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.”
Being Gay is not a choice and the community this man grew up ins hated of Gays should have clued him into how hard it is to be gay in America. I do not think he needed to go undercover in the Gay community to understand how wrong it is to treat Gay people badly. I am not sure why he felt the need to do this other than he might be Gay? Why not just befriend and talk to Gay people. Even hang out in a gay bar, but fake it. Ahhhh Silly, at least he realized what bigots he grew up with preaching the word of god and bashing people.
Not just Christianity, but Judaism as well. It says in the bible that all gays shall be stoned to death. It is obviously seen as a huge sin for God to have considered the deserving punishment to be death, a very painful death to be precise. There is no argument against this. It is clearly stated in the bible.
The Bible clearly supports slavery and discrimination against women and the handicapped.
What was your point, if any?
my point is that you are lost. Seek God.
Don't you know the bible is written by men trying to control the masses. It also say and eye for an eye. and lots of other things we do not do anymore.
God did not ask for this punishment, men did. You see, men wrote The Bible. This is not a difficult concept to grasp.
Your comment had nothing to do with me.
So what's your point?? It's time to enter the year 2012.....get over that made up bible b.s.!! that man-made book is full of violence and contradictions.....it also says that slavery is perfectly acceptable...do you own anyone??
Of course, it's in the bible. Must be true.
Who wrote the bible? PEOPLE. Men, and probably some women, although they're not going to be credited. People who lived 2000 years ago. People who were followers of an admittedly remarkable person, but as fallible as the rest of us.
They were probably intelligent people, but given how little they had to go by, I think their logic is somewhat suspect...
We don't follow the Bible as law in the U.S.A., period. Of course you could try running for office on that platform. Go ahead – spend some money and start a campaign.
The Bible strongly condemns homxuality, even asserting in the Old Testament that death is a just punishment for such a crime (Leviticus 20:13). In the New Testament, the apostle Paul stated that homxuals would not inherit the Kingdom of God (Corinthians 6:9-10).
Please define homxual. Do you mean homosexual?
If I only had your trick
So what? The bible says people should honor their parents and not covet their neighbor's wife.
Nobody takes it seriously. And certainly no one thinks not observing such rules is relevant.
For the record, the bible says nothing about women having s3x with other women. That is also considered hom0s3xual. Is god okay with lesbians?
The Bible is a book, written by man, but about the word of God. Christianity is based on faith, and along with faith in God, must come faith in the word of God.
Yes. Have faith in the Bible when it picks on gays just like when it supports slavery.
that's in the old testament. it is not valid today.
"that's in the old testament. it is not valid today."
Your reference to God wanting gays stoned was "in the old testament. it is not valid today." Ooops.
Tom pottymouth asks for a reason why g-ays shoudnt be married without referencing bible. I said this
#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.
and...... more abuse. and more crickets.
you can say gays
You can't read, idiot. I said without referencing the bible OR using a slippery slope fallacy. Fail, azzwipe.
As for the canard that children require both a male and female parent, you lose on that score, too. Research had shown that children in same-s3x households fare just as well as those in households with male and female parents.
Do you really wanna try again, you idiot?
Tom, take a chill pill man
You lost. There are no valid statistics to show gays are more likely to be pedophiles.
Your "argument" indicates that single-parent homes are bad.
@a man: Fvck off.
lookl up B4u Act
look up harry hay
look up david thorstad
what you call 'sluppery slope' is a reality. If you want to deny it that is your problem.
No, it's yours. There is no reason to deny legal marriage to gays simply because idiots like you disapprove. You're not fooling anyone, you little twerp. This has NOTHING to do with pedophilia or polygamy or bestiality. You are just using those as some asinine scare tactics. It won't work. It didn't work in Maine. It didn't work in Maryland or Washington or in DC. It's not going to work when the issue is decided in the courts, either.
Gay marriage is just that: marriage between two people of the same gender who want to commit to each other. If you're threatened by that, go home to your mommy, get a flashlight, and hide under your blankie, you big baby.
oh please. Jesus loves loves us all. End of story.
There is no God. There is only nature... It is a mix of good and bad. This is bad.
Maybe God is Nature, or vice versa. Let's ponder... Anything to get people off of this ridiculous rant.
The Bible should be followed, interpreted and incorporated into everyone's daily lives. If people started to follow scripture more closely, I feel that there would be less world problems, and more people being friends with one another. We have so many problems in the world, and some can be solved with religion.
Although I have heard many good arguments to the contrary, I must say that the Bible should be interpreted literally. If you take a look at some of the Bibles that use modern language, it is easier to come to this conclusion. The Bible is a book, written by man, but about the word of God. Christianity is based on faith, and along with faith in God, must come faith in the word of God.
I totally disagree with you. If everyone cut out all religion from their lives the world would be a much better place. Almost every war is fought over religion and maybe people can start believing in themselves instead of an imaginary person in the sky. Religion solves nothing, it causes seperation.
“Even if you’re not gay, you should change your view of hmsxality.”
“Suppose I didn’t approve of gambling but you did. Would it be reasonable for you to insist that I change my view, simply because millions of people choose to gamble?”
Remember this: Hmsxuals, along with most people, have some ethical code that causes them to deplore certain things—perhaps fraud, injustice, or war. The Bible prohibits those behaviors; it also draws the line at certain types of sxual conduct, including hmsxality.—1 Corinthians 6:9, 10.
