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Gay like me
October 13, 2012 6:27 PM   Subscribe

Timothy Kurek is a straight Christian man who decided to go "undercover" for a year as a gay man,

and then wrote a book about it. "In the tradition of Black Like Me, The Cross in the Closet is a story about people, a story about faith, and about one man’s “abominable” quest to find Jesus in the margins."
posted by Red Loop (130 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Former Hater Rethinks Stuff, Expects To Be Paid For It
posted by BitterOldPunk at 6:38 PM on October 13, 2012 [37 favorites]


Thanks for posting this! I admire the way he chose to confront his prejudices.
posted by rednikki at 6:40 PM on October 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh what a load of old bollocks. You don't need to pretend to be gay to stop being a bigot. He must have been kicking himself when he found out that gay people are allowed to talk to straights for purposes other than coercing them into sex.

So he claims he deceived lots of innocent people and read his mother's diary in order to stop being a bigoted scrotum? Still a scrotum in my book.
posted by howfar at 6:49 PM on October 13, 2012 [13 favorites]


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."

The only thing missing from his quest to write a book was having something important or meaningful to say. Until ... hey, teh gays seem to be getting a lot of press these days ...
posted by headnsouth at 6:53 PM on October 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


"begins with him as a strait-laced yet questioning conservative"

--Questioning what? The greatest trick the gay devil ever played was convincing everyone he was just pretending.
As someone with an extremely right-wing, southern baptist fundamentalist-Christian, black and very gay friend who calls himself anything but gay (while spending every living moment making movies or trolling the web for guys), I'm not sure this guy's not just pretending to be pretending. My friend has claimed that he just likes to act gay and be gay and have lots of gay sex, but that really he's just "asexual". He should make a movie about being an asexual man who went undercover only to discover that gay people are awesome.
posted by whatgorilla at 6:55 PM on October 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


I shouldn't laugh at the "when I insulted people it was OK for me, but it's really hard when people insult you" bit in the second link...but I did.
posted by jaduncan at 6:57 PM on October 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


You know, I know a bunch of Christians, conservative ones even, who don't hate gays. They might be against marriage equality, but they don't hate gay people, or go around demeaning others who are different all day long. The student population of Liberty University on the other hand, strikes me more as a group of people who would have been hating blacks just as much 50 years ago, and Irish Catholics 100 years before that, in a multigenerational festival of hate. Taking him at his word, he lost most of his friends and his mother, pretty much instantly, which sends a very different message than he wants to emphasize about the nature of the people around him.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 6:57 PM on October 13, 2012 [12 favorites]


Based on this account in Smithsonian Magazine examining the book from 50 years later, it's hard to see how this is really equivalent to Black Like Me. Will Kurek have to endure any equivalent of the blowback which Griffin experienced?

I want to support this project, but the more I think about it, the more I feel like it was simply a stunt for a book deal. And frankly, his wrap-up statement at the end of his promotional video, about everywhere he goes he meets Jesus in drag, tells me he didn't actually go very far with his journey toward enlightenment.
posted by hippybear at 6:58 PM on October 13, 2012 [7 favorites]


I know a bunch of Christians, conservative ones even, who don't hate gays. They might be against marriage equality, but they don't hate gay people, or go around demeaning others who are different all day long.

Perhaps not as a constant ranting form of behavior, but holding the belief that something that is good enough for oneself isn't good enough for someone else because if they partake of that thing it will somehow cheapen it for you... that's pretty much demeaning that other group.
posted by hippybear at 6:59 PM on October 13, 2012 [37 favorites]


This sounds like some christian neocon fairy tale.
posted by lobstah at 7:00 PM on October 13, 2012


Yeah, it's a stunt sorta thing. But it sure beats the standard HATE + fear. No? And I can't help but feel that the real value of it will be how it plays in that HATE + fear community.

Same thing as Black Like Me, which I imagine was at best bemusing for blacks in the 1960s. But it was "normal" white folks and their ingrown prejudices it was playing to, and it definitely had an effect. I can remember my Grade Two teacher reading chunks of it to us.
posted by philip-random at 7:02 PM on October 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


If not for this guy I wouldn't have seen a link on the sidebar of the article that explained what that giant disembodied blue eye from the deep was from the other day. So there's that.
posted by TheRedArmy at 7:07 PM on October 13, 2012 [9 favorites]


And frankly, his wrap-up statement at the end of his promotional video, about everywhere he goes he meets Jesus in drag, tells me he didn't actually go very far with his journey toward enlightenment.

Oh, the old "touch me for a cure" trick again. JESUUUUSS! *shakes fist*
posted by jaduncan at 7:15 PM on October 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Aw. Bless his heart.
posted by bleep at 7:17 PM on October 13, 2012 [10 favorites]


They might be against marriage equality, but they don't hate gay people

No, to deny another person basic human rights is pretty much exactly what hate is--irregardless of what they may rename it in order to trick themselves into not feeling like hateful assholes.
posted by sourwookie at 7:17 PM on October 13, 2012 [25 favorites]


On the one hand, oh please.

On the other, it's more than most people ever do to challenge what they've been raised to believe, so.

(Also glad to find out about the giant eyeball.)
posted by tzikeh at 7:17 PM on October 13, 2012


(Also glad to find out about the giant eyeball.)

The Lord works in strange ways.
posted by philip-random at 7:22 PM on October 13, 2012 [11 favorites]


On the other, it's more than most people ever do to challenge what they've been raised to believe, so.

That's because morally serious people who genuinely wish to challenge their beliefs do not need to engage in quirky stunts. They just talk to people, look at the world and question themselves. Pretending that he needed to do this in order to stop being a bigot is pretending that stopping being a bigot is much harder than it really is. In a free and open society, not having "walked in someone's shoes" is no excuse for failing to understand their problems.

Making money out of this is pretty despicable.
posted by howfar at 7:23 PM on October 13, 2012 [11 favorites]


Since when did the liberal community demand that everyone come out of the womb as a perfectly unbiased human being? Sometimes I get the feeling that some would rather have people like Mr Kurek continue to be an ignorant hateful person than write a book about trying to be something else. Aren't we supposed to support growth, change, and understanding, or are we swapping places with the reactionaries and prejudging everyone based on what they have thought in the past?
posted by deanklear at 7:24 PM on October 13, 2012 [19 favorites]


Sometimes I get the feeling that some would rather have people like Mr Kurek continue to be an ignorant hateful person than write a book about trying to be something else.

Oh pull the other one, it's got bells on. He's written a book about pretending to be gay, not about honestly engaging with gay people in order to understand them. If he wanted to know what actual gay people actually go through, all he had to do was ask and listen. If he wanted gay people to trust him, he should have earned that trust, not abused it.
posted by howfar at 7:27 PM on October 13, 2012 [17 favorites]


I really kind of dig this, man. I was raised a Christian, and am totally not that anymore, but I've always been impressed by the ability of religious people to believe in truth and be inspired by ideas. This guy really seems to have that going in the right direction, and I hope his book turns more conservative Christians around on accepting gays.

(Also, this is the link on the sidebar about the eyeball, which I've also been following for a few days.)
posted by wormwood23 at 7:33 PM on October 13, 2012


I've always been impressed by the ability of religious people to believe in truth

Well if you can believe in God, believing in something that's actually true is a piece of cake.

;)
posted by howfar at 7:35 PM on October 13, 2012 [8 favorites]


howfar, have you read the book?
posted by deanklear at 7:39 PM on October 13, 2012


The Lord works in strange ways.

... his crawling horrors from the icy depths to reveal?

I don't think we're talking about the same deity.
posted by mhoye at 7:39 PM on October 13, 2012 [8 favorites]


If he wanted to know what actual gay people actually go through, all he had to do was ask and listen.

