Themes and Thoughts
Food From Thought

Nature and Promiscuity

Nature and Promiscuity

Among the many consequences of the eclipsed influence of Christianity and the Christian Church, in recent times, is the resulting rise in what has been called nature religion. This means that, in the absence of intellectuals and academics believing in the creation and ultimate ruler ship of the world by a benign intelligence, the vacuum is filled by belief in either materialism (the notion that everything emerged by undirected processes, and that this present existence, being all that is strictly knowable, is therefore all that is) or by a quasi-religious belief in the sovereignty and ultimacy of the physical world, i.e. nature (as in New Age neo-paganism).

The two are inextricably related – opposite sides of the same coin – as seen in the common American use of the word “naturalism” meaning the same as “materialism”. The consequence of nature religion (as opposed to classic Western monotheism, in which nature is simply something created) is that the things of the world, and nature, are seen as having especial primacy, as something above and beyond ourselves, of which we are merely a (short-lived) product.

No longer is nature something that was made for man (who is just another kind of animal); and the things of nature are seen as somehow good, and unquestionably so. Today, it is generally understood as being something which instantly settles any argument, if appeal – for anything – can be made to nature, and particularly to the physiological and psychological make up of humans.

It was not always so. Christianity taught that human nature must in every way be subject to God’s laws, such that human conduct and behaviour be ordered by rules derived from the Bible and the teachings of the Church, and not by the supposed-imperatives of our natural condition. The consequence of present nature religion, therefore, is that it is always considered appropriate and necessary that people act in a way consistent with the demands of their nature (see also Quotes 18).

The fraught, problematic question of the Anglican church’s possible validation of same sex relationships has to be seen in these terms, or rather, failure to see the question as a product of the new belief in the rightness of conforming to (human) nature, is to fail properly to understand what is at issue.

Today, it is considered inappropriate to act contrary to what is demanded by “my nature”, and unjust to require it. There is still much discussion as to whether or not homosexuality results from something inherent in human physiology, or in an individual’s conditioning in life (“nature” or “nurture”); my guess is that it is the former, though I know that many gay men have suggested that nurture has played an important part in the emergence of their perceived identity.

Certainly, the legislation and pressure – in state and church – for same-sex marriages, assumes the former, and is a response to how it sees certain people as essentially being; it is “their nature”, and as such, it is considered right and proper for them to indulge its demands (the idea of resisting and refusing the demands of one’s nature has been totally eclipsed).

But Anglicans must see that now claiming that the demands of “my nature” be uncritically responded to, itself has consequences, and some which might not be ultimately so well supported. It has more than once been pointed out by some homosexual men (including some Christian homosexual men) that it might not be fair, or appropriate, that any future validation of their life choice be modelled on heterosexual marriage (the fact of gay people being squeezed into pseudo-marriage by church leaders who are themselves mostly heterosexual, and conform to middle class models of human partnership, is indeed unjust and absurd).

Gay men such as these will claim – with justification – that such a thing is far less appropriate for them (their nature being what it is) than the pattern of loose association which, it is not unfair or inaccurate to suggest, many gay men conform to. The Anglican church, of course, having validated same sex unions of a pseudo-marriage variety will then, shortly after having done that, need to validate the loser-association model for those who claim that their nature finds pseudo-marriage inappropriate.

Of course, having once said that it is permissible for any kind of fidelity between two people of the same sex to be (morally and spiritually) unnecessary and not to be desired, it will be quite impossible for it then to claim to value fidelity between two people of opposite sexes; so the inevitable result will be that the old (and some would say necessary) Christian ideal of fidelity would have to go, and the church would have to give its blessing to out and out promiscuity. And then there are even-less-pleasant needs that some people claim that evolved human nature has given them …