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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.

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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?

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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.