Homosexuality and Obesity: A Response
Let me preface this by saying three things: 1) I am not a Christian. 2) I am not straight. 3) I am overweight.
A couple of weeks ago, I woke up, like I usually do, and checked my Facebook, like I usually do, only to find something that I don’t usually find: A friend had either liked or commented on a post by Perry Noble, the head minister of NewSpring Church in South Carolina. The blog post was titled “Ten Convictions I have About the Church.” NewSpring has always fascinated me. Perry Noble is a good speaker. I’ve listened to some of his sermons online and I’ve toyed with the idea of checking out the Anderson campus. Not because I plan on converting to Christianity or attend on a regular basis, but because the church fascinates me.
I, of course, read the blog. It had what I expected it to have, with one exception: conviction number eight read, “8 – The world would change in an unbelievable way if the church would attack the issue of obesity as relentlessly as it attacks the issue of homosexuality! (It would also be way more relevant to the church!) ”
I thought, wow. I might be able to get on board with that. The church should focus on the health of those in it rather than the sexuality of those not. Apparently, this statement really bothered a lot of people because Noble decided to expand on this idea in a new blog titled “Homosexuality and Obesity.”
He starts by stating his beliefs on homosexuality: “I believe God designed marriage to be between one man and one woman — period. … I do not hate people who are gay.”
Let me start by prefacing my belief about Perry: I don’t believe that he is homophobic. That implies that he fears gay people or homosexuality, generally due to a lack of understanding or knowing any gay people. But he proves in the next line that this isn’t the case, “I actually have friends who are gay.”
This is my first problem with what Noble says in his blog. I’ve heard this same argument used to justify that a person who makes racist jokes or comments isn’t actually a racist, “I have black friends.”
He continues on, “I do not have to believe the exact same way a person believes in order for me to accept them.”
First, let’s define the word “accept.” According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, accept means, “to receive willingly; to give admittance or approval to; to endure without protest or reaction; to regards a proper, normal, or inevitable.” This definition points out the contradiction in his first statement because in order to accept a person who is gay, one must first believe that they are normal and they must approve of them.
What Noble means to say here is that he doesn’t have to believe the same way a person does to not treat them poorly or attack them. He does not, by any means, accept gay people. He refuses to treat them poorly like other churches, but this doesn’t mean he accepts them as they are. I have a coworker who I love dearly. She doesn’t accept my homosexuality or my lifestyle, but she’s still my friend. She doesn’t treat me like shit, but she’s not going to vote for my legal right to marry my fiance either. She’d come to my wedding, and I’d let her because we’re friends, but she’s still not going to think that my homosexuality is okay or “right,” and that’s fine. Her faith says that, and mine doesn’t.
“If that were the case, I would have zero friends who are Democrats, Carolina Fans or own cats!”
This implies that homosexuality (along with obesity, but I’ll get to that in a moment) are choices. I won’t try to convince anyone who is reading this that homosexuality is genetic. We see it running in families, but in the decade that the Human Genome Project has been completed, we haven’t found a specific gene that definitely causes homosexuality. This doesn’t mean that there are quite possibly multiple genes that make it harder to identify or that genes haven’t been linked (although nothing found has been the case for all people).
No one is born a Democrat or a Carolina fan and no one is born with a love of cats (although, who knows, right?). Being a Democrat is a political statement that occurs in one of three ways: you get it from your parents being democrat and being raised in that environment OR you research and make the decision to be democrat OR your friends are all democrat and you become democrat to fit in with them. The same can be said for being a Carolina fan or owning cats.
The majority of gay people in this day and age are raised in heterosexual homes, including myself, and all of my GLBT friends… except one. Their heterosexual influence in my life didn’t make me straight, and it didn’t drive me to being a homosexual. I didn’t do any research and decide that being gay was a better choice than being straight, and the majority of my friends growing up were all straight… until I realized that I was gay and went about finding people I could relate to.
He accuses the church of attacking the gay community “because it is easy to lob scriptural grenades at a situation that we have never had a personal struggle with.” He admonishes the Church by saying that being hateful to gay people who have been “hateful toward [them] and attack [them]” is “not justification to treat people who are gay in an un-Christ like manner.”
Then he hits the nail on the head: “It is completely possible to love someone and respectfully disagree with them at the same time.” This is different than accepting them. You are disagreeing and agreeing not to treat someone poorly, not accepting them for who they are.
