, perverts and liberal pedophiles.”
Those views began to be challenged in 2004, when he first encountered Soulforce, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights group, on Liberty’s campus. The group made the school an important stop on its cross-country tour targeting colleges that they alleged treated LGBT people unfairly.
Kurek was struck by what he had in common with the protesters at Liberty. “It really impressed me that people who were coming to push their agenda were able to do it and be so nice about it,” he said.
His doubt about Christianity’s condemnation of homosexuality, Kurek writes, was “perfected” in 2008, when a close friend recounted the story of coming out to her family and being disowned.
“I betrayed her, then,” writes Kurek. “It was a subtle betrayal, but a cruel one: I was silent.”
His recognition of that betrayal, he writes, led him to believe that “I needed to come out of the closet as a gay man.”
“I believe in total immersion,” Kurek says in an interview. “If you are going to walk in other people’s shoes, then you are going to need to walk in your shoes.”
To ensure the purity of his project, Kurek says, he had to lie to his deeply religious family about being gay, something that troubled him throughout the year.
“I felt like they loved me but they didn’t know how to deal with me,” he says. “They didn’t understand how to handle having a gay brother or sibling.”
In the book, Kurek recounts learning that his mother wrote in her journal that she would rather have been diagnosed with cancer than have a gay son. That experience and others left Kurek feeling outcast by people he loved, confused about his new life and conflicted about past religious beliefs.
Kurek was living a lie. And even though he was conflicted by his family’s reaction to his new lifestyle, he was longing to be honest with them.
It’s no surprise that the “The Cross in the Closet,” has spurred strong reaction, especially from the LGBT community.
“I feel for the gay community of Nashville, and for every person who trusted Kurek enough to flirt with him, hang out with him, and confide in him about their lives,” wrote Amy Lieberman on the blog Feministing. “If I were in that community, I would feel so betrayed right now.”
In a Huffington Post blog post titled “Pretending To Be Gay Isn’t The Answer,” Emily Timbol, a religion blogger, expressed a similar opinion: “What's sad is that every interaction Timothy had during his year pretending was fake.”
“He was welcomed under false pretenses, acting like someone who understood the struggle that his LGBT friends faced,” she wrote. “He did not.”
But Kurek says that that was not his aim. “This isn't a book about being gay, I could not write that book, I am not qualified,” he writes. “What this is about is the label of gay and how that label affected me personally.”
Throughout the book, Kurek emphasizes that distinction. While much of “The Cross in the Closet” is about the struggle to understand the gay community, which he tries to address by enlisting a friend to act as his boyfriend, much of it addresses how his former church’s community – and family – reacted to his new lifestyle.
“I am actually not friends or in contact at all with 99.99% of the people that I grew up with or the churches that I grew up with,” Kurek says.
Kurek says he isn’t opposed to interacting with people from his "former" life. When he has run into members of his old church, he said he generally has quick, cordial conversations and moves on.
But some of the new distance is by choice. When Kurek’s mother told a friend in her church that her son was gay, the person said Kurek’s sexuality could jeopardize his mother's standing in the church.
The evangelical community has remained fairly mum throughout much of the reaction; most responses have come from Christians who are in some way connected to the LGBT community.
Though Kurek goes to church less now, primarily because he has yet to find one that feels like “home,” he says he feels more religious “in the biblical definition of religion.” He still considers himself a Christian, although no longer evangelical, and says he is interested in attending the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in the future.
Kurek quotes James 1:27 from the New Testament: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
There’s no mention of organized religion in passages like that, and Kurek says it’s the institutions of religion that worry him most today. He talks about his once robust church life as a distant memory.
Living as a gay man jaded him to religion, he says, though he has not surrendered all of his former beliefs. Yes, Kurek says, he is struggling with certain points of his theology, but he has been looking for the right church. “I am trying to figure out what place in the body of Christ I fit in,” he said.
As for his original goal, to radically change who he was, Kurek says mission accomplished. He says he has conquered his prejudices of the LGBT community and is happy with the person he has become.
“If anybody had told me back then who I would be or what I would believe now,” Kurek said, “I would have thought they were completely insane.”
