But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and be ready always to give an answer to every man who asketh you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear. -1 Peter 3:15
My friends and I were standing on a bustling street in downtown Greenville, enjoying our gelato and flashing back to ethereal visions of Florentine streets and Tuscan nights. The conversation had turned from reminiscing on our adventures in Paris and London to this semester’s nightmarish schedules and classes when our little group of world-travelers was interrupted. It was a guy – short, mid-twenties, wearing a red baseball cap and diffusing the unmistakable aroma of one too many drafts from a local bar.
He was wondering what there was to do around downtown, and we seemed like just the type of people to ask; the very question said something about his judgment. We answered hesitantly, asking what sort of place he was looking for… the guy had obviously had a few more than one too many, and he seemed to be looking for a place to get a few more. I commented on the fabulous gelato place around the corner, thinking he might get the drift that our little group wasn’t in downtown Greenville to party. Finally he asked us where we went to school, because we seemed like the “sophisticated educated types.” Furman? Clemson? At first we didn’t answer, then Lindsay threw out that we were all students at Bob Jones. “Bob Jones?!” The guy said. The change in his face was obvious when he realized the implications of the fact. The ultra-conservative BJU stereotype follows students everywhere.
Then he swore.
We exchanged glances again. “So y’all believe in all that Christian Bible stuff, then, right?”
“We’re Christians, yes,” Lindsay responded. Thank goodness for Lindsay. She’s always the voice of reason in the group. Something about the situation made me want to laugh, but at the same time, I was thinking- Wow. Where’s the person who has all the right words to say at the right moment in response to this guy’s ramblings? When I came out of my introspection, Shorty was asking if we knew about 2012, the golden tablets of truth, and the Kaboahu tribe of Indianapolis*.
“I’m a scientologist. It’s crazy,” he said, laughing. Our new acquaintance (later we found out his name was Jason) proceeded to tell us why we shouldn’t believe everything the Bible said. His first argument had to do with the way language had evolved. If he had a convincing argument, his blood alcohol level wouldn’t allow him to articulate it… and there were a few hard-core English students in the group just waiting for him to expound on linguistic evolution. I would have loved to hear him take on Sarah when she asked if he was familiar with Derrida’s deconstructionist theory of language. But Jason’s train of thought derailed somewhere in the middle of his rebuttal. Instead he swore and said he couldn’t think because he was drunk, but it was okay because his argument really did make sense: he was Harvard-educated and he had a Honda and a Dodge, so he knew what he was talking about.
We talked to the guy for a few minutes – he decided to enlighten us on scientology’s theory of… something.
“So, there’s this desert in Africa called the Hasarah. The Hasarah is as big as the US. But there’s fossils of seashells and ocean stuff in it. It’s been covered by an ocean five times. Which proves the wobble theory that the earth tilts on its axis every 224,000 years.”
“…or it proves that the earth was covered in a universal flood as described in Genesis,” one of us shot back.
“Yeah, but in the universal flood, God gave up on humankind and wiped them out.”
“But he saved a remnant and offered us redemption through His Son, Jesus Christ.”
“Yeah, I know all the Jesus stuff, he was born of a virgin, died for three days, rose again, and all that. But in 2012…”
About that point someone suggested we should probably move on and get supper. Which… sounded like a good idea. We extricated ourselves from the situation. Jason concluded that one day we’d be enlightened, and that we were all cool even though we didn’t get it. A few minutes later we remembered Jason in prayer as we asked the Lord to bless our pizza.
On the way back to campus, our little group was talking about dry erase boards and vomiting peaches (which probably says something about our collective maturity) when we drove past the Christian Science Reading Room. We couldn’t help but laugh at the absurdity of the entire incident. But later, thinking more about Jason and others like him, something hit me – a feeling between gratitude for my own relationship with the Lord and other Christians and a stark, personal conviction that I need to be ready to give an answer… more ready than I am right now.
The whole thing hit a little too close to home. There are such lonely people all around me. What am I doing about it? Suddenly it really doesn’t seem like enough just to live in a way that glorifies God with the hope that others see it and catch on. Suddenly it’s obvious that I have to be willing get out of my box, be real, and live outside the lines. Right now.
It’s moments like these that make my own narrow point of view wobble a little bit. It’s always the little things, the most ridiculous conversations, that shake up my preconceived ideas of what living for God really means. The wobble theory of Christian life? Get out of your comfort zone and embrace the uncertainty that is abandoning everything else to Him. Share the message that the rest of the world is dying without. Speak boldly. Give an answer.