Review: The Unlikely Disciple by Kevin Roose

My shiny bachelor’s degree comes from a Christian college.  For some of you, that doesn’t mean much, but if you were to ever set foot on my alma mater’s campus on a regular school day, you’d get an idea of how different it is from a state university or a liberal arts college. No drinking.  Limited physical contact between the sexes. No R-Rated movies. The list of rules is quite long, and as much as I sometimes wonder what it would have been like had I attended a different school (I was going to go to Lock Haven University originally), I’m ultimately happy with my choice of school.  I learned a lot about myself, about theology, and I met my wife there.  I’d even say I’d make the choice to attend school there again, though I could certainly do without some of the rules.

Kevin Roose’s book The Unlikely Disciple came out during my senior year, when my roommate Jim picked it up. He enjoyed it, seeing many parallels between Roose’s experience and our own.  I made note of the book, but forgot about it until I saw it on a discount rack and decided to give it a go.

TUD follows Kevin Roose, a student at Brown University and “student” of AJ Jacobs, author of The Year of Living Biblically,who decides to spend a semester at Liberty University, immersiing himself in evanglical culture for three months to see what it’s really like.  Kevin finds himself surrounded on all sides predominately by conservative evangelicals and finds, to his surprise, they’re not as strange (or hostile) as you might think.

Technically, this book is part of my little examination of privilege as an attempt to hear viewpoints outside of my worldview.  I don’t know how much it counts, considering that author Kevin Roose and I are actually a lot alike in terms of where I am now as a person and where he was as of this writing.  I’m still an evangelical (sort of), but for me, this is an attempt to see how someone who I could really only label as a Quaker agnostic views the world in which I was raised.  It’s interesting to see how “outsiders” look at how I grew up and the people I’m familiar with, and Roose really worked hard to be fair and honest about his views.  He pulls no punches, displaying blatant homophobia and even racism that takes place at Liberty (reminding me of some moments at my own school), but he also shows how human these conservative evangelicals really are, and I couldn’t be more grateful about that.  Even amongst my fellow millenial, postmodern Christians, I see people forgetting that these people are, in fact, people.  You can’t love your enemies and talk about how stupid and bigoted they are from the same mouth, and it’s something I get tired of seeing in and out of churches on a day to day basis.

Kevin Roose, this was a great book.  It reminded me of good and bad times from my own schooling, and also showed me that I am not beyond the things my upbringing commits. Your work helps us see that there’s human beings beneath the crusty conservative exterior, ones that love just like we do.  Thanks, man.

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