In a previous post (Alternative Breathing Styles), I explained that the LDS church’s position against the practice of homosexuality is motivated by love for people who experience same-sex attraction. Many proponents of homosexuality find this hard to understand or believe. They might say, “I am not interested in changing, and I certainly don’t consider homosexuality a problem I have.” Why then would a loving person think they needed to change?
Jeff Lindsay drew a rather humorous comparison between homosexuality and smoking. However, I think a more apt analogy is eating disorders.
Eating disorders, such as bulimia and anorexia, constitute mental illnesses that have complicated origins which are not fully understood. As with homosexuality, people with eating disorders take a bodily function and distort its plain, natural purpose. It’s a condition that brings a lot of suffering to people, and if you think it’s only physical health that declines, then you should learn more about eating disorders. One interesting thing is that victims often don’t recognize their own unfortunate condition. One of the effects of a mental illness like anorexia is that it distorts one’s own self-perception and prevents people from seeing the misery, pain, and danger they’re causing themselves. And like homosexuality, an eating disorder is not a chemical addiction, but it is no less an addiction, similar to cutting, pornography, gambling, and other behavioral addictions. Thus, even experimenting with it can cause someone to be ensnared in it.
Of course, as with any analogy, this one also has limitations. For example, bulimics don’t have a wide history of being unfairly mistreated. Also, bulimia and anorexia have clear negative medical consequences; the medical consequences of homosexuality are less visible and less talked about.1 There is also less of a moral component to eating disorders. However, both have negative spiritual and mental consequences, as with any addiction or mental illness.
Imagine if someone said, “I’d like to help bulimics and anorexics overcome their eating disorders and lead healthy, normal lives,” and was responded to with accusations of bigotry and hate. “They don’t want to change!” While that is true of many people with eating disorders, it doesn’t make it any less compassionate to desire to help them change.
On the other end, imagine if someone said, “I accept people with eating disorders. In fact, I have a support website with ideas for how to keep yourself from eating.”2 That is not called support; it’s called indulgence. How is encouraging someone in an unhealthy, physically and spiritually dangerous lifestyle a loving thing to do?
1. For examples of the negative medical effects of homosexuality, see LifeSiteNews, “Physician Says Science of Medical Consequences of Homosexual Behaviour is Being Trumped by Political Agenda,” LifeSiteNews.com, accessed 11 Jun. 2008. For a discussion of why they aren’t talked about, see A. Dean Byrd, “The American Journal of Public Health Highlights Risks of Homosexual Practices,” NARTH.com, accessed 11 Jun. 2008.
2. In fact, many such websites exist. They are often called pro-ana sites (pro-anorexia). They usually state that their purpose is to lend emotional support to those who already have an eating disorder, rather than encourage them or recruit new victims. However, the contents of such sites clearly can only serve to further ingrain someone in their disorder, as well as provide interest and instruction for the novice. See this list, for example.