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Homosexuality and Eating Disorders

Last week, just as we were tucking into Sunday lunch, a woman eye-balled me across the table and said with real venom:  "I will spit on anyone who calls homosexuality a sin."  I believed her!  She's probably the most forthright woman I've ever met.  She knew I was a minister (as did everyone else at the table) and she watched very closely for a response.

I'd done some thinking on the topic, so I gave her the edited highlights of this...

The bible thinks of homosexuality quite like the way we think of eating disorders.  It’s a disordering of a person’s relationship to sex and sexuality, the way anorexia is a disordering of a person’s relationship to food and the body.

Are there environmental factors?  Loads of them.

Are only some people weirdly disordered and others ‘normal’?  No, we all exist somewhere on a spectrum of weirdness.

Does the disorder present itself as a straightforwardly chosen lifestyle?  Very often.  In fact Pro-Anorexia (Pro Ana) websites stridently assert that it's a bold and noble choice.

Is it a choice?  Well, it's a lot more complicated than that.

Do Christians also struggle with the disorder?  Indeed they do.

Do they slip into this disordered behaviour, sometimes for long periods.  Yes.

Can all Christians expect ‘total healing’ from the disorder?  Well we've already said that everyone exists somewhere on the spectrum of weirdness.  Difficulties will often remain throughout life, though some may know large degrees of freedom.

Should we approach the issue with an attitude of fear and condemnation?  Please no.

But – here’s the thing – Can a person be an active champion for the disorder and claim Christian justification?  No.  That would be like having a Christian Pro Ana website.  What a truly horrible thought!  That would be to confirm someone in a deeply disordered and harmful condition and to do so in Jesus name.  Christians are rightly horrified by the suggestion.  Not because they hate those with the disorder but because they love them.

And if you've ever tried to help someone with a disordered behaviour you'll know - you won't be thanked for trying to help them out of it.  But it's still the loving thing to do.

So anyway, I outlined this kind of thinking to my lunch companion.  She responded, and I quote, "You are refuted by the latest science.  Scientists have discovered a gay gene."

I said "Well we can discuss what a gay gene might mean, but I've got no problem in principle with a gay gene.  But think about this: they might also discover an 'anorexia gene' too.  There's a very high correlation between certain hereditary bowel conditions and anorexia.  I'd be surprised if they didn't find that certain genes significantly predispose you to an eating disorder.  It's still a disorder don't you think?"

"I suppose," she said, and then discussed how lovely her gay friends were.  I told her mine were too and we enjoyed the rest of our meal.  Spittle free!

Just thought I'd share the eating disorders analogy with you because I've found it helpful.

19 thoughts on “Homosexuality and Eating Disorders

  1. Robin

    You just expressed perfectly what I have been trying to formulate in my mind. Thank you!

  2. Jamie Read

    Helpful anecdote Glen. With a brother facing a "disorder" or sorts, it is helpful to see parallels with the gay question too.

  3. Richard Hayden

    Interesting analogy but I don't see how it's really that helpful.

    Anorexia is clearly a harmful condition, both physically and mentally. I doubt you'll find any reputable scientist who disagrees with that statement.

    Homosexuality, whatever it's cause, is much harder to condemn as a "negative" condition. You keep referring to it as "disordered" behaviour. Why is it anymore disordered than heterosexuality? What do you even mean by "disorder", are you speaking of physical entropy or what?

    Yes, it is statistically less common but that is a different point. Genius is statistically uncommon but is often a pretty useful thing for the human race when it does occur (not that I am saying homosexuality is necessarily useful in the same sense!), but I hope you get my point.

  4. Glen

    Hi Richard,
    You're right that the analogy is incomplete unless you have a vision for what is a properly ordered relationship.

    It is interesting that, for instance, gay men have an incidence of bulimia that is 15 times higher than the general population - just another link between sexuality and eating. But honestly I don't want to point to mental and physical health studies to make my point.

    The bible has a vision for healthy eating and healthy sex which goes well beyond mere psychological and physical damage. It's about relationship.

    In the case of sex, the bible takes our genders as absolutely crucial to our identities and it sees sex as a union of interlocking opposites in lifelong covenant union.

    This is the context because "one flesh" is a picture of Christ's love for the *other*, His bride, the church. He didn't stay in heaven among His own, but went out to love His counterpart.

    One flesh preaches this gospel. According to the bible, when we take this "one flesh" union and use it outside that context we're preaching a false gospel.

    Such a disorder certainly will lead to psychological and physical harm - it's working against the grain of Christ's universe - but that's not primarily why we'd call it disordered.

