Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Unlikely Disciple review

Jacket description:
"No drinking. No smoking. No cursing. No dancing. No R-rated movies. 

Kevin Roose wasn't used to rules like these. As a sophomore at Brown University, he spent his days drinking fair trade coffee, singing in an a cappella group, and generally fitting right in with Brown's free-spirited, ulta-liberal student body. But when Roose leaves his Ivy League confines to spend a semester at Liberty University, a conservative Baptist school in Lynchburg, Virginia, obedience is no longer optional. 

Liberty is the late Reverend Jerry Falwell's "Bible Boot Camp" for young evangelicals, his training ground for the next generation of American's Religious Right. Liberty's ten thousand undergraduates take courses like Introduction to Youth Ministry and Evangelism 101, hear from guest speakers like Sean Hannity and Karl Rove, and follow a forty-six-page code of conduct--called 'The Liberty Way'--that regulates every aspect of their social lives. Hoping to connect with his evangelical peers, Roose decides to enroll at Liberty as a new transfer student, leaping across the God Divide and chronicling his adventures in this daring report from the front lines of America's culture war.

Roose's journey takes him to an evangelical hip-hop concert, a Friday night Bible study group, and choir practice at Rev. Falwell's legendary Thomas Road Baptist Church. He experiments with prayer, participates in a spring break mission trip to Daytona Beach (where he learns to preach the gospel to partying coeds), and pays a visit to Every Man's Battle, an on-campus support group for chronic masturbators. He meets pastors' kids, closet doubters, and Christian rebels, and in a twist of fate, he conducts what would turn out to be the last print interview of Rev. Falwell's life."

I picked up this book out of blatant intrigue, but was filled with doubt at what I would find. I expected a bashing of Liberty University and a mockery of their rules and conduct codes. I mean...come on, a 19 year old Brown student decides to just head to one of the most conservative colleges in the country to study it's culture? An extreme liberal going ultra conservative? What I found, was the exact opposite of what I expected. Roose wrote an incredibly mature and open-minded account of the experiences he had, the people he encountered, and the courses/rules/daily life of Liberty without the bashing I had intended to read.

I was completely swallowed up in this book from the very beginning, intrigued by why students decide to go to Liberty, just how many disagree with it's incredibly controversial founder Jerry Falwell, and the level of doubt by some of the students. One would think, having chose to go to Liberty, all of the students would be devout Christians, literally living out God's word, but plenty of them are more liberal than one would believe. And some are definite extremists.

Roose's writing is amazingly mature for his age and I truly enjoyed reading his work. I learned a lot about the culture I suppose I identify with, being a Christian, though I also learned why I would definitely not be the right fit at Liberty (though I would like to take some of the courses offered) and how much I still disagree with the teachings of Jerry Falwell. Watching the author grow into a more spiritual individual was heart warming and I really loved that he questioned constantly, throughout the entire journey. That made his experience feel real and honest.
I love, love, love this book...and not simply because I'm a Christian. This is a sociological study in cultures (which is what my Bachelor's degree happens to be in). Anyone with an interest in religion and how some Christians spend their college experiences should read this. It's interesting, funny, thought-provoking, and informative, all while being well-written and honest.

Overall rating: 5 out 5
My first 5 of the year! I can't wait to see what else Kevin Roose decides to write about in the future. Very talented!

Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University
Kevin Roose
336 pages
Adult Non-fiction
Grand Central Publishing
March 2009
Book borrowed from my library

To learn more, or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon. I am an Associate and will receive a tiny commission for your purchase.


Caroline Starr Rose said...

Very, very interesting. As a Christian, I usually cringe at the fundamentalist side of things. I've known people who've attended Liberty and loved it. Just not for me.

Glad this was handled respectfully.

Jeane said...

Having attended a religious college, but no longer being religious myself, I think I'd find this book really interesting.

Jan von Harz said...

Stopped by to read one of your reviews and ended up checking out your blog liking what I read. Since comments are always a nice way to show appreciation I thought I would say hi instead of just lurking.

GreenBeanTeenQueen said...

I'm interested in reading this one too, especially since I attended a private Christian college-although not as strict as this one. It does seem like a great read!

Amanda said...

It was so interesting! And Roose really did a nice job.

ANovelMenagerie said...

I read and reviewed this book. I really enjoyed it... and learned a lot!

Jenn said...

I think I will be adding this to my TBR list. It sounds very interesting and you gave it 5/5.

3T said...

Hmm...time to head over to the adult side with an order card and do some wheedling, I think!

3T said...

Hmm...time to head over to the adult side with an order card and do some wheedling, I think!

Lisa said...

I have this on hold at the library. I just read My Year of Living Biblically which mentions Roose so I really wanted to dive in. It's been "on order" for a while now though. I love it when someone can be completely open minded about something that they don't agree with at all.

3T said...

Okay, they ordered it, I'm reading it, and so far I have to agree with your review. I love it! My favorite moment so far (besides the image of him wandering around in a button-down shirt, saying "Good gracious," and thinking it made him fit in), is when he recognized that people were asking him about his prayer life because they cared about him, not because they were trying to shove anything down his throat.

Looking forward to finishing and reviewing it! And you can tell the publisher they had at least one sale thanks to you, so they should send you more books:)

Amanda said...

Haha, this one was borrowed from the library, so no publisher to contact, but I'm so glad you're enjoying it. I found it really eye-opening.