Oct 10, 2006

Column: Thoughts outside the bubble

by Marcelo Quarantotto, Life! Editor

Allow me first to apologize for my truancy in beginning this column. I am a senior this year, and in addition to taking full time classes, I work part time delivering endless supplies of breadsticks, soup, salad and, for a limited-time offer, pasta at the Olive Garden. I also spend a great deal of time trying to make these last few pages of “The Champion” look fancy. Peruse in awe…not really. So, on top of all that formal stuff, I’m also newly married and for some strange reason my wife thinks we should actually see each other. The nerve.

That was a joke, like the ones your professors make that really are not funny but you laugh at anyway because you subconsciously yearn to keep the status quo.

The title for my column, “Thoughts Outside the Bubble,” is sort of a spin-off from the “thinking outside of the box” truism. Our university is often referred to as the “Liberty Bubble,” and because I am an off-campus, married senior, there are a few things to which I would like to devote a few words a week to.

Living near the downtown area, I was able to frequent the Tutto Bene’—the new caffeine supplier on Main Street. While it does not exactly provide the quiet one may be looking for to do some reading, writing and meditating, I have had some of my best conversations there.

Periodically, I step inside to greet Bernadette Irr, the owner of the shop, even if only for a minute and even if I don’t plan on buying anything.

During a few of the talks that we have had together, she has mentioned how she had been alienated by various people in churches close to her home. She came to the point where she did not feel comfortable attending any longer. Through this experience, which was pretty traumatic to her and her family, God taught her something indispensable.

In reference to this, Bernadette said with a laugh, “I have to say, we sit better in society now. Back then, (my family and I) were in our little ‘churchy’ circles. Now, I’m out in the world and I fit better in society and I serve God to the best of my ability with whatever I can.”

Allow me to clarify. She was not trying to persuade anyone to leave their local church assembly. What happened was that she was forced to interact with people that were “outside the bubble” and to engage with them at eye-level. She did not look at these people as lesser beings who she would deign to speak with, but rather as individuals as guilty of sinning and as worthy of salvation as she is.

This is an issue that continues to come up in my life. While growing up, I was taught that there are people who are your Christian friends, and then there are others who you witnessed to and, at most, only held platonic, surface-level relationships with. This leaves opportunity to quarantine non-believers from the “church-going folk.”

During my time at Liberty, God put people in my life that would talk with me about these issues. I would meditate on thoughts by Christian thinkers like Derek Webb, John Piper and Don Miller. I read writings by secular writers like Jean-Louis Lebris de Kerouac and F. Scott Fitzgerald. And all these things, whether by professionals or bohemians, aged scholars or young adults, Christians or secularists, Arminians or Calvinists, all pointed me to the same thing — we, as Christians, need to invest our lives in other human beings, especially non-believers, and show them love.

In keeping with this paradigm of “this” vs. “that,” we know that at Liberty, we have the “evangelical bulldog” known as Ergun Caner. On Oct. 23, Randolph- Macon Women’s College, located on Rivermont Ave., is hosting an event in which “Darwin’s rottweiler” is coming to speak. His name is Richard Dawkins and, as it says on www.rmwc.edu, “Dawkins will discuss his new book, “The God Delusion,” and in his direct, logical style challenge religion in all its forms.”

My charge to you, average Liberty student who has taken classes in evangelism, creationism and the all-important GNED, which teaches you about every other “ism,” is that this is a chance for you to floss the information you collected on the days you did not skip or sleep through lectures.

My admonition is not an “Onward Christian Soldiers” battle-cry for a non-existent cultural war but rather an exhortation to step outside the bubble and meet people where they are — n0t at the Clubhouse, not at the computer lab and certainly not at Movies-10. A way to connect with your peers (and yes, they are your peers) about things that actually mean something — not “Zoolander” quotes, internet-based athletic leagues, “The OC” and most definitely not “Halo 2.”

A warning: this lecture is not for the weak of heart or the tasteless. It is not an opportunity to cast stones and bitter remarks. Such tactless banter and messages of hate and anger will not bring those outside the bubble to their knees before King Jesus, who teaches us to  love them. 

This lecture begins at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 23 in R-MWC’s Smith Hall Theater. Attendance at the event is free but priceless.

Contact Marcelo Quarantotto at mquarantotto @liberty.edu. He encourages it.

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