    I hope you can see that my purpose is not to convert homosexuals to heterosexuality. I want all people to come to Christ. It's just that in Him, there's a life-long process of conforming our lives to His gospel and sexuality is one facet of that.

  5. Richard Hayden

    Hi Glen,

    Regarding the bulimia rate being high amongst gay men, please do provide a citation to a properly peer-reviewed academic journal to support such statements! Otherwise, I hope you understand why I will ignore them :)

    I don't believe in the scientific or otherwise accuracy of the bible so your whole argument means very little to me. Any chance you can come up with a secular argument to support your analogy? Assorted mythology concerning this Christ character is unlikely to convince me.



  6. Sarah

    hey glen
    usually I find your teaching really helpful and since i've really started listening to your sermons I feel ive become a stronger christian, however this particular anicdote really sadened me to read. I realise that everyone has there own opinions and that the bible clearly says in leviticus that this should be the christian opinion however within leviticus it also says we shouldnt eat shellfish 11 9-12 so I dont really think we can base our views souly on this particular book of the bible. In spite of this i realise that your views are your own and are un likely to be changed by a comment on your blog. What I will say is I think that you shouldnt really be posting offensive things on the internet you are entitled to this opnion but as christians our job is to tell people the great news of christ not to question peoples sexuailty. All this being said I really do appreciate most of your teachings so thank you for that!

  7. Glen

    Hey Sarah - it's always good to get feedback, thanks very much for the positives and negatives.

    This is by no means something I major on - as you say the great news of Christ is our message for the world. But sexuality preaches the gospel doesn't it? Jesus doesn't stay among the heavenly beings but moves out to love His bride - us. The gospel is the union of our Head with His body, and it's one-flesh. Therefore every little one-flesh union is meant to be a picture of that.

    We get this gospel picture wrong in many, many ways (I do, all the time). But *one* way it gets mixed up is in homosexuality. And the bible is clear that it is a disordered relationship. Not just Leviticus but also in the NT: Have a look at Romans 1:24-28 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.

    It's certainly not something to harp on about, but the culture is asking us questions and when we answer them, we need to make sure we're giving the bible's answers. I always sense that when people raise these kinds of issues they're just waiting for the Christian to say "Yeah, that was then, this is now, we have evolved from biblical teaching." But if we make that move we've really sold the family silver - it'll make it much harder to tell them anything else from the bible later down the track.

    But more than this, if we're telling good news then what we say needs to have the character of *announcement*. That means it will jar with the culture at certain points. But that can be a very good thing. If non-Christians just think we're re-hashing what the culture already says and putting a Jesus-gloss on the top, they won't listen.

    But we're preaching a different vision of community. And the differences (if expressed graciously) can whet people's appetite for a different way of looking at the world.

    Have you thought about how you'd explain Romans 1 or 1 Corinthians 6 to someone if they asked? How would you go about addressing this issue.

    Thanks again for commenting :)

  8. Paul Huxley

    I know it's not necessary for what you've argued, but my understanding is that the gay gene is also misleading to say the least (you hinted at this in your conversation).

    By 'gay gene', all that has been found is a gene whose carriers are around 30% likely to identify as homosexual, instead of more like 5%. So it's not like there's a gene that forces all (or nearly all) its carriers to have those attractions.

    Romans 1 links sexuality to worshipping creature rather than creator - with such clarity. I had the pleasure of recently meeting and hearing Dr Peter Jones (truthxchange, WSC) who has some fantastic, eye-opening material on this.

    Anyway, the parallel is a useful one - I've tried to think of good comparisons to make before but have only come up with ones that either seem petty or overly offensive to people I talk to about it (not that they are designed to offend, but these issues are so bound up with self determination/self-image that people's brains often turn off before they hear what you're actually trying to say).

  9. Missy

    This was way weird for me to read. I have always pretty much understood how we as christians are supposed to view homosexuality. Love the person hate the sin right? Well I had never thought of that in conjunction with eating disorders. I struggle with anorexia every day so when you said that it kind of struck me the other way around. I was thinking about telling my parents and getting their help but now I kind of see what a big issue it is. No wonder g,l,&bi have such a hard time dealing with it. Like who's going to tell and expect to be accepted now? ha! scariness.

  10. Glen

    Hey Missy, I've been waiting for someone to question the eating disorder side of the analogy. Amazingly, in using it for the last 6 months, no-one has. But I think it's important to know what the bible means by sin - and "disordered relationship" is probably one of the better definitions. Using the word "sin" can be unhelpful in a lot of situations. But here's where it's very helpful: "Jesus died for sins." There's actually a covering for *sin* proclaimed on every page of the bible. And once we know how comprehensive it is and how thoroughly Christ has dealt with it, everyone might be a whole lot happier if we re-defined all our "struggles" as sins. But that kind of admission has to come on the far side of a deep appreciation of the cross. I hope this Good Friday is another re-remembrance of the blood of Jesus which purifies us from *all* sin. And by His Spirit I pray you'll find increasing freedom from old patterns.

