Sunday, December 27, 2009

Double Consciousness

The notion of double consciousness was described first by W. E. B. DuBois in 1902.  He described the challenge of being both a "negro and an American."  According to the Duboisian worldview individuals should be capable of embracing multiple identities so they have the ability to fully function within one’s ethnic group, religion, and culture while simultaneously having the capacity to be fully a part of the wider society.  Throughout the semester I have been attempting to navigate the internal dissonance I have experienced as a result of a sense of double consciousness between my academic identity and my identity as a Christian.   Although individually I have been able to navigate this double consciousness and integrate these two identities, I have yearned to find a community of others who also experience this double consciousness.  But I have struggled to identify the underlying opposition between these two identities.  In some way I associate academics and scholars with a liberal paradigm (as increasing education often is associated with more liberal/open minded thinking) whereas the Christian paradigm is often associated with conservative values and beliefs.  While I do believe this reflects some of the dissonance I experience, it does not fully explain why academic and Christian identities are difficult to integrate within today's society.  After watching Angels & Demons last night I feel as though I have a better understanding of the fundamental dissonance between the two.  Academics typically value science; which at its core is about seeking truth and knowledge that can be validated.  Christianity, on the other hand, is about having faith, "being sure of what we hope for and certain of what is unseen" (Hebrews 11:1).  Herein lies the fundamental juxtaposition of academic knowledge and Christian values.  The first is a matter of the mind.  The latter a matter of the heart.  However, I believe God gave us both a heart and mind that coexist.  

I have experienced the internal dissonance that exists within this double consciousness.  And although I feel as though I am capable of integrating these two identities individually, society provides some barriers that make life within a state of double consciousness difficult.  One of my course assignments this semester was to create a learning community.  So I decided to create a community of individuals who were also interested in taking an academic, critical approach to Christianity.  I was fortunate to hear Greg Boyd, a well-known Christian author and pastor in St. Paul, MN, preach.  He takes an academic approach to understanding the fundamental values of Christianity that align well with my own beliefs.  My small learning community has decided to begin our study by working through Greg's book, "Repenting of Religion: Turning from Judgment to the Love of God."  I feel that by creating a community of individuals who are interested in discussing Christianity from a critical perspective and finding a pastor who acts as a radical leader, I no longer feel isolated within my state of double consciousness.  


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