Victoria Sparks is a freshman at UNA and a 2011 graduate of East Lawrence High School. While she is still undecided on a major, she stays busy involved with the UPC and the Student Alliance for Equality (SAFE), formerly known as the Gay Straight Alliance.
What are some of your favorite things about being a student at UNA?
I really like the whole college environment. Like… I have friends here, but that’s not necessarily what I mean. The whole experience. It’s a pretty campus with people everywhere doing the same thing as me. We’re all different but have this in common.
What is one thing you would change about school or the campus?
Let me think of the biggest thing… there are like two answers to this. I guess the bookstore should have my books in when I need them. Other than that, I don’t know, a sense of unity. We have a really low game attendance. When different groups have their own events people don’t really show up a lot unless it’s one of the big events on campus.
Tell me about your life growing up.
Basically I was raised by a single mother. I had a pretty smooth childhood when I was younger, but then in middle school is when mom had problems with drugs and stuff. I have a 22 year old brother. We only got to see him like once a month but then more as he got older. Then mom went to rehab and got better. I had to live with my aunt for 3 years during while she was there. Things were great and awesome until my long lost father contacted her. Things with that escalated quickly. They remarried but divorced again a month ago.
Was your family active in church or religious when you were younger?
When I was young me and my mom went to Center for Conscious Living in Huntsville. It’s the same premise as a church but basically… I remember the kids room we would study about all the different religions during their different holidays. Sometimes we did yoga, it was all about energy, positivity, and helping people. It was like church and we went once a week. Regardless of what you believea slong as, you know, you aren’t a d-bag.
Are you still active? Why or why not?
In Florence when I’m here I don’t usually go. When I am home I usually do. I’ve been to the Living Spirits Church and I really like it but don’t ever wake up on Sundays. It’s like Christian based but very… not traditional. It’s basically like the Center for Conscious Living except based on Jesus and the Bible. Very love promoting and positive thinking.
What is one thing you would change about organized religion?
I guess it would be … like to me the main point of Christianity is loving people and accepting people how they are. Through doing that, people will think ‘hey, this isn’t a group of people telling me I’m doing everything wrong. It’s more than I thought’. I guess it would be… just that people would realize that, how love is the main deal.
Tell me about your personal belief in God.
I definitely believe there is a God. All the scientific theories about, like the Big Bang theory… scientists can tell things that are proven obviously happened. Who’s to say God isn’t the One Who made that stuff up?
Jesus is my homeboy. I don’t know. There’s a lot of arguments that come up. Obviously I am in leadership position for equality for all sexualities. That’s a big issue. I know what the Bible says. I know people interpret it and how I interpret things. I personally do not know whether it is wrong for people to be gay or straight. It is my job to love them and treat them equally regardless. So… there are a lot of things that people have harsh views about that I don’t. I don’t really know a way to justify that. I just know that what I feel in my heart is ok. I just act on that.
That’s one thing that often gets me biblically speaking. We like to pick and choose what sins we are against. You have a 500 pound preacher railing against homosexuality. But he is severely overweight. He needs to put the gravy down. God looks at gluttony exactly the same. We can’t point to someone else’s sin while sweeping ours under the rug
Where do you draw your belief from?
Let me think… you hear people like pastors try to teach…not necessarily. That’s just a man. That’s just one person’s interpretation of things. Based off of that, and then considering the things that they say then whatever feels… everyone has a feeling of what is right or wrong when something is good or bad. I know that caring about people and helping people and loving people regardless of who they are just feels right to me. If that’s how it was all the time there wouldn’t be so many crappy things happening all the time. That’s true with racism and things like that.
What does it take for someone to personally know God? Is it possible?
I think it’s possible. I think that is really just between that person and God. If they… I think it’s different for every person definitely. I don’t know. That goes back to what you feel in your inner beings in your heart and soul.
What do you consider to be a ‘good’ person?
This is tough because… I guess it’s defined by their intentions. Because there are people who do judge and not love people but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are a bad person. Our actions are shaped so much by what we go through and outside things. Even though I talk about loving people I still have problems sometimes. It’s all in your mindset and intentions.
Do you consider yourself one? Why or why not?
I guess I’m a pretty good person. I mean, I’m not… some spectacular like ‘all I ever do is help people and it’s amazing.’ I pretty much never, for the most part, am devious.