The bizarre thing is that I got the impression he had at least one gay friend (the guy pretending to be his boyfriend) beforehand. It's not like he didn't know any gay people to engage with.
posted by hoyland at 7:41 PM on October 13, 2012


Pretending that he needed to do this in order to stop being a bigot is pretending that stopping being a bigot is much harder than it really is.

Seems like he didn't need to write a book/make money in order to stop being a bigot. Indeed, I'm sure he didn't need to (fake?) come out to his own mother in order to stop being a bigot. I don't think writing books about your transformative experience will (necessarily) cheapen said experience. I'm guessing he wrote the book because he's looking to widen acceptance of gays within the evangelical Christian community. (And maybe pay the bills, but still...)
posted by wormwood23 at 7:42 PM on October 13, 2012


Making money out of this is pretty despicable.

mmm, writing a book about his experiences is not going to make him much money.
It might support a speaking career though, and it looks like that's what he wants to do. If he wants to make a living out of being a professional speaker bridging conservative Christianity and the same-sex rights movement, then good for him.

[can't believe this is the first time so many MeFites have heard about the giant eyeball discovery. Get with the program]
posted by Bwithh at 7:43 PM on October 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Sometimes I get the feeling that some would rather have people like Mr Kurek continue to be an ignorant hateful person than write a book about trying to be something else. Aren't we supposed to support growth, change, and understanding, or are we swapping places with the reactionaries and prejudging everyone based on what they have thought in the past?

My personal distaste from it comes from the charade. There are millions of gay people who live lives of quiet dignity in the face of abuse and second-class status, not out of choice, but because they are actually gay, and our country's and state's laws are structured in a way which relegates them to having no employment protection, no housing protection, no legal recognition of their relationships. That he decided to dip his toe into this ocean, knowing full well that he could walk away back to his straight white christian male privilege at any time, and that he somehow says it was necessary for him to overcome his bigotry, leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

The base message is that Kurek is incapable of empathy, and can only change his opinion of a loathed class if he directly experiences their lives. Empathy is the ability to find identification with others in a situation in which you do not find yourself, and to regard those in that alien situation as equal to you and therefore deserving of your love and support. I don't have to paint myself red and live on a reservation for any length of time to realize that celebrating Columbus Day is a horrible insult to Native Americans. I don't have to get breast implants and a wig and stand on a street corner selling myself for a pimp to know that sex trafficking is a horrible thing.

Yes, I would rather Kurek NOT write a book about pretending to be something he is not. I'd rather he write a book about how he befriended gay people, listened to their complaints and frustrations, looked intently at the lives they were trying to live, and saw that they were just as human as he is and had his eyes opened and realized that he shouldn't be treating people in shitty ways simply because of his religious faith background.

Some might compare this to Morgan Spurlock's rather interesting 30 Days documentary series, but at the very least in that, nobody was ever pretending to be something they weren't to the point of lying to everyone they met and knew, including family. They were honest about their time spent outside of their comfort zone; it was made clear from the outset that they were removing themselves from their normal lives to experience something different to see what it was like. Kurek in no way did this, and the various betrayals of trust are egregious.

The fact that he's made this into a book-material stunt and he's making money off of it, even if he's donating "some" of the money to charity, makes me feel vaguely ill.
posted by hippybear at 7:44 PM on October 13, 2012 [35 favorites]


Get off the cross, Mary - someone needs the wood.
posted by angerbot at 7:44 PM on October 13, 2012


howfar, have you read the book?

No. Have you read my argument? The idea that this is a laudable attempt to overcome prejudice is ridiculous. One simply doesn't need to engage in offensive stunts in order to challenge one's preconceptions. It's also hardly Christian. The scriptural Jesus did not need to go undercover as a tax-collector in order to extend his love to Zacchaeus. If he'd wanted to follow the example of his faith, Kurek could have honestly spent time with gay people, engaged with them, spoken to them and trusted them. I very much doubt that such humility and decency would have made him any money though.
posted by howfar at 7:45 PM on October 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


howfar: "He's written a book about pretending to be gay, not about honestly engaging with gay people in order to understand them. If he wanted to know what actual gay people actually go through, all he had to do was ask and listen. If he wanted gay people to trust him, he should have earned that trust, not abused it."
I understand your reaction, howfar— and skepticism of this in general— but I did at least see this:

Kurek admits his less-than-authentic journey cannot match that of an honestly gay man.

“I will be the first one to say that my experience is severely limited,” he told MSNBC. “There is no way I could possibly understand what it’s like to be actually gay."


Which accounts for something, I suppose.
posted by Red Loop at 7:46 PM on October 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Red Loop, I don't think he's a terrible person, he's just some guy doing something that strikes me as awfully dumb and pretty tasteless. It seems to me he could have used his time in a much more productive manner, if understanding was what he truly wanted.
posted by howfar at 7:51 PM on October 13, 2012


If he wanted to know what actual gay people actually go through, all he had to do was ask and listen.

Yeah, but doesn't it seem likely whole purpose of the stunt and the book is to try to get the attention and interest of people who wouldn't do that?

Ideally white people could have read books written by black people about their own experience rather than needing a white man to pretend to be black and then tell them what it was like. But here in the real world, lots of people read Griffin's book who would never have read the memoir of a black person. And some of them probably had their minds opened somewhat.
posted by straight at 7:54 PM on October 13, 2012 [9 favorites]


You know, his tactics may be gimmicky, but he's got people paying attention, and as a gay guy who would like to have equal rights some day, I applaud him.
posted by roger ackroyd at 8:00 PM on October 13, 2012 [9 favorites]


My personal distaste from it comes from the charade.

There's a cottage industry of people seeking attention by pretending to be Christians: Landover Baptist, Perry Bible Fellowship, God Hates _______, not to mention numerous spammers, wannabe therapists and dating services, not to mention uncountable felons facing parole hearings. It is so common that nobody notices it.
posted by Yakuman at 8:00 PM on October 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


Still a scrotum in my book.

Can we leave the poor maligned scrotum out of this please.
posted by mattoxic at 8:01 PM on October 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


There's a cottage industry of people seeking attention by pretending to be Christians: Landover Baptist, Perry Bible Fellowship, God Hates _______,

Ironic satire is not the same as pretending to be anything.
posted by hippybear at 8:02 PM on October 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


Yeah, but doesn't it seem likely whole purpose of the stunt and the book is to try to get the attention and interest of people who wouldn't do that?

Only if you believe that the premise, the "I pretended to be gay to overcome my hatred" aspect, is dishonest. I rather suspect it is, in fact. The options are either this is someone lacking in empathy, as hippybear says, or this is someone producing a stunt text and being dishonest about his motivation for doing so. Either way, he has deceived a lot of people along the way. We have no reason to trust his account and he has no reason to think that his stunt will persuade Christian homophobes to listen to him. The very problem with bigotry is the inability to empathise with different points of view, why should a stupid little jaunt make any difference?
posted by howfar at 8:03 PM on October 13, 2012


Empathy is the ability to find identification with others in a situation in which you do not find yourself, and to regard those in that alien situation as equal to you and therefore deserving of your love and support.

And in what way are you expressing empathy for this guy?

I agree that the premise is shady, and I have a lot of questions that weren't answered in the article, but being open-minded doesn't mean that anyone who does anything outside of what you approve of is wrong. In fact, that's the precise opposite of being open minded. Instead of asking why he chose the path that he did, or expressing any interest in finding out the process itself, you're implying that he's simply a greedy bigot.

