Here in Turkey, I went to work one day as I usually do, only to hear from a British co-worker of mine the news of the horrific and disturbing bombings in Boston. I remember thinking, “Oh not again!” as my stomach began to sour with grief. Haven’t enough people had their fill of bloody violence and their appetites quenched with innocent lives, I was thinking. Apparently not.
Many people are searching for answers. Why did the brothers do this? What does this mean about the future of security in America? In the world? People like FBI agents, Police Officers, psychologists, and the family and victims of the bombings are all searching, to name a few. I suppose you could say whenever violence like this happens, like a lightning bolt shattering the calm of everyday life, most people who hear about such things, start to struggle for answers.
I’d like to share with you my strugglings, mainly through the historical and semantical exploration of the word, “perversion”, and its relevancy to the issues at hand.
Latin – Pervertere – “to turn the other way, to overturn”, figuratively to “subvert, corrupt, or abuse”
English – Pervert (verb) – 1300 AD “to turn someone aside from a right religious belief to a false or erroneous one”
Online Etymology Dictionary
It wasn’t until later, in the 1300’s that the word “perverse” started to carry mainly a religious tone, used to describe those who had gone astra, or those who had apostatized, or turned away in an erroneous way. This was noted as late as 1660. It wasn’t until 1892 that the way you used that word morphed to describe someone who has a “perversion of the sexual instinct.”
Perhaps we’ve lost our sense of the broader use of the word. Pervert has become simply a noun, and maybe we’ve lost the sense that it can be a verb as well. To “pervert” something. The modern definition of being a “pervert”, is the definition most of us would be familiar with. It’s a sexual term, to describe someone who is sexually deviant, or just twisted.
So why did I chose the word “perversion” to be the center piece of this exploration? I like the severity of the word in describing how twisted ones actions need to be in order to earn that title. To simply call the brothers “twisted” or even “radicalized,” just doesn’t do what is happening on a larger scale justice. The Tsarnaev brothers were perverts, but not in the sexual use of the term. Using the Latin definition together with the 14th century definition along with the modern adaptation to the word, we can give “perversion” a generalized umbrella definition of “the act of turning someone, something, some idea away, towards corruption, or simply towards the wrong way.” It is a twisting of what’s true; a misconstruing of what exists. Perversion doesn’t just happen to terrorists and dictators. It happens at all levels of life. Perversion is a parasite, and it can latch onto anything. It takes sex, something beautiful between a man and a woman, and taints it with notions of selfish unedifying acts of pleasure, diminishing each other to mere objects from which “feel good” moments come. It takes meal time, something useful to bring people together over, and turns it into a gluttony fest where food is used to quench not the stomach, but the hurting spirit. It takes the workplace, something where honest bread-money can be won for a family, and turns it into an arena where control hungry men and women dominate others, or where simply crooked men and women use their employees for less than honorable ends. It takes a simple family man, named Tamerlan Tsarnaev, with a wife and a daughter, which could have been a happy family, and it turns him into a tool of terror, death, and heart-break. Perversion happened.
The tragedy in all of this, is when the one who “turns away”, becomes convinced it is the right way. Perhaps it is the mere feeling of something “right”, that confirms this, or they have convincingly been lied to. In the case of the Tsarnaev brothers, who knows how that slippery slope happened. All we know is that the tool of perversion was radicalism, which really is a synonym to perversion. Let me be clear at this point. I’m not saying anything about a connection between radicalism and religion here. There are radical Hindus, radical Christians, and radical aetheists. Somewhere between birth, maybe during adolescence, maybe when he came to America, a lie entered his worldview, and perverted reality for him. The lie altered the course of his life, it soured the good that was in him.
The state of things is simply not good. In recent history, Colombine, 9/11, Sandy Hook, to name a few. In history past, wars of all kinds, genocides for any reason. Things are not well with us. Lets be honest.
Will it always be like this? Does it have to be like this? Now I’d like to take our exploration into the origin of the word “perversion”. It takes us back quite far. My hope in reaching this far, we’ll be able see a glimpse of hope, to this violent state of affairs.
The greatest perversion that happened, is in one of the oldest books we have, the Bible. You may already know what I’m talking about by now. Yes, how the serpent lied to Eve, she took of the apple, gave it to Adam, and they both fell from favor in God’s sight. Why? Because they believed the Father of Lies, corruptor of everything, the most perverse of perverts. The one who himself “turned away” from God first, leading all who are willing, in the way of perversion, that is, in sin. In simplest terms, we could say, sin is living life turned away from the way God intended.
What is the hope I was talking about? If what I’m describing is true, life seems pretty dismal. Things are not well with us, but they will not always be this way. Christ is coming again, and when he comes with the power of a creator that he used when time began, once again, like in Eden, earth will be heaven for those who truly know Christ. It will be perfect. We will be free of perverse acts that malign us, harm us, and cause us to despair in this time. It’s hard to imagine what a world like that would be like, but that’s what I want, and that’s the hope we have in Christ.