Look ma – I’m re-blogging!

(Much thanks to my friend DB Beem for bringing this to my attention. He’s got an awesome blog. If you don’t read it, you should. It’s here.)

At this point, my feelings on homosexuality are probably known by anyone who reads this blog regularly. In short, I’m cool with it. In my ever-growing number of conversations I’ve had with people of faith on this subject, I’ve heard many different takes on homosexuality and the church. Obviously, some people are against it. Nobody I speak to is vehemently against it, but that may be because the vehemence would need to be fueled by a hatred of the people in the GLBT community, and I just don’t hang out with people like that. Other people I’ve spoken too share my conviction that God just isn’t really all that interested in what two consenting, human adults do with their genitals.

“You want to dip those in WHAT? Well, okay. . . it’s your junk, I guess.”

But something I’m noticing more and more these days is people saying that their stance on homosexuality is evolving. Much like President Obama (until very recently), they hesitate to say that they support homosexuality, but just aren’t sure that it’s as big a deal as maybe they once thought. A friend of mine whom I greatly respect works for a church (not mine). She told me that there was a time when she was convinced that if that church hired an openly homosexuality person and put them in a place of leadership, she’d leave. But now, she doesn’t think she would. Her position, it would seem, is evolving.

I’m all for this.

In fact, this seems like textbook “Holy Spirit” to me – a subtle guiding toward change, a gradual shift in perspective, encouraged by love and growing understanding. I’m glad I’m hearing more stories like my friend’s.

And then there’s this one.

Chad Estes wrote a blog post about a man named Timothy Kurek that he met on Twitter. They had several online conversations, and they even Skype’d occasionally. In his blog post Chad said that, from what he could tell, “[Timothy] was outgoing, funny, Christian, and gay.” Timothy had just come out of the closet a few months prior to meeting Chad, and he told Chadof the troubles he’d gone through since coming out of the closet. They became buddies.

Then one day, while talking on Skype, Timothy dropped a truth-bomb on Chad.

Spoiler alert for those who didn’t clicky the link – Timothy isn’t gay. Timothy had been pretending to be gay, had faked an “outing” to his family, his church, and most of his friends. And after reading his reasoning for doing this, I can agree with his motivation.

“Well, you see, I knew I had some prejudices in my life toward the homosexual community and when I was praying about it I felt like God told me I should try walking in their shoes… So I am, literally, for a year. I’ve come out of the closet so I can personally understand the pain my brothers and sisters face when they are brave enough to be real about their lives, knowing the rejection they will face.”

If I make a joke about walking in “fabulous” shoes for a year, am I supporting a stereotype, or pointing out a misuse of the word “literally”?

Now Timothy has started an Indiegogo account to help fund a book about his experience, awesome entitled Jesus in Drag. And while I wish him the best, I share a concern that was mentioned by my friend DB – whom I hope will forgive me for quoting something he said in an email to me.

“Someone in your small group, tells you that they are gay. What do you do? You support them, you pray with/for them, you even get in arguments defending them to your mutual friends. Then at the end of the year, they tell you that it was all a lie and that this was part of their really cool idea for a book. In short, I would be really pissed off. I would feel manipulated and betrayed.”

. . . yeah, I think I would, too.

But then again, as I mentioned to DB, an argument might be made in support of pragmatism over idealism – in other words, the story is important enough that hurting the feelings of a few people along the way is not such a big deal. I’m pretty sure that investigative journalism wouldn’t exist with the adoption of this viewpoint. Still, a church (or a small group, which is even more intimate than a church) should be a place of safety, security, and trust.

Plus, I would have gone to bat for that guy! I might have lost friends in the church! I’d gladly take slings and arrows for someone who came out, but if I found out afterward that it wasn’t the truth, I would probably be pretty upset. Especially when I found out there was going to be a book – it’s one thing to put yourself in the shoes of the oppressed to understand them better, but it might be another thing to profit from that.

“Dude, the WHOLE TIME he was just PRETENDING to be a bear so he could get put on our worship CD!”

Here’s a question for you guys. How do you feel about what Timothy Kurek did? Was it the right thing to do, to help expose the challenges faced by those in the GLBT community when they come out? Or was it just deceitful opportunism?

About Daniel Mitchell

50% of "What the Faith?!?!", a blog about two skeptics who turned to God for no apparent reason. View all posts by Daniel Mitchell

18 responses to “Look ma – I’m re-blogging!

  • Jennwith2ns

    Lately I’m also becoming really wary of assuming I know the other person’s motivations . . .