For example, Kurek now thinks homosexuality is completely acceptable.
His family is happy to know that he is not gay, says Kurek. He has a new set of friends. And he lives in Portland, Oregon, where he moved shortly after finishing his experimental year.
The author plans to donate part of the proceeds from his book to help LGBT homeless youth who have been rejected by their families.
He is now at work on a book proposal for a follow-up to “The Cross in the Closet.” The book will be about the years after his experiment, transitioning back to honest living while continuing to engage the LGBT community.
“I want to tell more stories,” he says “and humanize the people who Christians always want to look at as labels.”
Anyone ever hear of the book "Black Like Me" (written by James Wright)? This "attempt" at "infiltrating" the LGBT community appears to be the same thing. The pathetic result is that this "impersonator" is STILL AN EVANGELICAL CHRISTIAN!
Have you read his book? I don't think he believes the same things anymore.
Yet in the article he clearly states that he is no longer an evangelical christian and he believes being gay is completely acceptable. So either you didn't really read it or you are just too close minded to accept the words at face value.
Good another broke off from religious pack to see things in his perspective. As an Atheist I am glad to see an individual do that. Unlike others who will just sit in church and believe a preacher's word over their own word and perspective of the world.
I totally agree.BTW.I think you should provide proof that you are,in fact-GOD.Perhaps if you had somebody write a book professing your greatness your claim would be more believable.A miracle might help as well.
My name isn't proof enough? Damn. I apologize I'll try harder to provide facts that "I Am God" next time.
cnn, are the PTB gay? no wonder women are repressed throughout the world.
Praise the lord
Kurek ...seek out "esoteric christians" they should be what you are looking for. or read PD Ouspenskys & GI Gurdjieff's psychological commentaries.
It has always amused me that the LGBT community spends 99% of their effort trying to force people to be "accepting" and show "tolerance" towards them but they themselves (along with atheists) are probably one of the least accepting and intolerant groups around. You reap what you sew.
"It has always amused me that the LGBT community spends 99% of their effort trying to force people to be "accepting" "
I am sure member of the K K K said the same thing and others that wanted slavery to continue. This is about civil rights. Marriage was defined by the US Supreme Court as a civil right. Recognized federal civil rights law in the United States is grounded in the U.S. Constitution as interpreted by the Supreme Court. By this standard, marriage has long been established as a civil right.
The operative constitutional text is section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment, which was ratified in 1868. The relevant passages read as follows:
No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Fail. Get a clue liar.
"reap what you sew"? Sewing? "Sew" what?
I am a liberal, and I agree with you. I wouldn't call us the "most" intolerant, I would say both sides are equally tunnel-visioned. I think it's an important fact for both self-proclaiming open-minded liberals, and self-proclaiming loving Christians to accept about their communities, otherwise we will never move beyond that fact.
As an athiest I'd be happy to have a conversation with you under 2 conditions:
1) I remain open to being convinced your beliefs are correct and supported by facts
2) You remain open to being convinced my beliefs are correct and supported by facts
If we can both do that we can have a tolerant, engaging debate. If we are both going to fall back on 'These are facts because I want them to be facts' we will get no where.
well, now we know you are easily amused by talk radio
hey "professor" learn to spell would ya? the guy's not a seamstress so he dosent "sew". he sows.......right?
I doubt you got your PhD (except you didnt really get one, we know) with such a poor command of the English language.
and while I was disappointed by the Nashville LBGT mouthpieces trite comment, many of these folks just want to be understood and the empathy he felt for his lesbian friend is something to be admired not bagged on. if you live in UT you know how Mormon folk are perceived elsewhere. I used to do business in SLC sometimes and thats a different slice of life for anyone who dosent live there and you knoe exactly what I mean.
Im am so sorry.In the future I will try to accept any outlandish claim you make.I will blindly follow your hateful, exclusionary doctrine.What in the heck was I thinking ?
WHERE ARE MY COMMENTS?????
All sinners have fallen short of the glory of God. Jesus will still save them all when they repent of their sins, which includes this s3xu@l deviant behavior.
