1. Music – Phillip Phillips – I may no longer watch American Idol, but this recent alum of the show has me now rethinking that decision. I first got to know the oddly named Phillips Phillips (were his parents REALLY high when they thought of that name???) when I kept seeing his first single, Home, all over the iTunes charts for what seemed like an eternity. I reluctantly downloaded the single only to become instantly hooked. That song rocks! It’s folksy, has lots of acoustic guitar and just gets you in a good mood. Nothing but good stuff. And…this first single from Phillips was also all over NBC during their coverage of the Olympics this Summer. Pretty fitting, seeing as how the song is titled Home and all. But I digress. Anyways…seeing as how he was from American Idol, I figured he would have this one great song and then nothing else. Not so! When his full-length CD came out (did I just date myself by calling it a CD?!?!), I listened to a few songs and must say, not too shabby! I’ve now moved on past his first single and am getting into the groove of another track from his record (did I just say record??? Stop me, please!)…this one titled, “Gone, Gone, Gone”. Again, I have to give it up to this guy and all his “Idol” handlers that they could produce such songs. If you have yet to hear anything from this guy, you must at least try these two songs. If you’re into that whole rock-pop-folk-bluesy thing that is really popular right now in the music world (The Lumineers also rock!), give Phillip Phillips a try. You won’t be disappointed. He is clearly the best thing to come out of American Idol in several years.
2. Books – The Cross in the Closet by Timothy Kurek – I stumbled across this new author while looking around the CNN news website. The top story that day in their section dedicated to religion focused on this guy and something quite remarkable that he had recently finished. Timothy Kurek is not someone who set out to be a famous writer or have his name and works published for all to see and hear. Just a couple of years ago, he was your run-of-the-mill American guy who also happened to be a rather hardcore conservative Christian. However, that is not the whole story. When a close friend of Timothy’s came out as a lesbian to him (she had recently been ex-communicated by her family after they found out), his Bible-following ways were nearly instantly upended. Instead of a being a good friend and confidante, his family teachings and religious convictions led Timothy to basically turn his back on this woman. This punitive action by Timothy led to a time of struggle with not only his identity as man, but also his lifelong beliefs as a strict Christian.
“Distraught and overcome with questions and doubts about his religious upbringing, Timothy decided the only way to empathize and understand her pain was to walk in the shoes of the very people he had been taught to shun. He decided to come out as a gay man to everyone in his life, and to see for himself how the label of gay would impact his life.”
I have to say that this was an amazingly difficult and courageous step for Timothy to take. He was questioning his life-long religious beliefs and needed to see how the other side lived, so to speak. Even though Timothy is not actually gay, he pretended to be a gay man to EVERYONE in his life, including his disapproving parents and siblings (everyone except for one close friend whom he could confide in). Timothy then spent a full year living as a gay man in Nashville, Tennessee. While there, he became close friends with gay men and women, visited gay establishments and lived in the “gay” neighborhood of the city. To everyone in Nashville, for an entire year, Timothy Kurek was gay (I should note, though, that he never dated anyone…after all, he isn’t actually gay). His experiment there led Timothy to an abrupt change in his life. He no longer believed that homosexuals were evil, destined-for-Hell or depraved individuals. In other words, much of what he had been taught before this little experiment just didn’t gel with what he had experienced in the real world. Yes, Timothy is still a practicing Christian after this yearlong journey. It’s just that he is now a compassionate Christian who doesn’t have quite so much disdain for the folks his family and congregation taught him to fear and dislike. In short, he is a changed man…for the better I would say.
Although many in the gay community of Nashville have come out against Timothy’s tactics (now that they know the truth), I think they are wrong. This guy voluntarily gave up a year of his life in order to understand the trials and tribulations of being gay in a nation where roughly half the population thinks that all gays are perverts who deserve to burn in Hell.
This is a book that everyone should read. It really confronts some of the most enduring myths and distorted attitudes that are still thriving in certain corners of America. Bravo to Mr. Kurek for doing something that had not been done before, for shining a positive light on a world that many find disgusting and immoral. If only there were more people like this guy. I think EVERYONE in America would benefit from living a year in the shoes of those they deem inferior or unworthy (myself included!). In fact, what a great idea…perhaps a gay man or woman should try to live the life of an evangelical Christian for one year. That would be very interesting, indeed. And you know what? I bet all of us conservative-bashing idealogues (again, like me) would walk away with a new attitude concerning our political or spiritual rivals.