Can I Be Anything I Want to Be?
April 27, 2016
Take five minutes to watch this video, and you’ll see why Theology of the Body (TOB) education deserves more than just a soundbite in today’s culture.
It’s shocking but not really surprising that college students would so consistently defend one’s ability to determine any sort of identity desired. To say that a 5’9” white man can be a Chinese, 6’5” woman or even a six-year-old is just a furthering of the logic that says that my body is a blank canvas on which I must project meaning.
This is the culture we live in today. Pope Benedict XVI’s phrase “the dictatorship of relativism” is on full display on the college campus visited in the video. If there is no truth, no objective reality, then how does anything matter? Our exaltation of individual decision making with no limitations begins to rule us.
If there is no truth, no objective reality, then how does anything matter?
One of the young men in the video tells the interviewer that as long as his insistence on being seven doesn’t “hinder society or cause harm to other people,” he doesn’t see why it would be a problem. But there’s an incredible irony here. If there is nothing objective in the world to state what a person’s age, gender, height or ethnicity is, then how could there be anything objective to state if something is hindering society or causing harm to other people?
The college students interviewed in this video did not come to their conclusions overnight. They have been formed for the past two decades by a culture that does not espouse objective truth, that is ruled by “tolerance” and that equates freedom with the ability to do whatever one would like.
Likewise, to form children in understanding reality – that there is objective truth, that tolerance cannot mean allowing anybody to do anything and that freedom is really the ability to choose the good – we need to take time. We need to consistently teach even the most basic principles that will help young people of all ages to learn who they are and how they are called to live.
We need to consistently teach even the most basic principles that will help young people of all ages to learn who they are and how they are called to live.
The “gender question,” for example, cannot be answered adequately in a sentence or two. We need to understand who God is (a Communion of Persons who is Love), how we have been created in His image and likeness, how our engendered bodies communicate love, how fruitfulness is a part of love … and so much more.
As we unpack these layers for our youth, they will more clearly understand what it is to be a human person. From there, they will engage with the world differently because they will have a sense of reality and of God’s goodness and love.
And we can only hope that in 15 years, if approached by a 5’9” white man insisting that his true identity is that of a 6’5” Chinese woman that our children will be able to confidently and lovingly explain that the “givenness” of our bodies and the aspects of our identity that we did not choose for ourselves (gender, height, ethnicity, family of origin, age, etc.) reveals something about where we come from and where we are called to be.