So I had a good chunk of time to kill on Friday and spent the greater part of it at Barnes and Noble. I picked up a book called "The Unlikely Deciple" by Kevin Roose. Basically the author was a college student at Brown University, one known for its partying and liberal lifestyle. He decided, as a journalist, that he wanted to know more about the evangelical christian community. Kevin decides to transfer to Liberity, a Baptist college known as "bible boot camp", for one semester. He attends as if he shared the same beliefs as all of those around him: a kind of seeing them in their natural habitat. I've only read the book to page 93 so far, but i fully intend upon finishing it. So far in my reading i've developed a deep respect for this person. He went into a place completely out of his element and comfort zone, and immersed himself in a culture that went against many of the things that he was brought up to defend such as homosexuality and abortion rights. So far he's made some good observations, not all of them positive, but nonetheless accurate in my mind.
One particular observation was one that had never occured to me, but i was glad he made it. He said that one question that seemed to get thrown around often in the evangelical circles was "how is your spiritual life?" Indeed for him it was a little disconcerting, especially since it wasn't just good friends that would ask, it was people he would barely know. The question was a personal one, and would involve a following of more detailed questions such as "how often are you reading your bible" and others picking at the minor details. However Roose concluded that in a religion where the belief was that if you didn't grow in your faith you could lose it, and that meant going to hell or at the very least not going to heaven, when they asked you about your spiritual life it meant that they cared. They wanted to make sure you were safe.
It reminded me of a documentary i once saw on the amish runspringa, or the time when amish youths were allowed to go into the world and decide if they wanted to continue the amish life style. If a youth chose the amish lifestyle, but then went outside of it, that was seen as breaking a promise and could result in the amish community shunning them. While this would seem as a heartless or cold reaction, the truth as one youth put it was that this was their last method to show you the gravity of what you were doing, and they did it because they loved you and didn't want you to go to hell.
This makes me think that love, real love, is not socially acceptable. Love is not polite, it is awkward, and invades the privacy of an individual. However as i was reading this novel i couldn't help but think, "WHY WAS THIS NECESSARY?"
Do you realize that this man had to INFILTRATE the evangelical community? This makes the Kingdom less of a community, and more of a fortress. Have we been put on a pedestal? Are personal relationships not even plausible?
I always thought it was supposed to be the other way around you know? Paul said that when he traveled, he became all things to all people so that he might save some. To me that sounds like a christian going into the secular community and building relationships, not the other way around. Jesus himself said that the kingdom of heaven was like yeast working its way through the dough. To me that also sounds like the christian community spreading themselves througout the secular world, not making themselves a completely separate loaf of bread.
Its a truly good book and i suggest it highly, however i'm not sure i'm happy that it exists. It shouldn't have needed to be developed. I understand that the belief in absolute truth is one often considered to be oppressive, and thusly pushed out of most social circles, but we shouldn't give up and separate ourselves. And when you think about it, socially unacceptable meant death by stoning for the early christians, yet they managed to convert kings. Whose lives are we touching? Is it the journalist who snuck into our barracks?