The Changing Nature of Human Beings: a Journey to Find Right and Wrong

This story occurred last week when I was just came back home after attending a weekly mass in a nearby church. Upon arrival, I had a short yet deep conversation with one of my friends. He firstly asked me where I was from and the conversation ended up talking about the recent issue engulfing Catholic religion.

In short, he criticized Catholic priests who are involved in sexual scandal. He argued that this might be caused by the fact that Catholic priests are not allowed to get married. Although he did not say that allowing the priests to get married will completely eliminate the case, he went on to say that such a change in policy will probably reduce the sexual scandal case. “After all, we are all human beings who are made from flesh and thus also prone to any temptation. I just feel such a change in policy might help to reduce the sexual scandal in the Catholic church.”

At that time, I said that I do not agree with his standpoint. In short, I argued that as a Catholic priest, you have to devote all your life to the church. It is as if you have decided to take the church as your eternal wife. Although it is true that human beings are made from flesh and prone to temptations, it just indicates that becoming a Catholic priest is not an easy matter and requires high degree of discipline.

However, what is more interesting about the conversation was not about the discussion of Catholic priests and their sexual scandal. It is more about the aftermath of the conversation. My friend went on to say that, “Well, above all of this, despite your disagreement, I would just want to highlight that we are only human beings who are prone to make any mistake. So, later on you need not to be surprised if it is your priest who will be implicated with such a scandal. We are just human beings and our mind can easily swift from one position to another. Maybe at that time, your priest think that this is the right thing that he would like to do. And probably, the Catholic church itself may see it as the right thing”

Human beings and change: between right and wrong

It is a fact that long time ago, Catholic priests were allowed to get married before the celibacy policy were universally applied to all Catholic priests. This policy itself has actually demonstrated the dynamic nature of what is right and wrong within the Catholic church itself. Thus, even a huge religious institution like a Catholic church should admit the necessity of change. This then somehow triggers us to ask: is there anything that is absolutely right and wrong if our simple conversation just revealed that even religious institution does not immune to change its standpoint?

In this regard, I said to him that my position is yes: there must be an absolute right and wrong. However, I am more in line with what Plato teaches us. This right and wrong are actually an ideal that I think cannot be completely realized in this mundane world. From my perspective, human beings are always like the people chained in the Plato’s cave. We can never fully grasp the idea of right and wrong despite the fact that the idea does actually exist. Even if someone might come to us and say that they have actually grasped the ideal and want to share it with us, we are still reluctant to accept the idea. Then, does it mean that we are actually indifferent towards what is right and wring? This is the point where we actually have to play our role as human beings.

The dynamic nature of human beings is actually a blessing that should be effectively utilized. In this case, such a dynamic nature should be able to lead human beings to be better, including a better person who is able to differentiate what is right and wrong. It is more like what Hegel teaches us: when a thesis meets an antitheses, synthesis is formed. This is actually the nature of change. We cannot infinitely hold on to one theses. Since once we have found its antitheses, a synthesis must form and its degree should be above both the theses and antitheses. This dialectic process must then lead human beings to be better and get closer to the ideal world of right and wrong. And this is why communicative action and deliberation process are essential for human beings because only by doing so, we can get closer to the ideal condition of right and wrong, even though, from my perspective, we won’t be able to reach it since our nature that continuously changes.

Then a question related to my previous conversation might be asked: why then a religious institution does not immune for such a thing? This type of question does actually makes sense since religious institutions always deal with something that transcends us, namely God and it is often argued that the nature of God is absolute. The answer for such question is indeed very simple and straightforward: because such an institution is comprised of human beings as well. As what my friend clearly noted from our conversation, regardless of our status, we are all human beings who are made from flesh. Thus, as long as the human beings status is still with us, we really have to change and so does the religious institution. In regard of this, there must be a limitation on to what extent the religious institution should change since it not only deals with this mundane world but also to the world that transcends our nature. But, it is definitely out of my scope to talk about to what extent religious institutions should change. The only thing that I can underline, however, is to encourage any religious institutions to keep open-minded and maintain dialogue between religions and even towards unbeliever. Because only by such communicative actions do we able to be better human beings.

So, won’t I then be surprised if later on Catholic church changes its policy and allows their priests to get married? As long as it has been rationally deliberated from different perspectives, I might not be then surprised. After all, neither Catholic church, any religious institutions, and ourselves are perfect. We are just pure human beings who are prone to make any mistakes and are always constantly exposed to the dynamic nature of the world. But as long as human beings do not deny this condition, they are actually constantly marching towards the better and more ideal condition.

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Considering the Disposition of LGBT

First of all, I would like to thank to one of my friend, Poppi Rianty Kemala, for the discussion in regard of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) topic in Sunday night, January 13th 2013. The discussion has pushed me to write down some of our thoughts that may be contributed to LGBT thinking.

LGBT is indeed a very interesting topic. Many people talk about it, especially in a democratic era where people can freely express everything that they consider as right. Furthermore, this topic has also been a hot issue in Paris after several media reported that there was a mass protest in Paris to oppose the gay marriage legislation. This protest was allegedly backed by Catholic Church in France. It did seem strange because France can be actually regarded as one of the Western country that has a tendency to promote liberty and human rights. But, the protest has showed another different aspect: a conservatism that actually still strongly lingers some of the population there.

