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.”
GIVE ME BACK MY CHRISTIAN COUNTRY>
your christian country is available to you. all it takes is a sidearm or a tall building. are you faithful enough to take that step?
If you had anything approaching an education, you would know that America is not and never has been a "christian country". Read the Treaty of Tripoli, for starters.
It's a little difficult to give you back something that never was in the first place, let alone YOURS to being with.
Wanting something that never existed is very much like believing in a god that has never existed. Delusional (yes, mentally ill) in each case.
Give you back your christian country?
OK we have:
Bibles in every motel room
God on our money
Prayer before public events
Christian cable networks 24/7
Discounts on insurance for being christian
Churches every 6 blocks in every city over 100,000
Christian bookstores in every town over 12,000
God in the Pledge of Allegiance
Christian billboards along the highway advertising Vacation Bible School and “repent or go to He.ll”
Federally recognized Christian holiday
Religious organizations are tax free
75% of the population claims to be Christian
National day of prayer
God in the National Anthem
Weekday Christian Education for elementary students.
Yeah, you can take the persecuted christian whine line and shove it.
This was never a Christian country. The founding fathers were largely atheists and created the concept of separating church and state to keep this country from being tied to any one religion.
Because they had seen what theocracies had done to the governments of Europe, and did NOT want that happening here. They knew that politics was bad enough, but to throw religion into it was, and still is, downright toxic.
Its not yours and never was. Sane people just let you borrow it for a while and we are now tired of your fantasies ruining other's lives.
The USA is specifically not a Christian country. Per the Treaty of Tripoli, signed at Tripoli on November 4, 1796 and unanimously ratified U.S. Senate on June 7, 1797 "As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion", signed by President John Adams.
But I'm assuming your a troll, with a name like that. President Thomas Jefferson invented the phrase "separation of church and state" in 1802. We may be a Nation under God, but the USA is by no means (and never has been) a Christian Nation.
Why are christian keyboards always on cap-lock?
Because they are having a hissy fit and need to scream (and hold their breaths, and stomp their feet, and threaten)
Is there article about gay people experiencing as straight people . I like to hear what they might say
I am sure it would be boring as hell.
Evangelical poses as gay for a year? That's nothing. Some gays pose as evangelicals their whole lives.
what objective evidence is there from Science that there is a gay gene? I've never seen any proof that anyone is born gay? I've only heard this from my gay friends when they describe their feelings to me. Anyone? With all of the talk on here about the religious fanatics needing to "evolve" like the rest of us have, I'd like to see some solid scientific evidence that contradicts Romans 1. Romans 1:26-27 (ESV), "For their women exchanged NATURAL relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up NATURAL relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another". So, if I read this correctly, the passage here claims it is unnatural to be gay (which should be easily shown to be false if we could find the gay gene) but it does admit that their is passion involved (that there are strong feelings). Has anyone come across any scientific evidence that the passions involved are not contrary to nature?
Your question alone identifies you as being a complete ignoramus. And as such, it's unlikely that anyone could offer a scientific explanation that you would understand, or accept.
If you think things written in the Bible are true, until science proves them otherwise, then you've already established a nonsensical standard for your decision making.
There's a huge array of things we haven't had the time, the skill, or the luck, to completely describe with science. Science is only really a couple hundred years old, and only since the advent of the computer has it really been able to attack some of the more difficult problems. And in that short time, science has given us tons and tons of great answers as to how things work, that religious people have previously described with nonsense like "God was angry", "the gods were crying", "Zeus threw lightning bolts", "insane people are demonically possessed", etc., etc.
Your Christian religion has had 2000 years to make progress, and the best explanation you guys have for anything is "there's an invisible man who did it all, and the only evidence we have of this was the writings of a bunch of people who lived decades after Jesus supposedly died, and one guy (Paul) who it's not clear actually ever even claimed to have met Jesus at all". A billion sheep following one 2000 year-old storyteller. That's madness.
Religion can't offer proof of anything. So, why would you not apply a similarly low standard to other systems that attempt to explain the way the world works?
Regarding the genetic question you posed, you also clearly don't understand genetics. You don't always have a gene that 100% determines an outcome. Partly because genetics aren't the only factor. Ever heard the expression "nature vs. nurture"? In many cases, the existence of a gene only predisposes the gene's holder to a certain trait. And in that respect, yes, biologists have found a gene that correlates highly with being gay.
Not that you'll understand any of what I just wrote, since there's no magic, or parting of seas, or men living inside fishes involved in my story.
There's quite a lot of such evidence. Among others: the widespread occurrence of gay animals across a huge number of species, at roughly the same rates as found in the human population. And the longstanding occurrence of gays in human culture spanning vast swatch of time and culture, again at similar rates regardless of period or location. These are hallmarks of a genetic trait.
"what objective evidence is there from Science that there is a gay gene? "
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.
My name is Gay and I approve this message....
And then force Netangaywho in Israel to come out about his Palestinian gay underage lover.
A young boy...
He should have an Extreme Gay Makeover TV Show and put Karl Rove and Tim Geithner in Drag and then have them sing Karaoke to "It's Raining Men".
Try an open and affirming UCC church.
He should do a book about Gay Rabbis and a sequel about Gaytheists.
As part of his experiment did he take it up the pooper?
If you actually read the article, you wouldn't ask your question.
He may be too embarrassed to admit it.
The Gay Ol Party
When the going gets gay. The gay get going.
Not only is he gay, he is also obese. That's two of the deadly sins right there.
Then there's all the greed about making money from this silly book.
