Unlikely Disciple
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Unlikely Disciple

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3.97 of 5 stars 3.97  ·  rating details  ·  8,087 ratings  ·  1,206 reviews
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It's midnight in Lynchburg, Virginia, and Roose is kneeling on his dorm room floor. No, he's not reeling from too much beer. He's praying. And at Liberty University, such behavior is fairly uneventful. The world's largest evangelical college, with a 10,000-strong study body, Liberty is a training ground for the conservative Chri...more
ebook, 326 pages
Published March 26th 2009 by Grand Central Publishing (first published March 12th 2009)
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Elpheaba
How do I know I went to Liberty University?
Well, I do know all the verses to Victory in Jesus
I do know more about tithing than my major,
and I laughed over this book, cried over this book,
and understood what he was trying to say.
Aaron
Ten years ago Rob Suskind's A Hope in the Unseen followed a poor, religious inner-city kid's struggles at Brown University. Now Brown U. is back with another hip-hop, flip-flop comedy. This time around, we get to see the hijinks of a Brown student going to a religious Southern school. And Kevin Roose manages to learn a lesson of tolerance and hard-fought understanding during the era of the culture war. Yay.

The problem is this book strikes me as incredibly cynical. In part, Roose as a narrator is...more
D.
Let me start off by saying that I did like this book...I thought that Roose had some interesting insights into evangelical Christianity and this wasn't the "Evangelical Bashing" I thought it would be. I laughed at some of his confusion over things I grew up with...I understood how some things looked to him as an outsider. All in all, I think the book is a fascinating read.

With that said...here is what inherently bothers me/concerns me about the book:

1. Roose was clearly writing for different a...more
La Petite Américaine
So, you know what happens when you take a liberal arts school student and throw him in the mix with the boys at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, a school where the dorms are segregated and residents have a curfew? Well, gee, whaddaya know, "what boys always do" happens: they sit around and play video games, talk about women and sex, they do their homework and contemplate their futures. Oh, and throw some prayer in, too, because it's a Christian University.

And what a shocker! Not all the stud...more
Heather
When A.J. Jacobs was writing The Year of Living Biblically, he took on a slave (unpaid intern). The slave was Kevin Roose. After visiting Thomas Road Baptist Church (sanctuary of Jerry Falwell) with Jacobs, Roose decided to take a semester off at Brown and enroll undercover at Liberty University (Kingdom of Jerry Falwell).

What Roose finds at Liberty is an anomaly that changes his world. There is overt (faculty-encouraged) homophobia, antiquated views on race, and an emphasis on de-intellectualiz...more
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
I love immersion journalism when it's done well. I'm mightily impressed by this Kevin Roose kid. He's funny, respectful, bold, thoughtful, and a darned good writer.

At age 19, Roose decided he wanted to cross the "God Divide" that separates secular kids from ultra-religious ones. After a crash course in evangelical culture from a formerly evangelical friend, he spent a semester undercover at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University (a misnomer if ever there was one). He completely immersed himself in...more
Cheryl
After recently wondering aloud what book I should read next, my sister (we’re both agnostic) recommended, yet again, that I read The Unlikely Disciple. I basically know nothing about the Bible or Christianity (I groan and can’t even begin to guess at the correct answers when “The Bible” is a category on Jeopardy), so I thought this book might be mildly interesting and entertaining, but worried it would be a long, slow read. Boy, was I wrong. I found this book fascinating and finished it in two d...more
Sally
The subtitle on this book irks me, but it also effectively demonstrates the crux of the author's problem: a basic misunderstanding of what faith is about. As I read about his semester "underground" at Liberty University, I kept wondering about the conversations that hadn't made it into the book. Surely he knows that everyone at Liberty--everyone in the WORLD--is a sinner, according to the Bible? So he's not the only one there. And to call Liberty "America's Holiest University" is a misnomer. Mor...more
Marie
Aug 11, 2009 Marie rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in different religions or cultures
I could not put this book down.

Kevin Roose, an Ivy League-educated liberal agnostic with a Quaker upbringing, decided that instead of doing a semester abroad like everyone else at Brown University, he would explore a different culture right here in the U.S.A., that of evangelical Christianity.

