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A Stranger In A Strange Land

Imagine taking on this assignment.

You are to leave behind everything you have been used to in life and infiltrate a strange and unknown culture.

The natives see the world completely differently than you, your parents or friends do.

And yet in the quest for knowledge you must learn their language, their culture, their habits.

You must do all that you can to convince them that you are in fact one of them.

Gain their trust.

Even speak to their chief.

Compile your observations.

And publish your conclusions.

Sounds like something we’d see on Man Versus Wild, doesn’t it?

But now imagine the exotic location was Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia.

The chief was Jerry Falwell.

And the bizarre tribe?

Born again Christians.

Ivy Leaguer `infiltrates’ Falwell’s university

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Kevin Roose managed to blend in during his single semester at Liberty University, attending lectures on the myth of evolution and the sin of homosexuality, and joining fellow students on a mission trip to evangelize partyers on spring break.

Roose had transferred to the Virginia campus from Brown University in Providence, a famously liberal member of the Ivy League. His Liberty classmates knew about the switch, but he kept something more important hidden: He planned to write a book about his experience at the school founded by fundamentalist preacher Jerry Falwell.

Each conversation about salvation or hand-wringing debate about premarital sex was unwitting fodder for Roose’s recently published book: “The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University”.

Roose’s attempt at understanding Christians by play acting his way into their world certainly presents some major ethical problems.

How would you like to find out that a person you loved, accepted, perhaps even confided in as a brother in the Lord was really just examining you like some lab specimen?


But interestingly, Roose may have ended up learning more than he bargained for in this adventure.

He was determined to not mock the school, thinking it would be too easy — and unfair. He aimed to immerse himself in the culture, examine what conservative Christians believe and see if he could find some common ground. He had less weighty questions too: How did they spend Friday nights? Did they use Facebook? Did they go on dates? Did they watch “Gossip Girl?”

It wasn’t an easy transition. Premarital sex is an obvious no-no at Liberty. So are smoking and drinking. Cursing is also banned, so he prepared by reading the Christian self-help book, “30 Days to Taming Your Tongue.”

He lined up a publisher — Grand Central Publishing — and arrived at the Lynchburg campus prepared for “hostile ideologues who spent all their time plotting abortion clinic protests and sewing Hillary Clinton voodoo dolls.”

Instead, he found that “not only are they not that, but they’re rigorously normal.”

Rouse not only discovered that many of the stereotypes he held about Christians were off base, but also that they might actually be on to something – or better some One.

Roose said his Liberty experience transformed him in surprising ways.

When he first returned to Brown, he’d be shocked by the sight of a gay couple holding hands — then be shocked at his own reaction. He remains stridently opposed to Falwell’s worldview, but he also came to understand Falwell’s appeal.

Once ambivalent about faith, Roose now prays to God regularly — for his own well-being and on behalf of others. He said he owns several translations of the Bible and has recently been rereading meditations from the letters of John on using love and compassion to solve cultural conflicts.

He’s even considering joining a church.

Let’s hope God continues to work in the life of Kevin Rouse.

But lets also not forget about the work God desires to do in and through our lives as Christians.

One of the most interesting experiences I have is when people that I interact with in secular settings (the health club, the golf course, entertainment events etc.) ask me what I do for a living.

When I tell them I am a pastor, most of the time they are somewhat taken aback.

Often they will say, “Wow! I never would have guessed that!”

Now, when that happens, I feel an obligation to ask them why they have that reaction.

I mean, hopefully it’s not because they saw me tossing my 9 iron into the lake on that obnoxious par 4!

But when they say things like, “Well, you are so friendly..”

or “You seem to have a sense of humor..”

or “You really look like you like to have fun..”

the stage is set to share with them another mind blowing truth.

God isn’t for the dry, stuffy, and harsh types who live in desperate fear that someone, somewhere is enjoying life.

Jesus doesn’t turn people into freaks. He turns freaks into people.

And that is something that those on the outside looking in at a relationship with God are literally dying to know.

It’s too bad that people like Kevin Rouse had to go to such lengths to find out what Christians are really all about.

Perhaps if we made the effort to “infiltrate” the world of non believers with the love and truth of Jesus in an open and honest way,  fewer people would see us as an exotic tribe!

Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. (Colossians 4:5)

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