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What if Chris Christie were gay?

Would liberals be urging him to go straight the way they want him to lose weight?I parse the equal opportunity puritanism at "Sacred & Profane":

Would these same critics be insisting that he do everything he could to change his orientation? Or would they be highlighting the studies showing that homosexuality is in great measure about genetics?Supporters of gay rights are (rightly) pointing to a new study showing that Christian-backed "conversion therapy" to "pray away the gay," as they say, rarely succeeds in getting gays to behave like straights, much less re-orient their attraction from same sex to opposite sex people.Oddly, conservative groups like the National Organization for Marriage are hailing the study for showing "change to be possible for some, and the attempt not harmful on average."That's an endorsement? Dismal as those results are, with perhaps 15 percent of patients saying they "switched" sexual orientation, that success rate is better than the rate of positive outcomes for the most popular and effective diets. It ain't easy, as former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who continues to struggle with his weight (not his sexual orientation), can attest.

Rest here.

About the Author

David Gibson is a national reporter for Religion News Service and author of The Coming Catholic Church (HarperOne) and The Rule of Benedict (HarperOne). He blogs at dotCommonweal.

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Have y'all noticed that Governor Christie has announced he's not running for president.

I don't see that a comparison of being obese to being gay is at all helpful either to gay people or obese people. There is already enough misguided talk about gay homosexuality without this pointless (and in my opinion, offensive) comparison. I saw some pundits yesterday pointing out that Christie has been hospitalized for asthma, that obesity exacerbates asthma, that campaigning for the presidency is extremely physically demanding, and that Christie may not be up to it. People who are raising questions about Christie's character based on his obesity are out of line, in my opinion, but people who are raising questions about his health are addressing a legitimate issue.

I agree with David N. This analogy is a misfire.

Eric, indeed, I thought the more appropriate analogy was to Eichmann or Putin, but those seem to have been taken...David N. the problem is that Christie's obesity is not being criticized as a health issue but at bottom as a moral failing. Much as homosexuality is viewed as such, quite often. The "just say no" approach is a bit simplistic, I think, when it comes to weight or drug wars or sexual orientation.

Very strange. I'm guessing the reason Michael Kinsley would be willing to say "the obesity epidemic is real and dangerous" but not "the homosexuality epidemic is real and dangerous" is not because of some inconsistency or lack of nerve. It's because he believes the first statement is true and the second is false.

Whatever you can say about the two, I think the following are true statements: The phenomenon of same sex attraction among a small contingent of any given population is durable across time and social milieu, leading many to hypothesize that it has a strong genetic component, which hypotheses appear to be borne out by research, even if it is preliminary and tentative. Obesity as a phenomenon among a large contingent (if not the majority) of a given population is relatively recent, and prettly clearly associated not just with genetics, though it may play a role, but with myriad other factors, some of which might be amenable to change and some of which might not, particularly if one was obese as a child, or has been obese for a long time. I would not say that the reaction to Christie's obesity is primarily moral -- I would say that it is diffuse, and probably combines moral and practical objections in proportion to how motivated an individual is by superficial versus more profound factors when it comes to voting for president. There are an awful lot of people who focus on appearance, whether we like it or not.

The importance of physical appearance on electability is something I've been wondering about for a few years now. Certainly, the contrast between the trim President Obama and the stout Governor Christie is marked. Does one need be shallow to prefer the guy who is not obese? I don't doubt that there are psychological studies that show that we have unconscious preferences to the more attractive of two people, even if it's not a question of sexual desire. In the 2008 election, then-Senator Clinton's funny line about the "Sisterhood of the Travelling Pantsuits" did seem a reference to her opponent's more youthful appearance. And the age contrast between Senators Obama and McCain was vivid, to say the least. Governors Romney and Perry, President Bush, Senator Kerry, Vice President Gore - it seems that many of the serious candidates of recent vintage have been fit, or at least knew how to project the appearance of physical fitness. On the other hand, if our country is still in the hands of a dissatisfied, impatient, fickle electorate, as has been alleged to be the case in the most recent handful of election cycles, maybe slim will be out this time. Or perhaps a Christie campaign could figure out a way to capitalize on the "heft" of his candidacy.

... and I see Barbara covered some of the same territory while I was formulating my thoughts - didn't see her comment until mine had been posted.

Please, obesity and homosexuality are not equivalent human conditions.There is growing evidence that homosexuality has a strong relationship with a person's genetic make-up. While genetics play a part in obesity, it seems that environmental factors play the dominant role.Christie will be mocked because of his obesity because in our culture we are given permission to do so. Christie will be mocked especially if he has to take the political stage standing next to skinny Obama.Alas, Christie will fair poorly against Obama more for his smart-aleck mouth and loosing political philosophies.

An illuminating comparison.

Consider all the other serious systemic anomalies that may stand before us on a candidate debate stage. Lurking just beneath the surface are livers, arteries, lungs, and even brains potentially marked by a candidate's moral behavior, character, and self-discipline. Debates need to start, not with opening statements, but with comprehensive biochemical assessments and digital internal imaging that will tell us of the inner man and woman. Then, let them all speak. If judging by the cover is unwise for books, how much more so for a potential President of the United States.

Six ways of committing gluttony, according to St. Thomas Aquinas:Praepropere - eating too soon.Laute - eating too expensively.Nimis - eating too much.Ardenter - eating too eagerly (burningly).Studiose - eating too daintily (keenly).Forente - eating wildly (boringly).http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_deadly_sins#GluttonySome say Aquinas weighed 300 lbs. Dante has him doing a dance in the Paradiso, which many commentators have found to be more than a little incongruous. According to others, however, he could levitate.Here's his capacious chair in Orvieto where he lectured for a few years:http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-j91VEKz4BFk/TZzPlF88xcI/AAAAAAAAAds/iHRji_Hcgn...

Now THAT is food for thought, Patrick Molloy. Thanks.

David: Fair enough, I suppose. But, let's work a little harder. I defended mine: Institutionally rationalized evil is as institutionally rationalized evil does. Now, defend yours: How many twinkies do I eat before I go gay? How many miles a day do I run before my gay gut turns back into a straight six-pack? What's the relative will-power coefficient on eating and exercise versus homo- and hetero-sex? Of your three options (drug use, obesity, and sexual orientation), I imagine the first would definitely raise red-flags in a presidential election, since most drugs are illegal and seriously impair one's judgment, the second might inspire some health concerns, but the third is completely irrelevant. Drug use and obesity are both considered to be detrimental to one's health, among other things, but as far as I know, no serious person maintains that homosexuality is similarly pathological. Except, perhaps, the Pope, but who really takes him seriously on such matters anymore?

