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What were the real motives of “undercover gay man” Timothy Kurek?

American Christian Timothy Kurek says he wanted to know whether his fear of homosexuals was valid, so he went undercover as a homosexual for one year in 2009, and write a book about it, released in October 2012. In June, his story about this “experiment” hit the media (EG), who reported that his experience led him to affirm homosexuality. In October, articles gave the impression that he remained a Christian of ultra-conservative proportions.

Initially when I came across this story, I thought it was odd. Why did he go to all that trouble, when he could simply have just befriended gay people to get very similar insights. He lied to his family for a year about his sexuality for goodness sake. A whole year, and he recognises that his mother found it deeply stressful. It wasnt as though he had no access to homosexual people. As the media is reporting, even before going undercover, he already had a lesbian friend.

I thought to myself that his earrings look gay, and pondered whether his motivation for the experiment might be based him him actually being gay. He has large ear rings in both ears. They are not just gay props from when he was undercover. They are depicted in the photos of him in recent articles, and also in photos on his blog from 2010 and 2009. But if he is gay, why did he revert back to a largely straight persona at the end of the experiment? That wouldnt make sense if he is same-sex attracted, and now a same-sex advocate. I Googled his name, and read through his blogs etc to investigate further.

Records indicate a shifting of Timothy’s position along the conservative-liberal continuum, before his experiment took place. His facebook page indicates he initially attended Liberty University, a place he refers to as particularly conservative, before later attending Middle Tennessee State University. Also, he says he was brought up in a fundamentalist congregation, but since then has attended a variety of styles of churches. The shift from conservative to liberal is also paralleled in a shift of hometowns. He grew up in conservative Nashville, then moved to Portland.

An ambivalence and shift in his ideology is observable in his blog posts. In a blogpost in late 2008, he challenges friends who have told him he is going to hell, and in another he describes himself as “emerging“; probably a reference to the modern Christian school of thought that is more generously orthodox (ie more liberal) than standard Evangelicals tend to be. In his blog around that time, he also expresses anger at Christians condemning Obama, and without appearing to explicitly take sides, he quotes someone else affirming Obama in regards to reproduction rather than affirming the Republican position. He jokes about Jesus preferring Tina Fey over Sarah Palin and the “honesty” of Marilyn Manson  over the “pitiful” Bill O’Reilly.

His views on giving to the poor and the suggestion that Jesus would condone smoking, also sound more in line with the left than the right. And in this post from the same period, Timothy writes of how he previously would write posts on atheist discussion threads, but how he now sees such posts as not being able to see beyond the Christian world-view. Its perhaps illuminating that in that post about Christians verses atheists, he only criticises the Christians. In fact one of his blogs is named The Evolution of God – a name that many would interpret as one suited to someone of a liberal persuasion. Then in facebook posts in mid 2012 (displayed here) someone who very much appears to be him, even embraces the word ‘bigot’ in this context – a term common amongst gay activists, but very rare amongst conservative Christians. Christians who carefully seek to follow the Bible, tend not to use the term ‘bigot’ in regards to attitudes to homosexuality, even if they are very gay-accepting themselves. This is because they recognise that those who do believe the Bible to teach that homosexual sex is sinful, are simply taking their Bible at face-value and are generally well respected within Christendom for their beliefs overall, meaning that the term ‘bigot’ seems unnecessarily disrespectful towards them.

Clues to his perspective on sexuality and gender arise from a post in his blog where he responded to a video that claims churches, their congregations and their decor are too feminine rather than masculine. His response is to quote Galatians 3:28, implying that gender is irrelevant for Christians. In doing so, he ignores other Bible passages, eg referring husbands and wives, that depict gender distinctions as important. This indicates that he’s ideologically androgynous too.  And if he’s straight, why have I not noticed any mention on his blogs of a girlfriend? He’s apparently 26 years old. If he’s not purely same-sex oriented, is he partially same-sex orientated? Or given his metrosexual approach, was the experiment primarily about him bringing his theology in line with a pre-existing affinity with aspects of gay culture?

At the end of the day, I havent read the book and all I know is what I see online. Yes, if as a child he was brought up in a fundamentalist church, it’s likely he wouldnt have been very gay-friendly. And yes today, he seems to be supportive of homosexuals. But I dont buy the implication that the experiment brought about a dramatic change for him from conservative to liberal. A general move towards liberal values is evident from his blog posts back in 2008.

His blog also reveals that he was aware of the model of immersing yourself into a subculture and then writing a book about it, when he glowingly refers to the book The Unlikely Disciple, which features his old conservative school. His blog makes it quite clear that he sees himself as an author, and in this video he says that writing a book had been his dream since he was 12, so perhaps writing the book was his real motivation for the experiment. IE rather than simply wanting to simply understand homosexuals, maybe he really wanted to write a book and he thought the experiment may be perfect material for it?

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