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

by Kevin Roose

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,0407614,099 (4.08)93
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 fitting right in with Brown's free-spirited, ultra-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 America's Religious Right. Liberty's ten thousand undergraduates take courses like Evangelism 101, hear from guest speakers like Sean Hannity and Karl Rove, and follow a forty-six-page code of conduct 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. His journey takes him from an evangelical hip-hop concert to choir practice at 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, Christian rebels, and conducts what would be the last print interview of Rev. Falwell's life. Hilarious and heartwarming, respectful and thought-provoking, THE UNLIKELY DISCIPLE will inspire and entertain believers and nonbelievers alike.… (more)
  1. 20
    Them: Adventures with Extremists by Jon Ronson (meggyweg)
  2. 31
    The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible by A. J. Jacobs (schatzi)
    schatzi: Kevin is introduced in "The Year of Living Biblically" (and serves as the author's "intern/slave")
  3. 20
    In the Land of Believers: An Outsider's Extraordinary Journey into the Heart of the Evangelical Church by Gina Welch (ToTheWest)
    ToTheWest: The two authors were coincidentally in the same place, with similar goals, using similar "undercover" methods, but studying different populations of evangelicals. These books complement each other nicely.
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» See also 93 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 76 (next | show all)
When I first saw this book in the bookstore I was immediate intrigued. Liberty University and similar school have always held this mystery for me. Sure I knew many evangelicals in school and even some whom attended my alma mater, but I was still very interested to get an inside glimpse of what life is really like.
This book did not disappoint. Kevin Roose, a sophomore at Brown decided to study “abroad” during his junior year. While all his friends were going to Paris and London, Roose headed south to Lynchburg, Virginia to study at Liberty University. Liberty founded by televangelist, mega-church pastor and Moral Majority founder Jerry Fallwell is an “fundamental Baptist” university that prides itself on teaching the ideals of Evangelical Christianity. It’s “Jesus Camp goes to college. Thankfully it wasn’t as scary as that move and I thought that the Roose did a fine job of chronicling his experience especially when compared to those of Liberty’s students. Sure we got a glimpse of those that the stereotypes are made of, but what we also saw was a group of young men and women just trying to find their way in the world while at the same time living up to the ideals of their beliefs and religion. No matter what those beliefs are, I think that most of these students went through the same struggles that their students at secular colleges go through with a few differences. The students at Liberty obviously have a more regimented environment and many thrive off that situation. Their regimentation is no different from the Army. Of course this regimentation perhaps hampered some of their growth, but these kids are young. In the end, they are doing what students at colleges all across the country are doing- just to a different tune.
I enjoyed Roose’s writing and his storytelling, the only issue I had with the book is that I wish Roose had stood up to some of those ideals. I understand that he was trying to blend in, but he could have at least started a conversation or planted the seed to combat some of the hate. Again, that’s my personal opinion as someone who enjoys playing the devil’s advocate on occasion. Overall, a very good book and at the end I just wished he would have included what happened to Anna- did he ever tell her. Perhaps that is something for the paperback edition.
( )
  sunshine608 | Feb 2, 2021 |
Amy rec
  bookbrig | Aug 5, 2020 |
Un estudiante de primero de universidad en Brown (universidad prestigiosa y perteneciente a la Ivy League junto a Harvard, Princeton o Yale entre otras) decide pasar un semestre en la Liberty University, para luego escribir sobre ello. La Liberty University es una universidad creada por un teleevangelista, Jerry Falwell, que tiene según consenso la dudosa distinción de ser el centro universitario más conservador de los EEUU. Para comprender la catadura moral del amigo Falwell, les remito a su página de la Wikipedia. Seguro que a alguno le suena Falwell porque fue el que dijo que Tinky Winky, el Teletubby morado, era homosexual.
Pues eso, el amigo Falwell funda una universidad destinada a formar mentes que luchen a favor del evangelismo y devuelvan a los EEUU a sus días de gloria "en los que las escuelas públicas eran controladas por los cristianos". Se pueden imaginar que pasar de una universidad liberal (entendido en la acepción anglosajona de "de izquierdas") a una fundamentalista religiosa debe ser un choque cultural interesante. Con esto en mente, nuestro protagonista aterriza en Lynchburg, Virginia.

El resumen del libro es que 1.- en efecto la Liberty University es un centro que propala ideas bastante negativas en muuchos campos (especialmente interesantes son las clases de creacionismo, donde enseñan ¡¡¡en una universidad!!! que los dinosaurios que metió Noé en el arca eran jóvenes y por eso pudieron caber todos), y 2.- que entre la gente hay de todo. Hay muy buenas personas, por supuesto, como en cualquier grupo de 10.000 jóvenes que uno escoja. Durante todo el libro el protagonista entra y sale de los dominios del síndrome de Estocolmo.

La lectura me atrajo porque yo pasé un año en los EEUU viviendo con una familia evangelista, y hay muchas cosas que cuenta el autor que yo he vivido en la iglesia evangelista a la que íbamos. Leyendo esto puedo ver que mis evangelistas eran de la rama "gente normal", comparados con los de la Liberty University.