I know people who have grown up in isolated communities that have been taught since birth that Jesus hates gay people, and that Jesus is the only way they can get to heaven. If you want to write off everyone who has gone through that, or tear down any attempt to break out of that cycle, that's your choice. I just want you to consider the possibility that dismissing people who aren't like you and dismissing their attempts to understand people who are like you could be closer to hypocrisy than you realize.

Either way, he has deceived a lot of people along the way. We have no reason to trust his account and he has no reason to think that his stunt will persuade Christian homophobes to listen to him.

That's exactly what I'm talking about. From the article:
"My mom went from being a very conservative Christian to being an ally to the gay community. I am very proud of her," he said.
So, did you look her up and find out she wasn't an ally of the gay community? What portion of his account (besides the obvious) were dishonest, and why does that invalidate his entire experience?
posted by deanklear at 8:16 PM on October 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


1. What kind of an evil twisted fuck lies to his mother about something like this for a book deal?

2. To think, all this time I had assumed all of my gay friends were just acting like themselves around me. Little did I suspect I had to pretend be one of Them to find out how they really are.

Another vote for despicable.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:20 PM on October 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


If you want to write off everyone who has gone through that, or tear down any attempt to break out of that cycle, that's your choice.

That's clearly not what hippybear is doing, and it's pretty weak to try to claim he is. What is objectionable is not trying to change, what is objectionable is the pretence that this is a decent or reasonable way to go about it. The ends do not always justify the means, particularly when much better means (acting like a decent Christian, listening and thinking) are ready to hand.
posted by howfar at 8:22 PM on October 13, 2012


My mom went from being a very conservative Christian to being an ally to the gay community. I am very proud of her," he said.

So what you're saying is that everyone with a homophobic mother needs to pretend to be gay for a year? Right? Cause else...what are you on about?
posted by howfar at 8:24 PM on October 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Only sort-of related: but in Russia someone is thinking of the children!. In Russia you don't have to go undercover because details of an insidious plot to lure disco dollies into a life of vice is right there, in the open!
posted by Mezentian at 8:26 PM on October 13, 2012


No, I'm saying you should read the article and consider the possibility that you don't know what it's like to be a straight white guy who grows up in a homophobic community.
posted by deanklear at 8:26 PM on October 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


Ah, but I WAS a straight white guy who grew up in a homophobic community, until I was 22 and finally put all the pieces together for myself. My personal path went from completely not realizing I was gay at age 19 to questioning at age 20 and 21 to coming out and being kicked out of my church and distanced from my family early in my 22nd year.
posted by hippybear at 8:32 PM on October 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


I believe the theory is that everyone knows what it's like to be a straight white guy who grows up in a homophobic community.
posted by Mezentian at 8:33 PM on October 13, 2012 [8 favorites]


I'm saying you should read the article and consider the possibility that you don't know what it's like to be a straight white guy who grows up in a homophobic community.

So it's straight white guys who grew up im homophobic communities who need to pretend to be gay? Hm.

Let me make this really clear. No-one here doubts that homophobic people can change their minds. What is totally obvious is that, for any person equipped with the ability to empathise with others, as Kurek appears to be, pretending to be gay is simply not necessary in order to stop being a homophobe. Promoting the notion that the lives of gay people are so other and alien as to require a straight undercover agent to provide insight seems really quite objectionable. Black Like Me was a product of its time, the fact that gay civil rights are lagging behind those of ethnic minorities does not mean it is appropriate to adopt the stunted discourse of a previous age in order to address them. Indeed, the claim of this book is much less progressive than Black Like Me, as it not only suggests that a straight voice is necessary to express gay experience, but that a straight voice is necessary to validate gay experience.
posted by howfar at 8:41 PM on October 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


I can't help but feel uneasy at the whole concept. From it I get this vibe of condescension towards homosexuals, a "live amonst the indigenous tribes" type thing; borders on making me angry. Hard to explain.

Don't go through the whole "pretend for a year" thing so you can write a book; instead how about just being a better person in general and being supportive of people who have a different lifestyle than you do?
posted by mrbill at 8:45 PM on October 13, 2012


No, to deny another person basic human rights is pretty much exactly what hate is--irregardless of what they may rename it in order to trick themselves into not feeling like hateful assholes.

Discrimination is not the same as hate. The world would be a simpler place if it were—it would be so much easier to identify prejudice. Sometimes, discrimination exists because people just don't know any better.

Indeed, the claim of this book...not only suggests that a straight voice is necessary to express gay experience, but that a straight voice is necessary to validate gay experience.

Unfortunately, for some people, this may be the case. Isn't this an example of progress one small step at a time?

I can't help but feel uneasy at the whole concept. From it I get this vibe of condescension towards homosexuals, a "live amonst the indigenous tribes" type thing

But isn't this exactly how societies dealt with other prejudices? Initial attempts at understanding have always been fumbling and flawed. Taking into account the author's upbringing, I think we should allow him some wriggle room.
posted by quosimosaur at 8:52 PM on October 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


as it not only suggests that a straight voice is necessary to express gay experience, but that a straight voice is necessary to validate gay experience.

That's entirely your uninformed opinion, since you have not read the book. Why is your prejudgement acceptable, and his attempt to overcome prejudice — if deeply flawed — not acceptable?

I'm not saying he did exactly the right thing. I'm saying it's very possible that he doesn't even know that pretending to be gay could be offensive. It's also possible he discovered that as his experience progressed, but since none of us have read the book, we don't know. He could just be slightly dumb, as we are all capable of being from time to time, and that's not a good reason to dismiss him if you're genuinely interested in dialogue and progress. Half the time these subjects come up it seems as if the point is to ridicule and criticize every imperfection as if it was somehow a righteous duty to promote intolerance of flawed attempts at tolerance.
posted by deanklear at 8:53 PM on October 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ah, but I WAS a straight white guy who grew up in a homophobic community, until I was 22 and finally put all the pieces together for myself. My personal path went from completely not realizing I was gay at age 19 to questioning at age 20 and 21 to coming out and being kicked out of my church and distanced from my family early in my 22nd year.

And if one of the homophobes in your church had tried something similar, would you think that was based out of their sneaky evil secret bigotry or simple ignorance? I just find it strange that we call people ignorant, and then dismiss them entirely for any failures in their attempts to overcome that ignorance it as if that has some positive effect for anyone.
posted by deanklear at 8:57 PM on October 13, 2012


And if one of the homophobes in your church had tried something similar, would you think that was based out of their sneaky evil secret bigotry or simple ignorance?

If ANY ONE of the members of the church I had spent 20-plus years in, where I had taught sunday school, sung in the choir, led youth groups, and even preached from the pulpit twice (something pretty much unheard of in Presbyterian churches) had reached out to me when I left after talking to the pastor about my feeling I was gay and being told there was no place in the congregation for me if I was...

...I would have fallen over backwards and felt a lot less abandoned in my time of questioning and need.

But they didn't, and they have never in the over 20 years since.

It's neither sneaky evil secret, nor simple or ignorant, but it is bigotry. And just because they say God told them to doesn't make it any less bigotry-ish.
posted by hippybear at 9:19 PM on October 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


This makes me absolutely furious. What value is to be gained? He found enlightenment when he found out gays can be creationists too? How impressive. I've been Christian and bisexual for twenty years; where's my book deal? Oh, right, I'm *actually* bisexual--snooze. They need a straight white fundamentalist to explain things. I'll be over here following Jesus if you need me (though I'm having some trouble loving my neighbor right now).
posted by epj at 9:23 PM on October 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's the very definition of gay-for-pay... except, of course, I have more respect for porn stars than I do for this author.

" Will Kurek have to endure any equivalent of the blowback which Griffin experienced?"

