Earlier this week, Justin Lee, author of, Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate, made a plea to evangelicals to abandon their love affair with “ex-gay” programs:
Last week news broke that yet another “ex-gay” minister is accused of sexually abusing young men in his ministry. It’s a story that has played out over and over, in ministry after ministry, for decades now. As an evangelical who once thought “ex-gay” ministries were the answer for me, too, I’m heartbroken every time. Evangelicals: This is on us. We’ve got to stop this from happening.
So let me say this as a fellow evangelical: Brothers and sisters, whether you support or oppose same-sex relationships, one fact is undeniable. No ministry can turn same-sex-attracted people into opposite-sex-attracted people. It simply doesn’t happen. You can call folks “gay,” “ex-gay,” “struggling” or “tempted,” but that simple fact remains. We can bury our collective heads in the sand, but that only exposes our loved ones to abuses like this one and misunderstandings from their own churches and families. That is not the way of Jesus. If we’re going to be worthy to call ourselves Christians, we need to face the realities of people’s lives head-on and then determine a reasonable and compassionate response. We can’t do that when we’re blinding ourselves.
Unfortunately, Justin’s prayer wasn’t answered. Only one day after he posted his op-ed, the religious publication World on Campus published an idiotic interview, “Holy change, holy sexuality.” According to the headline, ex-gay “Christopher Yuan urges students to reach out with humility to those suffering from same-sex attraction.”
Of course, the result of this story will be more depression, more teen suicides, more broken families, more ruined lives.
Perhaps, the saddest part is that Evangelicals know this to be the case. They have had decades to realize that their embrace of the “ex-gay” myth has been a terrible experiment that has badly failed. Yet, like robots without feelings, brains, or emotions, they continue to destroy their own children because they are not brave enough to face up to a glaring shortcoming in their ideology.
Anti-gay Evangelicals and fundamentalists should know that the way they handle the issue of homosexuality makes them appear exceptionally dumb. Seriously, the way they refuse to use the term “gay” and stretch out the syllables in ho-mo-sex-ual, makes the rest of America think: Wow, those people are really, really stupid.
Notice, I didn’t say “ignorant.”
That would imply that these folks were operating without knowledge or access to it. But this is 2012 and the majority are privy to best medical and mental health advice in the world. They have search engines like Google. They have books, television shows, and can actually talk to real gay people about their lives. Yet, in spite of all these modern advantages, anti-gay evangelicals — with a great degree of malice and arrogance — purposely embrace the language and attitudes of the 1950’s, as if they have brain blockages that render them unable to learn new concepts or process contemporary ideas. This leaves the majority of Americans asking, “what the hell is wrong with these folks?”
The story of Christopher Yuan is a perfect example of why it is difficult to respect a group of people who consider reality and facts pesky inconveniences. This pathetic tale begins with a promising young man who encounters family rejection after he comes out:
Yuan grew up with traditional Chinese values and no exposure to the Christian lifestyle. He described living with a secret all through high school. But years later, while studying to be a dentist, he decided to stop fighting his secret and “came out of the closet.” When Yuan told his parents he was gay, they gave him the ultimatum: family or his homosexual lifestyle. The choice was relatively easy.
“I believed homosexuality was at the core of who I was,” Yuan said.
I’m not sure why the choice of leaving his family was easy, unless they weren’t close to begin with. But the next part of the story is a perfect illustration of Caitlin Ryan’s research at San Francisco State university. She found that when gay youth experience rejection by their family, they are 8 times more likely to attempt suicide, 6 times more vulnerable to severe depression, and 3 times at risk for drug use. Like clockwork, Yuan’s traumatic experience with his family took him down a dark path.
Embracing homosexuality as his identity, Yuan packed up and moved to Kentucky where he actively embraced the lifestyle and also began doing drugs.
Had he truly embraced who he was, there would not have been the need to self-medicate with drugs to the point where he ruined his life. Embracing one’s sexual orientation does not lead to drug binges. So, why would a Christian publication sell this storyline?
Spiraling into a life of momentary living, Yuan started selling drugs and quickly got expelled from dental school.
By this point in the story, Christians are expected to press the pause button on their reasoning faculties. They are asked to ignore mountains of evidence, such as the existence of LGBT organizations on university campuses that cater to mostly successful students. They are supposed to forget the existence of business executives like Tim Gill, Mitchell Gold, and David Geffen. They are expected to have amnesia and not be aware of respected LGBT leaders in the political arena, like Barney Frank and Sen. Tammy Baldwin, as well as the five openly gay individuals who control state legislative chambers. No, forget all the facts — it’s easier to bury one’s head in the sand and pretend that gay dental students who come out will inevitably end up selling drugs, going wild, and dropping out of school. Because that is what all gay people do in the surreal world of Fundie Land.
