Us and Them

I just started a new book this morning and I'm having trouble putting it down. It's by Kevin Roose and it's called "The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University." And, being a nerd, I downloaded it on the Kindle for iPhone.

This book isn't new (I've read a blog or two about it) but a newspaper article in the religion section of our local paper this morning piqued my attention to check it out. Long story short, Kevin Roose is a student at Brown University who decided to immerse himself in evangelical Christian university culture by enrolling for a semester at Liberty University. To his credit, Roose goes into his experience with an open mind to truly discern the thoughts and life patterns of evangelical Christianity, which for him is admittedly difficult since his own background is explicitly secular.

In preparing for his semester of study at Liberty, Roose does some intensive study with a friend in the areas of Bible study, Christian music, and even Veggie Tales so that he will be as equipped as possible when he goes. It is then, at the end of his weekend evangelical Jedi training, that his friend asks him a curious question: Are you ready spiritually for a semester of Christianity? In other words, are you ready for the possibility that your life could be changed and that you could (gasp) be converted? Other friends expressed the same "concern" prior to his leaving.

I couldn't help but laugh out loud at the irony of the question. How many times have my fellow believers (and even myself) warned each other about the dangers of flirting with the secular culture for fear of turning to the dark side? Now, here is a group warning this young man to be careful lest he turn to the light side!

This whole notion reeks of an "us and them" mentality. Yes, as a believer I am separated from the world by virtue of holiness and no longer part of it's economy. But I agree with guys like Mark Driscoll and others who insist that believers should neither check out on our culture nor embrace it but rather function within it so that Jesus can transform people. Too often both sides stand at a distance and finger point at each other without ever really engaging in any promising dialogue (unless you consider the "experts" the cable news networks parade for 5-minute bits that resemble more of a carnival freak show than productive discussion).

There is a culture that is comfortable for the skeptic and there is a culture that is comfortable for the believer. While these two sides cannot mesh their beliefs (syncretism is never okay) it is more than important that different cultures engage each other. Sunday mornings are great for the Christian because there is worship through music, Bible study, fellowship, and probably doughnuts all under the protective canopy of brick and stained glass. But what about the rest of the 6 days and 22 hours when we leave those training grounds and go into the world with its own culture? It can either be us and them or it can be us trying to reach them for the gospel.

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