The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University by Kevin Roose

The Unlikely Disciple
When Brown University student Kevin Roose told his parents he wanted to attend Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University for a semester, they were obviously shaken. After all, they had raised him to be a good liberal with solid Democratic values—where had they gone wrong?! Then Kevin explained that he wanted to enroll undercover in order to write a book about what it was really like inside the cloistered world of Christian college, and they relaxed…a little. The result of Roose’s anti-secular semester sojourn is this enlightening, balanced and highly entertaining book, where he shares his experiences with dating Liberty girls (“Hand holding and hugging are the only official displays of physical affection allowed at Liberty…and hugging only for a three-second maximum”), taking Liberty science classes (one professor provides physical dimensions for Noah’s ark and explains how the animals were in a state of hibernation so they didn’t need as much food), and checking out Every Man’s Battle meetings, “Liberty’s on-campus support group for pornography addicts and chronic masturbators.” But while some aspects of Christian collage were exactly what he expected, Roose was also surprised by how honest, kind, and funny his dorm mates were, and how much they struggled with the strict rules of Christianity that they professed to completely agree with. Although he was deeply troubled by the rampant homophobia that existed on campus and the anti-evolutionary stance taken by the faculty (some of whom are highly respected and published scientists) he was also deeply touched by the sincerity of these same students and faculty when it came to praying and helping one another through difficult times. Roose also really loved singing in the church choir, waking up on Sunday mornings without a hangover, and the surprisingly lack of pressure when it came to asking out Liberty girls. As someone who graduated from a (slightly) less strict Christian college than Liberty, and who no longer follows that spiritual path but still has friends who do, I really appreciated Roose’s tone, which was always open-minded and respectful and never condescending or patronizing. You can read more about Roose’s evangelical experience on his blog and website.

9 thoughts on “The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University by Kevin Roose

  1. You know it sounds good AND I would enjoy it as an adult, but I don’t know about booktalking this to 10th through 12th graders that reside in a large public school—-What do you think?

  2. Oh, I think it’s SO booktalkable–just start with the PDA policy to grab their attention, and the anti-evolutionary stance. Stress that the coverage is very fair–Roose is clear when he separates his opinions from the facts of what goes on at Liberty. There are plenty of teens really interested in spiritual issues, I would think in public school as much as anywhere else.

  3. Thanks, I will try it. I have obtained a copy of Wintergirls and will read it this weekend—can’t wait!

  4. Wow, this sounds really good! Growing up, my grandparents were HUGE fans (followers?) of Pat Robertson, and my dad worked for The 700 Club before moving over to the more quietly Christian Family Channel. Despite that, I grew up outside of this world, but slightly fascinated with what life would be like immersed in that world. I really want to read this. Thanks!

  5. Ok, the weirdest thing just happend-I clicked on the link for your school thinking, man wouldn’t that be weird if she’s talking about my school and weirdest of all weirds, it lead my to Olivet-my alma matter! I graduated in ’04. It’s good to know there are rockin’ librarians that graduated from ONU!!! (I’m getting my MLS right now) I will totally have to read this book now as I’m sure my Olivet experiences could relate.

  6. I graduated from Pensacola Christian College, which is far more strict than Liberty, and I myself did not agree with all the rules, but I must say it was a wonderful experience. I think that this would be a great book for people to read if they don’t understand Christians and their choice to live for God. I hope that more and more people can see that not all Christians are “fire and Brimstone”, they just love the Lord and love others and what to share that love. I think it’s great the Reese did this study, and I wish more people would give Christians a chance like him!

  7. I thought that this book was one of the most interesting books I have ever read. I would recommend reading it, especially if you are super religious, because it gives you a chance to see how others think when you are trying to “save” them. I am not religious AT ALL, but I found it incredibly interesting to see how others perceive religion. I think that this book gives people the opportunities to see the pros and cons of religion, how everyone is entitled to their own opinions, even if you don’t agree with those opinions, that friendship should cross barriers, and most importantly, you can’t judge some one/thing/idea unless you have experienced it yourself.

  8. Definitely not what you’d expect. Roose’s tasteful lack of an agenda lets the reader make their own judgments. Separating his opinions from facts was absolute key. Granted this book was assigned reading, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. There were many great discussions in class that encouraged critical thinking. I’d recommend it to any teacher looking to get some grey responses on a matter that initially seems black and white.

  9. This was fascinating.
    Like most of you I was really pleased with Roose’s respect for Liberty–I’m not evangelical, but I have friends who are, and it makes me cringe when writers make fun of religion.
    It did help me understand evangelicalism a little more, become a little more open-minded, etc…but most of all it was just really, really interesting. I couldn’t put it down!

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