    I can see being mad about standing up for a guy who was lying. I hate lying. On the other hand, if you put yourself in the shoes of the guy putting himself in the shoes of the other guy? Wouldn’t YOU write a book about it? He probably (at least subconsciously) got the idea from that guy in the 50′s or whenever who pretended he was Black. You can genuinely want to experience what another person’s experiencing and want to grow and change as a person through that, and still want to write about it.

    Heck–we haven’t done anything nearly that interesting, and we have blogs. (At least, I haven’t.)

    • Daniel Mitchell

      You’re right about one thing – I, too, haven’t done anything nearly that interesting.

      I don’t really have a clear opinion on this story, which is why I’m soliciting input. I can see valid arguments on both sides. And there are many details that I don’t know about this situation. Is it possible that Tim asked the permission of not just his GLBT friends (as is stated in the article) to write the book, but also the people he deceived along the way who aren’t GLBT? People like his family, his church, his friends that weren’t “in on it” – were they asked for their blessing? What if some said no, while others said yes?

      Not sure how I feel about it. I’ll probably read the book when it comes out. I can’t deny that there is value in the story being told. I just wonder if there was a better way.

      • Jennwith2ns

        Yeah–there probably is. You know how sometimes you think of things, though, after you do something else? At least–that’s how I operate. I find I never know what I think about something until I make a statement aloud and find out if I agree with myself or not. But maybe I’m just weird . . .

  • DB Beem

    Hey Dan:

    First of all, Congrats on reblogging. Don’t mind at all that you used our email.

    I already feel as if I’ve commented on this a lot, so I want to keep it short.
    The process and how we do things is important. It’s not just about the result, or even having good motives. I used to live at a very controlling church, which some may call a cult. In the name of the gospel, we were manipulated and sometimes lied to. The motives were great. They said it was out of love. They said it was for our best interest. They said all of the right things, but my conclusion from that season of my life, is that process and the way we do things does matter. There is no such thing as collateral damage, when you’re hurting and lying to people.

    A part of the problem with the discussion surrounding LGBT issue in the church, is the total lack of civility and love. We have lost the capacity to talk lovingly to people with whom we disagree.This is a big problem and what Tim is doing in lying to people, essentially punking them, is not helpful and not loving. The way to get someone to change their mind is to speak to them, pray for them, appeal to their better angels. You don’t lie to them and you certainly don’t lie to them and then publish their response.

    • Daniel Mitchell

      I completely agree that civility in disagreement seems to be out of style. Even I, on occasion, let my anger get the best of me when people disagree – that’s why I recently blogged about it. Homosexuality in the church is the greatest wedge issue the body of Christ is facing in our time (at least in the U.S.), and it’s natural that people on both sides have strong feelings. And compared to some of the vitriolic “dialogue” I’ve seen, the harm caused by this particular situation seems relatively tame. Hopefully the author has asked for forgiveness from everyone he deceived, and hopefully it’s been given. Like I said to Jenn, maybe he asked for permission before deciding he was going to write a book about this experience. I know he got permission from his friends in the GLBT community, but did he also get the okay from the people in the church, his friends, and his family? Maybe that was covered in the blog post, but I don’t recall seeing it.

  • Shana Aue

    Hey, Jennwith2ns, John Howard Griffin’s 1960 experiment/book “Black Like Me” was the first thing I thought of too! While “Black Like Me” is, in a lot of ways, an effective book that exposed a lot of issues that the black community was facing at the time, there are also a lot of rhetorical problems with it, and I think a lot of the same problems apply here.

    The biggest, most obvious problem with this sort of “experiment” is that John Howard Griffin wasn’t really finding out what it was like to be black, and this Timothy Kurek fellow wasn’t really finding out what it is like to be gay, because Griffin was (is? I’m not sure if he’s still alive or not) white, and Kurek is straight. They both got some knowledge of the outward experiences faced by a marginalized group, but at the end of the day (or the month, or the year) Griffin could go back to being white and Kurek could go back to being straight. This makes their psychological situations *extremely* different than if they were actually part of their respective marginalized groups. It’s very different to “walk in someone’s shoes” for a year than to be that person for your whole life, never able to be anybody else. And yet, after Griffin wrote his book, he was often called upon to speak and write about “the black experience.” He was treated as an expert. And this is a problem, because he was not an expert on the black experience. He was an expert on the white-guy-pretending-to-be-black experience. And while one could argue that this may be valuable in and of itself, it’s not the same thing. At all. I wonder if the reaction to Kurek’s book will be similar. Will he be considered an “expert” in the “gay experience”? Because he’s not, and he shouldn’t be treated as such.

