Controversial Christian minister Christopher Yuan polarized audience members during his campus visit this weekend, drawing both broad support and accusations of spreading hate.
Yuan, an HIV-positive professor and minister who teaches about sexuality and HIV/AIDS, is an alleged supporter of the “ex-gay movement” to reverse homosexuality in individuals. His visit, sponsored by Yale Students for Christ and the Yale Christian Fellowship, sparked outcry among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students despite Yuan’s repeated claims that he has no involvement with the movement. Organizers from Dwight Hall, which was slated to host Yuan’s Saturday discussion about biblical interpretation, asked the sponsors to relocate the event after hearing Yuan speak.
At a Friday lecture on Yuan’s personal identity and Christian faith at the Afro-American Cultural Center, LGBTQ advocates and YSC members packed the venue past capacity. An on-scene fire marshal and police officer turned away at least 60 students trying to hear Yuan speak. During the talk, he explained his view that homosexual sexual acts are against the teachings of the Bible. While Yuan said that he identifies as a gay man and that he finds no biblical justification for hostility to same-sex love, the Bible makes a distinction between the “holiness” of heterosexual versus homosexual sex acts.
“It’s not the love God is talking about — it’s the sex,” Yuan said. “I’m just expressing a view that holds to the traditional teaching of the Bible and still respects people.”
Yuan’s mention of respect drew a strong reaction from audience members, who throughout the talk expressed their opposition to Yuan’s ideas. While both Yuan and LGBTQ leaders at the talk said they wanted to create an atmosphere of mutual dialogue and respect, several individuals left throughout the course of the talk Friday, and many applauded when other audience members challenged Yuan’s views.
“His comments show an apparent inequality between homosexuals and heterosexuals,” said Katie Miller ’12, who left West Point to attend Yale because of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and who attended the Friday event. “His conclusion is that all gays and lesbians should be celibate, which is extremely disrespectful.”
Further controversy arose after Yuan’s first engagement when Dwight Hall community organizers asked YSC to move Yuan’s Saturday speaking event from the Dwight Hall library, as scheduled, to another venue.
Alexandra Brodsky ’12, co-coordinator of the Student Executive Committee for Dwight Hall, said that when the organization booked the Dwight Hall venue, they did not specify that their intention was to host Yuan. Brodsky said she became aware of this plan after attending the Friday talk. She said she and other Dwight Hall executive committee members decided to ask Yuan to switch locations because his message was “one of bigotry and hatred.” Yuan spoke on biblical interpretations of homosexuality at Linsly-Chittenden Hall instead.
Esther Kim ’13, a YSC member who attended both of Yuan’s scheduled talks, said Saturday afternoon that she appreciated Yuan’s message, which she characterized as loving.
“I don’t know why Dwight Hall wouldn’t want to be affiliated with [Yuan’s] message of love,” Kim said. “It makes me sad that people think the gospel [Yuan] is bringing with him is one that is belligerent or hurtful to people.”
While several Yale Students for Christ members voiced disappointment that some students left the Friday event emotionally upset, they said they stand by their original intent in inviting Yuan to educate students about what Christian doctrine teaches with regard to LGBTQ people.
“We thought he could help the Christian community understand the issue more clearly,” said Sang Yun ’93, staff director for Yale Students for Christ. “But I know there are many people who left feeling unsatisfied or judged.”
While Friday night’s discussion was far different than YSC intended, Yun said, he still hopes Yuan’s visit will eventually lead to a respectful dialogue between Christian and LGBTQ communities.
In protest of Yuan’s visit, the LGBTQ Co-op — an umbrella organization of gay rights groups at Yale — distributed 138 stickers at the Af-Am House door which read, “Ask me about being an ally at Yale.”
About 200 people attended the public discussion Friday afternoon. Saturday’s talk about biblical interpretation was limited to YSC and YCF members only, and drew about 40 people.