Saturday, May 01, 2010


"Nature is never constrained to change, and that which is once formed cannot simply will to reverse itself wrongly, since desire is not nature. Desire can alter the character of something already formed, but it cannot remake its nature." -John Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century

One of the most fascinating things about people is their capacity for adaptability. In the film Boogie Nights, director P.T. Anderson explored this and the extent to which one would alter and adapt him/herself to fleshy abuse in order to gain a sense of belonging, a sense of being accepted. I wonder how much this is true for the history of homosexuality and the Church (or rather, churches). How often have we marginalized, compromised, or idolized the very nature of the self the Church declares is imago dei? In what areas (besides homosexuality) can we see people mistakenly seeing nature as being synonymous with desire? All too often, it seems the discussion of nature--as it relates to our violent propensities--quickly moves into carnal desire-talk territory because of how we assume that it's in our nature. But what if it wasn't in our true nature? What if that was only mere desire?

As the Church continues to dialogue, debate and argue over the issues of nature with respect to homosexuality, I wish we'd also spend similar energy toward healthy conversation over our views of war and violence, and how this relates to our true nature. It seems, to use Boswell's analogy, we've spent far too many centuries trying to remake nature through our desires (and presupposed ideas of who a person is and what is their purpose) rather than critically looking at the varied nature (and natures) of the human species, and separating what is mere desire (what can be slightly altered) and what is fixed (what cannot be altered). The latter, I think, is the most difficult to articulate and accept because behind our desire (in this) is a growing need to be autonomous and self-sustaining rather than limited and interdependent. The former is our desire, the latter is our nature. Or at least, that's the way I see it.

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