He spent a semester somewhat undercover at Liberty University, which was founded by Rev. Jerry Falwell. His parents and in particular, his lesbian aunts, were very worried about his decision to consort with...more
Karina
I like this book. It's got good story-telling and a lot of humor. It was nearly impossible to put down. I guess they wouldn't consider me a Christian in that University either, since I'm Catholic, not Evangelic Christian. In some of my beliefs, I'm more like the author than the Liberty students. For instance, I too would find the Life History lessons preposterous (I know because just the other day I got a free book offer in the mail arguing for geocentricity with some sprinkling of Bible quotes...more
Larry Bassett
Can a young man immerse himself in an alien culture without it having an impact upon him? Can a liberal Brown University student transfer to the fundamentalist Christian Liberty University, living in a Liberty dorm for a semester and participating in all the student experiences, and come out unchanged? (view spoiler)...more
Bibliotropic
(Rereading this, because it's awesome!)

When I first found out that A J Jacobs's "slave" was writing a book of his own, I was intrigued, and decided there and then that I had to get my hands on it. I'm happy to say that it was a fantastic book, a truly inspiration look at crossing the culture divide between religious and secular, showing how the line between left and right are not always as clear as many people want them to be.

Kevin Roose was inspired to take a semester away from Brown and transf...more
Laura
Hilarious. A liberal Brown University journalism undergrad goes undercover for a semester at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University - a bastion of ultra-conservative, Christian philosophy.

Christ rescued me about 10 years ago and I still find much of American 'Christian culture' to be very strange. This book reminds me of my own puzzlement over the oddities in language and practice that permeate the American definition of 'Christian living'. I tend to rank my encounters on what I lovingly refer to as...more
Amanda Snow
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 ex...more
Patrick Gibson
From the liberal, secular halls of Brown University to the hub of Evangelical higher education and back again, it seems like an unlikely journey. Kevin Roose, a sophomore at Brown, decided that instead of the ubiquitous semester abroad, he would explore, up close and personal, a particular strata of American culture. And so Roose, raised Quaker in a not very religious household, transferred to Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, the conservative Baptist school founded by none other than J...more
Kyle
Excuse me. Yes, you. I’m sorry, do you have a minute? I just… no, I’m not selling anything. I just wanted to take a minute to share how I came to faith in Kevin Roose.

See, I consider myself a Christian. I was brought up in a protestant household, went to church every week, dressed up and sang the songs. I was just a part of the group, an operator in the fullest sense of connecting from the earth to the heavens.

But one day, I was struck by the realization that not everyone was like me. Not every...more
Carre Gardner
OK, to be clear, I'm only giving this 4 and a half stars. Once again Goodreads, about that half-star option you might want to [but clearly aren't ever going to] consider...

Read the summary, because I'm not going to reproduce it here. But here are my foremost reactions:

1) I'm embarrassed that Liberty University was the medium chosen to represent evangelical Christianity to Kevin. Mr. Roose, please give us the benefit of the doubt: Jerry Falwell's private sub-culture is not the best, truest face o...more
John Brackbill
This is a definite 5 star. Not because I agree with the predominate views of Kevin Roose through his experience and not because I became an admirer of Liberty University, but because it was a great read. Not only because it was entertaining, but it was informative and a unique outsiders-insiders look at Liberty and evangelicalism in general.
Kevin Roose is a talented writer who skillfully entertains and informs his readers. He had a difficult job of fairly analyzing his one semester journalistic...more
Nancy
Ah, now. This is more like it. Kevin Roose, a sophomore at Brown University and the son of Quaker liberals, decides to spend a semester at the jewel in the crown of Jerry Falwell's empire: far-right, fundamentalist Liberty University. (In passing, have you EVER HEARD of such an ironic name for a school? *loves it*) He makes a conscious decision to fit in by talking the talk AND walking the walk - he stops cussing, tries mighty hard to stop masturbating, prays daily, even joins the choir and take...more
Anila
This is the first year common book at the university where my mom teaches, so she got a free copy. SHE KEEPS COMING INTO MY ROOM AND PUTTING IT ON MY DESK. I'm like, "Mom, do you even see the cardboard box full of library books in the corner? Do you really think I have time?" and I put it back out on her desk. BUT IT COMES BACK.
She finally took it and read it herself and now it's back again, sigh. However, the fact that my mother - whose tastes tend more towards benign fantasy where no one gets...more
Trisha DeBoer
I really enjoyed this book. The author has/had questions about what it means to be immersed in Christian culture, and so decides to transfer from a "liberal" college to "America's Holiest University," AKA Liberty University. When I first started reading this, I geared myself up to hear a lot of Christian bashing in general, but was pleasantly surprised to read Roose's account of what he experienced. He was really fair, in my opinion, and treated the people he met with respect. I can only imagine...more
Nicole
This was a well-written, interesting book. Roose, a self-described unchurched liberal attended Liberty University for a semester, an ultra-conservative Christian school in order to get to know the type of person who would choose such a school. On the plus side, Roose is very open-minded and personable. He is surprised how well he fits in and how normal his classmates are. On the negative side, he makes up a Christian testimony so that he blends in and so that his new friends will be totally ungu...more
Krissy Delovely
First off, I want to say I would have never picked up this book if it wasn't the first read for the SA Collaborative's Summer Reading program. I'd heard a couple of things about this, but it wasn't enough to compel me to pick this up. Participating in some much needed Pro-D however? That's motivation in my book! I'm so glad I read this.

