Broad Recognition

A Feminist Magazine at Yale

The Nonsense of Christopher Yuan: the Christian Minister Speaks at Yale about God, Gays, and Holiness

Yuan's homepage / Photo: christopheryuan.blogspot.com

Christopher Yuan visited Yale’s campus yesterday evening, and spoke for just over one hour at the Afro-American Cultural Center (Af-Am House) to an audience of students including self-identified LGBTQ allies and members of the Christian community. Yuan, invited by the Yale Christian Fellowship and Yale Students for Christ is best known for testifying to the power he feels God has to transform one’s life.

He spoke to a packed room (see video below), aided by a slideshow of photographs and Biblical scripture, or what he called the “breath of God.”  Yuan’s argument was this: he wanted to talk about love, specifically the unconditional love between himself and Christ.  He told the room how he came to that love: Yuan was a gay student who was kicked out of dentistry school for dealing drugs.  He then moved to Atlanta where he was later arrested for possessing “9.1 tons” of marijuana.  Following Yuan’s arrest and while serving his six-year sentence in prison, Yuan discovered his HIV positive status. This story is widely identifiable as a quintessential, urban, queer coming-of-age story during the era of the HIV/AIDS outbreak.  What follows is the stuff of redemption narrative.  Yuan found God.  He got out of jail.  He went to Bible College.  He graduated.  Now he’s a minister and professor.  He’s left sin behind.

Yuan told students that he wants to be holy because God tells him to be: “God did not say be heterosexual for I am heterosexual—He said be Holy, for I am Holy.”  For Yuan, then, being holy means following God and leaving behind his “feelings” of homosexuality.

Yuan’s logic surrounding this personal aspect of coming to God was deeply flawed, and disturbed me (a queer, atheistic, Jewish woman).  Yuan asserts that we should all love and respect one other, arguing there is nothing evil about being gay. Rather, for him, “the problem is the sex.”  From Yuan’s point of view, gay people can love, but he would prefer them to not form kinship structures as it “closes” them off.  He does not feel the same way about heterosexual marriage, and also validates “singleness.”

Though Yuan does not like labels, stereotypes, or generalizations, and stated, “I am Christopher Yuan, I am unique,” he applied labels to everyone else.  He told the audience he “has Gay friends” however, this line was most oft used before deploying a homophobic comment, for instance, that he would “prefer” for trans men and women “not to get the surgery.”

Finally, Yuan concluded by taking questions that were cherry-picked by two assisting Yale students.  None of the questions directly asked Yuan about his current idea of his sexuality or why he has made his career out of publicly testifying his need to  free himself of his “old” sexuality.  His politics were not addressed head on, instead students discussed his message and its affects.

Yuan himself asked for respect and an open dialogue between the two clearly identified groups of students in the audience. Marina Keegan ’12 stood up and noted that were Yuan to actually believe in said free discourse, he would have allowed audience members to ask questions as they pleased instead of having comments “vetted.” Students applauded the decision to open the floor.  However, Yuan’s mother intervened, preventing the decision from being made  due to concerns about her son’s health as someone living with HIV.

So what is going on here?  We have a man who refuses to identify with the ex-gay movement speaking to a large number or LGBTQ and allied students.  These students (aside from Keegan’s concern) did not interrupt him; they listened to him deliver his message. He was invited and sponsored by Yale organizations that must have felt this man deserved a Yale student audience (and, in turn, was wanted by Yale students).  Yuan did not provide concrete answers about sexuality and religion—but instead stated that queer sex was not holy (I know that at least Allen Ginsberg would beg to differ.) Though attendees saw photographs of Yuan as a baby, as a student, in gay clubs, in a mug shot, and heard him testify to the love of God and his own personal redemption, I am left with many more questions than I entered with.   I was not wondering about sexuality and God, but instead all the sanctioning of this event by Yale Christian Fellowship and Yale Students for Christ.  It is even more unbelievable that this talk was delivered on the first day of Yale’s Pride Month—Yuan wants us all to swallow ours.

Hannah Zeavin is a junior in Yale College.  She is the managing editor of Broad Recognition.

Comments (34)

  • Title IX-worthy?

    posted by yalewoman2012      April 4th, 2011 at 12:52 am

  • Only if Catharine MacKinnon is your lawyer.

    posted by Chase O-M      April 4th, 2011 at 2:41 pm

  • My question is about your arguments about how “Yuan’s logic sur­round­ing this per­sonal aspect of com­ing to God was deeply flawed.” (I won’t talk about how it disturbed you because there’s nothing wrong with an emotional response to a message with which you disagree.)