Sounds like Kurek is likely to get on the Christian speaker lecture circuit, make amends with his mom, meet a nice Christian girl, get married, have 2.3 kids... and go on long fishing vacations on the weekends with his new friends.

Some blowback might be involved.
posted by markkraft at 9:27 PM on October 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Sorry, perhaps I'm being inexact... what I'm asking is if they had done something dumb, like pretending to be gay to try and understand what being gay is like, would you assume that it was because they had bad intentions, or because they just didn't understand that it was wrong to do so?
posted by deanklear at 9:30 PM on October 13, 2012


I think some people might have misunderstood my earlier comment, so I'll clarify. I wasn't attempting to apologize for those people against gay marriage, just saying that, in the experience of the people I know, at least, the opposition doesn't come from hatred, but from other reasons. Typically, the conservative Christians I'm friends with either support marriage equality already ("live and let live") , or are against it largely because of a distorted picture of what "marriage equality" actually means, or else a distorted picture of GLBT people in general. They might even think they don't personally know any gay people, making it easier to "other" them. As being gay becomes more and more accepted societally, these people realize they have gay friends, relatives and children who they care about, and more and more often come around. This will actually more likely than not be what secures national marriage equality, sooner or later.

This guy's school, however, will probably be antigay for the next hundred years.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 9:31 PM on October 13, 2012


I mean specifically people like this guy David Blankenhorn.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 9:36 PM on October 13, 2012


StrikeTheViol, that all sounds like hatred to me. At the very least, they have any ability to empathize.
posted by maxwelton at 9:41 PM on October 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sounds like Eric Cartman's latest get-rich-quick scheme...
posted by markkraft at 9:55 PM on October 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


All book proceeds go to NOM?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:58 PM on October 13, 2012


or are against it largely because of a distorted picture of what "marriage equality" actually means

Which is almost always based on disgust for GLBT people, which is hateful.

or else a distorted picture of GLBT people in general

How is this not rooted in hate?

You seem to be scrambling very hard to deny that hate is at the foundation for conservative heterosexual opposition to same-sex marriage. Why?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:02 PM on October 13, 2012


Typically, the conservative Christians I'm friends with either support SITTING AT THE LUNCH COUNTER already ("live and let live") , or are against it largely because of a distorted picture of what "SITTING AT THE LUNCH COUNTER" actually means, or else a distorted picture of colored people in general. They might even think they don't personally know any colored people, making it easier to "other" them. As being colored becomes more and more accepted societally, these people realize they have colored friends, relatives and children who they care about, and more and more often come around. This will actually more likely than not be what secures national SITTING AT THE LUNCH COUNTER, sooner or later.

(changes to a different historical nonequality issue mine)
posted by hippybear at 10:05 PM on October 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


scrambling very hard to deny that hate is at the foundation for conservative heterosexual opposition to same-sex marriage.

Heh, indeed. It's always an easy exercise to check: just see how many of the same arguments could be swapped in to argue against inter-racial marriage. I occasionally find it amusing to find arguments from back then when they actually were.

Example: or are against it largely because of a distorted picture of what "marriage equality" actually means, or else a distorted picture of black and Asian people in general.
posted by jaduncan at 10:06 PM on October 13, 2012


Landover Baptist, Perry Bible Fellowship, God Hates _______,
One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just doesn't belong,
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish my song?
posted by zamboni at 10:17 PM on October 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


Half the evangel community are sociopaths preying on the naïve & gullible. Of course some of them are going to pull a stunt like this.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:25 PM on October 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


You seem to be scrambling very hard to deny that hate is at the foundation for conservative heterosexual opposition to same-sex marriage.

Hate is a very strong emotion. I could accept that much of the disapproval boils down to "got mine fuck you" attitudes. Not hate so much as just not giving a fuck for others. Not quite fully sociopathic.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:30 PM on October 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hate is a very strong emotion. I could accept that much of the disapproval boils down to "got mine fuck you" attitudes.

The right to marry isn't an rivalrous good.
posted by jaduncan at 10:41 PM on October 13, 2012


I've been Christian and bisexual for twenty years; where's my book deal? Oh, right, I'm *actually* bisexual--snooze.

Did you try to get a book deal?

That's because morally serious people who genuinely wish to challenge their beliefs do not need to engage in quirky stunts.

Perhaps people who are not serious also need a way to challenge their beliefs.

Half the evangel community are sociopaths preying on the naïve & gullible.

That is bigotry. You should read hippybear's comments on how to practice empathy and apply them to the evangelical community.
posted by michaelh at 10:41 PM on October 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Do you really have to pretend to be gay in order to be gay and why does a segment of the population need some sort of validation from another segment who believes in witchcraft?
posted by jsavimbi at 10:49 PM on October 13, 2012


I'm not sure I'm making myself as clear as I could be here, but I hope someone more verbose than I will come along and help make my point more thoroughly than I have.

As BP surmised, I have a reason for saying these things: I've been able to change some friends' minds about marriage equality this way, taking the perspective that I have. Only a handful, admittedly, but it was worth the effort to me, at least.

Now:

How is this not rooted in hate?

My point was that all sources for discrimination are not the same. It might be easy to dismiss everyone who is in any way complicit with inequality as being an actively hateful, bigoted person, but it's not very productive. To use Hippybear's analogy, was everyone who lived under segregation without speaking out against it as hateful as Klansmen, Bull Connor or Orval Faubus? Even the facetious example makes sense, unless you believe the end of segregation was secured completely without the support of someone who changed their mind about how fair it was.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 10:55 PM on October 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


why does a segment of the population need some sort of validation from another segment who believes in witchcraft?

Welcome to democracy. You can't build a functioning civil society by everyone self-segregating themselves into exclusive enclaves.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:04 PM on October 13, 2012


...why does a segment of the population need some sort of validation from another segment who believes in witchcraft?

1. Because the latter vastly outnumbers the former.
2. Because the latter is actively trying to deny civil rights to the former.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 11:27 PM on October 13, 2012


That is bigotry.

You bet. It's based on decades of observing the behaviour of leading evangels.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:33 PM on October 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Everybody hates a tourist.
posted by dhartung at 11:37 PM on October 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


The deception and the "tourism" aspects make me uncomfortable (I feel the same way about Black Like Me). It's ethically questionable. But I am not so rejecting of the project as some here. He could have immersed himself in the gay community without taking on a gay identity. But by taking on a gay identity, he was able to have more directly the social experience of being gay. Plus, it's pretty unusual and to me interesting, for someone to go from Liberty U to being temporarily part of the gay world.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 11:50 PM on October 13, 2012 [8 favorites]


I think a straight white guy can empathize and talk to gays forever and not necessarily get the privilege unpacking feeling of being the recipient of hateful bigotry that came with the path this guy took.

Stunt or not, I think he may have gained a more visceral feeling of just how Other one can feel simply by being singled out by bigots. Not an experience he'd likely get otherwise.
posted by zippy at 12:46 AM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


This sounds like the premise for an Adam Sandler comedy.
posted by deathpanels at 12:58 AM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


My point was that all sources for discrimination are not the same.

My point is that it really does not matter, when the end result is the same. And I'll just come out and say it: turning this around like gay people are bigots or otherwise in the wrong for calling out hate is offensive.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:11 AM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Along the way he sheds many friends, especially from Liberty, who wrote emails to him after he came out asking that he repent of his sins and warning that he faced damnation. He does not regret their loss. "I now have lots of new gay friends," Kurek said.
Wha...? Now I have to read this book, if only to be able to parse this last sentence. How did that conversation go down? How does this guy still have friends from this experience?
KUREK: "Hey, Gay Friends #1 and #2. I just wanted to let you guys know, I'm not actually gay. This is all a social experiment to help me, like, appreciate your experience. Also, I am sort of profiting from it."

