Thursday, October 28, 2010

Just Finished: The Unlikely Disciple

While The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University is probably not timeless, it is definitely timely. Kevin Roose, an aspiring journalist from Brown University takes a semester off school to "study abroad" at the ultra-uber-conservative Christian Liberty University, known for its larger-than-life founder Jerry Falwell and its strict rules. Hiding the fact that he is a non-religious Quaker looking to write a book about his experiences, Roose emerges himself into a world that is wholly foreign to him.

What he encounters is hilarious, horrifying, and humbling (nice alliteration, no?). Few people fit the stereotypes that his concerned family and friends expect and Roose finds himself genuinely enjoying most of the people he meets at Liberty. Although he continues to disagree with their anti-gay, anti-abortion, Republican worldview, he does find himself changing as regular Bible reading, prayer, and church going become part of his life.

Roose even gets the opportunity to interview Jerry Falwell in what turned out to be his last interview and finds that the controversial leader of the Moral Majority also has a very likable side.

Throughout the book as Roose struggles to understand the people around him—his paranoid homophobic roommate, his rebellious hall mate Jersey Joey, his mentor Pastor Seth, etc...he is challenged to think beyond the black and white labels of evangelical vs. non-evangelical and Republican vs. Democrat. In so doing, Roose comes up with some great analysis which I think is helpful for both Christians and non-Christians in the "God Debate" to consider. He struggles to be true to himself while also keeping his mind open to the way Liberty kids see life.

As an evangelical Christian who went to Brown, I really resonated with this book and at times was as appalled by some of the going-ons at Liberty as I was disappointed that Roose didn't allow himself to consider that some of his own beliefs might actually be wrong. A good book with lots of food for thought—maybe it should be required reading at Brown and Liberty.

(Thanks to Lisa T for supplying me with this copy.)

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