    Can you explain what flaws you find in his logic more specifically? I see mostly description of his arguments, but I don’t see where you point out the flaws in his logic.

    The only flaw that you delineate in detail is the fact that he did not take questions from the audience in an open dialogue manner. The other flaw that you identify is an inconsistency between Yuan not liking labels and stereotypes but using labels within his own speech. Neither of these flaws regard his logic in coming to God.

    Admittedly, I have not yet watched the videos because I have not had the time, but I have heard Yuan speak before.

    Actually, Christopher Yuan is quite charitable in is promotion of your article. I read about it through a link on _HIS OWN_ Facebook page. And there wasn’t any opinion associated with the post. It was simply, “‘The Nonsense of Christopher Yuan’ article plus 2 videos from last night @ Yale http://yuan2.us/cynnsns.

    Thanks for considering my comment and request for more elaboration!

    posted by Victor Cheng      April 4th, 2011 at 4:15 pm

  • What the hell was his mother doing there?

    posted by Paul Douglas      May 5th, 2011 at 12:02 pm

  • agree with Victor Cheng. :)

    posted by Washington Irving      May 22nd, 2011 at 11:14 pm

  • He and his mother co-wrote a book together – it’s about his coming out, gay years, and subsequent conversion from both of their perspectives.

    http://www.amazon.com/Out-Far-Country-Journey-Mothers/dp/0307729354/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_1

    posted by Crystal      June 6th, 2011 at 4:30 pm

  • I stumbled upon your article because I was curious about the subject. What do you mean by “deserving a Yale audience”? HA HA HA!! Really!! Where should he speak…some community college! I suddenly am supremely grateful and proud that I graduated from a state school (Penn State), my daughter attends Pitt, and my other daughter attends a local community college. PS…I would have been on your side of the aisle at this presentation, until you got snobby!! Good luck with your future!!

    posted by Betsy Callahan      June 19th, 2011 at 8:14 am

  • I would like to begin by stating that I am personally sorry to the LGBT community for any wrongdoing done by those who call themselves “christians” or “the church”. Those bigots are not christians, rather caricatures of themselves as sinners. They need Christ the most. I recently attended Christopher Yuan’s seminar. Contrary to what I have read about him, I found that he preached a message of love towards LGBT persons and did not demean them in any way. He also did not “leave sin behind,” as you say in your article. He admits he is still a sinner, in fact everyone is a sinner. Not only that, but he admits that he is as bad of a sinner as anyone else, including those who murder, lie, fornicate, lust or have LGBT tendencies. He also admitted that he did not lose his homosexuality or regain (or gain in the first place) his heterosexuality, but rather through his relationship with God chose to live in “holy sexuality.” He also shared a short story of a man who was not attracted to females, rather males; but decided to adopt a “holy sexuality” after developing a relationship with Christ. The man met another woman who was recently divorced and not looking for anything, and they became very close friends due to the unawkward room for bonding created by their situations. After a long period of time he began to find her beautiful and married her, explaining that he was not attracted to any other woman but her; the one God had meant for him. This is holy sexuality. Not the absence of homosexual “feelings” or “tendencies”, nor the presence of heterosexual lust and sin. Christopher Yuan also preached that we must not avoid or disregard LGBT persons, or view them as any worse than anyone else. They are not a stigma. Rather, with humility, we must show them the love that God has for them (which is unconditional and endless); not forcing any “religion” or anything upon them but only showing them unconditional holy love. In your article, you not only misquoted Mr. Yuan; but you suggested that he is a bigot. A bigot is someone who takes an acutely offensive moral stance and will not listen to anything that disagrees with them. There are thousands of anti-Yuan people out there calling this humble and kind man a bigot and refuse to hear what he has to say or let him speak his message of redeeming love on a public stage. Reviewing the definition of “bigot”, who would be dubbed such a title in this situation? The answer speaks for itself. The problem is not religious intolerance, rather intolerance of anything that seems “Christian” or the least bit “homophobic” in any perversion of the message. Please consider that this man may not be the great offense to humanity that you seem to view him as, but rather an honest and transformed individual who is excited about his experiences and longs to share the for the good of others. I apologize if this comment seems abrasive or frontal, but it is my true feeling on the issue. You shared yours and many agree with you.

    posted by Jared      June 20th, 2011 at 12:34 am

  • DOnt buy into this guys lies he has created a faketisious past in an aims to sell books.its a business motto with this Guy if u really believe he had nine tones LOL really dude truck loads get real can even back that up without trying to sensor the questions

    posted by ski      June 26th, 2011 at 11:35 am

  • This Guy is all lies just has one goal n that is money

    posted by ski      June 26th, 2011 at 11:37 am

  • http://www.christianity.com/ChurchHistory/11630185/
    So sad that you people have ruined Yale.
    What a shame.

