LAST YEAR, THE SCHOOL where I work — Yale University, colloquially known as “the Gay Ivy” — was galvanized by a visit from the Christian speaker Christopher Yuan, a self-described “former homosexual.” A student evangelical group had invited Yuan to campus to tell the story of his transformation from out-and-proud gay meth addict and drug dealer to mild-mannered celibate Bible teacher via a stint in federal prison. Yale’s outraged LGBTQ and allied students showed up in droves and passed out rainbow stickers at the door, turning what had been planned as an intimate evangelical event into a fraught, standing-room-only campus happening.
Yuan’s visit and the impassioned protest it provoked might seem to confirm the common perception that gays and Christians play for different teams. But they also call that assumption into question. Queer Christian students helped to organize the protest, and more than one gay clergyperson from the community was there as well. Meanwhile, the decision to invite Yuan was quite controversial within the evangelical student groups, and I heard that some LGBTQ-allied evangelical students were boycotting the event as an informal protest of their own. At the time I was a student at Yale Divinity School, and I attended the talk with a large cohort of queer and allied ministers-in-training. Many of us had grown up in or been thrown out of churches that preached hate, and we wanted to make sure that we were there as witnesses for the gospel as we had come to know it — a hard-won gospel of love and liberation for all.
We were also there for the show, and it didn’t disappoint. Nothing quite beats anti-gay melodrama for sheer camp value. Yuan, a Chinese-American, HIV-positive man in his forties, travels the world with his formidable mother, Angela, showing PowerPoint pictures of his former self dancing in leather and glitter, and speaking out in favor of “holy sexuality,” which he defines as incompatible with same-sex desire. To hear Christopher tell it, Angela is a kind of Tiger Mother for Jesus: She simply refused to accept that her son was hopelessly gay, and that (eventually) was that. At Yale, Angela cut short the heated question and answer period by demanding that gay and allied students go easy on her son since his white blood cell count was low and it was time for him to take his meds.
Christopher and Angela have written a book together, Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son’s Journey to God. A Broken Mother’s Search for Hope, in which they each cast themselves in the role of the Prodigal Son. In alternating chapters, they tell how they were both brought low by Christopher’s homosexual lifestyle. When Angela saw the gay porn that Christopher had hidden in the insulation in the crawl space by his bedroom, she contemplated throwing herself in front of a train. And when Christopher dropped out of dental school to plan gay dance parties, he found himself alone and emaciated, a crack pipe his only friend. After years of wallowing in shame, mother and son finally found their way back home to a life with Jesus and each other....read more