I understand where this topic is tending--and as a liberal who likes Gov. Christie for his candor and common sense--I hope his weight is not an impediment to his future political career. But, then, I feel the same way about Barney Frank.I do not look at obesity as an intrinsically disordered condition (but, then, I live in Michigan, which is now even fatter than the Wisconsin cheeseheads, and where I look almost svelte), nor do I view homosexuality in that way, either.

Also, "just say no" may be insufficient in the case of addiction or obesity, but many would find it cruel in regards to same-sex attraction.

Eric, I'm not sure I follow you -- which is nothing new for me -- or even that we disagree. To simplify: Do you think it is fair to call Christie's failure to lose weight a moral failure?

David, no, but it might still be cause for concern healthwise and in the realm of public policy where we are trying to make people more conscious of their diet and exercise. In that sense, we do want to say that people are responsible for their weight problems, even if we may not go so far as to say they are vicious. Your gotcha to liberals who express concern over Christie's weight, however, seems predicated on the idea that being gay is somehow similar to being fat. How are they similar?

"How are they similar?" I think Barbara put it quite well above, regarding some overlaps from biology. But I also think there is a bit of bias against overweight people at work in the criticisms.

It is quite apparent that Mr. Bugyis does not take seriously what the Pope says, or indeed what the Church has always taught about the immorality of homosexual acts. What he takes seriously instead are the demands of the contemporary liberal Zeitgeist, and woe betide any man who resists that Zeitgeist, especially if he relies upon someone as obviously benighted as the Pope or something as obviously ludicrous as Catholic doctrine on sexuality. We all know that the Holy Spirit has given the charism of infallibility to the editorial page of the New York Times, and also to the consensus of the Yale faculty lounge.It is somewhat odd, though, for Mr. Bugyis to cite the health detriments of obesity and to ignore the health detriments associated with homosexual acts. Of course, the liberal Zeitgeist has dubbed the latter topic a taboo, a taboo with which Mr. Bugyis dutifully complies.

"it might still be cause for concern healthwise and in the realm of public policy where we are trying to make people more conscious of their diet and exercise."Perhaps he should try President Obama's weight-loss strategy, and take up cigarettes :-)

David G., there are a lot of people who would sooner die or vote for Attila the Hun for president than consider a gay candidate, clearly and obviously on nothing but moral objections. I wouldn't object to anyone on the basis of obesity, although I would consider health issues -- some people considered Obama's smoking objectionable, for instance, which is a lot closer to obesity in terms of being a cross between a bad habit, an addiction, and a potential sign of personal inability to deal with either. I don't like that it is perceived to be okay to make fun of someone for being obese -- but in the case of Christie (and a lot of other people) I would say that obesity is not the cause of the crticism so much as it is the means for criticizing someone you don't like for other reasons.Just yesterday my young son said to me that he had noticed that people think skinny is better than fat (he is like a rail). So I asked what might make skinny better -- and he said skinny was certainly better for squeezing into narrow spaces -- but he agreed that it didn't make a person smarter or nicer.

A history buff has told me that the bath tub used by William Howard Taft is stored in the White House basement. So...not to worry on that score should Christie win.

David Gibson:Thank you so much for Thorin's message of 10/03/2011 - 5:30 pm, just the kind of thing your post invited.

Bugyis: "Drug use and obesity are both considered to be detrimental to ones health, among other things, but as far as I know, no serious person maintains that homosexuality is similarly pathological. Except, perhaps, the Pope, but who really takes him seriously on such matters anymore?"Wow, the statement from this blogger keep getting stranger and more explicitly anti-Catholic...As for his claim that homosexuality is not detrimental to health, a quick look at the stats provide the reality of the situation of homosexual activity:"The latest data show men who have sex with men (MSM) remain most affected in this country. Although MSM represent 2% of the population, they account for 64% of all new HIV infections."http://blog.aids.gov/2011/09/addressing-the-hiv-epidemic-among-gay-and-b...

Mr. Nickol:Mr. Gibson is not responsible for my post, I am. But what you object to in my post was not invited by David Gibson, but by Eric Bugyis. I would not have brought up the health detriments of homosexual acts had not Eric Bugyis, as part of yet another attack on the Pope, implicitly asserted that there are no negative health consequences associated with homosexuality.

I have read that the average lifespan of homosexual men is the mid-40s, though I do not vouch for that. Does anyone know the average lifespan of the obese male? If it's longer, is it moral to consider the health impact of one and not the other?

"I have read that the average lifespan of homosexual men is the mid-40s." And I have read that Queen Elizabeth II is a Reptoid from Planet X (aka Nibiru). I'm smart enough to be doubtful of that claim.

"I would not have brought up the health detriments of homosexual acts had not Eric Bugyis, as part of yet another attack on the Pope, implicitly asserted that there are no negative health consequences associated with homosexuality."Lesbians have the lowest rates of any sexually transmitted diseases than either homosexual men or heterosexuals. So how do you define "gay sex"?"I have read that the average lifespan of homosexual men is the mid-40s, though I do not vouch for that."Interesting that one seems to be perfectly happy to spread around unsubstantiated claims.This is inaccurate and comes from the Cameron study that looked at obituaries in gay communities. That study did not reflect an accurate cross section of gay men in general. Some studies show that gay men may live less long than heterosexual men, but the reasons for this are unclear. I would think that having to read ignorant comments such as those above might have something to do with it.

Abe, I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss that QEII connection with the Reptoids. There's something definitely Nibirubian about the close-set positioning of the eyes and the malocclusion among that whole Windsor family ...

