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.”
If I want to know how g ays are treated by the church I don't have to ask Timothy Kurek I can just ask the g ays themselves. All it takes are the right questions. But I don't have to carry out a covert operation.
Why is it ok for a man to show off his n i p p l e but not ok for a woman ?See picture above.
Irrelevent question of the day.
In the less s.exually repressed/ less religious countries it is ok to see nip.ples of either s.e.x. Funny how the people who claim we are made in gods image are uncomfortable with that image.
Same reason as to why it is okay for a man to marry a woman and not okay for a man to marry another man.
@Blessed are the Cheesemakers "In the less s.exually repressed/ less religious countries it is ok to see nip.ples of either s.e.x. Funny how the people who claim we are made in gods image are uncomfortable with that image."
What's even funnier is how people who don't have a clue what they are talking about continue to ask such stupid questions.
When we were made in His image, we were clothed in rightousness (kind of like angels I suppose). After we lost that "likeness" we were found to be "naked". IOW, we no longer had that divine covering.
Next stupid question???
I would disown him instantly as a parent...just for doing this. Next...he's gay.
Funny, I never hear non-believers threaten to disown children.....
the compassion is overwhelming
I would disown my parents for being bigots if they said things like you just did.
Your the reason he's donating to homeless gays. I would like to speak for society and disown you for your intolerance. Got crosshairs on you forehead?
Disowning a child who dishonors my household is easy. The embarrassment is too overwhelming. I have plenty more children to love...
Sadly this man's experiment was a total failure. He is still a Christian.
You need help.
Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.
Seneca the Younger 4 b.c.- 65 a.d.
Yes, a little sort of sucess at least. Maybe a year prtending to be a man and thinking for himself would do the trick.
yes-but he seems to be c u m in g around.Probably all around.
I think it's very noble of him to see what life is like in another person's shoes. If everybody did this, the world would be a better place.
But he isn't really gay so there no way he could say he "knows" what's it's like.
But why lie? All it takes is the ability to become empathetic without having to being something you are not. As pointed out in the article several g ays are not happy about this.
How true, how true. Too bad you'll never get the God-ophobes to do it.
God phobes? Yes it has been done before. There was a book written about a skeptics year at Criswell College.
was blind, but now I see
"Too bad you'll never get the God-ophobes to do it."
The ONLY people who can be "God-ophobes" are BELIEVERS. Ooops.
As long as you are pulling quotes from the Bible on a story on gays, why not pull out the Golden Rule for a change?
And what do you perceive the "Golden Rule" to be?
- Matthew 7:12 "Treat others as you want them to treat you. THIS IS WHAT THE LAW AND THE PROPHETS ARE ALL ABOUT.”
Observer, Be very careful about making blanket statements as an unbeliever that you know what the prophets are all about. You can not use one verse and apply it as you like to sum up the word of God.
2nd Corinthians Capter 4:
4 In whom the god of this world (Satan) hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
Jesus Christ came to this world to live among us as a bright light, not imitate darkness. We are to be salt and light, that preserves and reveals. This man lost his first love, which is to follow Christ into the world, and preach Christ, and Him crucified.........
.........Hebrews 12:1-3........12 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
3 For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls........
........ John 16:7-11.........7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. 8 And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 of sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more;11 of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
Psalm 137:9 – Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.
Please learn to walk in the many footsteps of Bilbo. In His name I pray...
"In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty wet hole, filled with the ends of earth worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole, with nothing to sit down on or to eat; it was a hobbit hole, and that means comfort."
From the book of Bilbo, 1:1
Romans Chapter 3
9 What then? Are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin;
10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:
23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;
God’s salvation is free to everyone. He asks so little in return, why would anyone risk eternal damnation by denying him?
All he asks is that you admit you are a sinner, believe that his Jesus Christ is his son, accept the gift of salvation thru Jesus Christ of your own free will, and ask Jesus to come into your heart and save you.
Once you do this, you can never lose your salvation.
Why is it that "we are all sinners" precedes PICKING on gays?
The bible does not condone "picking on" gays.
James Chapt 4
11 Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge.
12 There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?
Once you are saved, you will have the Holy Spirit living inside of you. The Holy Spirit will act as a guide, your conscience and as you grow in your faith, and will give you a desire to live your life in a way that will be more Christ-like.
2nd Corinthians Chapter 5
15 And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.
16 Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.
17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
James was speaking to The Brethern. Those you were born again. Baptised in the Holy Spirit.
@Observer "Why is it that "we are all sinners" precedes PICKING on gays?"
Because we are, and whom was picking on whom? I certainly did not see anybody picking on anybody. Why are you so defensive and uptight?
was blind, but now I see,
This is a story on gays. It always brings out hypocritical Christians fostering hatred from the bible.