Otra cosa que está bien, aunque el autor apenas la desarrolla, son los comentarios de libros de antropología, sociología y psicología que el autor intercala por el libro, como cuando nos explica el proceso psicológico de la conversión religiosa, que está muy interesante (es en dos fases, no en una).

Una lectura fácil, que nos da un brochazo de color sobre el fundamentalismo religioso de los USA, tan ligado al partido republicano. Hay cosas que dan miedo, hay cosas que indignan y hay cosas que enternecen. Interesante. ( )
  Remocpi | Apr 22, 2020 |
I'm also a Brown alum, and while I didn't know Kevin Roose, we know a lot of the same people on the newspaper (the Herald). I had heard about this book a few times but only got around to reading it now, something like ten years later. It's still eye opening and worth the read, if you are interested in this subculture. Roose is rather too equivocating for my taste, though perhaps this is because I am more interested in the anthropology of insular religious communities than in any individual man's struggle to compartmentalize the hateful anti LGBT rhetoric of people he otherwise likes. I would be curious to know whether things look similar at Liberty University now, in the age of Trump. ( )
  sparemethecensor | Dec 1, 2019 |
Kevin Roose was a student at Brown University when he was assisting A.J. Jacobs who was researching his book The Year of Living Biblically. The two of them made a trip to Jerry Fallwell's Thomas Road Baptist Church. Roose met some students from nearby Liberty University, which was founded by Fallwell.

Roose decided to enroll at Liberty for a semester to learn about Evangelical Christians. He sort of did a domestic semester abroad to learn about a culture that was very different from his own. He didn't tell the Liberty students that he was not an Evangelical Christian nor that he was planning to write a book about his semester there.

This book is interesting and I learned a lot about a culture very different from my own. Roose is very fair to the subjects. He covers both what he considered good and not so good about life at Liberty and as an Evangelical Christian. At several points, he struggles with the ethics of keeping his secret. He did eventually go back and tell the friends he'd made the truth.

Roose narrates the audio edition himself and while he's not making a career out of audiobook narration, he does a decent job. I highly recommend this one and I will be recommending that The Hubster make this his next audiobook. ( )
1 vote SuziQoregon | Nov 10, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 76 (next | show all)
This book not only helps to better understand our nation’s next generation of evangelicals, it helps us to better understand— and enjoy— ourselves.
added by Katya0133 | editChristian Higher Education, Cynthia Toms Smedley (Sep 1, 2010)
 
I found this book to be all kinds of things: enjoyable though annoying, frustrating as well as refreshing, informative yet leaving me with questions. What I personally liked most about the book is the author’s search for spiritual truth.
 
His account of the experience is nuanced, respectful and personal.
added by Katya0133 | editChristian Century (Aug 25, 2009)
 
Roose’s “amateur ethnography” is most useful not for its quick glosses of political and doctrinal issues, but for its vivid, sunny and skeptical portrait of life among the saved.
added by Aerrin99 | editNew York Times, Blake Wilson (Apr 17, 2009)
 
Nevertheless, when Roose’s off-campus friends and family send him messages that betray their fear and loathing for the people sharing his education, it’s clear that Liberty doesn’t have a monopoly on intolerance. The Unlikely Disciple serves as a refreshing cease-fire in the wearying culture wars, likely holding surprises for anyone—theist, atheist, or somewhere in between—who gives it a chance.
added by stephmo | editA.V. Club, Donna Bowman (Apr 9, 2009)
 
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Epigraph
Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.
HEBREWS 13:2
Dedication
To Mom and Dad,
who would kill the fatted calf for me any day.
First words
It's midnight at Liberty University, and I'm kneeling on the floor of my dorm room, praying.
Quotations
"Prayer may not always be entirely about God," he said. Here, Pastor Seth quoted the famous Christian author Oswald Chambers, who wrote: "It is not so true that prayer changes things as that prayer changes me and I change things."
"When you pray for other people, your own heart will be transformed," Pastor Seth said. "You'll find yourself living for others, making decisions with others in mind, putting the concerns of others ahead of your own. It's a way to connect to other believers in the way God wants you to connect."
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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 fitting right in with Brown's free-spirited, ultra-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 America's Religious Right. Liberty's ten thousand undergraduates take courses like Evangelism 101, hear from guest speakers like Sean Hannity and Karl Rove, and follow a forty-six-page code of conduct 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. His journey takes him from an evangelical hip-hop concert to choir practice at 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, Christian rebels, and conducts what would be the last print interview of Rev. Falwell's life. Hilarious and heartwarming, respectful and thought-provoking, THE UNLIKELY DISCIPLE will inspire and entertain believers and nonbelievers alike.

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As a sophomore at Brown University, Kevin Roose spent his days drinking fair-trade coffee, singing in an a cappella group, and generally fitting right in with Brown's free-spirited, ultra-liberal student body. But Roose leaves his Ivy League confines to spend a semester at Liberty University, a conservation Baptist school in Lynchburg, Virginia.

Liberty is the late Reverend Jerry Falwell's "Bible Boot Camp" for young evangelicals, his training ground for the next generation of America'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, conducts what would turn out to be the last print interview of Rev. Falwell's life. [adapted from jacket]
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Hachette Book Group

2 editions of this book were published by Hachette Book Group.

Editions: 044617842X, 0446178438

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