Amen and I hope he and those who reject Christ, repents
"his s3xu@l deviant behavior."
The hundreds of thousands of experts in this country have proven you wrong.
Heterosexual behavior and homosexual behavior are normal aspects of human sexuality. Despite the persistence of stereotypes that portray lesbian, gay, and bisexual people as disturbed, several decades of research and clinical experience have led all mainstream medical and mental health organizations in this country to conclude that these orientations represent normal forms of human experience. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American School Counselor Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, and the National Association of SocialWorkers, together representing more than 480,000 mental health professionals, have all taken the position that homosexuality is not a mental disorder and thus is not something that needs to or can be “cured."
the answer is easy!! Sodom and Gomorrah – READ ABOUT IT , GOD DOESN'T LIE OR HE WOULDN'T BE GOD. no real historical christian who has been regenerated could do what this man did.
Yep, Yahweh sure hates homosexuality, but RAPE is OK as long as it's done the proper hetero way!
20 "You are welcome at my house," the old man said. "Let me supply whatever you need. Only don't spend the night in the square." 21 So he took him into his house and fed his donkeys. After they had washed their feet, they had something to eat and drink.
22 While they were enjoying themselves, some of the wicked men of the city surrounded the house. Pounding on the door, they shouted to the old man who owned the house, "Bring out the man who came to your house so we can have sex with him."
23 The owner of the house went outside and said to them, "No, my friends, don't be so vile. Since this man is my guest, don't do this disgraceful thing. 24 Look, here is my virgin daughter, and his concubine. I will bring them out to you now, and you can use them and do to them whatever you wish. But to this man, don't do such a disgraceful thing."
25 But the men would not listen to him. So the man took his concubine and sent her outside to them, and they raped her and abused her throughout the night, and at dawn they let her go. 26 At daybreak the woman went back to the house where her master was staying, fell down at the door and lay there until daylight.
27 When her master got up in the morning and opened the door of the house and stepped out to continue on his way, there lay his concubine, fallen in the doorway of the house, with her hands on the threshold. 28 He said to her, "Get up; let's go." But there was no answer. Then the man put her on his donkey and set out for home.
29 When he reached home, he took a knife and cut up his concubine, limb by limb, into twelve parts and sent them into all the areas of Israel.
"Sodom and Gomorrah"
In Genesis 18, the story about the angels coming to Lot's house, we learn that the reason they were coming to destroy Sodom was because of the wickedness that ALREADY existed in the city. The exact form of wickedness is not mentioned in that story!
Let's just reinforce this CRITICAL piece of information. In the story of Sodom, in Genesis 18, God had ALREADY decided to destroy the city BEFORE the attempted rape of the angels – which incidentally was perpetrated mainly by heterosexuals since ALL the men of the city were involved, and we know that throughout history, gays have only represented about 10% of the population. Also, if they were homosexuals, why would Lot suggest that they take his daughters instead? That just doesn't make sense if the men were gay.
So just to get this straight, the event that took place at Sodom was an act of violence and rape, mainly by heterosexuals. It had nothing to do with a loving relationship between two people of the same sex, and homosexuality was NOT the sin of Sodom in whatever form. The story of Sodom in Genesis 18 was about violence and domination, the same type of event that takes place in prisons and occupied countries, but it was NOT the reason for God's decision to destroy the city, and to use this story as a basis for prejudice against homosexuality in general is like comparing rape to marriage. There is NO similarity!
Yes and interesting that this story appears in at least two different places (and different versions) in the OT.
The bible was written by man, not god. Men are not perfect, all the people who follow the bible word for word are delusional. Organized religion is the bane of man's existence over the entire history, all organized religion dose is exclude or persecute. the god i leaned about as a child would be extremely displeased with the atrocities committed in his name over the past two thousand years!.
hey "Bob" you're right.....GOD DOESN'T LIE OR HE WOULDN'T BE GOD- oh I forgot to tell you he came by yesterday for coffee and told me (I swear it) that he was going to smite you at 2:30 this afternoon. pack your bags and say your goodby's, he's a coming for you.