The Bible says in Romans 3:23 that every person is a sinner and falls short of God’s standard. What does that say to you?
I mean we all mess up and all make mistakes. No one is better than anyone else. We’re all in the same boat basically.
From a Christian perspective, what do you think about the claims of Jesus Christ in John 14:6: I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man comes unto the Father but by Me?
From a Christian perspective …well… He is salvation. Without Jesus, without believing in Jesus… salvation and the Father being in heaven. I’m not good at saying words. There is not another way to get to heaven or to be with God without believing in Jesus.
Tell me what first comes to mind when you hear the terms ‘being saved’ or ‘born again’. If the Bible is true, what do you think it takes for a person to come to genuine faith in Jesus Christ?
What first comes to mind is the cliché saying ‘accepting Jesus into your heart’. Because that’s just, you know, what you ‘say’. But I definitely don’t think it’s the same for every person as far as that experience.
It’s just an internal like… knowing within oneself that, you know, I want to live this way. Even if you have a different interpretation of the nit-picky details, just in general, you know, inside yourself ‘this is how I want to live. I want to be this kind of person.’
We talked a moment ago about how every person is a sinner, no matter who they are or what they’ve done.Would you read three verses for me and tell me what they say to you?
Romans 5:8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. KJV
But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him. The Message
God loves us so much that he made a giant huge sacrifice for us because He knew that we would all be sinners.
The one thing that jumped out at me wasn’t just the sacrifice but the timing of it. I know I’m not real quick to forgive someone when they screw me over, but for God to do that… that’s huge.
Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. KJV
Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving.
Like I see it, but then I think I see it in a different perspective also. It says you are saved through faith, it’s all about God and not saying ‘oh, I did this’. But I also think people who do things like good works or deeds and most of the people who do it, you know, for God or the right intentions aren’t like flaunting it. That could be in this instance this verse could also be talking about letting God work through you.
There are a lot of religious people who think they are good because they do good deeds but that’s not what saves anybody. No matter how good our efforts are it still falls far, far short. And that’s His escape route, He dropped a line to us because we can’t save ourselves.
Romans 10:9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.KJV
Say the welcoming word to God—“Jesus is my Master”—embracing, body and soul, God’s work of doing in us what he did in raising Jesus from the dead. That’s it. You’re not “doing” anything; you’re simply calling out to God, trusting him to do it for you. That’s salvation. The Message
This one actually really goes back to… it’s just an internal’ you just know.’ It says you’re not doing anything. It’s like a contract but not… it’s a change or an acceptance. When you know ‘I want to live this way’ it’s like an internal thing, like a click.
There definitely has to be an internal change but it talks about how the only thing God requires is belief. Genuine belief is fleshed out in a changed life. You confess out of your mouth what you already believe in your heart.
Can you recall a time in your life that you gave your heart to Jesus Christ? What would hinder you from doing so now or in the future?
I do remember two times ..well, the first one was going to Sunday church with my aunt and everybody was going to get ‘saved’ so I went with them. That one, you know, was no big deal. I remember what it looked like, the memory was spot on in my head. But, you know, I don’t remember the exact moment after that when I got back into a church that actually, you know, was ‘people friendly.’ I don’t remember an exact time or moment. It was just like…hey, this is how it’s supposed to be and how it’s supposed to be done. There is no shining moment.
There are people who fall into a trap of trying to cross things off their spiritual ‘lists’ but I believe there definitely has to be more than just an internal feeling. It’s like if you and I sat down and made an agreement, you may not remember the day or the hour but you remember what agreement we made.
I can say it just shaped me and changed my total mindset. I’m not active in church but I still have a mindset of love and how to treat people.
There are tons of churches that can take lessons from you on how to love and treat people. As long as I’ve known you I have always appreciated that about you. Would you be interested in a simple seeker or discipleship life group once a week for 30 minutes?
I would be interested but I also have an extremely busy schedule.
Lion City wants to meet people where they are. A lot of Christians just want to shove Bible verses at you and send you away but we learned a long time ago a conversation involves listening more than talking. Click here to find out more about Lion City life groups. If you would like to be interviewed for Faith & Doubt or talk anonymously on matters of faith email firstname.lastname@example.org.