09 Aug Christopher Yuan: Christian identity + Homosexuality Ep. 1
Can a homosexual person be a believer in Christ? Join Michael Easley in the studio with author and speaker, Christopher Yuan who shares his story of coming out of a gay lifestyle, trusting Christ, and his desire to reframe the conversation of sexual identity within the Christian church.
Christopher Yuan teaches the Bible at Moody Bible Institute and his speaking ministry on faith and sexuality has reached four continents. He speaks in conferences (such as InterVarsity’s Urbana and the Moody Pastors’ Conferences and Men’s Conference), on college campuses and in churches (such as Saddleback Church and Willow Creek Community Church). He is featured in the award-winning documentary “HOPE Positive: Surviving the Sentence of AIDS,” and has co-authored with his mother their memoir, Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son’s Journey to God, A Broken Mother’s Search for Hope. Christopher graduated from Moody Bible Institute in 2005, Wheaton College Graduate School in 2007 with a Master of Arts in Biblical Exegesis, and earned his doctorate in May 2014 from Bethel Seminary.
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EASLEY: I do not think there is anything more controversial within the Christian community than, “Can a homosexual person be a believer in Christ?” What about the gay-lesbian, transgender community? And of course, we always get into polarity: those groups, that will vilify, that will be hateful, that will say all kinds of unkind things, even under the moniker of truth over against those that will simply cave and amalgamate, and say,“There’s nothing wrong with your identity, you were made a homosexual, you’re having to be true to yourself and that’s how God has made you, or God’s cruel.” I’ve often countered this argument, “If my identity is driven on my sexual inclination, then I ,Michael Easley, am a womanizer. It should be my right because I’m made this way, to conquest every woman I want to will agree with me in a consensual relationship, because by goodness I was made a womanizer. “ Jesus Christ had something to say about those who look upon a woman with adultery in their heart and that section in Matthew, Christ doesn’t say, “It’s not as big a sin to lust in your heart as it is to act out the sin.” In fact, He upbraided the Scribes and Pharisees and said, “You’ve heard it said about adultery, I tell you if you look at her, you’ve committed adultery in your heart.” That being the case if our thought life is evaluated by Christ, as being sinful then everyone of us who has any kind of penchant towards money, sex and power, the three umbrellas of sin, lust of the flesh, lust of the eye, the boastful pride of life, then we have a real problem. What’s happened in the culture is that a few groups have gotten together, the gay-lesbian, transgender group, bisexual group, and they have said, “This is our identity. This is how we are made.” The culture has caved. Again, we don’t let the world teach us theology. There’s no better way to talk about this than to integrate incontext the Biblical theology along with the person who has lived as a full fledge gay in a lifestyle that was a gay world. Not only has Christopher Yuan come out, he’s willing to talk about it very candidly. “It’s great to have you in the studio today, Christopher.”
YUAN: It’s great to be here. It’s great to see you in person, Dr. Easley.
EASLEY: Likewise, Congratulations on completing your doctorate, Dr. Yuan. That’s a long road.
YUAN: Thank you very much.
EASLEY: Now Christopher, you’ve got a long story and a fascinating story. But I want to fast track a little bit, so give us a history of your identity, your struggles, and how you came to follow God and a little background so our listeners, who may not know who you are will learn about you.
YUAN: Dr. Easley, I was not raised in a Christian home, but I experienced same sex attractions from a young age. It was around nine years old, that I first realized that I had these feelings. I was exposed to pornography at a young age, but I kept those feelings hidden through high school, college, even the Marine Corp Reserves. I finally came out of the closet. In my early twenties, I moved to Louisville, Kentucky. I was pursuing my doctorate in dentistry, my father’s a dentist as well. I came out of the closet then and broke the news to my parents and I told my mom, after my first year at University of Louisville Dentistry, that I am gay. You know my parents weren’t Christian, but it devastated her. She gave me an ultimatum and she said, “You must either choose the family or choose that.” Well for me this wasn’t something I could turn on and off like a lightswitch. I thought if you can’t accept me, I have no other choice but to leave. So I left home.
EASLEY: Your dad have any comment at this point?
YUAN: You know at this point, my parents marriage was a wreck. I grew up just remembering them squabbling over little things. This and that, and my mom wanted a friend, and my dad just wanted freedom. So both weren’t meeting each others expectations. So, actually in our high school years, my brother and I were just kind of like, “You all are miserable, why don’t you just divorce. Just go your own ways and do your own things.” So at that point, that’s kind of the way that we were working, the four of us. We thought, “You know what, we’re just going to do our own things, and we’re just going to be happy.” Isn’t that what it’s all about, Dr. Easley? It’s about being happy.
