The story of Jaheem Herrera, an 11-year-old boy who hanged himself by a belt in a bedroom closet this past week, is absolutely devastating. During his short life, Jaheem became all too fimiliar with how this world is not how it ought to be. Unfortunately, Jaheem sought relief from the lack of oughtness by hanging himself after growing overwhelmingly weary of bullies calling him “gay” and “the virgin.” Alongside grief and sympathies, I can’t help but think of the term “natural selection” and its application here.
Wikipedia summarizes natural selection as “the process where heritable traits that make it more likely for an organism to survive long enough to reproduce become more common over successive generations of a population.” So, what about Jaheem? Was he just too weak-minded or weak-willed to survive the constant barrage of bullying and the emotional scars it left? Is this just another case of survival of the fittest or natural selection? If so, then why would we cast any judgement on the bullies? Wouldn’t they just be exercising their free will and letting natural selection run its course?
I’d argue that this particular incident exposes an unnatural element in natural selection. Here, something that is generally, and rightly, deemed by society as an undesirable behavior is the survivor – bullying, and/or the bullies themselves. Perhaps, and hopefully, the bullies will reflect on their behavior and do something responsible, something that truly is unnatural – repent. If repentance is in order, then could it be that natural selection is in someway incomplete and really not “natural” or what it ought to be? Could it be that something that is “natural” – human nature, is really in someway unnatural?
Yes, it is. In many ways, human nature is only “natural” in terms of familiarity, not rightness. Unfettered, human nature is unnatural because it is fallen and much less than it ought to be. The consequence is that we are beings in an unnatural state that are responsible to a natural state – the state of how it ought to be. To some degree, this seems to explain our ache for Jaheem and his family. We’re acknowledging a world in an unnatural state – that things like this happen, disapproving of a flaw in human nature – bullying, and appealing to a hoped natural state – a standard of how it ought to be. There certainly is a lot of tension between the natural and unnatural states, but if we examine God closely, we can discover with greater clarity what is unnatural and natural.
*Origin of Discursion – Waking up on the couch, well past midnight, to the story of Jaheem Herrera on CNN’s AC360.