Letter to the Editor: Dec. 7, 2013

Some local churches and on-campus groups recently promoted a talk by Christopher Yuan, which took place at a local church. As a long-time advocate for LGBT rights, I was intrigued when I heard that, as a gay man, he speaks from personal experience and a desire to minister to those struggling with their sexuality.

His website biography describes him as one saved by God from a past as a drug-dealing, promiscuous HIV-positive gay man. After being expelled from dental school and incarcerated, God finally stepped in and turned his life of despair into one of redemption, grace and transformation. I was intrigued, yet sceptical, for there seemed to be something more lurking below the surface. I decided to remain open-minded and I attended his lecture.

I was hopeful when the organizers of the event asked all participants commit to the core values of respect and truth. Who can argue with those values? To respect each other even if we disagree, and to seek truth, not always knowing what it is, but earnestly seeking the truth together, wrestling with ideas and concepts trying to determine it. My hopefulness at the event faded quickly when it was apparent that some of that truth had already been predetermined. The message was that homosexual sex and relationships are sinful, and there was no room to questioning that core truth.

Yuan struggled with his sexual identity in prison. He went to the prison chaplain who told him that the Bible does not condemn homosexuality, and gave him a book that explains that view. Yuan, with breathless eagerness, explained that God was able to convince him that the book, which he admits he never finished, was a clear distortion of God's word and that God unmistakably condemns homosexual sex and relationships. Upon hearing Yuan’s beliefs, all of my hope for a respectful conversation of truth-telling disappeared.

I deeply appreciate and respect those who have come to the decision that homosexuality is not part of God's plan, and I applaud Christopher Yuan and his particular brand of Christianity wanting to end bullying by “loving the sinner but hating their sin.” He admitted that was the goal, but he cautioned not to say this phrase out loud as some find it offensive. It is the public proclamation of this message that I find offensive. On the surface, Yuan and his followers seem so loving, kind and accepting; at least until you realize that their message ends with only heterosexuals enjoying God's gift of sexual intimacy and finding love. Gay people get nothing but loneliness, sexual frustration and sympathy.

Christopher Yuan, and his promoters would do well to open their minds to the words of Tony Campolo, former spiritual advisor to President Bill Clinton, who points out, "Jesus never says ‘love the sinner but hate his sin.’ Jesus says, ‘love the sinner and hate your own sin, after you get rid of the sin in your own life then you can begin talking about the sin in your brother or sister’s life.’" We should respectfully seek the truth, but it might be a good indicator that our truth might be a little off when we allow it to be set by those things that identify others as not the same as us. Could it be that in the diversity of creation, God created someone to be different than how we think they should be?

I've witnessed first-hand through friendships with my LGBT friends that the love they share is every bit as valid and beautiful as any heterosexual relationship. As a Christian, for me to suggest that they should remain celibate and single would be an abomination.

Reverend Steve Hoffard, M.Div., Pastor at St. Mark's Evangelical Lutheran Church

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