Agree that the conflation between weight and homosexuality is odd.There is a big difference between the medical condition of obesity and being (or appearing) overweight in proportion to the rest of the population.There is "normal" distribution of body size and weight. I know of "overweight" people who ski, walk, are active and do not experience the health and psychological difficulties associated with clinically severe obesity or the type that is problematic.Bottom line is that Michelle Obama has highlighted this area but it is very, very tricky. Many people have body image issues and young girls are especially prone. I know of one girl who called a trainer on a program complaining of being "fat". She had something like 16% body fat which is considered athletic for women but had a larger frame. The trainer had to tell her that she is actually in excellent shape but we all have different body types, etc. He had to quickly shift to issues of body image and he did it well. The point is that this area is a bit more complicated than it seems due to our total obsession with thin.OTOH we should be eating right, and promoting healthy, more active lifestyles. Difficult balance to achieve. And furthermore we all have our personal demons and this might be one for Chris Christie but I do not think it precludes him from leading. Look at Churchill or for that matter Pope John XXIII !!

"Interesting that one seems to be perfectly happy to spread around unsubstantiated claims."There is nothing unsubstantiated about homosexual men being 2% of the population and 64% of the new infections with HIV. Actions have consequences - the "wages of sin" so to speak. As much as we like to think we are urbane and "serious people," the fact of the matter is that traditional religious and cultural warnings regarding the limits of human behavior/desire are much more prescient and humane than our current relativistic and individualistic dogma.

Mr. Gibson is not responsible for my post, I am.Thorin,David Gibson is responsible for your post, and he is responsible for Mark Proska's post saying "that the average lifespan of homosexual men is the mid-40s," and he is responsible for Brett's posts, as well. You may not know any better, but David Gibson should have known he was opening the door to this kind of ugliness.

I have read that the average lifespan of homosexual men is the mid-40s, though I do not vouch for that. Mark Proska,What else have you read that you can't vouch for?

David G, Your piece says more than simply observing that critiques of obesity and homosexuality both involve a failure to take into account genetic factors and trade in a bit of prejudice. You invite us to imagine that conservative Christian concerns about homosexuality and the pseudo-scientific therapies invented to "treat" it are just as (un?)founded as concerns about being overweight and the medically recommended diet and exercise that has been proven to improve health. What lies behind this comparison is the claim that both obesity and homosexuality are pathologies that may or may not be treatable. Is that what you think?

Bugyis: "What lies behind this comparison is the claim that both obesity and homosexuality are pathologies that may or may not be treatable. Is that what you think?"Why the reductionist and materialistic view of human behavior, Eric? It seems to me that David Gibson is addressing human actions or activities (not illnesses) that are normally addressed in moral terms. Free will invites inquiries about appropriate and even natural behavior -- liberals would like to use moral terms to condemn Christie but they would like to say that their actions are beyond such judgement.Here is a good article on moral norms in society: "Is Food the new sex?""Betty thinks food is a matter of taste, whereas sex is governed by universal moral law; and Jennifer thinks exactly the reverse." http://www.hoover.org/publications/policy-review/article/5542

Wow, the thought-police sure are ready to pounce this evening, aren't the? I seem to have struck a nerve. Of course, upon a moment's reflection reading my earlier comment, one would see that the absolute lifespan is not nearly as important as the relative lifespan. The question you are avoiding is this: If Condition A results in a shorter life expectancy that Condition B, is it evidence of bias to consider the health impact of Condition B, and not Condition A?

"A curious reversal in moralizing" -- the subtitle to the article that fits perfectly here.

Mark,The evidence police are out in full force. You've been pulled over. Best not to say anything that would further incriminate you. And by incriminate you I mean make you look like a rube.

Grant--Why not take the high road, and address the question?

Mark, The Invisible Hand that hovers over this blog seems to prioritize removing expletives over taking on the unadulterated bigotry that you espouse, so my original rejoinder (which, frankly, will remain more accurate) to the pride you place in the gadfly that is your comment concerning the lifespan of gays was lost.Suffice it to say that before you worry about people avoiding the question born out of your worldview-shattering comment, you might want to consider what's already been put before you (namely, that your "I think I read somewhere" comment doesn't amount to more than propaganda and has no real basis in fact).

If I took the high road we'd pass each other.

Mark Proska, why not take the high road and take a hike? David Nickol, I am also responsible for the current outbreak of Listeria, and the sinking of the Andrea Doria. I'm sorry you have suddenly developed such tender sensitivities. What happened? Eric, you write:"What lies behind this comparison is the claim that both obesity and homosexuality are pathologies that may or may not be treatable. Is that what you think?"No, what lies behind this comparison is the claim that both obesity and homosexuality can and should be controlled by willpower or moral strength or some sort of wacky therapy. And that both are esthetically objectionable conditions. If you dislike gays and overweight people for who they are, so be it. You are entitled to your opinions. But that is a position I would reject.

Abe--If I understood your comment, I could engage it. I gather it's an insult of some sort. As it is, if you are going to purport to quote me, I would ask that you be more careful, and do so accurately.

To deny the serious health implications of homosexual activity is to stick one's head in the sand:http://blog.aids.gov/2011/09/addressing-the-hiv-epidemic-among-gay-and-b... is a direct connection between the libertine sexual ethic of homosexual culture and disease, and, yes, a shorter life span. It may not be 40, but the physical, mental and substance abuse problems that correspond to male on male sex certainly shortens life of those engaged in that particular activity/sub-culture.Of course, this is problem is spreading to the wider general populations as a materialistic, "liberated" view of sex becomes more about recreation and less attached to traditional notions of family and procreation.

David Gibson: "If you dislike gays and overweight people for who they are, so be it. You are entitled to your opinions. But that is a position I would reject."Huh? Ontology and "isness" is now based upon middling factors such weight or sexual proclivity? Say someone decides to eat exclusively at Krispy Kreme, balloons up to 300lbs and this is what makes them "who they are?" When did action or consumer choice- or even a bad habit - become a determining factor ontologically?

There's a direct connection between any libertine sexual ethic and disease. If it weren't for penicillin, the staggering number of pox-ridden straight people staggering about might distract you from making such weak arguments.

Abe, I don't leave heterosexuals off the hook; they are just as bad in terms of substance-free sex (but still not the same in terms number so disease, yet):"Of course, this is problem is spreading to the wider general populations as a materialistic, liberated view of sex becomes more about recreation and less attached to traditional notions of family and procreation."

David Nickol, I am also responsible for the current outbreak of Listeria, and the sinking of the Andrea Doria. Im sorry you have suddenly developed such tender sensitivities. What happened?David Gibson,This discussion has turned ugly, and very predictably so. I knew it would, and you should have known it would. As I said in my opening comment, "There is already enough misguided talk about gay homosexuality without this pointless (and in my opinion, offensive) comparison."

