A while back, I picked up the book The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University by Kevin Roose.
In it, Roose recounts a semester-long project in which he infiltrates Liberty University--Jerry Falwell's own conservative Christian school. He describes himself as someone who "grew up in the ultimate secular/liberal family (my parents are Quakers who used to work for Ralph Nader), and I went to Brown University – a school that, by Falwellian standards, is only a notch or two above Sodom and Gomorrah."
I'm not sure what I expected when I opened to the first chapter, but I was sure I knew whether or not Roose would convert before I read the last pages. What I found in the interim was a deeply moving lesson regarding the "outsider's" view of conservative Christianity.
To call a spade a spade, I would have to honestly tell you that my mouth is my biggest problem. Sometimes it works sans filter. Correction. Often it works sans filter. But I can't seem to get this scripture out of my mind: "Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless" (James 1:26).
It bothers me. I haven't done much about it, but Roose's book made it a little hard to ignore. His major issue was the generous use of the words "gay" or "queer" as an insult to other guys in the dorm. Those things were particularly insulting to him because he was very close to his two lesbian aunts--two women who would've found that language reprehensible.
What I wonder is why the Christian community doesn't find this language just as reprehensible? If we're truly called to be set apart, and different, and we're expected to "keep [our] tongues from evil
and [our] lips from deceitful speech," how do we become so married to obviously perjorative phrases (1 Peter 3:10)?
Truthfully, I think it's due to lack of vigilance. We don't always consider the weight of our words. We've forgotten the charge laid on us in Titus: "In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us" (Titus 2:7-8).
I hate to give any of my readers a spoiler, but the chances are good that I won't internalize this concept over night. Or in a week. And since I've been stewing on it for about a month, I think it's pretty safe to say that it's going to be a while before there is an effective follow through.
To be fair, words weren't Roose's only issue. He encountered a lot of great guys who confessed Christ, but spent more time on personal lusts or gains than in scripture. While I'd like to say that issues like this one are subject to young men on college campuses, the chances that someone would have the same experience after a semester with me is likely. Highly. Likely.
Were there great examples of Christ? Absolutely. And some of them really did impact Roose more deeply than I think he's able to articulate in the book. In fact, I would venture to say that many of those "Christian" experiences have opened his eyes, too. Thank God that's the case. I'd hate to think I was the only one who got an eye opening experience out of his words.
In short, which this post totally isn't, you should read it. For a hundred different reasons. Whether you believe Christ or not. Because we could all use a message in what it is to be genuine.
Which is a lesson I suppose Roose learned, too.