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February 2, 2011

The Unlikely Disciple by Kevin Roose

I borrowed this book from a friend and as soon as I started reading it, I couldn't put it down.  Kevin Roose is a college student at Brown University and a freelance journalist with an extremely limited Quaker background. He made the decision to take a semester from Brown and do a "study abroad" at Liberty University.  If you aren't familiar with this college, it is the largest conservative Christian college around, and my aunt happens to be a professor there.  

I won't go into too many details because you really should read the book, but Kevin sets himself up as a recent Christian convert and gets a crash course from a friend to be able to convince people he belongs there.  His goal is to experience Liberty as an insider so he needs to pass himself off as just another conservative Christian.  He gets involved in all the standard activities - prayer groups, Bible studies, mentoring programs and even manages to sign up for a class that allows him to be in the choir at Thomas Road - Jerry Falwell's church.  

Kevin describes his family throughout the book because many of them were concerned about his involvement at Liberty.  His family includes many liberal people who are very offended by the views of conservatives like Falwell.  In particular, he mentions his aunts who are gay and how they keep sending him information on homophobia and problems caused by people with the conservative view.  Through the process, Kevin does a remarkable job of keeping himself surprisingly even handed in his discussion.  He works hard to not simply dismiss Liberty students simply because he doesn't quite agree with their views, although there are a number of times where his frustration comes through.  I really enjoy seeing his perspective on the daily life of Liberty in general, and it just rubbed me the wrong way when he would make a snarky comment about what someone believes about moral purity or global warming.  It definitely wasn't enough to turn me off to the book and I would definitely recommend checking it out.  4.5/5  


J.Hamilton said...

Glad you liked it too! Now you must read The Year of Living Biblically. I came away from this book realizing that I am way more judgmental of conservative Christians than I ought to be. WAY more than this guy.

Jon Kelly said...

It was definitely worth the read. If you have the other, pass it along and I'll read it too. I gave this one to Matt already so hopefully he will start it soon.