The Cross in the Closet – T. Kurek

TCATC(Not discussed by the group but written in a personal capacity.)

Once a self-described homophobic Christian, Timothy Kurek spent a year posing as a gay man and learned empathy and acceptance. It was triggered by one of his friends being thrown out by her family when she told them that she was a lesbian. Also, he ‘wanted to know what it would be like to be on the receiving end of my own theology and attitudes about homosexuality. And two, because I needed to feel the fear, the tangible terror of the “what ifs”. This book records the experience. He spent time in Nashville’s “gayborhood,” mingling with the LGBT community at bars, coffee shops and bookstores.

The quotation by Anais Nin at the beginning sums up the content: We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.

Also: “You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do. Anne Lamott

Gay hatred is taught to fundamentalists at a very early age. The author encountered the Sodom and Gomorrah story in Sunday School, illustrated with fuzzy-felt. They still use that stuff?

The homophobia is distinctly of the American fundamentalist kind: the assumption that it’s a ‘lifestyle’and that it’s chosen that it’s only about sex, not love.

The argument of the book is based on experience rather than bandying biblical proof-teats around. Only the latter, though, is likely to convince the bible bashers. Then again, I haven’t seen any reviews from their ilk. Will they ever read this book? And take heed?

The author of the forward can’t punctuate. Indeed, the whole book would have benefitted from better proof-reading.

I had to look up ‘Ramen’ = Japanese noodle soup and ‘clove’ = cigarettes, also called kreteks, illegal in the USA

I wish the writer wouldn’t use the word ‘pharisee’ to denote hypocrisy. Now that he has got his homophobia sorted out, he needs to look at anti-Semitism. Also, I don’t think he was fully aware of the story of how David managed to cut off part of King Saul’s cloak.

Good quotations:

“This book is about the label of gay and how the consequences of that label shaped and changed my life. What this book is really about is prejudice: specifically, my prejudice.”

“We were taught that if you didn’t live up to a certain set of guidelines and standards, that God was out to get you. That He hated you, and His vengeance would be swift.”

“I had never believed coming out was an act of courage. Until today, coming out as gay has always represented cowardice and a sense of giving up. I believed it was an easy out for people who didn’t want to overcome the perversion and sin in their lives. But if today has shown me anything, it is that the act of coming out itself and risking the life you have always known is a courageous thing, an act worthy of respect.”

When called a ‘faggot’: “That was the first time since coming out that I heard that word and understood what it actually meant. It means that you are a lesser, a second-class citizen, and an anathema. It means that your life is relegated to a single word, and the details of that life don’t matter. It means that your thoughts, experiences, loves, and struggles should be painted over because you aren’t an equal, that yours isn’t as valuable as other live. It means you are hated.”

About what he thought was his conscience and which he regards as an inner Pharisee: “…what voice was it? Whatever it was speaking to me, I knew it wasn’t guiding me in love, and that could only mean one thing. The voice had to die.”

“But what if the fundamentalists are right, and being gay is a sin?”….”Tim, if God knows my heart, then He knows how much I love Him and want to serve Him with my life. If being gay is a sin, then I’ll just have to trust that when He said that His love covers a multitude of sins, He was telling the truth.”

“I know this much is true, it takes longer for individuals who have been inundated with conservative religion to “come around” than others that have not been taught about the `unnatural and abominable’ gay lifestyle or `evil gay agenda.’ Lord knows I cannot judge. It has taken a great deal for me to question and realize that things aren’t as I was taught they are, too…..Life is too short to live out two-thousand-year-old prejudices from Leviticus…”

On realising that there is more love and fellowship in the gay ‘community’ than in his church: “I…drive home in silence, stunned by the gaping holes in my assumptions. I do not just feel ingnorant; I feel cheated, like I have been held back from people that could have spoken hope to me all my life, but I was not allowed to listen just because of their orientation. Tonight, I found friendship. I found comaraderie and kinship. Tonight I found fellowship. Tonight, I found pain and loneliness, but also hope. Tonight, I found a part of myself in a gay bar on Church Street.”

“I just try to put myself in her shoes. If I believed what my mother believes, and I had a son come out as gay, I would be mortified because that would mean my blood, my offspring that I love unconditionally, was going to Hell……………Our families are captive to a more conservative way of thinking about things. That’s the unfortunate part of this whole thing. We really are slaves to an idea that hurts us.”

About a mega-church: “the band play(ing) their cheesy music, and with every strum of the guitar or head-dip from the drummer `getting into the spirit,’ I snicker and sneer and wonder how many of them are living in the closet. I laugh at the keyboard player as he plays the same three ambient notes while the praise leader gives us fortune-cookie thoughts for worship. I smile as he reads scripture passages from his iPhone and drinks his coffee– a true hipster wannabe. I laugh at the lighting and the décor. Why are all of these churches decorated in the same cookie-cutter way?”

“This new inability to tolerate Christians suggests that I may have strayed into yet another unhealthy extreme. I am still a bigot, just a different kind this time.”

“I wonder what would happen if–instead of preaching from soap-boxes and shouting through megaphones, or spending millions on political campaigns meant to hinder the rights of the gay and lesbian community–what would happen if we … shut our mouths and simply served the people in our neighborhoods and cities, without an agenda? Would the message of Jesus survive? … I think so.

“For the first time in a long time, I feel whole. Not because my eyes have been opened to a ‘new way of life,’ because there is nothing new about this. Love is the original way.”

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