Time to change the subject, perhaps?

I cannot deny that gay promiscuity is a danger to health. But I suggest that the solution is not to go on about some inherent flaw in gay people but rather to encourage stable relationships and even gay marriage. This is something that has to be built up by resolute individuals and a supportive society. Unfortunately modern cities still promote promiscuity far more than a culture of truly loving relationships and the churches have further undermined the latter by the deep skepticism they have cultivated toward homosexual affectivity. Skeptics will object, with some reason, that even happily partnered gay males (of whom there are probably more to be found at present than at any previous time in the last 2000 years of western history) often have sex with other men on the side. Even so, such partnered males are in a position that is less dangerous from the health point of view.

David G, We're getting the heart of the matter. I don't think that weight is essential to who one is in the same way as sexual orientation. A doctor could suggest that someone lose 20 pounds and recommend a reasonable regimen of diet and exercise to do so, and most of us wouldn't suggest that he/she is prejudice against fat people or that he/she is asking someone to fundamentally change who he or she is. Many of us would think those things if the doctor suggested that the patient follow a regimen to change his or her sexual orientation. In principle, a diet doesn't have to be wacky and concerns about one's weight are not necessarily prejudicial and moralizing, but "pray the gay away" therapies are wacky, in principle, and concerns about homosexuality are always moralizing and prejudicial. It seems like your analogy is forcing you to say that either ALL diets are wacky therapies driven by prejudice and moralizing or some conservative Christian interventions regarding sexual orientation might just be worth considering. I don't think you want to say either of those things. So, why not leave liberals to express reasonable, non-moralistic concerns about Christie's weight (as well as the health hazards of obesity more generally) and also consistent outrage at ALL forms of homophobic hand-wringing? This way you avoid the suggestion that overweight people are just determined to be obese and suffer all of the health risks that come with it as well as the suggestion that there's any reasonable frame of reference in which one could plausibly suggest that homosexuality is a choice.

Bugyis: "concerns about homosexuality are always moralizing and prejudicial."What nonsense; there are humanistic and sympathetic approaches to both of these issues. I know it is easy knock down the straw man of the fundamentalist approach to homosexuality (or anything else a la Hitchens or Dawkins); however, the issue is not quite as black and white as you paint it. You are simply declaring, illogically, that your particular morality in regards to self-destructive compulsive eating comes from a pure, angelic concern for well-being. While, on the other hand, your opponents concern for a self-destructive sexual behavior - much more serious social health epidemic - are simply heartless, dogmatic crazies.This is not an argument, it is a self-righteous ad hominem.

It also ignores the basic science, a survey released this year: homosexual men are 2% of the population and 64% of the AIDS infection rates and increasing. What more do you need to say that something has gone very wrong here? That there is abnormal in this degree of nihilistic attributes to this type of compulsive, libertine sexual behavior?If "morality" should address anything, it should address this life and death issue...there are seven deathly sins, we don't get to pick and choose between gluttony and lust.

It appears this thread has some relation to politics. It is often difficult to figure what it is about, to be honest. That said, I will mention a recent NCR political article that may be worth your time. It doesn't have to do with calories, though, and little to do with testosterone, but it does , however, have to do with US presidential politics and the papacy's interest therein. It is accessible at http:ncronline.org/news/politics/bishops-aim-protect-religious-liberty I humbly ask you to note my comment entitled, "Farce or Ploy?" Otherwise, good luck with this thread.

Jerry: You are off topic. And is NCR paying you to drop links into dotCommonweal threads? It's getting a little weird. Brett: We get it. You think there's something inherent to being gay that means such people will die before straights. That you don't see such an idea as a form of bigotry is, given your brief and embarrassing tenure here at dotCommonwal, not surprising. But if you continue to repeat yourself, you're going to find your comments disappearing.Eric: While this analogy is not my favorite, it is an still an analogy. Logic 101: The only flawless analogy to a thing is the thing itself. I don't know why it's difficult to understand that the point of contact between obesity and homosexuality isn't how they happen but the way people discriminate against overweight and gay people. This has a lot to do with visual cues and assumptions about the proper form of the human body, obviously. It also taps into often unexamined assumptions about masculinity and femininity. David Nickol: Which brings me to you. I have a wide self-righteous streak myself, so I get feeling like you need to point out instances of obvious injustice. But you've now left several such comments without providing an argument for why David Gibson should have anticipated ugliness from the likes of Brett and Mark Proska. You say he's responsible because he should have known. That doesn't wash. Evidently you believe mentioning the similarities between the way gay people are treated and the way fat people are treated necessarily leads down roads trod by the Bretts of the blog. Why? I profit from reading nearly all your comments here, but not these. So if all you have is more finger-wagging, save it.

Brett, you are a fine demonstration of the fact-free moralizing the Christie topic raises. Give it a rest. BTW, the weapons of gun owners are much more likely to hurt the owners or their families as well as others than protect them from harm. But no one would think of telling gun owners to change their orientation. It's God-given. Eric, I think you are talking to yourself. Wherever you are going with it, have a good trip.

It has been widely reported and assumed that men are generally more promiscuous than women, and that women generally pressure men to stay faithful, which many manage to do. If this is true, then it is not surprising that gay men are relatively more promiscuous than either women or other men. It's because they're men, not because they're gay.On the other hand, recent studies are challenging these assumptions, and there doesn't seem to be any across the board agreement about the facts. See:http://www.science20.com/news_articles/human_sex_roles_male_promiscuity_...