    In the Lamb

  11. Mike Dovies

    Dear Richard Hayden,
    Homosexuality can be deemed as a dis-order simply because it does not conform with nature. There is a inability to go foward and create life the the procedures of same sex relations.
    This is a fact that does not need the bible or any other scientifically proven theory.
    Any activities that do not conform with pro creation or the ability to create life is deemed as pro death or the ability to create death. This explained simply means you will never be able to pass on your gene therefore your seed will be dead.
    Sexual intercourse will be impossible.
    The word intercourse broken down simply means to enter the course to create life.
    Gay sex can not do this it can only produce masturbation which can only stimulate the mind and body but can not stimulate the soul simply because it is not holistic.
    Still I'm using simple logic that does not need any other scientifically proven theory or religious books.
    Being homosexual is a phychological state that we have been brought up to accept, history has given us the information on where it was first recorded and by whom along with beastieality. The same race of people have fought to make this a normality. This has been forced on is by the media and by the powers that be in order to justify there phychological state of kind which only satisfys the flesh and phychologicaly damaged mindset.

    I do not want you to believe what I have stated but go and do the study and find out for your self.

    Homosexuality is not natural to life but will embrace death. If being gay makes you happy then so be it I do not intend to change you mind.

  12. Richard Hayden

    You say homosexuality does not "conform with nature". This is essentially a meaningless statement without further qualification. Nature, at the most fundamental level is all that exists in the physical world. Homosexuality exists, therefore it is natural. It is not a requirement that you be able to "create life" for something to be natural. This is an assertion that you have just pulled out of a hat. Driving a car doesn't create life, so is it too unnatural? Homosexual behaviour is also widely observed in the animal world. It is as "natural" as heterosexual behaviour. Just because it occurs less frequently does not mean it is any less "right" or "natural". Ginger hair is fairly rare (relatively speaking), but that does make it unnatural. So too is extreme genius or exteme stupidity --- neither of these are "unnatural" since they both do occur.

    I have no idea how you get from "not able to create life" equals "pro-death"/"ability to create death"?! I'm not even going to justify that with a response it's so, well, frankly, dumb.

  13. Glen

    Well said Richard,

    Have you thought any further about the questions I posed earlier? Having linked to the study I mentioned in the American Journal of Psychiatry I then asked:

    What studies have you done of the bible, “scientific or otherwise”?

    And do you consistently form your ethics (sexual and otherwise) purely on the basis of scientific research?"

  14. Mike Dovies

    Your argument has no grounds with the aspect of nature. All creatures on this planet have the same role of reproduction, every animal or insect, bird has this goal, this is what they live for. People don't live to drive cars or just physical joys. Just because it exists does not make it natural or to be at one or in aligntment with the planet and your species.

    I'm not here to justify homosexuality or condemn it, this argument was here already. I am only stating the existance of this frame of mind is embracing death as you will not be able to pass on your seed under the confinds of homosexual behavior. If you don't live to create life then the simple aspect of not doing so will automatically create death there ate no other options .

    All animals reproduce, social male bonding within animal groups does not produce groups of males that only stay with males or females with females for that point. They always save penetration and ejaculation for male and female conduct.

    There is nothing wrong with "natural" male bonding and grooming but this homosexual behavior goes beyond this. Please correct me if I am wrong.

    If you are calling it dumb or meaningless then that is fine if it supports your phychological state. But in reality it is what it is .

  15. Richard Hayden

    You confuse sex for pleasure with sex for reproduction's sake. It is of course true that both hetero- and homosexuals can have sex for pleasure and indeed, as it stands now, only heterosexuals can reproduce directly. The fact that homosexual sex only achieves one of these goals does *not* makes it implicitly unnatural. This is *your* assertion, based, presumably on your faith. Not, as you said earlier, an assertion which "does not need the bible or any other scientifically proven theory [to verify]".

    It is preposterous to assert that people live only to reproduce --- what, then, would be the point? An endless cycle existing only to sustain itself? We are not in desperate need of more people on this planet, indeed, quite the opposite is true, so you cannot even make the argument that a lack of breeding people is harming society. It is certainly a groundless statement to say that not reproducing is "embracing death". How, exactly? It could be argued that it creates a lack of life that would otherwise exist, but this is not death --- death is the ceasing to live of something that was once living. Again, please think more carefully about what you mean to write

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