YUAN: So, at that point, my mom and dad weren’t really a team. They were individuals and so my dad had already written everything off. He’s like whatever, he wanted to do his own thing. What can you do? He wanted to do his own thing and my mom was still holding on. She kind of figured that she had lost the marriage. My older brother was kind of doing his thing. I was kind of like that last glimmer of hope. I would become a dentist, come home, join the family practice, and go with it. So when I came out, that was really the straw that broke the camel’s back. And as we wrote in our book, we wanted to be real intentional with the alternating chapters, because we wanted to show the same situation turned out to be two totally polar opposite perceptions. My mother felt I just had just rejected everything. My parents came to this country and sacrificed everything for why? for what?
EASLEY: You and your brother.
YUAN: For me and my brother. So that me and my brother would have a better life. They sacrificed a lot. That was why they did this. So when I came home and I said, “No I’m gay.” That was, as if I was rejecting everything that they had done. For me, though, I had just felt like I was kicked out of the home . So for my mom, that was the end of her world. She thought, “I have no more reason to live.” She actually had determined to end her life, but fortunately she felt the need, coincidentally, out of the blue, to go see a minister. She was not a Christian and this minister gave her this little pamphlet on homosexuality, which shared the plan of salvation. It was a pamphlet on homosexuality, but it shared that we’re all sinners.
EASLEY: This is in Chicago?
YUAN: She actually got this little pamphlet, bought a one way Amtrak ticket to Louisville, where she was going to say goodbye to me.
EASLEY: Where you were living?
YUAN: That’s where I was living, and to say goodbye to me for the last time and end it all. And on this train, she began reading the pamphlet. She only took her purse and that pamphlet.
YUAN: She didn’t pack anything and she bought a one way Amtrak ticket. This is very significant because she was not coming back. The Amtrak person even said, “Do you want a round trip ticket? It’s only going to be ten dollars more.” and she said, “No.” But on this train, she began reading this pamphlet, and it shared that she’s a sinner and yet God still loves her. She never heard that before. She never thought of herself as a sinner, in addition, if God loves her even though she’s a sinner, she realized that she could still love me. This is what’s really significant, especially about this part is that: before my mother came to Christ, she couldn’t find it in herself to love me. I had just betrayed her. I had rejected the family. But now coming to Christ, she realized that she could do nothing other, than to love her son.
YUAN: Yeah, so she went to Louisville. It was a surprise and I thought I had cut the apron strings out of my life, my parents, everything. I could do my own thing. So when she showed up I was not happy. I did not want them in my life, I did not want any of that. She actually stayed in Louisville for six weeks and was discipled by a lady. She called a number on the back of the pamphlet and there was some hotline.
YUAN: And this lady connected her to the wife of a retired pastor.
YUAN: This lady discipled her for six weeks and gave her a Bible, went to a Christian bookstore and they would just read books and the Bible. She was soaking it up and it was her private retreat.
EASLEY So for those again, that don’t know your story, first of all, we’ve got this transformation from a pamphlet, from a woman born in a Chinese culture with no interest in even ancestral religion?
YUAN: You know, if my mom was anything, it was just agnostic.
YUAN: Agnostic and specifically anti-Christian.
EASLEY: So she’s now living several weeks in Louisville.
EASLEY: And you’re thinking?
YUAN: My mom has flipped her lid. I didn’t know what was going on. I would go visit her out of obligation. Then she would have her Bible on the coffee table. She rented an extended stay kind of thing. She would have this Bible and all these things and a cross. I just thought, “What is going on here?”
YUAN: Literally, the last person that I would think to become a Christian, would be my mom. She had really been burned by some people in the past and really had kind of been turned off by Christians and all that. People even joked and said, “If Jesus were to walk in front of her, she would not believe it.”
EASLEY: Wow. Alright, lets move through Louisville. You don’t stay there very long.
YUAN: No, well I was there for about three years in dental school trying to do the whole dentistry thing, but unfortunately got involved in drugs, selling drugs. My parents were praying for me and eventually I got expelled from dental school. My parents flew from Chicago to Louisville and I thought they were going to fight to keep me in school. My dads a dentist and you know, he knew the dean. Well in this meeting, my mom told the dean, “It’s not important that Christopher becomes a dentist. But what’s more important, is that Christopher becomes a Christ follower.”