LGBT, freedom, and the need of recognition

When the discussion happened, I asked my friend who has more than enough experiences talking to LGBT people. She once talked to one of her gay friend and her friend said that he actually did not know why he could fall in love with man. It was something that had happened when he was in his early childhood. He tended to choose play dolls rather than robots as usually played by most of boys.

From this point of view, it could be clearly seen that actually there is something in human beings’ body that regulates the tendency to become a gay person or to make it broader: to become an LGBT person. It does seem like a materialistic view but it does seem logical since in early childhood, people never actually realize about having choices in their lives and they can choose it rationally. Thus, the driving force may be correlated with some of the activities in their body and ultimately in their brain.

But I also actually reject the notion that people are actually fully determined by their activities in the body and brain. I have written about rape case that cannot be justified by the presence of testosterone because people actually have a choice that will drive them to value between the good and the bad things. My reason is as long as people can put their reason behind their actions without have to blame to the presence of everything natural in their body, they can be considered as free. A free person is then a person who thinks and chooses. The question is: why does it seem very contradictory between agreeing upon the materialistic view in regard of the LGBT and the foundation of rejecting materialism in regard of LGBT disposition?

The answer can be started by posing a question: does an LGBT person choose to be an LGBT or he/she is fully determined by their nature? If they freely chose to be an LGBT, it is no longer a problem. They have thought and realized that they should be an LGBT not because they are determined and was born to be such person. They have chosen it rationally by considering several choices surrounded their lives and learning about many possibilities that may actually happen by being an LGBT and eventually it is a matter of their choice. But, if they cannot clearly explain why they become an LGBT person, it is indeed questionable because they do not act as free human beings and just let the nature dictates themselves.

This question is actually located in a private sphere. No one can justify clearly about the disposition of an LGBT person except the LGBT themselves. Thus, the important thing that should be noted here is there is actually no contradiction between materialism and the free human beings in regard of LGBT. If nature dictates them to be an LGBT and they do nothing unless accepting and yearning to be recognized, they cannot be recognized as free human beings. Recognition is indeed important for human beings as stated by Hegel. But, if the recognition is given unto someone who has done nothing, it does seem very useless. The recognition given will only say that: I will recognize you as the non-free human beings and it actually degrades the human beings themselves.

Between the two extremes

Having considered about the free human beings and LGBT, the question that is usually asked is: does a choice to be an LGBT is indeed a right or a wrong one? It is actually important because in daily lives, choosing between right and wrong is indeed crucial and they cannot always be pulled unto relativism standpoint. Raping is bad and wrong and no one will agree that rape can be justified in the right manner. People then actually have a capability to justify which one is right and wrong.

The LGBT can be considered as wrong and bad in many ways as well as the defender of them pose similar notions to justify the manner. Thus, in LGBT case, there are two extremes that will always go into debate. In here, I will pose several arguments which neither reject nor support the LGBT.

Rejecting arguments can be clearly seen primarily in a family when there is a classical approach that a family should consist of both father and mother when developing a child. This has something to do with the emotional development of the child themselves. Thus, lesbian and gay couple will not get in line with this argument. And this argument was actually used in the protest in Paris mentioned above.

Second argument can be pulled unto an extreme point about human beings themselves. Charles Darwin has taught about survival of the fittest and the need of any organisms to multiply and make their offspring inherit the ability of their predecessor. In this view, gay and lesbian never find their justification because they cannot bring their own offspring and thus negates the position of the need for the human beings to survive in this planet.

On the other hand, the supporting argument can be very sophisticated. It does not merely see about giving an offspring or talking about family. Such arguments talk mainly about the liquidity of sexual orientation that can change every time. Furthermore, it also states about the truly aspect of human beings: affection. Love is not about having a partner who different in sex but it is more importantly about having affection. If a man has affection towards another man and they eventually fall in love, it is love and no one can deny it because affection is indeed a unique aspect bestowed to human beings.

There are still many different arguments both rejecting and supporting the LGBT standpoint. But, the arguments stated above do seem enough to give an early depiction about those who reject and support the LGBT. And the reality: LGBT still stands between the two extremes.

Thus, if there is a question asking me about my disposition to LGBT, I would rather say that I am in the middle of the two extremes. I do not fully reject nor do I fully support the disposition because as I have said: as free human beings, I must choose rationally and making considerations based upon numbers of evidences.

But, one thing that I would like to insist is: LGBT people are indeed human beings, regardless of their capability to choose rationally. Thus, they also have a right to live peacefully in this world. It is not our right to neither harass them nor exclude them into an inexistence level. People should not be a kind of human beings in the mid 17-18 century described by Michel Foucault in his book History of Madness when they arbitrarily judge other people considered as mad just because they are regarded to disturb the order of society and then confine the mad behind the bars, exclude them without have any initiative to cure them. The mad living behind the bars is then considered as nothing. People should then not exclude the LGBT. If it is curable, both LGBT and society should go hand in hand to cure the disease but if it is not, people should learn how to live with LGBT people.

What is important thing is learning is indeed a process. If nowadays LGBT is not regarded as disease and not curable, it does not mean that in the future it will always like that. The opposite does always prevail because long years ago, LGBT was indeed regarded as a disease. What do we really need is openness: the sincerity of the opposing sides to always discuss the matter in order to achieve a brighter side of this issue.