Much of the feedback centered on the propriety of Timothy Kurek’s yearlong experiment. Some questioned why he would actively choose what they called a life of sin. Others questioned whether the author’s experiment was worthwhile or fair:
"On the surface, perhaps we are supposed to applaud someone who takes such drastic steps to make changes in hateful beliefs learned over a long, long immersion in evangelical religion. But here's what bothers me about it: Instead of approaching the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community with honesty, he built his entire 'conversion' on lies and deceit, pretending to be 'one of them' instead of who he is. It would have been more honorable and meaningful to learn, communicate, socialize and support a way of life that isn't his own."</blocquote
"Interesting article, but pretending to be gay isn't the same thing as being gay. I'm not gay, but I imagine that the feeling that you aren't accepted for who you genuinely are (rather than for some trait that you're putting on but can bail out of if it gets too uncomfortable) is a very different feeling from *acting* like you're gay. I applaud him for giving himself some small sense of what it's like, but he shouldn't be confused into thinking that it's genuinely like that for gay people."
In my interviews with him, Kurek repeatedly addressed this line of criticism, which he also confronted in the introduction to his book, "The Cross in the Closet." “I believe in total immersion,” Kurek said. “If you are going to walk in other people’s shoes, then you are going to need to walk in your shoes, too.”
Though fewer than the number of commenters challenging the book’s premise, some called Kurek’s experiment touching and brave:
"As a gay man, I found it very touching that he would even try to change his evangelical Christian beliefs and open his heart to his fellow man. I'm not offended at all that he 'lied and deceived' our community for this little experiment. I personally think every self-proclaiming Christian should buy a copy and read it. It might actually open some minds!"
"I think Kurek is very brave to open up his mind to people who differ from him. Jesus championed those on the fringes of society. … I am so very lucky to belong to a church that is diverse, and this enriches my worship experience."
Kurek said he now believes that people of faith can square their beliefs with the objectives of the gay rights movement. In one interview, he questioned how someone could believe in the golden rule - “One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself” - but still discriminate against the LGBT community.
Since completing his experiment, Kurek has shopped around for a new church. Though he goes to church less often than before, he recently visited a house of worship at which he was “the only straight person there.” Those experiences, he said, have helped show him that the faith and LGBT communities do not have to be at odds.
But many commenters disagreed, with some questioning whether Kurek was ever really a Christian.
"(I)f he was trying to change his beliefs, then he is not really a Christian, and will never have God's grace until he repents his acceptance of sin."
"I don’t believe this man was or is a Christian. He has been enticed by the gay sinful lifestyle."
"The idea of lying to your family and going into LGBT community is certainly not evangelical or biblical to begin with. What happened to honor your father and mother? He is a sham to begin with."
The question of whether lying was appropriate came up from notable conservative Christian thinkers, too. Denny Burk, associate professor of biblical studies at Boyce College, criticized the premise of "The Cross in the Closet," even though he acknowledged that had "not read the book and do not plan to."
"This was not a Christian posing as a gay person. This was a liar posing as a gay person," Burk wrote on his blog. "No person who would so fundamentally deceive and manipulate friends, family members, and the gay community could credibly be considered Christian (John 8:44; 1 John 1:6). The lie he perpetrated traumatized his parents and other family members. I can’t believe he kept this up for a year."
According to Kurek, his family has gotten over the fact that he lied to them for a year. Family members were happy that they hadn’t been so wrong about his sexuality while he was growing up. As for whether relatives have changed their views of homosexuality because of the project, Kurek said it is a slow process.
“They have grown to understand,” Kurek said. “My mom got it.”