Praying to Be Skinny and Straight: Why Evangelicals Are Concerned With Weight-Loss and ‘Ex-Gay’ Therapies
Fatness and gayness have a few things in common: They are both highly charged social issues that can anger people in ways few other things can. To many people, they both represent a sinful inability to control urges - in the case of fat folks, to eat food, and in the case of gay people, to have sex. In evangelical circles, however, fatness and gayness are not just stigmatized, they are actively fought.
In her eloquent new book, “Seeking the Straight and Narrow: Weight Loss and Sexual Reorientation in Evangelical America,” Lynne Gerber examines the ways these two separate issues interact in that most morally stringent segment of American culture. A University of California, Berkeley, scholar in residence whose work emphasizes intersections of sexuality, bodies and health in contemporary Christianity, Gerber spent more than three years documenting evangelical weight loss and ex-gay culture, primarily in two evangelical ministries, First Place, a weight loss group, and Exodus, an ex-gay ministry with aims to train gays into straightness. Along the way, Gerber unpacks the historical influence of evangelicalism on American society, while providing a thoughtful look at real people struggling to change.