by Kevin Tanan
Who are you? A reflection on Christian identity in Indonesia
'He comes to us as One unknown, without a name, as of old, by the lake-side. He came to those men who knew Him not. He speaks to us the same word: 'Follow me!' and sets us to the tasks which He has to fulfil for our time. He commands. And to those who obey Him, whether they be wise or simple, He will reveal Himself in the toils, the conflicts, the sufferings which they shall pass through in His fellowship, and, as an ineffable mystery, they shall learn in their own experience Who He is.' (Albert Schweitzer, Quest for the Historical Jesus)
In Indonesia, religion is recorded on every adult's Resident Identity Card.
Who are you? A question apprehends a deserted, passport-less traveller. The question conveys a conundrum: Is present identity defined by the 'presence' of one standing before you? Or is it encompassed by invested materiality, the essential form of paper printed black and white therefore legal and substantial--the valuable passport?
'Who are you?' the border protection officer asks again. This time, the question demands a justification of presence: 'What is your name? Identify yourself!' Ironically, traveller's circumstances are now diminished: he was once a citizen but now becomes a refugee.
'What is your existence?' To be self-invested in diverse possibilities of existence, a centre is necessary or any construct that is close to it. A centre is necessary to indicate a presence, otherwise existence is a mere arbitrary possibility amongst many. This 'centre' is potent with layers of narrative that we cover ourselves in, investing materiality with significance so that our existence ultimately remains an enigma.
He comes to us as One unknown conveys a scene of Jesus as a traveller: he came to those who did not know Him. When asked, 'Who are you?' Jesus spoke from the midst of life, his identity forged in his very presence. No words of creed or doctrine, nor any programmatic or scholastic justification--he was without a passport.
He is present and he responds! This is everything: an offering of Christological testimony in the midst of life, creating vital possibilities for life in this existential relay of good news that is otherwise than security over our self in the and call to follow him.
Kevin Tanan is an overseas student from Indonesia and is soon to finish his study with Stirling Theological College. Questions of existence are tangibly real for many students like Kevin. This piece is dedicated to all students who embark into a new journey, wherever God calls.