Learn About/Subscribe:
Christian Union
Christian Union: The Magazine
September 18, 2020

Tanaka ’23 Serves with Lumine, John Jay Society

by luke brown, dartmouth ’18

In his Summa Theologica, Thomas Aquinas said, “There is no greater act of charity than to lead a neighbor to truth.” Jonathan Tanaka, Columbia ’23, is passionately seeking this greatest act of charity in a bold and wholehearted way.

“I believe that since God is the perfect, supreme arbiter of truth–He is truth. It is not only a good thing to pursue Him by pursuing truth, but it is my duty to do so,” said Tanaka, who will serve on Christian Union Lumine’s student executive team this upcoming year as a sophomore. “Likewise, it is my duty to embody the theological virtue of charity by leading others to truth both in direct debate and by providing a place in which arguments are given and resolutions are reached.”


JTColumbiaSmallIn his first year at Columbia, Tanaka, who calls Nicholasville, Kentucky, home, joined with a close friend to restart and reform the John Jay Society at Columbia. In Tanaka’s own words, “One of the first students that I became friends with at Columbia was a Catholic powerhouse named Lucas Cremers. Lucas and I immediately realized that we shared similar visions for the transformation of Columbia, not only spiritually, but also intellectually by cultivating a deep respect for Judeo-Christian values, particularly in the spheres of political and moral philosophy.” 

Thus, the friends revamped the John Jay Society, “a parliamentary debate society built on the bedrock of friendship and the earnest pursuit of Truth.” With over thirty members committed to this pursuit, the group meets weekly to discuss and debate thought-provoking topics such as “There Exists a Tyranny of the Majority,” “The Liberal Arts Are Practically Useless,” and “That the State Should Be a Moral Agent.”

Christian Union Lumine has been a key fixture of Tanaka’s time at Columbia. He has been involved in Bible courses, the ministry’s leadership lecture series, Illumina, and served as a member of the Socials and Outreach Team. 

“Christian Union has provided me with the most well-established, tightly-knit community that I have been a part of at Columbia,” said Tanaka. “Part of this I attribute to our ministry center on 114th Street. I remember being absolutely amazed at the sheer potential of having a building of our own so close to campus.”

Tanaka appreciates the ministry center as a spiritual getaway from the normal life of a Columbia student, but also realizes that one of the unique and most influential aspects of Christian Union is how the ministry combines spirituality and intellectualism. 

Tanaka’s vision to see Christ glorified extends beyond the confines of Columbia’s campus. With the John Jay Society as a starting point, he is founding an inter-university forum for politics, philosophy, and worldviews with the specific aim to “[shift] societal focus back to the questions of grounding morality, cultivating societal justice, and God’s existence.”

Additionally, Tanaka and a small group of Columbia undergraduates within the philosophy department are crafting an Aristotelian logic curriculum for middle and high school students. “Aristotle’s logic is replete with notions of inherent order and telos (purpose), which I believe will be a valuable tool in assisting individuals in their journey towards higher truth,” said Tanaka. 

This fall, Tanaka—aided by the words of philosophers like Aristotle and Aquinas, grounded in the Word of God, and supported by those within Christian Union Lumine—is seeking to exhibit Christian charity on Columbia’s campus.