Does this kick anyone else's bullshit detector into overdrive?
In his Nashville Christian church, Timothy Kurek was taught the lesson of God's wrath in the Biblical story of "Sodom and Gomorrah," and he believed that homosexuality was a sin.
"You learned to be very afraid of God," said Kurek. According to the preachings of his church, "The loving thing to do is to tell my friend who is gay, 'Hey, listen, you are an abomination and you need to repent to go to heaven.' I absolutely believed in that lock, stock and barrel."
So devout was Kurek as a teen that friends' parents would often call him to set their kids straight if they misbehaved or broke what they believed to be God's law.
"I would be the one on the phone until four in the morning, asking them to repent for their sins," he said.
But about four years ago, when a lesbian he knew from karaoke night confided to him that her parents had disowned her when she came out, Kurek felt that he failed her.
"I feel God really kicked me in the gut," he said. "She was crying in my arms and instead of being there for her, I was thinking about all the arguments to convert her."
Kurek's reaction ate away at him, and he wondered what it felt like to be gay and so alone. So even though Kurek identifies as straight, he embarked on what one religious writer called "spiritual espionage." He would live like a gay man for a year.
"It finally clicked," he said. "I needed to empathize and understand."
Now 26 and no longer homophobic, Kurek writes about his journey -- one that included hanging out in gay bars and facing the disappointment of his family and rejection of his friends -- in his memoir, "The Cross in the Closet."
He chose today, National Coming Out Day and LGBT National History Month, to launch book sales and has pledged to give some of the proceeds to a charity that helps LGBT youth who are homeless.
Courtesy Timothy Kurek Timothy Kurek (center), author of "The Cross... View Full Size
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Some experts say his attitude reflects those of other young Christians.
Dr. Jack Drescher, a New York City psychiatrist who has an expertise in LGBT issues, says the younger generation is less anti-gay than some of their elders.
"The question of 'love the sinner and hate the sin,' is an idea they are being forced to question," he said. "Some of the sound bites [on homosexuality] are not working so well for the younger generation ? Condemnation has a human cost."
Kurek had been homeschooled by parents who never taught him to shun or hate gay people and who admitted they had wrestled with the church's teaching on homosexuality.
He said he had always wanted to write a book, but never finished his studies at the Christian Liberty College in Lynchburg, Va.. But Kurek had kept a daily journal for months, and it was "beginning to read like a book."
By 2009, the idea to go undercover, as a way of documenting and learning about homophobia, was born. For six months he plotted and planned. "I had to make sure the timing was right," he said.
But one day, sitting in a cafÃ© in a part of Nashville where the gay bars and Christian hang-outs intersect, Kurek had his first confrontation. While reading a gay-themed book, he became aware of the "snickers and sneers."
"A guy came up to me when he saw the cover and said, 'You know that is fundamentally false -- you can't be gay and Christian,'" said Kurek, who responded, "I am gay and I love God."
The project to become gay had begun for real.
Only three people knew the truth, and he needed them to carry out his audacious project: his closest friend, an aunt and Shawn, a gay friend whom Kurek also met at karaoke night. (more)