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The Chinese struggle to define homosexuality

Credit: An xin via AP

Is homosexuality a mental disorder? It is according to commonly used psychology textbooks in China. However, that doesn't sit well with one university student who has spent much of the past three years fighting to have that assessment changed. The young woman, who goes by the pseudonym Qiu Bai, first discovered the issue while looking for answers regarding her sexual orientation in medical textbooks as a freshman. What she found instead were descriptions of how therapy, including the use of shock treatments and the inducement of nausea, can help cure homosexuality.

As Julia Zhou of NBC News reports, part of the reason that such suggestions surprised and worried Bai was that the "Chinese Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders back in 2001." Roughly forty percent of textbooks published since that date, however, still classify homosexuality as a mental disorder. That hypocrisy gave Bai grounds on which to launch her crusade, and her lawsuit against China's national education department has a hearing in Beijing this week.

While the department doesn't appear to be terribly worried about the case—BBC's Stephen McDonell reports that they "didn't even bother to retain legal counsel"—every chance Bai gets to take her case one more rung up the ladder increases the issue's exposure, both in China and around the world. That exposure, and the global sympathy it might generate, are likely her best chance of seeing real change. So, while she'll be disheartened if the case is once again rejected, it will simply mark the next stop on her journey.



My purpose today is not to debate the merits, or lack thereof, in Bai's beliefs regarding homosexuality. That is an issue our ministry has addressed at length previously and I encourage you to follow these links and read further for a better understanding of our beliefs on the subject. Rather, today I'd like to discuss the tenacity and commitment demonstrated by Qiu Bai in defense of her beliefs.

Whether or not you agree with Bai's understanding of homosexuality, the commitment she's demonstrated over the past few years is admirable. As Christians, are we as committed to the cause of Christ as she is to homosexual equality? Now, to be clear, I'm not saying that we should sue the government or go global in denouncing any inequalities we face as a result of our faith, whether they be real or perceived. But there's something to be said for the willingness to put our reputations and, perhaps, even our lives on the line for something larger than ourselves—and given the way China has recently cracked down on public dissidents and others who have challenged their authority, the risks Bai is willing to face are quite real.

But such risks are only worth taking if we truly believe the issue is worth whatever cost we might be forced to pay in its defense. While most, if not all, of us would say that our faith is worth that potential price, do we live as though that were the case?

One of the chief temptations we must guard against in these sorts of discussions is to become so proud of our theoretical commitment to the Lord that we forget that he calls us to put that commitment into action every day. You don't have to be arguing before a national court or making global headlines in defense of the faith to demonstrate your love for God. In fact, it's often far more difficult to show that love in the small, everyday aspects of life than in the big moments. Those smaller moments are where the true tests of our faith will come. How we respond then will do far more to shape our relationship with God and the validity of our witness than any grand stage ever could.

God calls us to choose every day whether we will live for him or for ourselves (Luke 9:23). It's vital that our commitment to him is just as strong in the endless string of seemingly minor moments as it is when it may seem like more is at stake. The conversations you have with a neighbor or co-worker may be the biggest test your commitment to the Lord will ever face, but they can have just as much eternal significance as an argument before the Supreme Court. Act accordingly.

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