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Celibacy used in a whole new way

Updated: October 18, 2011 5:22PM

Christopher Yuan and his mother Angela have co-written a gripping and gritty story, Out Of A Far Country: A gay son’s journey to God. A broken mother’s search for hope. Here they take turns authoring chapters and chronicling from their different perspectives his journey through open homosexuality, drug addiction, prison — to now an evangelical ministry.

But this is not a book about a man changing his homosexual desires to heterosexual desires. But rather, in his view, honoring God in the midst of his sexual orientation. That, for him, meant a heart change and a desire more than anything else to walk with God — and, for starters, live a celibate life — whether or not it brought about any change in his orientation.

Christopher told me that in the wake of writing this book he has heard less from those friends openly living a gay lifestyle than from gays in conservative churches. Often such folks feel they cannot be open about what they see as their struggle with homosexual behavior for fear of at least making others uncomfortable, at worst being ostracized. Christopher said he believes this is something that conservative churches must start coming to grips with.

In fact, a fascinating New York Times magazine story in June, “Living the Good Lie,” examined the phenomenon of those whose religious identity, often including a belief that homosexual behavior is sinful, is more important to them than their gay identity. Writer Mimi Swartz looks at therapists, including openly gay therapists, who help clients live in light of what is most important to them — instead of trying to convince them to believe and live as the therapist might like. So, for instance, this could mean encouraging a Christian gay man who wants to stay faithfully married to his wife to be open with her about his orientation, and develop strategies for not becoming involved with men.

Christopher’s chapter, “Holy Sexuality,” talks about this path. He says he long felt he had to be heterosexual to please God. But then he came to the conclusion that his identity shouldn’t be defined by sexuality at all, but by obedience to God whatever his sexuality.

This I can identify with. As a woman divorced for seven years, I’ve lived a celibate life. A lot of people think I’m crazy or repressed, and they let me know it. By the way, I don’t think for a minute I’m beyond falling into what I would consider sin here. But while not easy, and, yes, at times I’ve whined about it, for starters, this path has allowed me to see myself as more than just a sexual being. It also has protected my heart and allowed me to think clearly about relationships I’ve been in. If I never remarry, I believe that abstinence will remain my calling, yet it will still be possible to live a whole life in the midst of it.

In any event, the other fascinating part of Far Country is the story of Christopher’s mother, who works with him now in his public ministry. She shares that it was only becoming an evangelical Christian as she dealt with Christopher’s issues that allowed her to fully love and be supportive of her son, while both knowing his orientation likely couldn’t change and believing his homosexual behavior to be wrong.

But, of course, that’s not irony or hypocrisy. Like Far County, it’s ultimately just the story of grace.

Scripps Howard

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