GAY FRIEND #1: "Oh hey, no problem, buddy. I'm definitely not offended."

KUREK: "Also I feel as if this time spent trying to have your experience has actually only mildly tweaked my pre-existing beliefs and in fact reaffirmed for me that, yup, my faith is totally right on the money, with some minor hiccups here and there. Are we cool?"

GAY FRIEND #2: "Of course, buddy. Let's continue to be friends despite you obviously having used your position of privilege to acquire this Meaningful Experience which failed to change your perspective or challenge the status quo in any significant way."

KUREK: "Okay!"

(They exit, skipping.)

posted by deathpanels at 1:12 AM on October 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


Oh look, someone's found a new way to use the gay community to score political points.

Woop de doo.
posted by litleozy at 1:51 AM on October 14, 2012


My point is that it really does not matter, when the end result is the same.

That's your prerogative, but I can see a lot of grey area with regard to intent. A man who accidentally runs over a child with his car is guilty of much, but the law (and I believe the greater culture) would not condemn him as thoroughly as if he did it intentionally, and maliciously.

If we can't acknowledge these grey areas and try to reconcile them, we might as well throw things back to the 19th century, hanging children for petty crimes.
posted by philip-random at 2:24 AM on October 14, 2012


Oh look, someone's found a new way to use the gay community to score political points.

Yeah, this really is a textbook example of appropriation, isn't it? Take somebody else's oppression and make it all about yourself, then make money of it.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:16 AM on October 14, 2012 [6 favorites]


I know a bunch of Christians, conservative ones even, who don't hate gays. They might be against marriage equality, but they don't hate gay people, or go around demeaning others who are different all day long.

Lemme guess...They "love" the person, but disagree with "the lifestyle"? I've heard that one from conservative Christians before. It's a dodge used by bigots who are aware that they're bigots.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:52 AM on October 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


Interesting. I had to pretend to be religious for a year, when I went to private school in a small homophobic community. They were misguided people, in some ways, but I was surprised at their politeness and acceptance. They taught me to moonwalk. I taught them the words to "One Night in Bangkok." Book deal pls.
posted by fleacircus at 5:15 AM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't know; for me, it's less about what this guy did or didn't do than it's about a none-too-subtle shift in our cultural landscape: here is a book, written by an ostensible fundamentalist Christian, condemning discrimination against gays.

I'm sure people will argue for decades about when it actually happened, but the tide has turned, and that makes me smile.
posted by Mooski at 6:17 AM on October 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


It might be easy to dismiss everyone who is in any way complicit with inequality as being an actively hateful, bigoted person, but it's not very productive.

Explaining to people their (sometimes unknowing) participation in bigoted social systems is the opposite of dismissing them. It is calling their attention to the injustice they find themselves supporting so that we might work together to redress that injustice. And there'll be resistance to this calling to account no matter the language used. In particular contexts, sure, simply calling someone "bigot" won't lead to the education and change social justice demands, but there's no way to sugarcoat the argument that someone's most cherished beliefs, inculcated since childhood and supported by their friends and family, are directly responsible for depriving fellow human beings of their rights.

was everyone who lived under segregation without speaking out against it as hateful as Klansmen

This personalizing of motives seems to me far more unproductive than raising frank and honest questions of those who, consciously or not, act in ways that reproduce homophobia. The personal motives perspective sends us down a rabbit hole of "who has the blackest heart" when the problem is not individual attitudes, but the cultural contexts that foster those attitudes. Individuals have an obligation to critically examine the beliefs fostered in them by their culture to see whether those beliefs are in accord with justice and human dignity. And that obligation is the same for everyone regardless of the extent of their personal acts of commission or omission.
posted by audi alteram partem at 6:20 AM on October 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Since when did the liberal community demand that everyone come out of the womb as a perfectly unbiased human being?
December 1973 in the UK
June 1975 in the USA
posted by fullerine at 7:32 AM on October 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


You bet. It's based on decades of observing the behaviour of leading evangels.

Now that you know the source of the bias, you can work on that.
posted by michaelh at 7:48 AM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I had to pretend to be religious for a year, when I went to private school in a small homophobic community. They were misguided people, in some ways, but I was surprised at their politeness and acceptance. They taught me to moonwalk. I taught them the words to "One Night in Bangkok."

Classroom! Catechism sitting,
but the students don't know what the private school is getting.
The new kid's an atheist with a Chess song --
They can show him how to walk pretend backwards!

Time flies, doesn't seem a minute
since the atheist kid taught that Chess song to them.
All change, politeness and acceptance
displayed at this private school
it's quite a thing to witness.

There's prayer time, there's recess, there's book study, and there's this:

One night in Bangkok &c
posted by hippybear at 7:48 AM on October 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


How does this guy still have friends from this experience?

So you expect his newlyfound friends to abandon him because of sexual preference and personal religious beliefs?
posted by Authorized User at 8:13 AM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


No, but I'd expect those friendships to be sorely tested by the revelation of base-level deception which allowed those friendships to happen in the first place.
posted by hippybear at 8:54 AM on October 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, it seems like a stunt, but I'm not too cheesed off by a stunt that ends up with a bunch of people getting mellow about queer folks and getting past their stuff. As opposed to, say, "I went undercover as a gay man and OMG Grindr and manhunt" which would be a pretty crap stunt. But might sell better in some areas.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:03 AM on October 14, 2012


I feel like if it doesn't matter whether a friend I make is gay or straight or christian or atheist or whatever, I don't think it matters if they lie about it to me either.
posted by Authorized User at 9:04 AM on October 14, 2012


Get back to me the day after you discover a friend has been lying to you about a basic facet of their person, a facet which is foundational to your even having met them in the first place. Let me know then if you think it doesn't matter.

It's great if this guy managed to keep friends he made during his year spent lying about himself. But I wouldn't find it surprising if he lost quite a few, too.
posted by hippybear at 9:37 AM on October 14, 2012


I'm a little bit surprised at the intense vitriol being directed towards this guy, particularly over the fact he is profiting from his experiment.

Was there similar anger directed towards Barbara Ehrenreich over Nickel and Dimed? After all, there were probably other ways for her to gain an understanding of the plight of the working poor other than going through the dishonest exercise of trying to live as one of them (and, in her case, very possibly having taken a job from someone who legitimately could have used one), and in doing a cursory google search I don't see anything about 100% of that books profits going to charity.
posted by The Gooch at 9:56 AM on October 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Nickled And Dimed was based on three months Ehrenreich spent working low wage jobs, and she had already been an established award-winning reporter and author and essayist (not to mention educator) when she set out on that particular journey. There is nothing about taking low-wage jobs which requires someone to lie about their core identity.

I can see parallels between the two, but they break down if I examine them in any real detail.
posted by hippybear at 10:15 AM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


going through the dishonest exercise of trying to live as one of them

That's a real stretch. Does she claim that she started off thinking that being one of the working poor was immoral, and that poor people were condemning themselves to eternal separation from God and very possibly the torment of Hell? Does she deceive people, forming what they believe are strong friendships, based on her deception? Does she deceive her family?

In all honesty, the idea that it takes "investigative journalism" to reveal what anybody with eyes to see and ears to listen already knows is intrinsically problematic, but I can understand how it can, in some circumstances, form the basis of a useful polemic. That is not what Kurek claims to have done. Rather he claims that this was a personally transformative process, though which he learned to empathise with the suffering of gay people. In making that claim, he makes a case for himself as person with scant respect for the process of discourse and mutual respect that is what actually for the vast majority of people, enables us to overcome prejudice. If the book were about him learning that only believing in one's own worldview and personal experiences is arrogant and misguided, it would probably be a worthy piece. There is nothing to suggest that it is.