Thwere is nothing Christian about being judgemental. We are all guilty of it to some degree. I am a straight man who lived in and spent time in the "gay" neighborhoods in a few cities. I went to a church with a signifcant percentage of gay members and didn't notice it for a while. There is nothing different about gay people. All people should have the right to live their lives as they chose and not be denied any right afforded to "normal", "white" or "American " people. I would prefer to have gay neighbors to evangelicals, at least there is a better chance they are open minded.
Definitely a poofter.
What a tremendous story, for everyone, not just evangelicals.
Why couldn't Kurek have pretended to be an atheist for a year? Instead he chose homosexuality. Interesting.
Ironically, my atheism has been less well-received than my lesbianism. People seem baffled by my being gay, but atheist? Hoo-boy. That's earned my house an egging, a broken window on my car, a shop owner kicking me out ... things they wouldn't dare to gays anymore in this town, they'll happily do to an atheist.
He would probably have many atheists convince him that there is no God and become one.
I guess all of those critical to this young man's actions have never read "Black like me". He was willing to walk that mile in another's shoes and whether you approve or not that is a commitment and an understanding that most of you, who are very judgemental, will never have.
For those who don't know~ Black Like Me is a nonfiction book by journalist John Howard Griffin first published in 1961. Griffin was a white native of Dallas, Texas and the book describes his six-week experience travelling on Greyhound buses (occasionally hitchhiking) throughout the racially segregated states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia passing as a black man. The book was and is widely read and has helped improve race relations all over the world. The 50th anniversary eddition is available on Amazon. Black Like Me was translated into 14 languages, sold more than 10 million copies, was adapted into a film and is still taught in schools and colleges across the US.
I get what he was trying to do. I understand the why, and I'm glad that he's gotten to evolve in his human journey. But at the same time, it's such a cut against those of us in the life. What if I had run into him and confided about my family's reaction to discovering I was a lesbian ... only to find out he wasn't in the life at all, and I had just given him fodder for his book? Unthinkable.
Think of it as your part in contribution to world peace.
What if by reading his book, enough Christians accepted gay relationships to turn the tide in favor of legalizing gay marriage?
I couldn't agree more. I understand what he was trying to do and why he thought it was a good, kind thing to do, but all the lives he touched during that year have now been betrayed by him. And as for his "subtle" transgression at not supporting his 'friend' when she confided in him that she had come out and her family had not accepted her...for a gay person this is not a subtle transgression, this is a major, stinking betrayal. I don't think this guy learned as much as he thinks he learned.
The comments of some of the LGBT that he was dishonest with them, is probably what the black people said when John Howard Griffin published "B;ack Like Me" in 1961. Some of his new black friends might have felt betrayed also.
But this is jsut an interesting book, an interesting viewpoint, probably a good place to start soul searching.
He is mixed up as anyone without Jesus.
You mean the Jesus that condoned slavery and genocide?
Dennis, 2/3 of the world would disagree.
some evangelicals are just so hateful. they have nothing in common with jesus.
Your as mixed up as though with Jesus. Have fun reading your stories that were written by man and not god.
Jesus never condoned slavery and genocide – he was here on earth to offer salvation – not to overthrow the Romans, fix slavery, etc. If you lived a life on earth after accepting Him as your Lord – folks didn't have these issues – reading the Good Book with your mind isn't the same as reading it with your heart.
Your Jeebus said in Matt that all the OT laws still apply. So:
44 “‘Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves.
45 You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property.
46 You can bequeath them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.
"reading the Good Book with your mind isn't the same as reading it with your heart."
I realize that one has to turn off ones mind to be able to read the Bible and think it contains wisdom for modern living.
Does anyone remember Black Like Me? This is the experience of this century, folks. Not a lie, just an experience
Dressing up as a cow does not make you a cow, it makes you a person dressed up as a cow. You may be able to walk amongst the cows undetected but the cow experience you will never know, so writing about the cow experience is pathetically moot. Just more attempt to normalize and mainstream degenerate behavior with a 'feel good' puff piece.
2 Peter 2
1 But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2 Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. 3 In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.