    posted by mw      August 13th, 2011 at 3:45 pm

  • I agree with jared. very well put.

    posted by trish      October 21st, 2011 at 1:41 am

  • [...] Green Lake Conference Center. They do however highlight Christopher Yuan as a guest speaker. Yuan tells the tale of being a gay man with a drug problem who was arrested for possessing”9.1 tons” and [...]

    posted by Box Turtle Bulletin » The Daily Agenda for Friday, October 28      October 28th, 2011 at 7:02 am

  • [...] Green Lake Conference Center. They do however highlight Christopher Yuan as a guest speaker. Yuan tells the tale of being a gay man with a drug problem who was arrested for possessing”9.1 tons” and served a [...]

    posted by The Daily Agenda for Friday, October 28 | My Blog      October 28th, 2011 at 8:54 am

  • Haha Betsy! That’s awesome!

    “deserving a Yale audience”…. classic.

    posted by Josh      December 4th, 2011 at 5:53 am

  • According to Christopher Yuan, 9.1 tons of marijuana was a technical legal measure used by the Federal Court to use for his sentencing. He claims that the amount of drugs in his possession were translated into a marijuana amount. He did not possess 9.1 tons of marijuana!

    posted by Ptero      December 27th, 2011 at 5:29 pm

  • I very much agree with Jared.

    posted by Cecilia      January 2nd, 2012 at 9:20 pm

  • Let me first say that I’m an Anglican and a Christian. I believe that three things support our personal beliefs: tradition (including history), scripture (including theology) and reason (including science). I also want to say that Christopher Yuan is an interesting person, without a doubt. He does have a fascinating story, as do we all. Also, his story is deeply personal, and there’s nothing wrong with it per se. Actually, because it is so personal and based only on his own individual feelings and preferences, one cannot and should not attack it on the basis of it’s being “logical” or “illogical.” It’s just Christopher Yuan. What I’m wondering is why he was allowed to speak so “authoritatively” at Yale? He gave no substantial theological, historical or scientific reasons nor any other sound basis to back up any of his claims, so they remained just unsupported, personal opinions. Taken at face value, there’s nothing wrong with that. However, what if I said I put a banana in my right ear and it gave me peace, joy and made me prefer “holy sex.” Then, what if I provided nothing historical, scientific or theological to support this claim, other than my own personal preferences and feelings? Then, I could go on to say that I “prefer” that everyone put a banana in his or her right ear, because of my own good feelings about it. I could also say I don’t condemn anyone who doesn’t like bananas, but that I feel that God definitely “prefers” people who like bananas and those who are “non-banana lovers” may not be having “holy sex.” Is there anything horribly wrong or condemning about these ideas? Not really, it’s all just kind of loopy and narcissistic (and perhaps vaguely condemning in a loopy way), which is how Christopher Yuan comes off to me (MY personal preference and opinion). Speaking again of the “pro-banana” beliefs, if I had such ideas, totally unsupported by any real authority and just coming from own “opinions,” would I be allowed to speak publicly on this subject at Yale? I think not.

    posted by Russ Williams      January 16th, 2012 at 9:10 am

  • He needs to watch the movie Religulous, but then maybe he learned that being a minister can make as much money as being a dentist or drug dealer.
    This is another Ted Haggard story in the making.

    posted by Davantage      March 5th, 2012 at 3:26 am

  • “Yuan’s logic surrounding this personal aspect of coming to God was deeply flawed, and disturbed me (a queer, atheistic, Jewish woman).”

    What are you really afraid of, or what are you shaken up by? Or are you that self-righteous and arrogant?

    Christopher Yuan is a genuine, smart guy, and he spoke the truth about his life. Why antagonize him? Because you’re a ‘queer, atheistic, Jewish woman’? He’s a ‘gay, Asian, Christian man.’

    posted by Lana      June 1st, 2012 at 3:30 am

  • Thank you Jared. Very well said.

    posted by Susan      June 12th, 2012 at 6:07 am

  • Very well said, Jared. Thank you.
    And thank you Christopher Yuan, for your courage and transparency.

    posted by Susan      June 12th, 2012 at 6:09 am

  • RE:
    DOnt buy into this guys lies he has created a faketisious past in an aims to sell books.its a business motto with this Guy if u really believe he had nine tones LOL really dude truck loads get real can even back that up without trying to sensor the questions

    … haha! he’s “faketisious”?? you cant type, spell, or formulate a coherent sentence, and we’re supposed to “buy into” what you’re saying? How about this: dont use words that you dont understand to try to defend a point that has no validity.

    here’s the quotation about the alleged “9.1 TONS” of bud from page 146 of the book Out of a Far Country:

    “….the prosecutor…made sure that the judge hadn’t forgotten what i was charged with: the equivalent of 9.1 tons of marijuana. With so many different types of illicit drugs in circulation, marijuana was used as the common denominator in federal sentencing guidelines. And 9.1 tons was the amount confiscated from my apartment plus the evidence of my distributing.”

