Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Book #3 Out of a Far Country

A couple weeks ago, I happened to come across this book on Amazon: God and the Gay Christian. I spent half an hour reading recaps and reviews and came away from it feeling discouraged that people are so willing to twist God's word. I mentioned as much in a comment on my pastor's blog and he recommended that I read Out of a Far Country by Christopher and Angela Yuan. This is the Amazon synopsis:
 Christopher Yuan, the son of Chinese immigrants, discovered at an early age that he was different. He was attracted to other boys. As he grew into adulthood, his mother, Angela, hoped to control the situation. Instead, she found that her son and her life were spiraling out of control—and her own personal demons were determined to defeat her. Years of heartbreak, confusion, and prayer followed before the Yuans found a place of complete surrender, which is God’s desire for all families. Their amazing story, told from the perspectives of both mother and son, offers hope for anyone affected by homosexuality.
Now, before I start my review, let me preface it by saying this: I do not intend for this to become a debate. I have no intention of changing your mind if you believe Christians have every right to be gay. I have no delusions about my powers of persuasion. I'm simply sharing my thoughts on a compelling book.

I mentioned in my last review that I was going to read this book and expected it to be a difficult read. I had nothing to fear. The book immediately drew me in and read very much like fiction. It was captivating from the start. And it's a quick read. I read it from start to finish in 3 hours. 

It was very interesting to see inside the world of the gay community. Christopher is candid throughout the book about his relationships and hookups and the camaraderie of the gay community. He's also candid about his feelings toward "bigoted Christians." He echoes so much of what I hear shouted from the rooftops lately: "God made me this way. How can he expect me not to be gay?" "If God can't love me the way I am, then I don't want him." "No loving God would give me these desires and not let me fulfill them."

This book also opened my eyes to another world that I'm totally oblivious to: the drug world. Christopher becomes an incredibly popular, successful drug dealer. He's not some shady, back-alley creep that the word "dealer" implies. He lives in a nice part of town, drives a nice car, goes to dental school, and runs his drug dealing like a business - complete with ledgers and filing systems. But on the weekends, he's embroiled in the gay bar drug scene. Ultimately (and this is a spoiler alert in case you really want to read the book and be surprised) he gets busted and ends up in jail. I feel terrible saying it, but I loved reading about his life in jail. Haha. I've always pictured life in jail to be 2 guys in a cell all day except for an hour of exercise in "the yard." Apparently it's not like that at all. It was very interesting to read about.

Interspersed throughout Christopher's story is his mother's story. Christopher's story is exciting and interesting and miraculous, but I think I appreciated Angela's story even more. The book opens with Christopher coming out to his parents and Angela's subsequent decision to kill herself. Before she does, though, she decides to see a priest (she's not a Christian, but she wants some kind of absolution from the priest anyway). She tells him the whole sordid story about her son, he gives her a pamphlet, and sends her on her way. She decides to go see Christopher one more time before killing herself and boards a train with nothing but her purse and the pamphlet. On the train ride, she reads the pamphlet and ends up giving her life to Christ! That alone was so shocking to me. I feel like tracts and the "literature" Christians hand out are so stupid and can't believe anyone ever responds positively to it. But the Holy Spirit works in ways that might seem unbelievable and used one of those dumb tracts to save this woman's life!

The thing that got me about Angela was the wisdom she had as a new Christian. She devotes her life to prayer for her son - not necessarily for him to change, but for him to come to know Christ. She immediately decides that she's going to love her son unconditionally and pray for him without ceasing. When she gets off the train in Louisville, she calls the number on the back of the pamphlet and gets connected with a mentor. She buys a Bible and dives into learning and growing. When she gets back home, she turns her shower into a prayer closet and spends hours on her knees on the tile floor. She fills notebooks with prayers, sets aside a day a week to fast, and gets involved in a local church. It was such a wake-up call for me. I've been a Christian all my life and never devote that much time or energy (or discomfort) to prayer.

For years, her son rejects her and continues his downward spiral. For years, she continues to reach out to him, sends him cards of encouragement, and pleads with God to soften his heart.

Spoiler alert again: God changes Christopher's heart. Christopher hits rock bottom in prison and God shows up in amazing ways to slowly work on his heart. The verse Jeremiah 29:11 is scrawled on the ceiling above his bunk, he finds a Bible in the trash and is so bored he picks it up and starts reading, and he stumbles upon a Bible study led by another inmate. I was surprised, and a little bit confused, when he didn't have a dramatic conversion. He just became more and more interested in the Bible until the inmate leading the studies asked Christopher to lead one day, and he did. He eventually started leading a lot of the studies and making the Bible his own.

So where does he land on the gay stuff? I thought the conclusion was incredible. He doesn't profess to be "cured" of homosexuality. He'll probably always have same-sex attraction. But he writes that he loves Jesus so much that a life of celibacy doesn't seem that impossible. While he was in prison, struggling to reconcile his homosexuality with what he was learning in the Bible, he went to the chaplain for advice. The chaplain did something that many people would applaud: he gave Christopher a book explaining that it was fine for Christians to be gay, and wasn't really a big deal. Instead of being relieved and going on to justify his choices, though, Christopher writes this:
. . . as I started reading the book and reading the Bible passages it referred to, God's Holy Spirit convicted me that the assertions from that book were a distortion of God's truth. Reading his Word, I couldn't deny his unmistakable condemnations of homosexual sex. I wasn't even able to get through the first chapter of that book, and I gave it back to the chaplain.
Again, I was amazed by the work of the Holy Spirit. It would've been so easy for him to read that book and say, "Whew. I have nothing to worry about. God does want me to be gay." There was nothing logical about him being able to discern untruths when he read them. That kind of discernment only comes from the Holy Spirit.

Christopher gets out of jail, gets accepted to Moody Bible Institute, and eventually becomes a professor there while traveling the world speaking about his experiences and what he calls "holy sexuality."

I loved this book because it was written from the perspective of a man who lived a homosexual lifestyle, found Jesus, and didn't get cured, but chose Jesus. I highly recommend it.

1 comment:

  1. This sounds like a really interesting book. It's a perspective I haven't really encountered much. How refreshing.


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