YUAN: She said, “We’re going to support whatever decisions the school made.” Well I walked out of that meeting furious. I decided I’ve gotten nothing else holding me here in this small little city of Louisville and I moved to Atlanta. I already had some friends there, people that I knew, partiers. We would go to the clubs; there were 24 hour clubs back then. I just kept doing what I knew how to do best at that time and that was selling drugs. Eventually I became a supplier to other dealers in over a dozen states, but I had parents at home that were praying. They prayed that God would do whatever it takes. My parents came to visit me and I kicked them out after the second day.
EASLEY: I remember you telling the story of them leaving something in your apartment?
YUAN: So I kicked them out. My mom walks out the door and my dad turns around and he has his Bible in his hands and he says, “I want to give you my Bible.” I said, “I don’t want that. Don’t give me a Bible.” I didn’t want them to have any inkling, any glimmer of hope that I might read that book. My dad is pretty persistent and he left it on my kitchen counter and walked out the door. So I took that Bible as soon as they left and threw it in the trash can. That’s what I thought about the Bible, that’s what I thought about God, Christianity, all of that.
EASLEY: So you are now, estranged from your folks, at least, you are emotionally, you are fully into drug trafficking and supplying, you are fully enjoying the same sex attraction to whatever length you want?
YUAN: Yeah, it was who I was.
EASLEY: Ok, let’s talk a little bit about identity. It’s what we always hear: “It’s my identity, it’s how I was made.”
YUAN: “It’s who I am.” Verbs are powerful. When people say, “I am gay.” That verb: it’s a being verb. There’s power in our words and how we speak about ourselves, really does impact how we act and live. I am gay. Even set aside our Christian culture, even the secular world, it’s talked about sexuality is your sexual identity. You are gay, you are lesbian, you are bisexual, you are etc. When I looked back at the way that I live, that was me, not just who I was, but how I live. I lived in the gay community. My apartment complex was all gay, 90 percent gay. My community that I lived in: I went to a gay Kroger, I went a gay gym, gay clubs, gay community. I bought a car from a gay dealership.. everything. That was really the totality of who I was. I didn’t know a lot of non gay people. I think that had power as I reflected back on that.
YUAN: That’s why I think as we interact with those who don’t know Christ, in the gay community- getting at the identity. Often times we want to focus on the immorality, or the immorality aspect. That’s what people are expecting. They’re expecting as Christians, that we will go at them with the morality question, and hit them over the head with that. This is immoral, this is sin, this is wrong.
EASLEY: When we talk about it, Dr. Yuan, I love the way you say,“That the verbs have power.” I differentiate between, I could go around saying, “I’m a womanizer. I’m an adulterer.” Now, I have never acted out. I have never been an adulterer to Cindy, but in my mind, I have. In my heart, I have. But I don’t look at my identity as a womanizer to sanction what I want to do, or a pediphile, or whatever, but our culture, and even the church is quite quiet on this. We don’t want to talk about it. We don’t want to make anyone angry, and have a conversation about, “Well, why would you draw your identity from x.”
EASLEY: The lust of the flesh, lust of the eye, also pride of life. We don’t align with those, but this one is strong.
YUAN: Yes, it is. I think often people will say, “Oh, the gay agenda.” The interesting thing, Dr. Easley, is that the “gay agenda,” that is a term I never heard of until I became a Christian.
YUAN: Because I didn’t think of it as an agenda.
EASLEY: It’s your lifestyle.
YUAN: It’s who I was and that’s why, there’s power in that. Lets just go in the realm of possibilities. Let’s just say, this is who I am, because I believed that back then. Lets just say, if it really is who I am, then it would make sense that if I am gay, is no different than me being Chinese. And being Chinese, I would actually be helping society by informing people about the Chinese culture. So do you see then how…
EASLEY: And when we are a tolerant worshipping world, and we exercise diversity, we need this now.
YUAN: This can be helpful for our listeners and I’m not at all justifying this. I’m just saying, Let’s just put ourselves in peoples shoes. Let’s just explain: Why in the world do people act this way, it’s not out of, they’re trying to pollute us. It’s actually thinking we are doing good. I personally don’t see the gay agenda as a ploy of the gay community. It’s a ploy of the enemy, and how he makes things. If this is who you are, and I personally think that is from the enemy, because it’s twisted something to become who you are. Then therefore, of course, then I’m doing good by informing culture about the gay community.