Factor in the callous way in which he seems to have used people he met and members of his own family, including intruding into his own mother's personal diary (a horrific invasion of privacy) and you have something that seems to many of us a really unpleasant picture.
posted by howfar at 10:27 AM on October 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Get back to me the day after you discover a friend has been lying to you about a basic facet of their person,

Well, you know, my brother was gay for thirty years, pretty much out for at least five of them, before he bothered to fill me in. That was weird for a while, but I got over it. Long term, it's only improved our relationship.
posted by philip-random at 10:48 AM on October 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Was there similar anger directed towards Barbara Ehrenreich over Nickel and Dimed?
Actually from my experience there are voices of anger, but you don't get to hear those voices, which is part of the anger.
posted by fullerine at 11:32 AM on October 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


My primary point in bringing up the Nickel and Dimed comparison was based on the criticisms here stating that the fact this gentleman found a way to monetize his experiment cheapens the exercise and is outright distasteful. I don't recall people throwing the same criticism at Ehrenreich, who I'm guessing made a healthy profit (this interview confirms she made out quite nicely) on her best-selling book which was based on a very similar "live in another's shoes to truly understand what their life is like" experiment.

Does she deceive people, forming what they believe are strong friendships, based on her deception?

I'll cop here to not having read N&D, so please feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm assuming that during the course of her experiement Ehrenreich didn't tell the friends she made at the low-paying jobs she worked at "Listen, this is all a ruse, I'm actually a highly respected, famous, well-paid author, working the same job as you for a book deal"

I don't want to derail this thread too heavily in the direction of "Someone else did this too so let's switch the conversation to her", but more to point out my suspicion that the criticisms being directed toward Kurek have more to do with him starting off with a belief system many of us here find repugnant, rather than there really being anything wrong with what he did (though I'll agree that the reading his mom's diary part definitely crossed a line I'm not comfortable with).
posted by The Gooch at 11:36 AM on October 14, 2012


I can't really be too hard on the guy, as I once spent sixteen years pretending to be straight.

This whole thing doesn't seem like a great offense to me as much as it's a tiresome reflection on the stunt-fixation of our culture. Whether it's a new photograph every day or a lesbian wife swapped into a bible-thumping family or making a new Julia Child recipe every day or eating the most absurd McDonalds meal three times daily and then being shocked—shocked that one isn't healthy, we're just caught in the trap of substituting gimmicks for quality. The stunt is supposed to be the validating principle, and on rare occasions, it works, but most of the time, people are replacing reflection, observation, and craft with cheap tricks.

I once spent sixteen years pretending to be straight, and it did teach me a lot of things about privilege, but I don't know that a book I'd write about it would be particularly compelling, unless there was more to it than just "I walked a mile in a straight man's shoes and now I get what it's like to be straight." I don't get it, from the desire for children to the oddities of gender performance, but I understand it better through honest dialogue from a position where I actually stand than from being an undercover agent. People can be so lazy. Dialogue is hard, but it works.

Still, there's something to be said for a bit of undercover experience.

Of course, I have always presented as provisionally-straight-but-dorky—even as a kid in the faggot years, when everyone and everything was a faggot or otherwise faggy, I was always singled out and bullied for other things, despite the wry grin I'd have to fight off when Joey Decker would pounce on my best friend and I and snarl out, with that freckle-faced rotten-toothed sneer of his, "Here comes Joey-Schmoey and his bo-o-o-oyfriend! Bet y'all were just suckin' each other off, right?"

I'd smirk and my friend would smirk, and it was that kind of scattershot homophobia in which simply everyone is gay, because being gay was the worst thing there is, at least in suburban Maryland in 1980—a standard attack shotgunned at anyone who looked like a decent quarry to a penny ante sawed-off bully with a drunk-ass dad who'd beat him mercilessly at home.

"Nope," my friend would say, in some variation or another, "We were just taking turns cornholing your dad behind the dumpster, so he'll take it easier on you and your mom tonight."

My friend was an asshole in the best way, and quick with a comeback in a way that I and my pathological esprit d'escalier could never manage. Always straight to the jugular, always roving, watching, looking for the cracks. I was glad to know him.

"You shut up about my dad, faggot."

We'd usually head for class laughing, and there was a great irony to the fact that, often enough, we had just been sucking each other off in the undiscovered country hidden away in the equipment room behind racks of balls.

My friend never pretended to be gay, but his dalliances in dick were constrained to our friendship, and after our seven year stretch of of constructive playtime faded away, he slipped into the land of bro, sports mania, and terrible, terrible music with a surprisingly good sense of how marginalized you could feel when the lousy things people said about you were rooted in something that was completely value-neutral. He's the average guy I won't ever be, despite appearances, but he gets it.

Plus, as it's turned out, and as he related to me twenty years down the line, "the coolest chicks get so fuckin' wet when they find out that you've blown another dude."

"What about when they find you've been fucked by another dude?"

"Then they'll do anal. You know, you sort of point out that it's not going to hurt, like 'yeah, baby, there was this one time and—' and man, you're in."

"One time."

"Well, if you tell 'em it was hundreds of times, they start to think you're actually gay."

We laughed for quite a while on that one.

My friend was never a deep thinker, religious, or even particularly philosophical. These days, he's just a sort of everyday gone-to-seed jock with an interesting sexual history and a career in sales, with a beige sedan and a wife and a kid and a normal house and ski vacations and Jimmy Buffet and Stern and it's all okay, because he's seen the other side, albeit from the shady spot behind the racks of balls. Would he be able to tell a great story about his adventures, or is it enough that he's one of those regular people who can't turn a blind eye to what other people in his social circle approach with scorn?
posted by sonascope at 11:49 AM on October 14, 2012 [11 favorites]


sonascope: "We'd usually head for class laughing, and there was a great irony to the fact that, often enough, we had just been sucking each other off in the undiscovered country hidden away in the equipment room behind racks of balls."

That's almost poetic.
posted by radwolf76 at 12:22 PM on October 14, 2012


METAFILTER: just a sort of everyday gone-to-seed jock with an interesting sexual history and a career in sales, with a beige sedan and a wife and a kid and a normal house and ski vacations and Jimmy Buffet and Stern and it's all okay, because he's seen the other side
posted by philip-random at 12:32 PM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was raised Evangelical, (I'm not any more) and I think there are some cultural differences between average Evangelicals and average MeFites that make the book's premise difficult for MeFites to understand.

Most Evangelicals believe that all people are guilty of sin, and prone to it, and that part of the believer's duty is to repent of said sin. Most Evangelicals also believe that the Bible is either authored or co-authored by God, and that its contents are therefore not merely the accounts of a couple of different people groups in their attempts to practice religion but actual divine communication.
So to an average evangelical above a certain age, gay people who want to be married aren't just sinners, but sinners who refuse to repent and be saved, and sinners who reject the the Bible as truth. That means that gay people who aren't willing to stop being gay (not like they can, but evangelicals tend to believe one's sexual orientation is a choice) are not and can never be members in good standing of the evangelical community, and their testimony is therefore not trustworthy.

That means that when gay people tell evangelicals about their pain as a result of how they are treated, evangelicals are less likely to listen, and less likely to be empathetic. Gay people are so fully "othered" by evangelical culture that evangelicals stop seeing gay people as people.