He then continues to say that others will say that gay people don’t go to heaven. He counteracts this with two statements:
“One – The ONLY people who don’t go to heaven are people who do not know Christ—period. When we begin to tell people they have to place their faith in Christ AND be heterosexual then we have officially added to the Gospel, which is highly problematic.
Two – The passage that people use when trying to justify their hatred of gay people is found in I Corinthians 6:9-11, which does say that a homosexual will not inherit the kingdom of God. “
He’s right in that Jesus never said anything specifically against homosexuality. He did say things about the one-man-one-woman (Matthew 19: 3-6). I realize that he’s talking about divorce here, but you can’t have a divorce if you don’t first have a marriage.
He’s also right when he continues to say that 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 calls out others and not just homosexuals. The ESV version of this verse states:
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
He continues by saying that everyone fits into this Bible verse, that we are all sinners, and that it’s only through Jesus that we will get to go to heaven. He says, “JESUS essentially power washed our soul and made us brand new. Which does not mean we will never wrestle with who we used to be…it simply means that our new identity is in Christ.”
Which does not mean we will never wrestle with who we used to be…
Who we use to be.
Who we use to be. Meaning gay. Meaning we use to be gay and then we were “power washed” and made “brand new,” aka straight. We will continue to struggle with being gay, but because we are “made new” and have our “new identity in Christ,” we will be straight. We will change to be straight and fight the sin that is being gay. If this isn’t enough evidence to the subversive message in this blog, it keeps going:
Which brings me to the issue of obesity…
Most of the people reading this article have most likely never heard a sermon on the issue of obesity.
The very fact I would categorize it as a sin is quite offensive to some.
However, I believe obesity is one of the most prevalent struggles in our nation today, and there are way more people in our churches wrestling with obesity than they are homosexuality.
First of all, yes, there are more people struggling with obesity in the church than homosexuality because homosexuals usually aren’t welcome there. Also, the majority of homosexuals probably wouldn’t say they are “struggling” with their homosexuality.
He lists obesity as a sin. He previously listed homosexuality as a sin. This is called parallelism. We are comparing the “sin of homosexuality” to the “sin of obesity.” Now that this is established, we can start to see what Noble is really saying in his blog.
After listing a few statistics about obesity from the CDC, Noble says, “Obesity is killing people. Our country is literally eating itself to death, yet the church chooses to remain silent about the issue because it seems to be too personal.”
This was the straw that broke the camel’s back and the reason that I decided to write this blog. Noble shows his ignorance of medicine and medical disorders. There is a difference between being obese or overweight and being unhealthy. There are multiple, multiple conditions that either prevent people from losing weight, gain weight too quickly or too much, and there are times when no amount of proper diet or exercise will get rid of someone’s weight.
Yes, inactivity and poor diet can cause obesity. They can cause type two diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and all the other things the CDC links back to being obese. But you know what else can cause obesity? Low thyroid function, arthritis, Prader-Willi syndrome, Cushing’s syndrome, PCOS, and others. You can watch your diet, and you can exercise all you want, but that doesn’t mean the weight will go away into what is considered “ideal.”
My BMI classifies me as obese, but aside from cholesterol that is less than ten points high, I’m healthy, according to my internist. My fertility specialist diagnosed me with PCOS, and stated that losing some of my weight will make the condition better. He told me that PCOS isn’t necessarily caused by being overweight because some people who are thin have it and people who are larger than me have it, but losing weight can sometimes help. Funny thing about PCOS? It makes it extremely difficult to lose weight.
Noble continues on by talking about gluttony. He has equated obesity with gluttony, and if there is one thing I know for a fact is that there is a difference between being a glutton and being obese. You could be like my fiance, Erin, who can eat whatever she wants and as much as she wants and doesn’t gain a single pound, or you can be like me, who eats a single candy bar and holds onto every little bit of it ten-fold. I have PCOS, and this is a side effect. She does not.
He says, “There are people who have objected to me talking about this issue in the past and try to use the excuse that they are genetically predisposed to being a glutton, yet when people in the gay community try to say they are genetically predisposed to being gay, Christians push back and say “there is no way.” So why does the argument work for one side and not the other?”
I would fight this statement by saying that people aren’t genetically predisposed to being a glutton, but that’s not really the case. Prader-Willi syndrome is a genetic disorder that causes a person who has to to feel hungry constantly. They are prone to obesity if their diet is not strictly watched.