    Which brings me to the second problem, and this one is a little more tricky. I think I would feel a little better about this if Kurek wasn’t writing a book about it. If it was just a personal experience, it might be kind of insensitive, and if I was his friend I would probably never trust him again when it was over, but that’s where it would end. Making it public like this, however, is something more. Now he’s assuming the authority to speak about an experience of “being gay” – which could very easily, maybe without him even realizing it, turn into speaking for and to “THE gay experience.” Which, as noted above, he is not qualified to do, and puts him in a long tradition of often well-meaning but misguided members of the group in power speaking for marginalized people. Think about European explorers praising the “noble savage.” Think about John Howard Griffin writing “Black Like Me,” which became an international bestseller and classic text while many, many black writers of the time were unable to get their own books published. It follows this underlying idea, which we don’t like to admit to holding, that the marginalized group needs one of “us” to speak for them. It goes like this: Black people need a white person to write a book about their plight, so that the other white people will listen. Gay people need a straight person to wright a book about their plight so that the other straight people will listen. Now, this does work – it is effective – but is it okay? Is it right? Wouldn’t it be better to, you know, listen to the LGBT community? Can’t they speak for themselves?

    It’s a complicated issue, obviously.

  • Chad Estes

    Thanks for reblogging the story and for the great discussion that is going on here.

    Personally (and probably, obviously) I am more concerned with the church’s lack of love toward our GLBT brothers and sisters than I am in Timothy being deceptive. Motive is a huge issue – consider that Rahab’s lies were considered acts of righteousness in hiding and lying about the spies she was protecting. A motive to know more and experience so one could care more is a good thing. Maybe not all Timothy did was ‘right’ but it certainly was good, and that is enough to make it valuable for me.

    Chad Estes

    • Daniel Mitchell

      Hey Chad! Thanks for joining the conversation.

      My stance on homosexuality in the church is pretty impassioned – as I have blogged about here. And my first response when hearing about a story like Timothy’s is to think, “Yeah! Way to go!” My friend Darren, who sent me the link to your blog, raised his concern about how the people at the church might have felt – and I’m glad he did, because I might not have ever thought of it that way, if he hadn’t. I have no doubt that what Timothy did was good, as you say, even if it was not all right – I just hope he took some time to have a heart-to-heart with those who might have been hurt and offered his apologies. God takes us into murky places, sometimes, but we should always be careful not to let people be the eggs we break to make omelets.

      All that being said, I will read his book! Thanks for telling his very compelling story.

  • Meg

    When God says, “go,” you should probably go. But I doubt he would tell anyone to lie. It’s contrary to his character. Bam. 2 cents.

    • Jonathon Trand

      Rahab was blessed for lying…

      • Daniel Mitchell

        You know, you’re not the first person to point that out. It just goes to show that we can’t really know what God is going to tell us to do. It also illustrates that there is, in fact, some “grey” area in the Bible. Rahab lied, but it was for the good of God’s people, and so she and her household were blessed. Who are we to say that isn’t exactly the situation that Timothy is in?

        Good point. Thanks for joining the conversation, Jonathon!

      • Meg

        Ah, but Rahab wasn’t blessed for lying; she was blessed for protecting Israel’s spies. She used her free-will to choose to accomplish that by lying. God spared her life because she helped, and because of that whole saved-by-grace thing, not because she lied. And God didn’t ask her to lie either.

        According to Timothy’s quote in your blog post, he says that God told him to “walk in their shoes,” but He didn’t specifically call Timothy to lie about it. So I still have my doubts that lying is something God would specifically ask any of us to do.

      • Daniel Mitchell

        Thanks for joining the conversation, Meg. I’ve heard lots of chatter on the subject of Tim’s experience, and the book he’s writing, and those opinions vary pretty far across the spectrum. Some people feel very firmly that Timothy was wrong in lying, while others say that the work he did was good and Godly, regardless of the deception he carried out.

        All this time later, I still don’t know how I feel about the lies he had to carry out. His story sounds like an interesting social experiment, and if nothing else I might read it to see how that plays out.

  • Meg

    Oh! by the way, “The Minnesota Marriage Protection Amendment, which will appear on the ballet in the Nov. 6 general election states: Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to provide that only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as marriage in Minnesota? Yes or No? Leaving the box blank counts as a “No” vote.” – http://www.duluthnewstribune.com/event/article/id/234045/

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