Grant,The flaw in the analogy of obesity to homosexuality is that obesity, in and of itself, is a health hazard. Homosexuality, in and of itself, is not a health hazard. Obesity is also the result of behaviorbehavior that may be difficult or impossible to control, but behavior nevertheless. Having a homosexual orientation is not the result of behavior. Certain kinds of behaviors that many gay men engage in are health hazards. According to the Catechism, "all" that is expected morally from a homosexual is that he or she not engage in homosexual behavior. There is no moral obligation to attempt to "convert" to heterosexuality. So asking what if Christy were gay is not a helpful question. If he were gay and practiced lifelong monogamy, and did not abuse drugs or alcohol, his orientation and his behavior would have no significant effect on his health. But his obesity still is a health risk. Now, if Christy were a promiscuous homosexual who abused drugs and alcohol and stayed out every night at clubs until 4:00 a.m., we could accuse him of immorality and carelessness about his health. But if he were a promiscuous heterosexual who abused drugs and alcohol and stayed out at clubs until 4:00 a.m., we could accuse him of the same faults.Evidently you believe mentioning the similarities between the way gay people are treated and the way fat people are treated necessarily leads down roads trod by the Bretts of the blog. Why?First, let me say that I consider David Gibson one of the "good guys," and I apologize for snarling at him. But second, in my own defense, let me point out that the discussion did indeed get ugly, as I suspected it would. What lay behind my expectations? The fact that I have witnessed similar discussion before here, on Mirror of Justice, First Things, Vox Nova, and America Magazine. One of the things I have noticed time and againand David Gibson's question didn't really set it up to happenis that in any discussion where homosexuality is instantly and exclusively discussed as if only gay men existed, you are inevitably going to run into homophobia. Jean pointed out one instance, but most of the attacks on "homosexuality" are actually attacks on a subset of gay men who lead the stereotypical "gay lifestyle." Homosexuality is equated with drugs, disease, promiscuity, and anal intercourse. The fact that the criticisms don't apply to lesbians is constantly ignored, even when it is occasionally pointed out. These kinds of discussions generally involve one side making bigoted remarks and then being indignant when they are characterized as bigots. Judging individuals by a group they belong in (black males, gay males, etc.), and judging the group by the worst of those in it, is the essence of bigotry. You could do the same kind of thing with race that some people are doing with homosexuality, and no one would deny it was racist. Incidentally, one does not need to disagree with Catholic teaching on homosexuality to consider some of what is going on here homophobia. Catholic moral teaching about homosexuality has nothing to do with how many gay people catch or transmit sexually transmitted diseases, how promiscuous some gay men are, and how revolted some people are by anal intercourse. This is not to deny the clear fact that a significant number of gay men take too many health risks and do other things it is quite reasonable to criticize them for. But you could make all kinds of observations about black peoplehow hight the crime rate and imprisonment rate is among black men, how less than 50% of black males graduate from high school, how 72% of black women bear children out of wedlock and also have abortions way out of proportion to their numbers in the population. Exactly what would this "prove" about being black? That Barack and Michelle Obama are morally unfit to be in the White House?

About obesity -- fat alone does not kill or shorten all lives.Forgive me, but I can't remember where I read about this study(s), and I don't even know the proper terminology to search it out. One study has shown that obesity alone is NOT a threat to health, although it increases the likelihood of certain diseases developing . It is, of course, bad, even disastrous when a fat person has some serious health problem like heart trouble or diabetes. Most people in my family have been over-weight. So far most have died well past the average age. Many, many have died in their 80s, a goodly number in their 90s, and a couple reached past 100 (though I don't know whether those two were fat or not.)Moral: you take a big risk by remaining fat, but consider your heredity.

Grant, your insinuation that NCR is paying me is at best rude; at worst, libelous. As an editor, you may want to be more careful about whom you may libel. What is "weird" is this thread. It is almost unbelievable that so many educated Catholics are spending their time on so many innane points. Is it any wonder that the Church is going to hell in a handbasket? No wonder bishops can be so arrogant. They have few effective critics to be concerned with. The topic was "Chris Christy", who was mentioned because he is a potential presidential candidate. My NCR article reference relates to the pope's efforts to steer the US 2012 election. I am not off topic. I used the cross link because I am a very slow typist and can't replicate each comment in full. If Commonweal wants to restrain discussion and seal itself off from NCR, where Commonweal contributors have often been featured, I cannot prevent that obviously. It will only enhance the bishops' successful "divide and conquer" strategy towards potential purveyors of alternative views. Eventually, we can all get used to reading Bill Donahue as the sole source of "truth". I will stop here and let you get back to your important discussion of Christ's waistline, etc.

Actually, Jerry, it was neither rude nor libelous, but jocular. (And before you go suggesting the threat of a libel suit, you might ask a lawyer friend to tell you whether you can sue someone for asking a question in jest.) Lighten up.And, sorry, but this is not a catch-all thread for things political. You're off topic.

Brett has a number of useful things to say on this topic, although understandably, they're not all congenial to everyone reading the comments.I'd like to think we can we all agree with what David Nickol pointed out: that homosexuality, in and of itself, is not a health hazard. I have no sympathy or time for anyone who believes that homosexuality is a medical condition that can, or should, be "cured".I don't think Brett is wrong to call attention to the fact that HIV infection is still a serious health problem for men who have sex with other men (MSM) - which seems to be the 2% of the population to which Brett has referred. (Presumably, there are others with a homosexual inclination who are not men who have sex with other men). These statistics are from the Centers for Disease Control, which I suppose is accepted as an objective source for facts of this type.The article to which Brett linked talked about some of the practical things that the federal government is doing to combat this health problem: attempting to funnel funds to the areas where the health issues are most severe; distributing condoms; and several other things. Most of those things seem like good and necessary responses. But those government responses don't address all of the aspects of the problem. A serious illness like AIDS is an illness of the total person, with physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual ramifications. The government can help with some of these areas more than others.Can the church complement the government's response? Pastorally, it can respond in many ways: by praying with infected men and women, by helping them to cope with the serious illness is that is AIDS, and for those who are dying, by providing hospice care. Catholic health care can also respond with compassionate and effective medical treatment.The church also mustn't shirk its moral teaching. In the eyes of the church, homosexual sex is sinful. It would be a betrayal of the church's mission to *not* point that out. It needs to do so in a way that makes it as clear as possible that, in teaching this, it doesn't hate homosexuals; on the contrary, it loves them with the same love that drives its pastoral and medical outreach to those with HIV or AIDS infections.

Grant, I know it is embarrassing when people actually use facts instead of liberal cant when making arguments here on commonweal; however, I was not saying there is something inherent in same sex attraction that leads to early death. I was saying that there are stats on HIV transmission (among other diseases) that are astronomically high with homosexual ACTS.Do you know the difference between ontology and action? Or is it necessary for you ideology to confuse the two?