Gluttony and greed are America's defining vices.
Re-label "greed" as "capitalism" and suddenly whatever people do to pursue profit is not only justified, but lauded.
Fully 1/3 of Americans are obese, indicating gluttony and sloth.
Half of American marriages will end in divorce, many of them due to infidelity and most of the divorcees will enter into other relationships, thus making them guilty of lust.
At this this guy is donating some of his profit to a worthy cause.
Matt Taibbi masqueraded as a Christian at John Hagee's church and also as a 9/11 truther, attending 9/11-truth meetings under false pretense, then wrote a book about his experience called "The Great Derangement". What's the diff? For one, I don't think Matt was trying to empathize with the "other side", but rather his intention was to mock.
Uhmm...so he pretended to be a nut ball conspiracy theorist...not the same.
This is how you become saved:
In prayer, admit to God you are a sinner. Tell him that you believe that his Jesus Christ is his son (but only if you mean it), and accept the gift of salvation thru Jesus Christ of your own free will. Ask Jesus to come into your heart and save you.
It's that easy.
Eternity at stake here. This may be the last time you get to hear this message, so if the Holy Spirit is tugging at your heart, Please, please listen!
what if you believe in the wrong god? How do you know your version of 'God' is the right one? What if there is no god?
Do you even bother asking yourself these kinds of questions or do you just take for granted that everything you dream up is real?
You seem to get easily stumped by questions. Please try to answer some.
You claim to know that God strongly dislikes gays, so do you tell all your Christian friends who work on the Sabbath that God strongly dislikes them and they should repent?
Do you tell divorced and remarried people that they likely should divorce again to get out of their ADULTERY?
Or is it just pick and choose hypocrisy like choosing quotes to put gays down rather than quoting the Golden Rule?
Dear "Free". There is a God. If you want to deny him, do so at your own peril. And yes, I have contemplated both sides thoroghly. Why would you risk not beliveing? Belief costs you nothing. Except maybe your pride.
Odin refuses to answer my prayers
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 chapter 4
4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.
7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
8 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.
10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.
If you don't already own a slave, then I would go out and round one up because God/Jesus don't have a problem with that either. Find a slave that is familiar with the Bible and therefore knows to be best darn slave they can be. If they want to be rewarded in heaven, then they have to be a good slave.
I am not stumped, I am just to tired now, to fight off your attempts to pin me into a corner. It 's nearly 2 AM and I have to be at work in a few short hours. I have tried to point you in the right direction. Your quarrel is not with me, it is with God. Please get right with him before it is too late.
Good night. I will pray for you. :)
"Dear "Free". There is a God. If you want to deny him, do so at your own peril."
Ok, two things. Firstly, you can't demonstrate that a god exists (most likely because one doesn't exist)
Secondly, look up Pascal's Wager.
Thank you. You ACTUALLY have answered all of my questions, but you and I already knew the answers anyhow. At least you realize it now.
So, the next time you pick and choose Bible verses, maybe you'll remember this one: – Matthew 7:12 “Treat others as you want them to treat you. THIS IS WHAT THE LAW AND THE PROPHETS ARE ALL ABOUT.”
If you want to actually save people, start with all the Christian HYPOCRITES that far outnumber gays.
I'm not wasting any more time with people who are afraid to answer questions. Good luck.
udontgetthepoint: empty proxy threats are nonense, and betray a weak argument
I am encouraged that a Conservative Christian, born and raised, had the courage to go a look.........and see........and now his is more Christlike.......having compassion and empathy for fellow humans. Jesus said.......hate the sin but love the sinner.....
Where did he say that?
yes, he's slightly less a bigot than before... that's a good thing
This may sound like im stupid
But It will censor comments, I've submitted several conservative leaning posts and it has not allowed me to post them, even after altering every word like ten times.
You are right – you sound stupid.
Here is the deal – there is a word filter that automatically blocks certain naught words. Consti.tution has a ti.t in it, circu.mstance has cu.m in it. That is what is getting you. Find that naughty word, do what I did.
They don't filter out by political leaning – there are enough extreme right comments in the last couple of pages to prove that. Right-wingers always go straight for the conspiracy theory, but it's just a lame word filter.
At least you didn't go all-caps, like most conservatives do.
the system only filters words, not ideas
This may sound like im stupid
But It will censor comments, I've submitted several conservative leaning posts and it has not allowed me to post them, even after altering every word like ten times
Again, my response to this is 180 degrees different than that of many of my gay and lesbian brethren. He took our mantra of "Take a walk in my shoes" and did just that to gain a better understanding of what life maybe like when you are ostracized and marginalized. As far as feeling betrayed because you flirted with him, what a ridiculous statement or if you confided in him – get over yourself and look at the bigger picture – this guy will do more to educate those from which he once was a member than a bunch of screaming queens on a float once a year will ever do.
I viewed it as a confrontation of the self. He confronted his own prejudice.
He won't educate them – they ostracized and shunned him. No religious person will even buy his book.
@when you get to hell, you will have to face clown dentist satan
Was his first intent to educate others or himself?
The Hebrews in the Old Testament did not believe in eternal life. You are so stupid you don't even know when that started, or where "hell" came from.
IIt is an interesting juxtaposition in a society where so many gay men and women have to pretend to be straight. Haven't read the book, hope it's not a cheap and shallow attempt at arm chair sociology.
Interesting, the same message that gets censored on another topic goes through here. You never know what you can say and what you can't.
I know I know. I'm too lazy to do the html thingy.
What is the html command for "bolding" something ?
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.