However, God hates sin. By his holy nature, he must punish sin. Being human and fallible, we are going to sin. However, God will forgive us our mistakes if we confess them.
1st John, Chapter 1
9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Didn't god invent sin?Then he proceeded to punish us for it?Quite the little trickster iseth he.
The only hypocrites and haters I see are the anti-Christs.
Here's a shout-out to Chard: Give one valid reason that gays should be denied the right to marry, without using your god or the bible as references.
the population will decrease
That's an argument FOR h0m0s3xuality. We have far too many people on this planet as it is.
Oh, sure. Because gays are going to reproduce if gay marriage is illegal? What an idiot you are.
Honestly, you people are beyond laughable. Hom0s3xuals const itute a very small fraction of the population. Why would any sane, intelligent person think that legalizing gay marriage would have ANY significant effect on ANYTHING?
You are idiots.
1. Banning same se x marriage won't cause gay people to breed more unless you actually force them into heterose xual marriages.
2. As already pointed out, we already have far too many people on the planet. The lower fertility in gay unions is a huge environmental plus.
First off, marriage is not a right.
First of all, it's spelled anonymous.
Secondly, your argument doesn't make any sense. Gay marriage wouldn't change the birth rate. Nobody ever said "Well I was going to have a child, but now that gay marriage is legal, I think I'll try that instead".
@was blind, but now I see
Actually, you're wrong. The Supreme Court has said that marriage is a right.
Equal treatment under the law is a right.
I dont know who chard is
#1 the TLC sister wives guy made noises that coz g-ays get right to marry, polygamist familties must also. look up "B4U-ACT". it was a conference that used g-ays as a basis to defend what they called "p3dos3xuals" what you and I call "p3dophiles". they claim somehow kids can give consent. so once you allow one thing all kinds of things follow
#2 close links to p3dophiles. look up harry hay. david thorstad. many others. the two movements hve the same leaders. now they try to whitewash the connection but its there
#3 kids need a mom and a dad. mom to model female roles and dad to model male roles.
how bout 'the plumbing doesnt fit'? Your not allowed to subvert other parts e.g. use a trash chute for what ist not meant for
Interesting premise... I'm sure all the hetero couples in the world have never and are not engaging in an al s ex at all. 8O
teabag, you don't know who your father is, you fvckwit.
Tom the pottymouth – ignoring the points I posted as usual? some of them may be my convictions (like 3 above). others can be proved. like 1 above. why you issue a challenge if you dont take answers?
Can't we all just get along?
we can if people would just accept society rules, and not think out of the box. im just saying
Back in the 1980s I lived off of H-15 and I streets in Lancaster Ca near a biker bar. This bar was bought out by some bikers of the gay persuasion and the neighborhood changed population. I did not understand then why gays are so empotionally arrested, but science has expalined how gays are inherently imature with the AIDS autopsys.
Nut, nut, nut. I'm a nut, nut, nut.
More immature prejudice remarks from the troll John P. Don't feed the troll.
Yeh, John P. is a lulu, all right. I guess it's a good think that he only has immature prejudice, though, huh? Just think what he could turn into with some mature prejudice!
* think = thing
E D U C A T I O N
Galileo's use of a telescope and mathematics to calculate that the EARTH REVOLVES AROUND THE SUN, leads to dramatic change, sparks controversy
Shhh, heliocentrism is an abomination unto the L(l)ord.
Idiocies are but judgmental variants to be regulated in the due courses of the servile meanderings leavenings of proprietary formulas in psychiatric ambiances yet nevertheless a few dips are dropped ungrudgingly upon the mobs masses to inherently be squabbled over by sensationalists seeking memorabilia to be mantled.
Pompous babble returns.
Damn! I can really catch a few dips! Who'd have guessed it?
It is ironic that gays accuse others of being imature, considering the root of their own behavior.
"considering the root of their own behavior."
The 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."
to fake John P. Tarver:
You didn't fool us. It's easy to see the difference because the real one can't make a comment without misspelled words and bad punctuation.
Yeah non-sequitur Nothing you wrote in any way refutes the glandular malfunctionnin the brain that is at the root of gay behavior. It is completly natural for some human males to fail to achieve cerebrial maturity.
"Cerebrial" isn't a word, Tard-turd.
to observer – ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I shall henceforth don the guise of a semi-literate bivalve of a twerpazoid fukktard, if such a stratagem shall bear fruit in my attempt at personation most foul.
"Yeah non-sequitur Nothing you wrote in any way refutes the glandular malfunctionnin the brain that is at the root of gay behavior"
Cite your source....we all know you can't.
fake John P. Tarver,
Much better. :)
i totally agree with you. Their always critising heter, but their no different than us.
