Thursday, December 29, 2011

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

As a sophomore at Brown University, Kevin Roose didn't have much contact with the Religious Right. Raised in a secular home by staunchly liberal parents, he fit right in with Brown's sweatshop-protesting, fair-trade coffee-drinking, God-ambivalent student body. So when he had a chance encounter with a group of students from Liberty University, a conservative Baptist university in Lynchburg, Virginia, he found himself staring across a massive culture gap. But rather than brush the Liberty students off, Roose decided to do something much bolder: he became one of them.

Liberty University is the late Rev. Jerry Falwell's proudest accomplishment - a 10,000-student conservative Christian training ground. At Liberty, students (who call themselves "Champions for Christ") take classes like Introduction to Youth Ministry and Evangelism 101. They hear from guest speakers like Mike Huckabee and Karl Rove, they pray before every class, and they follow a 46-page code of conduct called "The Liberty Way" that prohibits drinking, smoking, R-rated movies, contact with the opposite sex, and witchcraft. Armed with an open mind and a reporter's notebook, Roose dives into life at Bible Boot Camp with the goal of connecting with his evangelical peers by experiencing their world first-hand.

Roose's semester at Liberty takes him to church, class, and choir practice at Rev. Falwell's Thomas Road Baptist Church. He visits a support group for recovering masturbation addicts, goes to an evangelical hip-hop concert, and participates in a spring break mission trip to Daytona Beach, where he learns how to convert bar-hopping co-eds to Christianity. Roose struggles with his own faith throughout, and in a twist that could only have been engineered by a higher power, he conducts what would turn out to be the last in-depth interview of Rev. Falwell's life. Hilarious and heartwarming, respectful and thought-provoking, Kevin Roose's embedded report from the front lines of the culture war will inspire and entertain believers and non-believers alike. (from GoodReads)

When I first stumbled upon this book on Amazon, I was extremely intrigued. Just by reading the synopsis, I felt a connection with the author right away. We're both sophomores in college and we were raised very similarly and have similar beliefs. Since I'm not very religious, religion fascinates me so I knew I would like The Unlikely Disciple.

I don't read a lot of non-fiction, but The Unlikely Disciple read just like a fictional story or novel. I could not put this book down. It was extremely engaging and I wanted to know what happened next. I also thought it was very thought-provoking and I loved that Kevin was able to remain open-minded and respectful of religion during his entire semester at Liberty. I hope that I could be as open-minded as he was if I was ever put in a different culture, so to speak.

I liked that Kevin tried to bridge the gap between the two cultures of Evangelical Christians and non-Evangelical Christians. He was able to show that you can still get along with and still like people that have different beliefs and opinion. A lot of the people met at Liberty were extremely nice and friendly, a lot friendlier than the people at my school it seems.

Kevin was able to go to Liberty without sacrificing his own beliefs as well. He didn't like the overt homophobia that could be found there and never justified other people's prejudiced opinions. Liberty seems like a nice university, but I could never go to a school where everyone is expected to believe the same things and classes are taught with one set of beliefts in mind.

Overall, The Unlikely Disciple was interesting, funny, thought-provoking, introspective, and engaging. I would suggest that everyone read it because it really is a great book.

Rating: 10 out of 10.
FTC: borrowed from library.

2009/Grand Central Publishing/324 pages.

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