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The Summer I Lived With Heathens

Sometimes it’s important see things from an opposite perspective to truly understand where someone is coming from.

Kevin Roose, a recent graduate from Brown University, recently published a book called The Unlikely Disciple, in which he chronicled his journey as an undercover liberal at Liberty University, the largest evangelical liberal arts school in the country. He wanted to cross the “God Divide” and see for himself if Liberty housed genuine Christians, or if it was just another farce.

As a fellow journalist, I can appreciate Roose’s drive to go undercover for a semester at a school where the mainstream trends include John Piper, Casting Crowns and a midnight curfew. However, Roose and I couldn’t be more different.

Having been raised in a conservative Christian environment, I have completed my education through a mix of home school and Christian school education the past 21 years of my life. I’ve been active in my church and have cultivated Christian friends.

My definition of crossing the “God Divide” was to visit the side that Roose typically calls home, when he’s not taking a semester off from his regular university to take Bible classes and learn about young-earth creation as one of “Jerry’s kids.” Diving into the liberal community was something new that I’d never tried before, and so I reasoned, what better place to start than the most politicized city in America: Washington, D.C.?

Without the intent of being secretive (as had been one of the factors of Roose’s experiment), I applied for an internship with the Washington Times, packed business clothes and heels, and prepared to immerse myself for a summer in the heart of the nation’s capital.

I shared a three-story townhouse with seven girls, and soon discovered that I was one of the few conservatives who lived there. Most of the girls were interning in democratic representatives’ and senators’ offices, and I was working at a newspaper that is the conservative answer to the Washington Post. They were from state universities, and I was from Liberty University. I stuck out like a sore thumb from the get-go, which made me wonder: Are these girls going to act the way I’ve always imagined non-Christ followers acting? Are they going to blacklist me because Liberty is stereotyped as a homosexual-hating, liberal-bashing, close-minded institution that churns out drones?

My presuppositions couldn’t have been more wrong. From day one, even though I was open about the fact that I was from Liberty and I was a conservative Christian, the girls treated me no differently than they did each other. We ate meals together, watched reality television together, and enjoyed the same genres of music (the favorites that rose to the top were Taylor Swift and 90s pop music). The only thing we differed on was partying on the weekends. My Friday nights consisted of a movie from Netflix with my two roommates, while the rest of the girls frequented bars around the immediate area.

Ironically, one of the girls was reading through The Unlikely Disciple that summer, which opened up a lot of doors to talk about what life at Liberty was actually like. Conversations about faith cropped up on a regular basis (the question “Is there only one way to heaven?” was heavily debated for over an hour), and we visited churches of different denominations around our section of D.C. to see what each had to offer.

My perception of life outside the Christian bubble was remolded during my stay in D.C. Even though the girls I lived with partied on the weekends and occasionally used language that I wasn’t a fan of, they looked out for each other. I learned more about friendship from girls who do not necessarily share my beliefs than I ever did from the Christian friends I had in high school. Even some of the self-professed Christians I met in college could have learned a thing or two from my housemates about respect and honesty.

My only lingering regret is that most of the girls did not know the Lord, though I tried my best to be a transparent example of Christ; regardless, I know God had a reason for me to be the lone conservative in a house full of liberals.

If we are followers of Christ, his love should overflow from our hearts into other people’s lives, blessing them as we have been blessed. The challenge I took away from my summer experience was to live as my roommates lived, in one respect — to treat everyone with love and respect, even if you disagree with their point of view. Dr. Del Tackett, professor and face of Focus on the Family’s “The Truth Project,” emphasizes that we as Christians must be attractively winsome to the rest of the world so that they will be curious about the Lord that redeemed us.

How funny that I pulled this lesson out of living with “heathens.”


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