John P Tarver, the bigot, keeps asserting various things without providing proof for his assertions. Just a warning that his posts are not to be taken seriously until he comes through with ANY support for what he has been saying. I doubt we'll see this.
All this attention is what he wants. Stop feeding the trolls.
type: "AIDS autopsy findings" into google and learn mamma. I will be patient with your childisness, as CNN is allowing me to post this information this session.
@John P. Tarver, Citing google search as your reference? Type magical bunny and see what you find. Type aliens abducted me and you'll get other crazy results. I believe Mama K is asking for a legitimate source like a science journal or something like that.
Yes, thank you GodFreeNow – any kind of legitimate sources will do, John P Hairball.
lol @ "John P Hairball"
Unless this anti-Christ slept with another man, he will never know what it's like to be gay.
I get the feeling you're intimately acquainted with the experience.
Hey dooshbag... I'm the only anti-christ here. Perhaps you should put your magical devil machine down and get back to kissing your gods a$$.
This seems like a really elaborate, roundabout way of getting c.ock.
Some people prefer it deep, deep inside.
(the closet, I mean)
So then, it is understandable that gays supress the widespread understanding of their own emotional arrest, because a glandular malfunction in the brain is at the root of their behavior.
" because a glandular malfunction in the brain is at the root of their behavior."
All major medical professional organizations concur that sexual orientation is not a choice and cannot be changed, from gay to straight or otherwise. The American, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, and European Psychological, Psychiatric, and Medical Associations all agree with this, as does the World Health Organization and the medical organizations of Japan, China, and most recently, Thailand. Furthermore, attempts to change one's sexual orientation can be psychologically damaging, and cause great inner turmoil and depression, especially for Christian gays and lesbians.
The scientific evidence of the innateness of homosexuality, bisexuality, and transgenderism is overwhelming, and more peer-reviewed studies which bolster this fact are being added all the time. Science has long regarded sexual orientation – and that's all sexual orientations, including heterosexuality – as a phenotype. Simply put, a phenotype is an observable set of properties that varies among individuals and is deeply rooted in biology. For the scientific community, the role of genetics in sexuality is about as "disputable" as the role of evolution in biology.
On the second point, that there is no conclusion that there is a "gay gene," they are right. No so-called gay gene has been found, and it's highly unlikely that one ever will. This is where conservative Christians and Muslims quickly say "See, I told you so! There's no gay gene, so being gay is a choice!"
Many of these reparative "therapists" are basing this concept on a random Bible verse or two. When you hold those up against the mountain of scientific research that has been conducted, peer-reviewed, and then peer-reviewed again, it absolutely holds no water. A person's sexuality – whether heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual – is a very deep biological piece of who that person is as an individual.
The fact that a so-called "gay gene" has not been discovered does not mean that homosexuality is not genetic in its causation. This is understandably something that can seem a bit strange to those who have not been educated in fields of science and advanced biology, and it is also why people who are not scientists ought not try to explain the processes in simple black-and-white terms. There is no gay gene, but there is also no "height gene" or "skin tone gene" or "left-handed gene." These, like sexuality, have a heritable aspect, but no one dominant gene is responsible for them.
Many genes, working in sync, contribute to the phenotype and therefore do have a role in sexual orientation. In many animal model systems, for example, the precise genes involved in sexual partner selection have been identified, and their neuro-biochemical pathways have been worked out in great detail. A great number of these mechanisms have been preserved evolutionarily in humans, just as they are for every other behavioral trait we know (including heterosexuality).
There are many biologic traits which are not specifically genetic but are biologic nonetheless. These traits are rooted in hormonal influences, contributed especially during the early stages of fetal development. This too is indisputable and based on extensive peer-reviewed research the world over. Such prenatal hormonal influences are not genetic per se, but are inborn, natural, and biologic nevertheless.
Whether or not something is a choice is not a suitable criterion for whether someone should have equal rights and protections. Religion is indisputably a choice, but that fact is a not a valid argument for discriminating against a particular religion.
"understandable that gays supress the widespread understanding of their own emotional arrest,"
That's not what the experts in this country are saying.
"So then, it is understandable that gays supress the widespread understanding of their own emotional arrest, because a glandular malfunction in the brain is at the root of their behavior."
Prejudice people are so immature.
Stop feeding the trolls.
The dips who drip and drop their dip does droop to dip pity do dripped drops by dipped dips!
I don't understand why people are so upset over this? It takes a lot to open yourself up to the possibility that the beliefs you have held for so long might not be correct, and it takes even more to explore that and see if it's true. I think if more people put themselves in situations where they can interact as a member of a group they hold bad thoughts about, they might gain understanding and acceptance of that group. One less person hating others because he gave walking in their shoes a chance–what's so wrong about that?
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.