Western culture romanticizes wildness even as it fears the destruction of our humanity by all that is bestial, savage and unconstrained. Identity is constructed as a supposedly pure, bounded and sovereign force, constantly fascinated and repelled by its animal others.
The consequences of the church’s investment in this modern humanism are disparate, but united by a strange colonial logic, according to which the savage and the unnatural must be domesticated and incorporated into an empire of light. In the labelling of non-heterosexuals as ‘inhuman’ or ‘bestial’, complex links between the rhetoric of empire and resistance to that rhetoric are exposed. Appeals to African authenticity and liberal universalism are contextualized in postcolonial debates about securing human identity, debates in which the human/animal boundary becomes a key site of struggle.
This paper asks what the church looks like if our obsession with a pure identity of the (Western or African) human is challenged in the context of debates about sexuality within the Anglican Communion. It is argued that the dynamic of Christian revelation works to throw such categories into confusion, to release liberating encounters with the ‘inhuman’ others within and beyond our invented boundaries. An inherently plural, multilingual and differentiated process of Christian community is proposed.