Kurek seems to have understand this and understood that a gay man would never have the platform to speak on his own identity and experience in such a culture. The books seems like an attempt to use his straightness as a means to get evangelicals to acknowledge how poorly they treat gay people. Someone like my dad would probably never give the Matthew Sheperd story much attention, but he would be more likely to find Kurek persuasive, because Kurek isn't (in his eyes) a sinner committed to a lifetime of sin. Kurek has evangelical "street cred" and he's chosen to spend it on persuading evangelicals to rethink how they see gay people. I can't really find fault with that.
posted by eustacescrubb at 1:11 PM on October 14, 2012 [8 favorites]


Someone like my dad would probably never give the Matthew Sheperd story much attention, but he would be more likely to find Kurek persuasive, because Kurek isn't (in his eyes) a sinner committed to a lifetime of sin.

Why wouldn't he view him as an apostate committed to defending sin? There are plenty of former evangelicals in the world, many of whom espouse gay civil rights. What is it about doing this that you think is going to be particularly persuasive? People who believe that homosexuality is a sin and call gay people "faggots" know that doing so is hurtful, they just believe that it is justified. Why should a straight man telling them what they already know contradict what they believe to be the revealed word of God?
posted by howfar at 1:42 PM on October 14, 2012


I think being a native speaker of the peculiar language spoken by evangelicals is a major advantage in communicating with them. If you can use "fellowshipping" as a verb without dying of literary shame, as in "Yeah, I was fellowshipping with some spirit-filled friends of mine over the weekend, sharing His Word," there's a chance you might say something that doesn't make them cock their head like a confused puppy right away. They'll still eventually start narrowing their eyes with that oh dear—Satan look, but you can get a little dialogue in first.
posted by sonascope at 1:51 PM on October 14, 2012


Which is fine sonascope. I'm totally for evangelicals changing their beliefs and proselytising among their peers. I am happy that Kurek supports gay civil rights. What I don't get is what there is to find laudable in the actual story we're discussing here. It's not Kurek's position or change of position I am uncomfortable with, but rather the purported means by which that change of position was supposedly achieved.
posted by howfar at 2:02 PM on October 14, 2012


Well, I'm in the camp that finds the guy kind of a doof and more than a little tone-deaf, but as I said earlier, we're in the era of the stunt. Just being rational doesn't sell, alas.
posted by sonascope at 2:05 PM on October 14, 2012


Since when did the liberal community demand that everyone come out of the womb as a perfectly unbiased human being?

The funny thing about this statement is that everyone does come out of the womb as a perfectly unbiased human being.
posted by zixyer at 2:30 PM on October 14, 2012 [11 favorites]


I used to be a bullet-for-Jesus believer. As in, had you asked me to take a bullet for my (version of) Christianity, I would have in a heartbeat. (scary and sobering thought to me now). It's true, true, true. Doubts are from Lucifer. Inconsistencies were from my leaning on my own understanding. (That verse, lean not on your own understanding, I see why they repeat that so often) My entire belief system began to fall apart over this one verse.

Leviticus 20:13 If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

That was the screaming red beacon of fraud for me. It was the thundering bell I couldn't unring. It would not stop glaring out at me as a fucked up thing. Other things I could justify and apologize away. Not this one. Hooboy I was proud of myself for pushing away my other doubts (Naughty old Satan, foiled by lil old me!), but inside me, my integrity was burning. I would not have been able to continue to look my gay friends in the eye and call them friends if I truly believed what I said I believed. I just could not do it. The rest just sort of went the same way, but this is the one thing that started the avalanche of doubt and led to me no longer calling myself a Christian.

If Jesus came here to fulfill the scripture, he can totally have it. I don't want anything to do with that.

If this guy has had his empathy chip implanted by his experience, I am genuinely happy about that. I welcome him to reality-land, where the air is clear and you're not a giant hypocrite.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 2:46 PM on October 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


I would not have been able to continue to look my gay friends in the eye and call them friends if I truly believed what I said I believed. I just could not do it.

You weren't required to kill your friends; it's so sad that you thought that. What kind of church was this?
posted by michaelh at 3:00 PM on October 14, 2012


I went to several different churches and denominations, (whichever one said I was a-ok were the ones I favored). I knew that it certainly wasn't required that I, personally, kill my gay friends, but the very fact that it said that in the first place, or the other verses condemning homosexuality just turned my stomach (when really examined in a "is this what I believe?" way).

I did a lot of OMG, my holy book that's TRUE TRUE TRUE says WHAT? And the more I read, really examined it, without my ego involved and not caring if I was wrong or right or if I was going to burn, the more I just could not deny that anything that called being gay "a sin" was ludicrous. It's no more a "sin" than drinking water. It's foolish and flies in the face of truth. I am truly ashamed that I ever justified any of those horrible verses with the "no man knows his ways" stuff.

But MY personal Jesus was all for the gays, so that's how I was able to justify it to myself, THAT part was wrong, the rest was right.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 3:12 PM on October 14, 2012


The problem is less with the Bible, I'd suggest, than the pretended literalism of so called 'fundamentalists' in teaching selectively from the text while simultaneously proclaiming it to be wholly inerrant and without contradiction. God doesn't exist, and the Bible isn't his inerrant word, but that doesn't make the book itself ridiculous.
posted by howfar at 3:23 PM on October 14, 2012


Oh for Christ's sake, the Bible's a tribal history (the old testament anyway), and thus full of all manner of inbred bullshit (stuff like Leviticus posted above), as well as ancient wisdom (Ecclesiastes, anyone?).

The new testament's a different form of weird in that it betrays itself so transparently. It starts with THE SHIT itself (the gospels), God himself turned to flesh then murdered by us (humanity in general) for his troubles, yet he doesn't actually die ... and other sorts of miraculous stuff. Then it all just gets bureaucratic -- various humans, ambitious, cynical, sly, machiavellian, twist things their way, build a dense and monolithic and labyrinthian institution, cash in. And the thing is, it's all there, in print.
posted by philip-random at 3:52 PM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


howfar, it was, indeed, the Bible that was the problem ( for me). I was never around fundamentalists (not in a meaningful, influential way). So, fundamentalism wasn't the problem.

I didn't call the Bible ridiculous. I said that anything that says being gay is a sin is ludicrous, to me. Some people are born gay. No biggie. Now with the blinders off, yes, I think it's completely ludicrous.

I had the advantage of having a lot of different cultures presented to me as a kid, but I always think, what if I never had the opportunity for those things. What if my parents had both been Westboro Baptist Church members? Would I be a fundamentalist? When I think of how utterly SURE I was that the Bible was literally true and that I should somehow "get with the program"...it's scary. It was really difficult on me to lose my faith, but I feel like my words and "beliefs" match up with my actions now.

To stay on topic, I have a hard time believing that this guy only told three people. I have a hard time believing he "pretended to be gay" for a year, but I don't have any trouble believing that his mother said she'd rather have terminal cancer than have a gay son, because sadly I have seen that sentiment repeated by other parents. I wonder if he ever told his mother how awful that must have felt? You'd rather have cancer than have me be gay?? I feel like such a jerk for ever buying into any of that "hate the sin, love the sinner"...As if your sexuality was something to hate. I don't know whether to laugh at myself or cry.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 4:17 PM on October 14, 2012


Oh for Christ's sake, the Bible's a tribal history (the old testament anyway), and thus full of all manner of inbred bullshit

Do you think I disagree with that? The Illiad is full of the same sort of shit, but it's not ridiculous as a text. The problem with the Bible, like any interesting text, is the people who treat it as if it were boring, usually those who perceive themselves to be literalists, as if a coherent Biblical literalism is in any way possible.