The premise of the book is simple but striking: a liberal arts student decides to enroll in one of the most religious colleges for a semester. He reasons that a l...more
Heidi
I don't give many 5-star ratings since I like to reserve those for books that have made a real impact and I'm left thinking about for some time. If possible, I think I'd give this book a 6. The author, a college sophomore from a very non-Christian/evangelical background, decides he needs a "cultural" experience and enrolls for a semester at Liberty University, Jerry Falwell's ultra-conservative school in Virginia. The author then blends in, attempting to pass himself off as just another one of t...more
David
Like Society Without Religion, The Unlikely Disciple tells the story of a society with very different religious ideas than the society I live in. Kevin Roose, however, is not a professional ethnographer, but a confused 19-year-old kid, when he decides to "study abroad" at Liberty University (on leave from Brown). While this may limit the statistically valid conclusions, it makes the story all the more personally compelling.

Roose quickly gets involved in life at Liberty, joining the choir, playin...more
Linda
A co-worker loaned me this after we were discussing fundamentalist Christians. The coworker came from that environment and I have a relative who went into that environment. He suggested it as a good way to try to get inside the relative's head.

It was but it was also incredibly frustrating. The Falwell style of Christianity is so full of nastiness that it is hard to see the good that might be there. The author did a good job of showing that without cutting them too much slack on the negatives. Ir...more
Stephanie Joy
I was very interested to read Kevin's take on his semester at Liberty. When he was there, I was a senior at Longwood, but had close friends at Liberty so I was often connected to the campus. Living in the college/Lynchburg bubble that semester, I almost forgot that Kevin would've been there to experience word spreading of the VT massacre and a month later, Jerry Falwell's death. I appreciated Kevin's honesty in presenting his opinions about the Liberty Way and classes he took there. He wasn't af...more
Rebecca
Feb 12, 2013 Rebecca rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Sarah Murray
Recommended to Rebecca by: Deanna
What a great read, especially for someone very familiar with Christian college life! Just like Rachel Held Evans in "The Year of Biblical Womanhood," Roose is able to maintain the perfect balance between humor and sincerity. He is completely earnest in his quest to understand evangelicalism, and the conclusions he draws from his experience are neither contrived nor trite.

In fact, Roose uses his semester at Liberty University to paint a rather hopeful picture for bridging the gap between the Rel...more
Sarah
Mr. Roose had a lot to overcome, as he wrote this book while still in college, thereby causing me a large amount of prejudicial resentment in the first place (largely expressed in phraseology like "over-entitled Ivy League dillweed"). Plus, I have for some years nursed a theory about how, despite how intensely felt the college experience is, no one ever successfully writes about it (or rarely even tries) because it is fundamentally self-absorbed and therefore boring; obviously, Mr. Roose gives t...more
Liza Gilbert
I had no desire to read this book. I put it off for months. My fear was that this would be another story of some kind of Stockholm Syndrome love affair, where Roose went off to Liberty University to understand a different (sometimes bigoted) culture only to lose his own identity in favor of something else. Gag.

However, Roose kept his own morals and ethics and presented a culture distinctly different from his own in a sensitive, funny, engaging, and questioning manner.

Despite being 19 when the bo...more
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Kevin Roose is a 21-year-old senior at Brown University, a freelance journalist, and the author of "The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University." During his sophomore year at Brown, Kevin left to spend a semester "abroad" at Liberty University, Jerry Falwell's "Bible Boot Camp" for young evangelicals, in order to learn about the lives of his Christian peers by living...more
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“False conversions are a wart on the face of Christian evangelism.” 4 likes
“...I realized how naive I was. My aunt Tina was right: this stuff does exist, and it does hurt people, and although there are lots of people at Liberty who condemn violence against gays--including Dr. Falwell himself--the number of students who want to give them the Goliath treatment isn't zero. In fact, the number who live in my room isn't zero.” 4 likes
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