During this time, his parents became Christians and softened their approach to their son. But their attempts to show love only offended him.
At this point, it seems, Yuan wasn’t too stoned to differentiate between genuine love, and that cloying phoniness that fundies often identify as “love.”
The bright lights of Atlanta beckoned next. But Yuan soon got arrested and taken to jail. He faced a minimal sentence of ten years for possessing 9.1 tons of marijuana.
Yes, if one smokes a few TONS of marijuana, Atlanta’s lights can be rather bright. The rays also tend to fray, bend, shimmy, appear psychedelic, and sometimes dance in a variety of exciting colors.
While in prison, Yuan was diagnosed HIV positive and believed he had come to the end of his rope. A few days later, he spotted the Bible in the trash. After serving just three years of his sentence, Yuan got an early release.
Wow, a Bible in the trash, an HIV story, and a prison conversion! All original Christian story telling devices that have never before appeared on the 700 Club.
He now teaches at Chicago’s Moody Bible Institute, while pursuing his doctorate of ministry at Bethel Seminary. In addition to being a professor, Yuan coauthored with his mother a book about his experience, Out of a Far Country, and travels the world to speak on the issue of homosexuality.
It’s good to know that Moody has such high standards for hiring professors. As for Yuan, when a convicted felon finds his Bible in the prison trash, it should be no surprise when felonious garbage is preached. I’d love to know what the experience of this drug dealing jail bird and dropout has in common with the lives of most gay people? Due to the guilt instilled by his parents, he made hash of his life (and sold it too), while refusing to see that it was the shame, not his sexual orientation, that led to his downfall. His embrace of fundamentalism has only reinforced the very self-loathing that got him in trouble to begin with.
Yuan’s honesty in sharing his struggles surprised several Geneva students.
“I was shocked that he was so open with his dark past,” said junior LeeAnne Fisher. “People normally just hide those skeletons in the closet and try to lock it away from everyone. But he had pictures of that time where he is wearing barely anything. I realized this guy is serious business.”
Half-naked pictures, huh? The exhibitionism of so-called “ex-gays” never ceases to amaze. (Yuan may have a future as Porno Pete’s understudy)
Yuan also urged Christians toward consistency in their understanding of change. So often, believers accept the urges still present with sins such as alcoholism or lying but refuse to believe that a homosexual who still has urges has truly changed. Rather than putting so much emphasis on homosexuality and heterosexuality, Christians should focus on “holy sexuality.”
How nice of Yuan to give himself a convenient escape hatch if/when he gets caught with his pants down.
Yuan’s explanation of holy sexuality resonated with sophomore Nate Miller: “It is not a matter of homosexual or heterosexual, but rather a devotion to purity and holiness from a biblical perspective.”
Those sweet Christians are so kind and fair! At least until you realize that the story ends with the heterosexuals getting laid and finding love. Meanwhile, gay people get nothing but loneliness, sexual frustration, and pity. If they are really lucky, they’ll get to tour the country as “ex-gays” showing semi-nude pictures to impressionable college students and calling it a life.
Note to fundies and evangelicals: If you want to be taken seriously. If you don’t want to be mocked and looked down upon. If you want respect. Then please stop peddling and profiting from buffoonish stories about gay losers who find God in the hoose gow. They don’t symbolize the mythical “gay lifestyle.” All they represent is the tragedy that often befalls LGBT youth who don’t receive the support they need and are told by Christians that they are sexually broken sinners.
Evangelicals and fundies should really take Justin Lee’s advice and drop the “ex-gay” schtick. Not only is it old and tired, but it serves as a consistent source of embarrassment and humiliation for the Christian religion. I’ve met enough evangelicals to know they aren’t stupid. So, it baffles me that they pathologically insist on acting like they are. It’s time they stop.
I’ve met Yuan, and he seems like a nice guy. Truth Wins Out is here for him when he wants to grow up, become an adult, and stop living his life to please others. Although he is no longer selling nine tons of weed, it’s clear that his current view of gay life is one giant hallucination. We can only hope he will shed the charade and elect to live openly and responsibly.
When Yuan drops the religious baggage, he’ll finally see his horizons are boundless.