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

by Kevin Roose

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
9567113,709 (4.11)83
  1. 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.
  2. 10
    Them: Adventures with Extremists by Jon Ronson (meggyweg)
  3. 21
    The Year of Living Biblically by A. J. Jacobs (schatzi)
    schatzi: Kevin is introduced in "The Year of Living Biblically" (and serves as the author's "intern/slave")
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» See also 83 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 71 (next | show all)
This book made me laugh out loud in many cases and smirk in many others. The classic fish out of water story that this book is makes it quite entertaining. I especially liked the parts where he had to stop swearing and quit his habit of masturbation. This man is far more brave than I am, since I don't think I could see myself going over to an ultra-conservative Christian college. I wouldn't be able to take the creationism courses and other stuff like that. I don't think the rules would have been that bad, but some of them are positively draconian. Then again, there were some people that felt that the rules were too lax.

I suppose it takes all kinds though. This book was thoroughly enjoyable, and I would like to read it again, but I have a lot of other stuff to read. ( )
  Floyd3345 | Jun 15, 2019 |
Excellent book. Blows away stereotypes on both sides of the "God Divide." ( )
  snotbottom | Sep 19, 2018 |
Brown University student (raised as a Quaker) defers "study abroad" for becoming a mole at Liberty University for a semester. Roose writes well beyond his years. Well researched and written with a good flow. ( )
  bikesandbooks | Jan 29, 2017 |
A friend told me about this book. Sounds intriguing. A Brown university student takes a semester "abroad" at Liberty University and is surprised at what he learns. ( )
  homeschoolmimzi | Nov 28, 2016 |
Roose, a Sophomore at Brown, a liberal Democrat, the only child of lapsed Quakers, also liberal Democrats, attended one semester at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University. This book is his chronicle of those three months.

Based on that, one expects fish-out-of-water type hijinks, of which this book has plenty. For example, early in the semester, a group of Liberty U student-Evangelicals descend on Spring Break in South Florida in order to to witness to the gone-wild wicked. Picture earnest, clean-cut, rosy-cheeked kids asking drunk, bikini-wearing, pot-smoking, raucous-music-listening, flip-flops-flapping, sun-burnt, red-eyed, fuzzy-toothed, body-abusing, pleasure-seeking sinners whether they'd like to get saved. Imagine the sinners' own four-letter invitation. Our man Roose, along for the ride, plays his role to the hilt, witnessing right along with the best of them. Well, actually, he does a pretty poor job of witnessing because he really doesn't believe in the Christ he's putatively espousing the asking of salvation from. Awkward, yes, but you've got to admire him for being game.

The best part is the depiction of the student-Evangelicals' own fake night-club located across the street from a real night club. Outside the fake Evangelical night club were B-girls and a restive line of obnoxious frat guys waiting for admittance, strobe lights, neon, techno beats, etc.; i.e., all the hip-hop signifiers of night-club sin. However, inside the fake club was a calm room, well-lit and quiet but for the hum of earnest conversion conversations, and (one imagines) the here-and-there indignant howl of a reveler recognizing that he's been duped. One wonders if any of the revelers so duped initially -- like in the first few disorienting seconds when they first stepped into the light from the nighttime darkness and din -- if initially they thought they'd died and gone to the Great Judgment Bar. It's fun to imagine the slow change in facial expression.

Liberty University is a strict, religious institution of higher learning, and Roose has much to say about the myriad differences between his LU roommates and his Brown U friends. But let me switch gears here and say that making snarky fun of true-beliver Evangelicals is not what this book is about. In fact, Roose is to be commended for giving his semester in the ideological-abroad a good-faith effort. The students and faculty at LU are depicted as 3D, blood-red people, complicated and real, not at all what we've come to expect to from the stereotypical media portrayal of this demographic.

In fact, it should say something that Roose's book is positively blurbed by members on both sides of the ideological divide. If you're looking for a fun, funny, well-written chronicle of what a responsible portrayal of the religious and irreligious alike, you'll want to read /The Unlikely Disciple./

Also, you'll want to read /TUD/ for Jerry Falwell's very last media interview, with the author, wherein the divisive Damnation-and-Hellfire demagogue endorses Diet Peach Snapple Iced-Tea and comes across as winningly avuncular. It says something about Jerry Falwell that he counted as friends not only the clerical and religious, but also Hustler's Larry Flynt. What that very odd friendship says, aside from the initial, what-the-heck cognitive dissonance, is that whatever else Falwell publicly was, he took seriously the admonition to love the sinner, to turn the other cheek to his enemy. And it's ultimately that last sentiment that Roose takes great rhetorical pains to manifest in his account. ( )
  evamat72 | Mar 31, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 71 (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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Book description
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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Recounts the author's semester investigating Liberty University, the late Jerry Falwell's fundamentalist evangelical training college, describing how he and his classmates were instructed in the ways of strict biblical literalism.

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