Lynne Gerber, a researcher at the University of Berkeley, California, has penned a cleverly-titled new book, Seeking the Straight and Narrow: Weight Loss and Sexual Reorientation in Evangelical America. She talks about the book with Salon magazine here.
The fascinating premise of the book is that evangelical efforts to turn gay people straight have much in common with their efforts to help people lose weight. In her interview, Gerber frequently mentions Exodus and First Place, evangelical movements geared at homosexuality and weight loss, respectively.
The dubious success of such programs – especially the anti-gay ones – are readily apparent from Gerber’s description:
The goal post for success can be very porous. There’s a lot that counts for success. For example, at First Place, members have nine commitments that include things like following a certain eating plan, getting exercise, doing Bible study, showing up at meetings, encouraging others in between sessions, etc. If people aren’t necessarily losing weight, it becomes easy to call upon one of these other standards as success. In the case of the ex-gay ministry, they overtly say that the opposite of homosexuality isn’t heterosexuality, it’s holiness. Well, holiness may in fact be easier to achieve than heterosexuality for a lot of people in the ministry. When people actually fail, when they actually transgress, when a man goes and has sex with another man, for example, there is the opportunity to repent through confession. They tell the group what they did, they are adequately remorseful, and they return to the group’s good graces and submit themselves to the group’s discipline once again.
I find it fascinating that there are organizations out there whose sole purpose is to promote (often to the great discomfit of those duped into joining) a set of severely outdated, morally disastrous laws from an ancient text which, if it weren’t for certain accidents of history, would long have faded into obscurity.
Humans are queer indeed!