The Bible is not unreasonable, nor does it promote prejudice. It simply directs those with hsxual urges to do the same thing that is required of those with an opposite-sx attraction—to “flee from fornication.”—1 Corinthians 6:18.
The fact is, millions of hetrosxals who wish to conform to the Bible’s standards employ self-control despite any temptations they might face. Their number includes many who are single with little prospect of marriage and many who are married to a disabled partner who is unable to function sxally. They are able to live happily without fulfilling their sxual urges. Those with hosxual inclinations can do the same if they truly want to please God.—Deuteronomy 30:19.
Leading Bible scholars admit that today's translations are quite different from the original writings. They have found more than 20,000 errors in the most popular translations. In many of today's versions, words and phrases have been added or deleted, making it nearly impossible to understand the true meaning of many crucial verses.
You don't say?
Search out The Book Of Yahweh and read it
Farheed, the Bible is crystal clear when the Holy Spirit is your teacher.
becoming a slave to your god makes you a good Christian...
That picture say it all. Loser hanging with fellow losers. Please do not return home. His life and "friends" are all the proof you need to figure out God does NOT exist. He shames his parents.....
Oh, stick it up your fundament, you troll.
Not to mention he's a disgusting fat body. What female would ever want him ....
I know that the Bible mentions adultery over and over including in the Ten Commandments. I don't see people persecuting adulterers, but boy what a work over for a gay or lesbian person! How hypocritical. I attend an Evangelical Lutheran Church where people look and act just like you'd think – staid, composed, kind of old fashioned. But what a bunch of deep thinkers who earnestly seek understanding, compassion and acceptance of others. I am not Lutheran, but my participation has made me a more open minded and open hearted person.
god is great
"If our families hadn't failed in Mexico, they wouldn't have left. And we wouldn't now find ourselves trapped behind , living well in the United States but lost souls nonetheless."
We truely are Amusing ourselves to death...How is this a relevant article? This isn't anything but the gay version of the movie Trading places...CNN along with you and MSNBC it's no wonder you all lose ratings to Fox news...Fox doesn't even tell the truth but you all still lose out...Stop trying to change society and just do the news...lol
The ONLY reason Fox News does well in the ratings is that they have a MONOPOLY on right-slanted news. No one else does it.
I believe MSNBC pulled ahead of Fox in ratings this past year.
You people should be afraid. These posts are being edited to make this a completely one-sided argument. Posts from Christians defending their points are being deleted left and right! Someone is seriously trying to keep you in the dark and on the wrong path.
You are a paranoid idiot. There is no moderation. Nothing is being deleted. It's an auto word filter. If you are too stupid to figure it out, don't go all nuts on the world.
U? U R a f v ck ing moron.
These posts were up for over an hour and had 6 or 7 responses. Not only my posts are deleted, but anyone who had an evangelical point of view or especially ones that quoted scripture are now all gone.
You're smoking the dr-apes, Ufvckingidiot.
Well, lets give it a try:
We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.
You're running afoul of the CNN "nasty-word" filter. Even innocuous words like "title" wil cause your entire post to be dumped because it contains the letters "tit". As you may have noticed, certain of us atheists have figured out how to dodge the filter, but it's probably too complicated for religious folks to manage. You'll just have to keep trying. Break up nasty letter sequences with spaces, or just avoid them altogether. Shorter posts lower the chances of being rejected.
So far so good. Let's try this. Surely it will be deleted by Satan's minions:
" For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."
You're running afoul of the CNN "nasty-word" filter. Even innocuous words like "title" wil cause your entire post to be dumped because it contains the letter sequence "tit". As you may have noticed, certain of us atheists have figured out how to dodge the filter, but it's probably too complicated for religious folks to manage. You'll just have to keep trying. Break up nasty letter sequences with spaces, or just avoid them altogether. Shorter posts lower the chances of being rejected.
Udonts posts are still up (with responses) - some on page #28 - I'm not going to take the time to search for others for this dolt.
sorry, make that page #29.
Udo, have you found them? Any apologies to CNN? Need any salt with that crow that you need to eat?
Wow! If this isn't proof that Satan is in control of these posts, I don't know what is!
I have attacked no one. Used no swear words, or improper references. I simply stated my point and used scripture to back it up.
Nearly every post I have made has been deleted! WoW!
Good riddance to your c-r-a-p then.
"Scripture" back up nothing. All "scripture" was written by humans, and VOTED, non-unanimously into the canon.
Get over it. And stop letting humans, from 2000 years ago do your thinking for you.
Either you don't understand the automatic filter that this blog uses, or you are lying through your teeth. Either way, you are a pretending to suffer from a persecution that doesn't exist.
I'm afraid you're still a fucking moron, "Udontgetthepoint".
John Howard Griffin, anybody?
Hey Hariy scary, most of are not that "into" whatever is bothering. Go live your life, but quit pretending 90% of the public has a big problem with you - you are attaching way too much importance to yourself.
Right means limit and hindu's criminals have no right in dungeon, not to be free to spread their hindu gay ism, filthy hind loving hindu filthy habit among civilized humanity.
hey everybody leave us be. we are born this way, we have no choice about it -OK? ( if you would have been born with an
incurable brain disease like us, you would understand)...
Rubbish! Tommyrot! Be gone before someone drops a house on you too!.
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.