The Cross in the Closet feels especially timely in these days of vicious election conversations – if we have conversations with “the other side” at all. Tim Kurek is not gay. But he decided to plunge into the life of The Other for one year, living as a gay man as a sort of personal spiritual discipline.
Tim grew up in a conservative Christian home within a conservative Christian culture in which gay people were demonized and feared. When he told his own mother that he was gay, she said she would have preferred he had terminal cancer.
I loved this book for the story of Tim’s commitment to meet and care for people whom he had always been taught were beneath him spiritually. I loved watching his own journey to discover what it means to be gay. (It’s not about clothes or gait, by the way.)
What felt discomfiting, though, was that – in order to live as a gay man for a year – Tim had to deceive people, because he was not in fact gay. He even had a pretend boyfriend so that he would not be put in a position of having a real physical encounter with another man. Unlike the spiritual discipline of living for a year as a Biblical Woman (Rachel Held Evans) or taking her family through a year of intentional Sabbath (MaryAnn McKibben Dana), Tim had to pretend to be something he’s not.
I remember a friend finally telling me he was gay after watching the funeral scene in Three Weddings and a Funeral. He didn’t want me and others to find out at his or his partner’s funeral that they were a couple. But it hurt a bit that he’d pretended to be straight – replete with a “girlfriend” at one point.
Trying to imagine how Tim’s new GBLTQ friends felt about the eventual revelation that he was not actually gay made me uncomfortable. That, and the fact that gay Christians – and non-believers alike – have been trying to tell this story for years but have not received the attention Tim has received for pretending.
Nevertheless, this is a great read which – in my mind – is more about connecting with The Other than gay-straight relationships. We who follow Jesus believe that God became the ultimate “other” to connect with us. God gave up supreme privilege to become one of us. Tim Kurek’s personal journey to become one with the GBLTQ community offers some important insights, especially for Christians who have vilified people for being different. Read it.