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

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  11,416 ratings  ·  1,444 reviews
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 univer ...more
Hardcover, 324 pages
Published March 26th 2009 by Grand Central Publishing (NY/Boston) (first published March 12th 2009)
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Apr 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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.
Apr 09, 2009 rated it it was ok
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
Feb 16, 2016 rated it liked it
"The Unlikely Disciple" is an interesting book. I believe its greatest flaws are the result of the writer's age. I also think its greatest strengths are the result of the writer's age. This text is for the most part an unbiased and interesting take on one aspect of evangelical Christianity (which is a vast and very diverse subculture) and gives an outsider's undercover inside view. I enjoyed the text a lot, but I wonder if I got more out of it because I understand the evangelical culture, being ...more
Daniel Bastian
Jun 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
"Here's what worries me the most: I came to Liberty to humanize people. Because humanizing people is good, right? But what about people with reprehensible views? Do they deserve to be humanized? By giving Jerry Falwell's universe a fair look, am I putting myself in his shoes? Or am I really just validating his worldview? I ask myself these questions and more for hours, and when I calm down, I reach this conclusion: humanizing is not the same as sympathizing. You can peel a stereotype off a perso ...more
Apr 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 29, 2009 rated it liked it
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 is what inherently bothers me/concerns me about the book:

1. Roose was clearly writing for different a
La Petite Américaine
May 31, 2009 rated it did not like it
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
Jeanette (Again)
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
Sally Ewan
Oct 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, non-fiction
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
Jan 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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
Nov 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-club-books
4.5 stars
I really really enjoyed this book and the topics it tackled. I loved the empathy Roose created and expressed for both sides and got you to relate very well.
You should give this one a shot, no matter if you are christian or not, you will definitely get some inside out of this one.
Nov 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Larry Bassett
Jul 16, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir
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
Apr 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Brian Eshleman
Jun 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audible
This is a great book from a great writer. It takes a brave and mature soul to put oneself in the middle of a subject like this, and from a reader's perspective, it is worth the effort. Most people venturing into a culture to which theirs is juxtaposed would be looking for self-justification and material force – especially at 20. But when this author decides on this adventure, he is all in. He reads books for background, and he really listens to the perspective that his classmates have. He is rea ...more
Amanda Snow
Jan 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's inexcusable that this book sat so long on my to-read shelf, as it was a joy to read. It's genuinely mind-blowing that Roose wrote this book while still in college, because his writing — his turns of phrase, humor, and well-placed quotes from his research — ranks up there with the best of other memoirs I've read. I had to go back and confirm that he didn't have a co-writer, one of those people credited as "with So-and-So" on the cover who polish the writing. But no — Roose is just that talen ...more
Gina *loves sunshine*
Aug 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018, audiobook
So this book was a SUPER interesting read for me and I will repeat that word over and over throughout this review, LOL!!! First off, I know kids who attend Liberty, but will admit to knowing almost nothing about the college, except that it is a large Christian college and it's pretty strict. So it was very interesting to me to learn the basic facts - how the college came to be, the climate, the culture, the students, the rules, beliefs, etc - the authors perspective anyway!

I have kids at a diffe
Jul 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 09, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 26, 2009 rated it liked it
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
May 15, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Jul 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, audio
A young man who was raised as Quaker but who is not religious decides to spend a semester undercover at a strict Evangelical college.

I was surprised by how balanced this seemed to be. I can't imagine that I would react well going through this experience, but although Roose doesn't hold the same Conservative views as many of the students, he quickly develops friendships with people there and appreciation for some elements of the lifestyle, while bringing attention to many of the ridiculous and i
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
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
May 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This was a quick but engaging book. Kevin Roose, a self-described "secular Quaker" who is largely unfamiliar with evangelical Christianity, transfers for a semester to Liberty University, a hyper-conservative school founded by the late Jerry Falwell, as a sort of undercover observer. He goes in cautious but open-minded, and his observations paint a picture of a group of (mostly) kind, compassionate people trying to do right and good in the world. Of course, what exactly constitutes "right" and " ...more
Carre Gardner
Dec 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Erik Graff
Apr 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: my friends
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: religion
The description pretty tells the story. I'd debated buying this, seeing as it was written by a college student who'd only spent one semester at Liberty University. Having finished it, I do wish he had done the course, but the four months he did spend there were sufficient to humanize the institution, its staff and students.

I don't believe I'd given much thought to Liberty University until Sen. Bernie Sanders spoke there early on during his campaign. That and the response of the audience, both at
Jun 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Laura Floyd
Another solid winner. (That's two in a row! 2017 is so my year.) I hugely enjoyed this anthropological recounting of the "semester abroad" Kevin Roose spent at Liberty University, the ultra-conservative, right-wing training ground for evangelical Christians. Roose's insight, wit, and compassion struck a perfect tone. Through his eyes, I felt like I was under cover with him, learning both the frightening and enlightening lessons on religion, conservatism, and what it means to be human and open to ...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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30 likes · 21 comments
“False conversions are a wart on the face of Christian evangelism.” 14 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.” 6 likes
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