Brett: No, what's embarrassing is your willingness to peddle bigotry as fact. You wrote:

As for his claim that homosexuality is not detrimental to health, a quick look at the stats provide the reality of the situation of homosexual activity:The latest data show men who have sex with men (MSM) remain most affected in this country. Although MSM represent 2% of the population, they account for 64% of all new HIV infections.

If you want to apologize for claiming that homosexuality is "detrimental to health," I'm all ears. Incidentally, when you get fed up with the liberal cant you perceive here, feel free to move along.

That should read homosexual "acts" are detrimental to health, not same sex attraction - considering the .gov stats would you care to disagree?In any case, repeating yourself constantly with basic facts of science can cause one mistype - especially when trying to get though the cognitive dissonance of contributors on this blog.Calling someone who disagrees with you names simply shows the weakness of your argument - it seems common here on common-weal.

What if a good prayer life reduces morbidity and mortality rates. Should Obamacare subsidize prayer to promote longevity?The subgroup with the highest life expectancy in the US is Asian-American women in Bergen County, NJ -- over 91 years.http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/12/nyregion/12longevity.htmlSome attribute it to prayer, so for a fuller picture of Christie's health we should not neglect to investigate his prayer life."Raw tuna and green tea keep the Japanese alive, said Hiroyuki Gunji, a chef at Mitsuwa, a Japanese supermarket in Edgewater. East Indians depend on a diet heavy on vegetables and low on red meat , said Ravi Mehrotra, president of the Asian Indian Association of New Jersey. Prayer is the key for Filipinos, many of whom are Roman Catholic, said Nora Trivino, a member of the Filipino American Society of Teaneck. The Korean secret to long life is obvious, said Ji Yun Yoo of Fort Lee. "It has to be kimchi ," she quipped."http://www.worldhealth.net/news/asian_women_in_bergen_have_nation_s_top_/

Sorry, Brett, but that doesn't wash. Here's why. You were responding to Eric Bugyis's statement: drug use and obesity are both considered to be detrimental to ones health, among other things, but as far as I know, no serious person maintains that homosexuality is similarly pathological." Your reply was: "As for his claim that homosexuality is not detrimental to health, a quick look at the stats provide the reality of the situation of homosexual activity."Just to make it a bit simpler for you: You believed Eric was saying that being gay is not detrimental to one's health. So you said, no, being gay is detrimental to one's health. Look at these government statistics I found on my computer. Now you're saying you are so scientific-facty that you can't be expected to always say what you mean, and in this case you actually meant having gay sex is bad for your health, not just being gay. Of course, having any kind of unprotected sex is a risk, regardless of whether it's hetero- or homosexual in nature. The wages of sin, don't you know.

David Nickol, It's nice to have you on this trip with me. David Gibson, I too think that you're one of the "good guys," which is why I wanted you to clarify your position.Grant, I agree that discrimination is bad. It's just unfortunate that we had to hit two oft-maligned groups in order to illustrate the point.

I dont think Brett is wrong to call attention to the fact that HIV infection is still a serious health problem for men who have sex with other men (MSM) which seems to be the 2% of the population to which Brett has referred. (Presumably, there are others with a homosexual inclination who are not men who have sex with other men). These statistics are from the Centers for Disease Control, which I suppose is accepted as an objective source for facts of this type.Jim,What Brett said was: "As for his claim that homosexuality is not detrimental to health, a quick look at the stats provide the reality of the situation of homosexual activity." As has now been pointed out a couple of times, what is being discussed is not "homosexuality" or even "homosexual activity," but a certain type of homosexual activity taking place only among gay males.One might point to Africa and say, "As for his claim that heterosexuality is not detrimental to health, a quick look at the stats provide the reality of the situation of heterosexual activity." If someone said that, it would quite rightly be pointed out that, say, monogamously married couples in Europe or America should avoid heterosexual activity because it was detrimental to health. Neither heterosexual nor homosexual activity, per se, is detrimental to health. It is not the position of the Catholic Church that homosexual acts are immoral because they are health hazards. It is not the position of anyone I can think of that heterosexual acts are immoral because they are health hazards, even in places where there is a great deal of heterosexual transmission of HIV. Certain kinds of heterosexual behavior are risky and dangerous in Africa, but we don't call upon Africans to renounce heterosexuality itself.Certainly, it is wise for public health officials to point out to both heterosexuals and homosexuals the kinds of sexual activity that is dangerous for them, and there is nothing wrong in targeting gay men in the United States or heterosexual men in Africa who might be likely to engage in risky behavior. However, if you tell a gay man who has been in a monogamous relationship for 20 or 30 years that homosexuality is bad because it spreads diseases, he can quite reasonably say, "My partner and I don't spread sexually transmitted diseases to each other."Melinda Selmys wrote a great piece on Catholic pastoral approaches to gay people over on First Things and also answered many of the commenters. She herself was in a lesbian relationship or six years, converted to Catholicism, and has been married to a man for the past ten years. Here is part of one of her comment:

I think we need to be aware that any blanket statements about homosexuality are always going to have many exceptions. For example, a slick argument proving that all same-sex relationships are sado-masochistic because they are contrary to God's design, and anything contrary to God's design is self-destructive, is nice so far as it goes but how far it goes is to the edges of the conservative Judeo-Christian ghetto and absolutely no further. Ditto for arguments that involve appeals to predatory gay military officers, the AIDS epidemic, etc.In the secular sphere, any argument which does not apply to a church-going, monogamous lesbian couple with 2.6 children and a minivan will not wash. The reason for this is actually fairly cogent: if you prove that many homosexual men with HIV do not disclose their serostatus to their sexual partners, all you've proven is that a completely different sin, i.e. culpable negligence, is common among HIV infected men. Who'd have guessed? You haven't proven that homosexuality is immoral per se, in the same way that if someone proves that Pharisaism is rampant in Christian circles, they have not demonstrated that Christianity is immoral. This is especially important if you're actually talking to someone who identifies as LGBTQ. If you argue that homosexuals are promiscuous, narcissistic bathhouse habitues with posters of Liza Manelli on their walls and a penchant for barebacking, all they have to do is say, But I'm not, and your argument is dead in the water.

Her whole piece and a great many of the comments are worth reading.The reason why the arguments of people like Thorin, Mark Proska, and Brett miss the mark so badly and are so objectionable to many of us is because those of us who are gay and/or have gay friends and family members read them and say, "They are condemning homosexuality, and I know of gay people who behave badly, but this isn't a description of myself or my friends or my gay brother or lesbian sister."