    He dealt meth, cocaine, ecstasy, special k, valium, acid, steriods, etc.. (pg 91). The book only mentions him “trying marijuana” and not really enjoying it.

    posted by ben      July 21st, 2012 at 4:01 pm

  • Only a person who has a true personal relationship with Christ would understand Yuan’s testimony. It seems like people who support or choose a same sex lifestyle insist that everyone one tolerate that lifestyle. But they don’t have to be tolerant of a Christian lifestyle?

    posted by Trina      July 28th, 2012 at 3:59 am

  • well said, Jared & Russ Williams. Thank you!

    posted by Vivian      August 5th, 2012 at 12:14 pm

  • are you familiar with book by Jay Michaelson?

    God vs. Gays?

    posted by Mevashir      September 22nd, 2012 at 7:40 pm

  • Perhaps you are too narrow-minded to call yourselves “broads”?

    Maybe this man is worth listening to?

    posted by Mevashir      September 22nd, 2012 at 7:50 pm

  • [...] Draws Outcry” Yale Daily News – Basic overview of the event and reactions“The Nonsense of Christopher Yuan: the Christian Minister Speaks at Yale about God, Gays, and Holines…” Broad Recognition – Another reporting article which includes video clips from [...]

    posted by Get Up to Speed on Yale’s Ex-Gay Speaker      October 1st, 2012 at 12:49 am

  • If you are defining (thereby limiting) yourself as a “queer, atheistic, Jewish woman,” did you really listen to Yuan with an open mind? Maybe you did, but as I read what you have written, it looks your mind was made up with certainty before entering the auditorium. That’s fine, as I think it is important to know we are and who we are not. However, your response, as a result, is predictable, without insight, without genuine objective analysis. In other words, no one expects the Green Packers fans to embrace and listen to what Chicago Bears fans have to say.

    What impresses me about Yuan is his counterculture willingness to embrace diversity as much as you have. He may be a straight, deity worshiping Asian male (if he were to describe himself that way, I don’t know) — between the two of you, a lot of humanity is covered. His life decisions and certainties might be different than yours, but he seems more like you than not.

    posted by Leo      December 16th, 2012 at 6:07 pm

  • Very few ex-cons get to make a career out of being an ex-con. If you’re upper class, and profess to love Christ, then the rules don’t apply. Sorry to be so cynical, but why didn’t the rest of us think of this? Contrition as a career move?

    posted by Max Lapertosa      March 28th, 2013 at 1:54 am

  • who does ‘deserve’ a Yale audience…only elitists with the pc ‘presentations’. you at these ‘prestigious’ universities are so uppity, your whole tone is condescending. The gay community is ‘diverse’ lady, remember that word? Many gay Christians are abstinent, as well as many straight Christ followers. It’s not ‘strange’ or ‘weird’ to be abstinent, it’s a choice made consciously when Jesus Christ is pre-eminent in the lives of His people.

    posted by Christine      March 29th, 2013 at 2:56 pm

  • I read all the comments a few days ago and Russ Williams’ banana analogy has been bugging me. It would be a rational analogy if there were millions of people who testified to the same banana experience over two millennia, if there were a all time best seller read and revered by millions about the origin of the banana experience and if there were historical evidence of one claiming to be the “Great Banana” who would provide for us eternal pro-banana enlightenment. Without this, Mr. Williams clever analogy breaks down. Christopher Yuan bases his experience on turning to the Bible, attested by millions if not billions over the centuries to have life changing power for those who believe. It seems odd that Mr Williams, a Christian, would find Mr. Yuan’s testimony of a life changing experience based on the Bible to be loopy.

    posted by Dan MacKinney      April 1st, 2013 at 6:48 pm

  • Yale’s standards must be pretty low to allow students to publish articles that have evidently not been proofread. I hope the author wasn’t an English major. I don’t say that to be rude; I’m just amazed and a bit skeptical that this was written by a Yale student.

    posted by jennifer      April 15th, 2013 at 3:18 am

  • My son was gay for 30 years, he was saved by Christ and the inspirational testomny of Chris Yuan. God is real , and my son is living proof! Thank you Jesus!!

    posted by colleen farini      April 25th, 2013 at 2:54 am

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