Knowing Your Stance
- By Indu Shanmugam
- Published 06/9/2008
Indu Shanmugam is a 20-something, college student from Oregon, USA. She is majoring in English literature and language. She also studied Theology for a short period. She wants to be a teacher. As a literature enthusiast, she enjoys literature of all types and from writers of various backgrounds from the classics, French realists, Christian writings like C.S Lewis and South Asian literature. As for her own writings, "I am still trying to find and develop my own voice." She sees the art of the written word as a way to speak about Christ and explore truth. Before she met Jesus Christ, she has been searching for the meaning of life through experimentation of other religions, philosophies and ideas. At the age of 17, she accepted Christ after a powerful encounter with God through a miracle. God's presence and deep truths in the Bible fuel her creativity. She is involved in church activities and has a love for the church and would like to see every believer grow, become closer to God and live fruitfully. She loves traveling, sipping bubble teas, theatre, music, films and hanging out with friends and has a weakness for cheesecake.
This is a broad generalization. I believe that a person should be able to know why he or she follows or supports a certain set of beliefs. Whether it's religion, philosophy, political or social ideologies, a person must be able to discuss meaningfully why he or she supports it and even be able to share with those who oppose or disagree. This applies to both Christians and non-Christians.
If you go downtown Portland or the northwest, it seems everyone has a cause or believes in something. It varies from several types. And everyone has a right or freedom to choose their beliefs.
The danger is when a person chooses a path out of sensationalistic hype, popularity or for other reasons. I've seen young teens (13-14) think they are anarchists simply because they wear Che Guevara shirts but have absolutely no idea about Marxism or Socialism other than the surface level definitions. I'd give them some slack because they are young and trying to find themselves. However, I'm seeing this kind of mentality even among adults.
Che Guevara seems to have become a countercultural symbol worldwide. His own daughter, "Aleida Guevara denounced the commercialisation of her father's image as an affront to his socialist ideals....A man who fought and died trying to overthrow capitalism and material excess should not be used to sell British vodka, French fizzy drinks and Swiss mobile phones, among other travesties, she said. "We don't want money, we demand respect." 1
The irony is that is against his ideologies. I studied about Che Guevara and we read Paulo Freire's "Pedagogy of the Oppressed" in a class. To me, a person has the freedom to choose to be leftist, rightist, in-between or any ideology but must know exactly what it is and be able to discuss it beyond superficiality. That's another irony considering that today we live in an information age; there is less censorship laws and more access to various information than the past.
I think it's better to say "I don't know" and look like a fool rather than blindly follow a set of beliefs. Many people would rather do the latter out of appearances. It's dangerous.
I like interacting with people of different backgrounds because it sharpens my critical thinking skills and understanding of the world. Discussion is a good thing. It strengthens what we believe and gets us out of a “box”. We should allow each other to ask questions, discuss and allow each other to be open. I'd be the type of English professors or teacher that gets excited when a student asks a question in class. I would be the type of teacher that has long discussions and debates in class. Many of the older students seem to like that. Why? This is what helps students understand, learn, and grow in their own beliefs and know how to look at the world.
I try to discuss and listen to others with differing views only so that I can relate to others and learn how to effectively talk about the gospel in the different contexts and especially why I choose to believe in certain things. It seems that Christians on the average don't do too well in this area. They seem to have a fear about being challenged in their faith and exploration of new ideas and even listening. At the same time, a person should use wisdom to navigate through the world.
Sometimes, I feel bad for not knowing exactly where I stand politically on things or how to approach certain ideas. As a young adult studying literature with a interdisciplinary approach, I am subjected to various philosophies, including those that go against my beliefs. Sometimes, I feel a but frustrated because I can't fully explain how my faith compares to so-and-so idea. It encourages me to compare, contrast and seek the truth I know at a deeper level. I believe in engaging meaningfully with culture while not being a part of it rather than separatism.
Then, it occurred to me. Any ideology that is from the world will have their flaws and limited. Politics, philosophy and other things come secondary to the real truth. That doesn't mean that a person should ignore these things. It would be impractical especially if a person is in law, government, politics. Then, again as a citizen it is important to seek out information and look beyond limitations.
I still enjoy conversations and interacting with others, especially those with differing views since it makes me think about my beliefs. It's important for Christians to have answers and discuss faith meaningfully. I'll admit, I'm no expert but an average college student. I'm just thinking out loud...
1, this is from an online newspaper and here's the link, since plaigarism is bad.