EASLEY: So it’s like a belker, Christopher. Because we have the strident, politically loud, agenda driven of any subject, whether it’s gay rights,women’s rights, whatever kind of rights, animal rights. You know we got a fringe, and then you have the larger part of the belker, which are people just trying to go to work and paying the mortgage and then you’ve got the other oneS, who are just sequestered in their minds and hearts, and they’ll talk about it. So I appreciate that perspective because some of us are quick to run to the immorality of it all. I find it fascinating when Paul lists sins in Corinthians, effeminate homosexuals, adulterers, immoral, disobedient to parents, wait, wait… where’d that come in? and such were some of you, those were your proclivities.
Well let’s go back to Dr. Yuan’s story. Your mom and dad have left Louisville, left the Bible. You are in Atlanta and your life changes in a powerful way, because?
YUAN: Because I had a mother at home that was praying.
EASLEY: She converts a room in her house and she’s got basically a little prayer room and she prays how many times a day?
YUAN: Well you know, she’s there in the morning, not just for 30 min or 20 , she’s there 2 to 3 hours.
EASLEY: Who prays for their child? Who prays for their son or daughter two-three hours a day?
EASLEY: And goes back numbers of times.
YUAN: We have a picture. This is powerful and what she did is she used a shower, and in the shower in the back was a bench, so you can put stuff there. She converted it so that the bench has kind of become her kneeling stool. So she will just kneel and that’s how she studies the Bible. She will kneel in humility before God. She would read Scripture, and then pray, read and pray.
EASLEY: When I think of your mom, I think of Angela doing this, I just can’t imagine. Here’s a woman that grew up, to use your word, “agnostic functionally,” who comes to Christ from a pamphlet. She has such a radical transformation, not only in her own life, but her desire for her son to not, just not be gay, but to know Christ. That in itself is like class A miracle. Right?
YUAN: Yes, big time. People often, after they hear me speak say,”Your story is pretty sensational, but actually the really amazing story is your mom. “ And I said, “ You got it. You got it.” It really is, her transformation, her faithfulness to pray is huge.
EASLEY: You can’t explain that, by discipline or determination or self will or I’m going to will myself to change this way. Something happened to your mom.
YUAN: Yeah. That’s unexplainable.
EASLEY: We’re talking today with Christopher Yuan, the author of, “Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son’s Journey to God. A Broken Mother’s Search for Hope.”
Christopher, again, congratulations on completing your PhD. Lets pick up your story. You’re involved in the drug trade in a major way, and a little snag comes along.
YUAN: Yeah, a big snag. My mother who was praying, prayed and she fasted every Monday for seven years. She felt God one time was telling her to just fast and that God would show her when to stop. She fasted for 39 days. It was a juice fast, not just water. On the 39th day, she began getting cramps in her fingertips and her toes. She felt like that was God’s sign to stop. My dad in his heart said, “Oh come on, you can do it one more day.” So you can say, “I fasted 40 days.” We laugh now and my dad says, “You know that would have been doing it on our own strength.”
YUAN: And if we did go that extra day, we could say, “Oh look at me, I did 40 days.” So she stopped it. She was just relentless. She prayed, “God do whatever, whatever it takes.” For a mom, a Chinese mom, that’s pretty bold. So that answer to prayer came with a bang on my door; that was the answer to prayer. I opened the door and on my frontstep were about 12 federal drug enforcement agents, Atlanta police, and two German Shepherd dogs.
EASLEY: Good Morning!
YUAN: Yeah, they came in…
EASLEY: They weren’t bringing your paper to the door.
YUAN: They were not here to do a collection. Well they were here to do a type of collection. I had just received a large shipment of drugs and they confiscated my money, my drugs and I was charged with the street value equivalent of 9.1 tons of marijuana.
EASLEY: My word!
YUAN: So I found myself a job.
EASLEY: How old were you?
YUAN: When that happened I was 28, 28-29, yeah. So I was facing 10 years to life in federal prison. I found myself in jail. You know, I had it made; I had a bright future and came from upper suburbs of Chicago,my father has two doctorates and I was on my way to becoming a doctor and here I was in jail.
EASLEY: So you’re convicted and you go to prison?
YUAN: Yeah, I go to prison. I tried calling home thinking I would get an earful and my mother’s first words were, “Are you ok?”
YUAN: No condemnation, no parading words, just words of unconditional love and grace.
EASLEY: As we end today’s broadcast, there is no way to estimate the power of a praying parent, or the power of prayer in general. If you were to know Angela, she prayed for seven years every day for Christopher. It humbles any parent who’s listening. No need to feel guilty, no need to feel ashamed. It’s a poignant reminder for you and me to pray for our kids. Tomorrow, let me just say it this way. You will not want to miss the broadcast. This thing goes in some directions that we never anticipated. This is Michael Easley inContext.