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Friday, November 9, 2012

Dissonance and The Mediating Role of God

As a budding academic and Christian student, I straddle two worlds. I carry two labels, one that demands me to live by secularized ideals, and one that bids me to lay aside worldly standards. Navigating this contradictory existence is not easy, and many of my troubled conversations are confined to my Bible study group. I remember once last year when a Christian professor at my university mentioned how being a student and being a Christian should be an effortless endeavor centered on honoring God through our academic work and social life. His talk reminded me of my high school days, when a pastor reminded us that we were students first, before we were Christian. Even Christian leaders contradict themselves.

Perhaps I see contradictions because I live in a world that creates categories, purporting the absence of fluidity. The labels “academic” and “Christian” are limiting, but ones that I am forced to embrace if the world is to make sense of me, to allow me to operate in society. Perhaps all I want to be is a seeker, or as a line in a favorite childhood novel, Song of The Wanderer, puts it, “My heart longs to rest but my feet yearn to walk. Shall I wander the world or stay safe at home?” The label “Christian” has its own burdens, an extreme of which is intolerant. I like that my mentor calls himself “A friend of God”, a label I find devoid of religiosity, and one that he chooses for himself. Once while filling out a form, he put “None” under the category “Religion”, sparking debate from people who know him as “Christian”. Now if contradictions exist at the level of our being, you can only imagine the ones that exist as we venture into the world unknown.

Yet part of being human is being at peace with a contradictory world. My religion professor told me once that this involves living a partitioned life, not thinking about having to navigate the paradoxes. To some degree, I agree with the professor, but I also believe in a predetermined life. Not just in the sense that God knows where I will spend eternity, but in the sense that He knows my struggles because He once lived the human life. I know God foresaw me facing this challenge one day; He foreknew that modernity would boil down to struggling to keep the old, while embracing the new. My go-to person is God. I know life will become a kernel of contradictions, especially as I learn new frameworks of theorizing about life, about how we can peacefully co-exist as humans. But I also know, yes I know, that only God can help me mediate this dissonance. Only He can give me Peace, the kind that surpasses all understanding and guards your heart and your mind. And He extends this to ALL of us!
What I have come to value most about Christianity is the absence of legalistic and intellectualist demands on my existence*. At the end of the day, my judge will not be my religion, my faith, my pastor, my family, or as my mother reminded last week, society. The Bible says that God knows the hearts and minds of all humans. And so I rest assured that I am answerable to God alone. 

*The “Christianity” in which I was raised and live by today.

This commentary has been inspired by an unfinished essay in my head, and Judith Butler’s Introduction and Chapter One of her book, Undoing Gender. 'Contradictions' is a running theme in my work. To explore more and join in the conversation, I welcome you to read my other pieces: Bursting My Bubble and Just Remember the Child


  1. Thanks for sharing this Jero, it does speak to many of us, especially those whose minds sometimes wander a little bit too far, or who maintain a somewhat contemplative silence. Wonderful piece. Danke Schon.

    1. You're welcome buddy! I'm happy I could voice the struggle. Let's always remember that we aren't in this alone, and even if we feel alone, we have one who says He will never leave us nor forsake us. Let that be the promise we live by, even as it gets tougher.