Grant: "Just to make it a bit simpler for you: You believed Eric was saying that being gay is not detrimental to ones health. So you said, no, being gay is detrimental to ones health"I clearly said in that first post referencing the national institute of health study that I was pointing out "homosexual activity". In any case, words matter and it is obviously in your interest ideologically to reduce the complexities of human nature and the rather distinct spheres of "action and being" to mere homosexuality and then use it as an ideological bludgeon against your enemies.Someone can have SSA and not engage in homosexual activity (which clearly has health and moral consequences) - both you and Eric, and David, present at reductive view of the issue to mere biology of sexual act and genetic determinism rather than considering the entire person as a child of God. In any case, I was responding to Eric's assertion false and libelous assertion that Pope Benedict believes that homosexuality is a pathology. The church teaches no such thing and differentiates between ontology and action.

Also, I did not mean to reduce this discussion to mere stats on disease -- there are also social factors of culture, social structure of relationships and limits on human behavior.When we reduce every thing to biology, there is no difference between one action or the next and I suppose that this was David Gibson's original non-religious, relativistic point: we can neither confront abnormal consumption or abnormal sexual habits because there is no standard to which to compare them - everything is a matter of taste....

Brett: You said no such thing clearly. You wrote that being gay was detrimental to one's health. The obvious implication was that there was something uniquely dangerous about being gay. I don't want to reduce anything, except the amount of smoke in your comments here. So if that's not what you believe, then why don't you say so?If you want to say that unprotected sex regardless of the orientation of the people involved is high-risk behavior, fine. But there's nothing unique to sex between men that makes them more likely to die...what was Proska's rear-end-retrieved figure? In their mid-forties?...at least not any more likely than straight men and women who regularly have unprotected sex. More than half of all the HIV-infected people on the planet are women, Brett. God save us from the conclusions you draw from that statistic.

Grant, let me state that I do not believe for one second that being oriented or attracted to the same-sex is detrimental to one's health. That said, homosexual activity certainly is."But theres nothing unique to sex between men that makes them more likely to die"You, however, are obviously so blinded by politically correct ideology that you cannot even understand the basics of the situation. The anus is not meant to be penetrated by a penis biologically, do you understand this basic fact of biology?? There is much more damage to the body - blood, tearing of internal cavities etc. and this is the biological reason that there is a MUCH HIGHER rate of HIV infection among the homosexual population - 2 percent and 64 percent of new infections every year.If you cannot understand the basics of theses stats, I dont know what to say...other than your mindset is a dangerous one in terms of public health. Not all sex it the same...look at the stats.

Unprotected sex, Brett. Unprotected. That has been the context of my comments throughout this thread. My mistake. Must have had a little stroke after reading your detailed account of the realities of such activities. Forgive me; evidently I haven't thought as hard about this as you have. But please spare us any more of your biology lessons.

The anus is not meant to be penetrated by a penis biologically, do you understand this basic fact of biology??Brett,Who says? In some cultures, they would say that lips were never made for kissing. Unless you are going to invoke God's intentions (which may or may not be knowable), it is very difficult to say what organs are meant to be used for what functions. Is a mouth meant to be used for playing a digeridoo? I had a roommate who played the violin, and he had a callus on his neck from doing so. Was the neck never meant to support a violin? Were people never meant to have colonoscopies? I don't want to go back and re-read all your messages, but I believe I am correct in saying that virtually everything you say refers to gay men, and nothing refers to lesbians. They commit "homosexual activity," too. Also, gay men do not have to engage in anal intercourse. I think data is very difficult to come by, but I did see a survey that in England, a quarter to a third of gay men said they had never engaged in anal sex. Heterosexuals, by the way, sometimes engage in anal sex, and I believe the incidence is increasing. It seems clear that you identify homosexuality only with men, and you identify gay males with anal intercourse. If there are equal numbers of gay men and lesbians, then the majority of homosexuals don't have anal sex.

Brett, Whether anal sex is a more efficient transmission route or not, vaginal intercourse is sufficiently efficient that in most of the rest of the world, HIV is spread via heterosexual contact. And the single biggest reason for the shortened life spans of women is childbirth. I assume you are not arguing that women start avoiding it by any means possible.

David N - your comments of 10/4 12:42 are all well-taken. I haven't checked out the First Things piece yet, but I wil

David Gibson kicked off a thought experiment based on a hypothetical, suggested by the surface appearance of Governor of New Jersey Christie and comments it has inspired. Consider the fact-laden possibilities if his title had been "What if the Governor of New Jersey were gay?" That's a question with recent answers in reality. See Wikipedia and refs there on "Jim_McGreevey". Republicans, Democrats, etc. were heard from loudly.

Jack,But the question was what if Christie were gay instead of obese. McGreevey is irrelevant to that question.

Who says? David N.Who says? I would say - beyond cultural or religious strictures - that the very biological structure of this particular area of the body points to the fact that it is not intended for sex. It if strange what amazing intellectual hoops people will jump through to make their particular ideology work. Listening to liberals on here try to say that anal sex is "natural" is like watching republicans say that global warning is also "natural"

that the very biological structure of this particular area of the body points to the fact that it is not intended for sexBrett,As I said, if you want to claim God didn't intend for there to be anal sex, I would have to ask you how you know what God intended. Otherwise, whose intentions are we talking about. Are you saying that "nature" didn't intend anal sex? In giraffes, 9 out of 10 sex acts are anal sex between males. Other (non-human) primates engage in homosexual acts, including anal sex. No doubt humans have engaged in anal sex since before we evolved as a species. It's non-reproductive, but it "works." You would have a terrible time making other arguments along these lines. Is it unnatural or immoral to give medication by suppository? Were humans never meant to walk on their hands? Were ears not meant to have earrings on them? Were appendixes never meant to be removed, because there is no zipper on the abdomen?

Way too broad in your example, David; I am speaking of the biological structure and function of the anal cavity. It is not for sexual penetration on purely mechanical or biological terms.Do you really think that there is no correlation between the 2% of pop causing 64% of new infections and the biology of gay sex? There are plenty of hetero couple having unprotected sex - by the stats are nothing near that number.