Gluttony is defined as “habitual greed or excess in eating.” Again, there is a difference between being obese and being a glutton. You can eat to excess or be greedy with food and be extremely thin, or you can be a healthy eater and very conscious about food and be very overweight.
I’m not saying that this is the case for everyone, but Noble doesn’t say that it’s not the case for everyone either.
He then continues on to tell his testimony about how he use to be overweight and how he struggled, and still struggles, with body image, but how he ultimately over came all of this to lose his weight and become healthy, which is great.
Except that this isn’t possible for everyone, which is what he states when he says, “I also know that Jesus in you allows you to overcome ANYTHING.”
But what happens when it doesn’t? Does this mean that the person in question is simply not a good enough believer? Or that they are somehow not “good” enough to overcome the causes of their obesity?
Or maybe it’s the fact that there is some other underlying cause for that person’s condition that can’t be overcome simply by not overeating.
Noble says, “Overeating is simply a lack of self-control, something we are promised by The Lord we have (Galatians 5:22-23).” Is it? Is it always?
Is overeating even the cause of obesity in all cases? Is it just overeating or could it be unhealthy eating? Eating food that isn’t good for you? Or maybe a lack of exercise? Or maybe something else entirely?
Then he says, “You CAN win the battle with weight!”
Except that some people can’t. Except that some point don’t need to. Except that weight isn’t the problem, health is. And weight isn’t always the cause of health problems.
Perry Noble makes a couple of points in this blog:
First, he says that homosexuality is a sin, but that everyone suffers from sin. He then says that just because a person sins, that doesn’t mean that they can’t get into heaven. It just means that the need to cultivate a relationship with Jesus that will then cleanse them of their sin. They’ll still have to fight it, but they’ll have Jesus and that’s what matters.
Secondly, he says that obesity is a problem in the church and that obesity is caused by gluttony, which is a sin; therefore, obesity is also a sin. He then says that obesity, like with all sin, can be overcome.
There’s so many problems with this. The first is that obesity automatically = unhealthiness, which isn’t always the case. If a person is healthy, who cares what pants size they are? And if they aren’t healthy, then that needs to be the first concern. Maybe they need to lose weight to make themselves healthy, but that doesn’t mean they have to be inside their ideal BMI to be so.
And they should definitely not be told that they’re a sinner and therefore unable to enter the kingdom of heaven if they never get the weight off (aka, they never overcame their sin). Maybe these people are completely healthy other than their weight (for example: my weight wouldn’t be an issue if I wasn’t trying to have children), but not people will see them as a sinner and a glutton because of their weight.
There’s a word for this: fat-shaming. Perry Noble is fat-shaming and body-shaming whole groups of people, including many who are in his church. He makes no mention about the health of individuals except to point out that being obese makes people unhealthy (when it’s really an unhealthy lifestyle), and then points that being obese is caused by an unhealthy lifestyle (read: gluttony) when gluttony is not always the case.
To take this one step further, when he compares the “sin of homosexuality” to the “sin of obesity,” we can assume that the way he handles the sin of obesity would be the same way to hand the sin of homosexuality: fight it constantly. He said that the cure for gluttony is self-control, then it is safe to say that he would say the cure for homosexuality is also self-control.
When he quotes 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, he says, “You were a person who acted on these sins, but when you were saved by Jesus and the spirit of God, you were given the self-control necessary to not act on these urges.”
It’s okay to come to church if you’re gay, as long as you work on not acting on it.
It’s okay to come to church if you’re obese, as long as you work on not being obese.
This isn’t acceptance. I would go as far as to say this isn’t even tolerance (showing the willingness to allow the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with).
Fat-shaming is making a person feel bad for their size. And Noble does this, using the Bible as evidence. His blog isn’t focused on health. It’s focused on size. It’s not focused on accepting people of all shapes and sizes, it’s focused on telling people who are obese that they are sinners due to gluttony and that they should not eat as they do because that is a sin.
Heterosexism is believing that heterosexuality is the normal sexual orientation. Perry Noble does this as well, using the Bible as evidence. His blog isn’t focused on accepting homosexuals into his church as they are; it is focused on getting them into the church and then changing them from being gay (sin) to being straight (not a sin).
When we talk in absolutes, we start running into problems. And this is exactly what Perry Noble does.