"The Cross in the Closet": New Book about One Man's Experiment in Radical Empathy Holds Lessons for the Church, Says Faith-based Website, Followme.org

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Timothy Kurek's "Year of Living Gay" shows need for authentic, empathetic dialogue on homosexuality, says followme.org.

The Church of the Pilgrims in Washington D.C., taken August 22, 2007

The Church of the Pilgrims in Washington D.C., taken August 22, 2007

If anybody had told me back then who I would be or what I would believe now, I would have thought they were completely insane.

"How do we respond to those that we disagree with, to those that see the world differently from us? Do we insult, attack, and ostracize, or do we try and walk in their shoes in spite of our differences? What does the Bible really say about homosexuality?"

That is the question being asked by faith-based website, followme.org, today in response to the release of a new book about one man's controversial religious experiment to spend a year immersed in the gay culture, living as a homosexual, CNN reported on Sunday.

Timothy Kurek, a professing evangelical Christian, is the author of "The Cross in the Closet," Kurek's reflective look at his own preconceived ideas about homosexuality, the teachings of the Church, and "what it mean[s] to be a second class citizen in this country," CNN reports.

Kurek says he always found his identity in the Church, as his social life growing up revolved around church-related activities. After being home-schooled for years, Kurek moved on to the world's largest evangelical university, where he attended classes for a year, he writes in "The Cross in the Closet."

In the midst of that cultural upbringing, Kurek says he developed a harsh view of homosexuals. "I had been taught to be wary of gays. They were all HIV positive, perverts, and liberal pedophiles," he writes.

When a close friend confided in Kurek about the pain of being cut off from her family revealing that she was a lesbian, Kurek was "disgusted" with his own callous response, according to CNN.

So Kurek attempted to change the heart behind his response. He committed to living for a year as a gay man. He announced to his family that he was gay, was hired as a barista at a gay cafe, and asked a friend to serve as his "boyfriend" as he explored the Nashville, TN LGBT community.

Kurek's rationale? "I believe in total immersion," Kurek says. "If you are going to walk in other people's shoes, then you are going to need to walk in your shoes." His book is as much about understanding his church community's reaction to him coming out as it is about understanding life as a gay man, Kurek says.

So how did Kurek's "year of living gay" change his perspective? He has overcome his deep-seated prejudices of the LGBT community, CNN reports. Part of that change includes now supporting homosexuality, Kurek says.

"If anybody had told me back then who I would be or what I would believe now, I would have thought they were completely insane," Kurek tells CNN.

So what can churches learn from Kurek's experiment? Followme.org is a faith-based website that provides "spiritual decision-making" resources. Its leaders say Kurek's experiment reveals the necessity of empathy in any discussion about homosexuality.

"Sexuality is a part of people's lives, and, if Christians want to be relevant to people, we have to be willing to step out from behind our pulpits and meet people where they are. Kurek offers insight on how to shed the self-righteousness that comes so naturally in the Church-- that's not how Jesus lived, and that's not what His followers should be known for," says Pastor Jamie of followme.org.

"How do we respond to those that we disagree with, to those that see the world differently from us? Do we insult, attack, and ostracize, or do we try and walk in their shoes in spite of our differences? What does the Bible really say about homosexuality? Kurek's experiment is food for thought, and it sheds light on the sort of empathy that Jesus called us to," he says.

And Timothy Kurek tells CNN that he is not finished with his commentary. He says his next book will be about readjusting to life outside of the closet.

"The Cross in the Closet" was released October 11, 2012 and is available at all major online retailers.

For more information, please visit http://www.followme.org. Followme.org is a ministry of ShoutChurch.tv. For more information about ShoutChurch.tv, please visit http://www.shoutchurch.tv.

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