Lynne Gerber Explores how Health is Used to Frame the Core Concerns
“In this chapter, Lynne Gerber explores how health is used to frame the core concerns of both the First Place ministry, and the Exodus ministry. First Place and Exodus members believed “health refers to a natural or clinical ideal that could be identified independently of moral or religious concerns”. She goes on to prove in the chapter how there are interrelated ways in which health discussions overlap with moral discussions. She does so by comparing how both groups look at health in different ways.
With First Place, health is the biggest reason why new members join. They want to either better manage their recently diagnosed diseases, or they want to prevent any health issues from coming up in the future. At First Place there is a staff member who writes a column, weekly, with the latest health updates to keep everyone informed about the latest health practices. It is believed that if you are thin then you are healthy and if you are fat, they associate that with being ill. Members believe that you have to be thin to do “God’s work” efficiently. One of the members expressed that “serving God as long as we can, as well as we can is the best motivation for wanting to practice good nutrition.” In this way they are connecting being a good and faithful Christian with being thin and healthy.
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With Exodus International, members are also concerned with their physical health, which “attend[s] gay life”. Members believed that STD’s are consequences for their sin of being gay. Many of the Exodus leaders became ex-gay after watching their loved ones die of AIDS. “The central clinical framework ex-gay ministries use when talking about health and homosexuality is psychological: the reparative model of same-sex desire and recovery from it”. It is believed that homosexuality is the product of a “stunted psychological process”, which is their gender identity. Gay men are believed to be immature. If one wanted to serve God he/she cannot be gay.
In both ministries “health is connected to the muting of bodily desire, the taming of want to a point just shy of extinction”. Religion, as we’ve read, has a huge role in shaping our assumptions about what is healthy. If it is “Gods will” people will do just about anything to serve Him. I think it is a good thing, however I do believe both ministries have taken it to an extreme. I don’t believe that fat people are any less productive in serving God than thin people. Similarly, just because someone is gay does not make him or her immature, or unable to serve God to the fullest.
Although this example does not necessarily have to do with health, it does have to do with the power of religion and belief. In the south there are snake churches in which members are encourages to handle poisonous snakes in order to prove their faith in God. God will protect them and they will not be harmed. I thought this was somewhat related because again, people will do anything that they believe will please their God, even if it means risking their life.”