Thus concludes dotCommonweal's discussion of the anal cavity. Brett, if you really need to keep talking about anal sex, take it elsewhere. You're no longer welcome to do so here.

Extraordinary. Truly extraordinary.Mark Proska takes it upon himself to instruct us, Why not take the high road, and address the question? Indeed, why not? And why doesnt Mark begin by taking that road himself? For him it has been the road less traveled; he has set the gold standard for refusing to address the question.A prime example came in his comments last year on a post by Peter Steinfels. Its worth citing them again to show that hes in no position to be urging others to act in a way that he himself has declined to act. Allow me to prove that point by offering a more concise version of a comment I posted on that thread:

Mark Proska:As I read your comments above about Ed Gleason and the Commonweal editorial, I found myself saying, Somethings not right here. I decided to take a closer look. Heres what I found: I. Ed GleasonYou accuse him of making a case against the preaching of doctrine. Thats pretty strong. It also didnt make sense, given what we know (from Eds posts over the years) about the decades of basic pastoral work he and his wife have done. Sure enough, when I went and checked, it turned out that he never said what you claimed he said. He did imply that he disagreed with your particular take on doctrine, but thats very different from making a flat-out case against the preaching of doctrine. II. The Commonweal editorial (http://commonwealmagazine.org/all-dressed-0)1) As for why Avery Dulles was named a cardinal: According to you, Commonweal suggested that he was named only because he toed the line. But the editorial never says that. On the contrary, it lists reasons why he deserved to be named a cardinal, and adds, no one could begrudge Dulles his red hat. 2) As for Dulless motives: You said (and, in saying it, you gave the false impression that the quote you used from the editorial, was a quote referring to Dulles):
[I]t was implied that Dulles toed the magisteriums line to secure the red hat.

In fact, nothing of the sort was implied. The editorial never said that Dulles wrote what he wrote in order to be named a cardinal. In addition, the editorial never used the phrase you quoted (toed the magisteriums line) in relation to Dulles; it used it in reference to others:

The late Richard McCormick, S.J., and Gustavo Gutirrez come to mind as men whose lifetime of service to the church cannot be second-guessed, yet whose work has not always toed the magisteriums line.

3) As for Commonweals cheap shot (according to you) at Avery Dulles: The editorial spoke of Dulless efforts defending disputed papal teachings, and said it was hard to suppress the suspicion that [those efforts], rather than his broader achievements, figured uppermost in the Vaticans decision making. About Dulles himself, the editorial -- besides acknowledging his broader achievements said this: his theological work has been a beacon of lucidity. It added: a deep love for and devotion to the church are evident in everything he writes. Is that what you call a cheap shot?Summing up: you put words in the mouths of Ed Gleason and Commonweal. You falsely accused them. You owe them an apology and a retraction.

How did Mark respond? He flatly refused to address the question. I did not, he wrote, find your arguments compelling enough to need a response. Those arguments had according to him -- no substance. I was stunned when I read that. Can he really believe, I asked myself, that the blogs readers are so stupid that they wont see right through that? I solicited the opinion of someone who, I feel confident in saying, is one of the most moderate and most widely respected among all those who post on this blog. The response I got was, in its harshness, totally out of character for its author, but it was also totally accurate:

He loves to stir people up and be flippant, and he evades having his feet put to the fire. He thinks he's very clever, but he's really only clever by half. You essentially painted him into a corner, and he wasn't man enough to admit it or to craft any sort of thoughtful response.

He summed up by describing Marks response as cowardly.Another person Rita Ferrone -- responded to Mark on the blog:

Gene Palumbos comments are right on. They are demonstrably grounded in the facts, and are both morally cogent and civil. I find them completely persuasive, and am grateful to him for making clear who is telling the truth here and who is distorting it. It is sad. Mark continues to post, as if nothing happened. He obviously thinks it doesnt matter. Its yesterdays news. But I must admit that I will be hard pressed to take seriously anything Mark Proska might say in the future, knowing that his regard for the facts is so slight and his sense of responsibility for having unjustly vilified the Commonweal editors is nil, as this exchange shows.

That says it all. Yet now, the same Mark Proska enjoins the rest of us to take the high road and address the question. Might he begin by setting an example and doing it himself?

I am not sure I see the issue about anatomy here, Grant - did you not just post an entire article on a presidential candidate's colon to make your point?No need to be retentive = )

Note how little difference that makes. One Christie comment that sounded as if it should be relevant to the above was "The deciding factor was that it did not feel right in my gut ". That tells you something.

Well, I'm back from my hike and feeling invigorated. Getting back to the thrust of David G's original post (and I think David is a good guy too--even though he recommend I exercise more), it's hard to tell people what they should and should not consider important when voting for president. It's an individual choice and I'm sure it's made at an emotional as well as rational level. If a Democrat considers the size of the candidate's waistline important to him, it's hard to argue, in that abstract, that that's an irrelevant criterion. I took the original point to be that if you would argue that waist size is important, you won't have much credibility when you try to argue that other people are using irrelevant criterion. You might resort to the claim that they are just being bigoted, but most people recognize that such a tactic is often the last refuge of people who are not able to argue on the merits."What else have you read that you cant vouch for?"Well, e.g., this:"In giraffes, 9 out of 10 sex acts are anal sex between males."Please, don't expound for my benefit--this is something I'd rather not be able to vouch for.

Gene P: "Extraordinary. Truly extraordinary." Amen, and thank you for your research. The back-and-forth here is a source of mirth and comic relief in the early hours of the day.

one seems to be perfectly happy to spread around unsubstantiated claims.having to read ignorant comments such as thosethis kind of ugliness.you look like a rube.unadulterated bigotry that you espouse. ugliness from the likes ofGenerally, its best to ignore personal attacks, rather than to engage, for obvious reasons. Further, it is unlikely that a fair-minded reader would give credence to ad hominem arguments that provide no reasoned argument. However, its possible that whats apparent to one person may not be apparent to another. So lets consider the following:Short people are more likely to die young. Apparently, this proposition is considered by some as unacceptably unkind to short people, though it is not explained why. Does it imply that short people are deficient in some way, that they should be persecuted, that they got no reason to live? I dont see that at all. I can see why one might conclude that a study showing short people die young is flawed, but where does the nastiness come from?And, for the record, I note that the question of 10/03/2011 9:09 pm has not been addressed.

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