Burst the Bubble

Andrew Lawrence is a student at Cambridge University, studying Human, Social and Political Sciences. He was recently involved in setting up a new Just Love group in Cambridge, who are exploring how they can ‘Burst the Bubble’, step out of their comfort zones, and meet with injustice face to face.

(Names in this article are changed to protect identity)

The scene was typical, another day at university, another essay ‘crisis’. I was walking back from Sainsbury’s to my flat, my mind somewhere in between my reading list and what I wanted for dinner, when I bumped into Alistair. The last time I’d seen him, he was about to move in with his relatives in another city and start a work placement. Clearly that hadn’t worked out, and here he was again, sleeping rough in Cambridge and approaching passing by students who, by his long experience, have cash to spare. About to ask me for the same, he vaguely recognised me and decided instead to tell me his latest predicament. He had already given up hope for finding the £15 needed to find a room for the night, and so was looking for a pair of gloves, the February chill was not kind to his hands. I reached inside my coat pockets ready to offer my own, but of course, I’d forgotten them on a football pitch a few nights before and hadn’t bothered going back to look for them – ‘they’ll only cost a couple of pounds to replace’ - I remember thinking to myself at the time. I returned home, the prospect of spending the night in a warm and cosy library, with or without an essay deadline, much less daunting in comparison to wherever Alistair would spend the night, with or without gloves.

I’m sure many students have had a similar experience, a time when the fragile illusion of sheltered comfort that university life maintains crumbles away and meets face to face with injustice, concrete and real. In Cambridge we call this the ‘bubble’, and I’m sure this is an experience repeated in universities up and down the country. As Christians, we need to burst the bubble.

The Just Love student movement has been key in helping me do this, if there isn’t a Just Love group in your university, do look into setting one up (more information below). Many students I’ve met within Just Love take Isaiah 58 as their inspiration; to loose the chains of injustice, to set the oppressed free and share with the the poor and hungry. There’s also a recognition that politics is not optional. From human trafficking laws to international agreements on climate change, some problems can only be solved on the system level. It’s difficult to accept, but ultimately what Alistair needs isn’t charity, it’s politics. The medical treatment that would stop a growing alcoholism, the social services that could have helped him cope with his mental illness before his mother could no longer handle him around the house, the benefits that could have helped him hold down accommodation – these are all political battles to be won and lost. 

There’s lots to get started with while at university – join a living wage campaign, choose a local council candidate to support, petition your MP, maybe even join a political party. For too long Christian students have watched on from the sidelines. Perhaps its because politics at times seem a dirty world, but it’s the world that we’re called to. It’s time to burst the bubble; it’s time to show up.

If you want to find out more about the Just Love movement, visit our website www.justloveuk.com, email us on info@justloveuk.com, or follow @JustLove_UK on Twitter.