Saying "I'm not a Christian because I can't believe in Biblical inerrancy" seems to me to cede the terms of the debate to the fundamentalists, as if a certain kind of ridiculous reading were inherent to religious belief. There are really good reasons not to be a Christian, a Muslim or a believer in Judaism, but not being a so-called "literalist" is, in my opinion, not one of them.
posted by howfar at 4:19 PM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


In case I'm not being clear...the notion of an omnipotent being, creator and ruler, former of immutable moral laws etc. That's the bit that's implausible, not any specific whim that such a being might have. Human attempts to deal with morality, society, history and all the rest, the stuff that actually makes up the text of the Bible, that's interesting and worthy of study.
posted by howfar at 4:27 PM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


going through the dishonest exercise of trying to live as one of them

Apart from the inherent silliness of comparing working low wage jobs with pretending to be gay, Barbara Ehrenreich was at pains throughout her exercise and the resulting book to stress that her own experiences were only an approximation of what the people who actually depended on those jobs live through on a daily basis.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:00 PM on October 14, 2012


epj: "This makes me absolutely furious. What value is to be gained? He found enlightenment when he found out gays can be creationists too? How impressive. I've been Christian and bisexual for twenty years; where's my book deal? Oh, right, I'm *actually* bisexual--snooze. They need a straight white fundamentalist to explain things. I'll be over here following Jesus if you need me (though I'm having some trouble loving my neighbor right now)."

What value to be gained?

A] Book deal
B] "Hey! Look at me! I'm special! I know all about gays, and God, and being straight! How special am I?"

Or that's how I see it, as a non-straight follower of the great sky wizard.
posted by Samizdata at 11:22 PM on October 14, 2012


Metafilter: the undiscovered country hidden away in the equipment room behind racks of balls.
posted by zippy at 11:22 PM on October 14, 2012


I dunno, I read about 3/4 of the way down, then I realized I think I like this guy.

The dude hit a sore spot, for everybody, but I think it had to be done. Because:

Explaining to people their (sometimes unknowing) participation in bigoted social systems is the opposite of dismissing them. It is calling their attention to the injustice they find themselves supporting so that we might work together to redress that injustice.

And:

I think being a native speaker of the peculiar language spoken by evangelicals is a major advantage in communicating with them. If you can use "fellowshipping" as a verb without dying of literary shame, as in "Yeah, I was fellowshipping with some spirit-filled friends of mine over the weekend, sharing His Word," there's a chance you might say something that doesn't make them cock their head like a confused puppy right away. They'll still eventually start narrowing their eyes with that oh dear—Satan look, but you can get a little dialogue in first.

The LBGT community and evangelical homophobe community aren't talking to each other. They refer to each other in oblique terms and talk about each other a lot, but not to each other. And they are definitely speaking different languages.

But this is one more blueprint for how they can. If the evangelicals feel it's necessary to have their little tribe and walk-in-their-shoes trope, let them. This guy did what he had to to crack their armor. He was a member of their in-group. I only want to see more of this. It's an imperfect bridge, but it is one, and I hope one day the evangelicals, in their cultural enclaves, can have a debate about sensitivity to other groups.

But they set themselves apart from the rest of us, and they, like the "gay community" had to in the 70's and 80's, have to find their place, and they're going to stumble as they do. I'm happy to allow them a few missteps, so long as it's in the general right direction.
posted by saysthis at 1:06 AM on October 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


The funny thing about this statement is that everyone does come out of the womb as a perfectly unbiased human being.

If that were true, bigotry wouldn't exist in the first place.

Here's my basic point: there's an individual who is claiming that he is trying to become a better person. Maybe he's full of crap and it's just a stunt. But even if it is just a stunt, you're not going to win over anyone by tearing down the details of their attempt at empathy. And by removing your own empathy for his attempt, you're further increasing the chances that he isn't going to change or grow into a better person. In my opinion, you're shutting down progress because it's more important for you to be right than it is for you to be effective at your goal of fighting bigotry, and I think anyone interested in progress needs to keep those ideas in mind.

If you're going to prejudge his intent and refuse to engage because you think he's failed already, you are doing less than he did in the fight for progress, even if you're correct that his intentions aren't genuine. Some people are willing to face criticism from their own tribe to try to connect with another, but very few are willing to try and take a principled stance when they are mocked by both sides.

So when you're being overly critical of people willing to make that first contact, even if it's just a publicity stunt, just remember that people who may have more genuine intentions are watching and deciding if they will take that risk based on your actions, not the unknowable intent of their fellow tribesmen.
posted by deanklear at 9:03 AM on October 15, 2012


The funny thing about this statement is that everyone does come out of the womb as a perfectly unbiased human being.

If that were true, bigotry wouldn't exist in the first place.


I have two responses to this.

1. I agree. I remember being maybe five years old and seeing my first ever in the flesh black children. It was Nova Scotia somewhere, 1964, where we were vacationing from whitebread Greater Toronto suburbia. I was aghast. I laughed and pointed. My mom and dad instantly turned on me and set me straight. HOW DARE I MAKE FUN OF PEOPLE BECAUSE OF THEIR SKIN COLOR!?!

2. Even if we come from the womb with the potential toward bigotry, it's where we land that's the real issue. That is, if it's a home and community that has bigoted attitudes, rest assured we'll adopt them. Or certainly, I would have.
posted by philip-random at 9:58 AM on October 15, 2012


I think there's a huge difference between a child's curiosity and lack of understanding about something to which they have never before had exposure and bigotry. Once exposed to something unfamiliar, it's the direction of elders, be they parents or teachers or other authority figures, which set in motion the development of bigotry or empathy. As you said, it's where we land.
posted by hippybear at 5:34 PM on October 15, 2012


Honestly, I think that a lot of the fear of gays and gay marriage coming from a lot of quarters has to do directly with adults not wanting to have to deal with figuring out how to talk to children about matters such as sex and love. It's easier to have an overarching narrative and to point to anyone who stands outside that as Other and worthy of dismissal. That is the least amount of work for the adults.

Again, this is why being out is so valuable to the culture in which a gay person lives. If a community has experience with same-sex couples and homosexual people on a regular basis, it becomes part of the overarching narrative, and children don't end up laughing and pointing or asking uncomfortable questions of adults because it's not unfamiliar, and therefore the adults can continue their default to "least amount of work", which in this case contains a more inclusive world.
posted by hippybear at 5:39 PM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Your second paragraph was actually part of the point I tried to make upthread, applying the same principle to other adults as well as children. The first paragraph. too, was an example of the kind of motivation I'm talking about. (Which is why things like this are ultimately positive steps.) So, it appears we agree more than disagree.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 6:41 PM on October 15, 2012


The funny thing about this statement is that everyone does come out of the womb as a perfectly unbiased human being.

If that were true, bigotry wouldn't exist in the first place.

Are you contending that bigotry is a nature, rather than nurture issue? Because if so, [citation needed].
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 10:39 PM on October 15, 2012


Well, both these statements require citation.

As a wise old grandmother said to a decade or so back, "It's not nature versus nurture. It's both. At least, it was with my kids."
posted by philip-random at 9:54 AM on October 16, 2012


I generally agree that this project involves a presumption of privilege that is really problematic, among other things.

But having grown up in a church that I left because of its stances on homosexuality and abortion, I very much agree with eustacescrubb and saysthis. This book is not for your average MeFite, who needs none of it. It's for evangelicals by an evangelical, could be a revelatory message for them, and I've saved it to my list of possible Christmas gifts for my dad, who is one.
posted by jocelmeow at 3:32 PM on October 16, 2012


Wow. So, expect some intense vitriol when Obama writes his book about pretending to be a black liberal?

Sisters, methinks thou protesteth too much. Instead, write a book about the joys of years of pretending to be straight to keep from getting beaten to a pulp. Save me a copy.
posted by Twang at 3:48 AM on October 18, 2012


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