4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment; 5 if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; 6 if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; 7 and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless 8 (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)— 9 if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment. 10 This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the flesh and despise authority.
Bold and arrogant, they are not afraid to heap abuse on celestial beings; 11 yet even angels, although they are stronger and more powerful, do not heap abuse on such beings when bringing judgment on them from the Lord. 12 But these people blaspheme in matters they do not understand. They are like unreasoning animals, creatures of instinct, born only to be caught and destroyed, and like animals they too will perish.
13 They will be paid back with harm for the harm they have done. Their idea of pleasure is to carouse in broad daylight. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their pleasures while they feast with you. 14 With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable; they are experts in greed—an accursed brood! 15 They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Bezer, who loved the wages of wickedness. 16 But he was rebuked for his wrongdoing by a donkey—an animal without speech—who spoke with a human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.
17 These people are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. 18 For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of the flesh, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. 19 They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for “people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.” 20 If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. 21 It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. 22 Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud.”
Man I sure LOVE the WORD of GOD that brings HUMANITY the truth of each and every one of us.....AMEN, JB!!
That's so powerful.
More circular logic using the bible
"It's true because it says it is, because it says it is, because it says it is......."
I don't know what's worse. You spending forever putting that little rant together, or you thinking that it is relevant. Go back to your rock.
Let God be true and everyman a liar.
The false prophets are the ones who says that the gospel implies that Capitalism is the truth, ones who profess their pro-lifeness but go thro great lengths to deny the science of climate change. Even though climate change is destroying just as many lives. The false prophets are the ones who out of material greed deny health to the less affordable. Concocting non-existing theology out of their bible just so they could have a good material life on the earth.
I agree with the idea that people are slaves to whatever "masters" them, if this means adopting a world view that is unflinching and cannot be modified by reason and experience.
@NothingsNew: it's called cut and paste. Believe it or not, God's Word is found on the Internet. And it is relevant, more so to the believer than the non-believer as in Timothy Kurek’s case. The Word is crystal clear yet he chooses to accept it. I'm just trying to help the man find his footing, that's all.
*not accept it, that is.
And you sir, are not called to judge, and forgive me, but you also are not understanding the context of Peter, and WHO/What/Why Peter ministered to... and it wasn't Christians they called Christians from Antioch, they were Christians who lived under AND BY the law bc grace wasn't known unto the sons of man as Paul preached in Ephesians. This is huge, and why most Christians feel like they need to practice JUDGMENT instead of GRACE, very sad indeed. "Earnestly study...Rightly dividing the word of truth... " 2nd Timothy 2:15
Even if the bible was false and there are no gods this was written thousands of years ago and applies completely to what we are witnessing today. How do you degenerate supporters explain that? How do you reconcile the awareness of the rise of degeneration and the fall to follow if it had not been witnessed before?
I have this picture of a God or Gods returning in a few weeks, they look down on the planet and then say 'Oh! Oh! Oh no you don't! Not on MY watch you don't!' and then proceed to destroy the seething degenerate masses once again. Imagine just for a second that our ancestors really were influenced by 'gods' from beyond the solar system. Now THAT would be some funny stuff.
Why don't you say what you mean, rather than just cut-and-pasting Bible quotes? You may think it's powerful, but the power in the Bible is in how it is interpreted. If you don't add any of your own words, then the rest of the world is left to make assumptions about what you think, not all of which are things that you intend to have thought about you at all. This happens because humans are fallible creatures. If instilling Biblical thought and beliefs were as easy as simply cut-and-pasting like you've done, there would be no need for church, pastors, or other people to guide the way. Don't assume that the good and blessed minded will understand, or even that those that live contrary to the Word of God will see the error of their ways because of what you've posted. Posting such was more an act of vanity, as if to say, "I know the truth, unlike you humans" and placing yourself on a pedestal with God. I'm sure God will forgive you, but you're not helping anyone in the mean time.
Though Kurek goes to church less now, primarily because he has yet to find one that feels like “home,” he says he feels more religious “in the biblical definition of religion.” – Red Flag.
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.