Book Review: The Unlikely Disciple


I have wanted to read this book since last semester when it was up for grabs at Vox Magazine (the magazine I wrote for as a part of a grad class) for reviewing. Unfortunately, I had no time to devote to reading an entire book in two days, but I promised myself it would make the summer reading list.

I was inclined to read this book for multiple reasons. I went to a small Christian university. Granted, SBU is much more moderate than Liberty University (we’re allowed to kiss our significant others and there are visitation hours when members of the opposite sex are allowed to visit the dorms of the opposite sex, and there is no real dress code), but I’m a firm believer that the culture is predominately the same. I am also extremely intrigued with how non-Evangelicals perceive Evangelicals. I am obsessed with this idea that people from different backgrounds, faiths, cultures, whatever can get along if we just listen to each other and try to see each other for what we are…human. It’s one of my idealistic pillars, I suppose. Anyway, I love reading about people who do try that, and that’s what this book is, an experiment in understanding people who are different from you. It just so happens that this writer, Kevin Roose, is trying to understand me, or at least a culture I belong to.

I appreciated that in announcing his goal to the reader at the beginning, Roose specifically states that he is going to Liberty University for a semester with as open a mind as he can, not to mock or satirize the Christian college student but try to bridge the God Divide between him, a Brown University sophomore who was raised a Quaker and the Evangelical college students at the late Jerry Falwell’s university.

Roose goes there under the guise that he is in fact a Christian so he can get as uncensored a view of what Christian college kids are really like. Other than that, he says he attempts to be as much as himself as he can while trying to blend into the rigorous standards of LU. He goes to Bible study, prayer chapel, convocation, is mentored by a campus pastor, joins church choir at Thomas Road Baptist Church, goes on a mission trip over spring break, and takes basic Bible classes. Roose’s experiences and revelations are funny, hopeful, surprising, and sometimes sadly accurate like his roommate Henry who is violently homophobic. But even in that there is a surprising hope because Roose admits he thought Henry’s attitude would be the norm, yet the other students are as wary of Henry as Roose is.

Roose finds students who think LU is too strict and stifling but are still devout Christians, students who don’t buy into everything Jerry Falwell (for the record not the biggest fan of his politics, but I was enlightened by Roose’s experiences) says but still love Jesus. He finds the kids who smoke and love Jesus, who never stop smiling and are squeaky clean and love Jesus. Roose found two Democrat Christians and a feminist at Liberty University. He found that not all Christians are the same, that a Christian university’s population is just as diverse and messy as a secular one, and he found that even after he told them the truth about himself, that he could still be good friends with the people he had grown to care about even though he didn’t buy into the whole Jesus thing.

Reading Roose’s journey at LU is incredibly insightful. And it’s weird. It even made me grow a little spiritually myself I think. Reading about someone else’s spiritual growth, even though they don’t buy all of it, makes me want to grow too. When I read A.J. Jacob‘s The Year of Living Biblically, even though he never stopped being agnostic because of it, I wanted his thoughts and growth in the area of prayer and meditation made me want to pray and meditate more. Is that weird that I can find spiritual motivation from two guys who don’t even believe it themselves?

If it wasn’t clear, I looooved this book! It was as funny, smart and dead-on to my Christian university experience as I thought it would be. I found myself interrupting my reading to alert my husband to another experience that mirrored our own SBU experiences. Seriously, whether you are a Christian or have just been curious as to what we’re like when you’re not looking, read this book. I think it would do America good to read a book that sheds some light on the reality of American Christians just like I think it would do America good if more people would read And the Band Played On.


3 Responses to “Book Review: The Unlikely Disciple”

  1. This sounds like an interesting book. I’m probably more like the author than you though πŸ˜› (except the whole not loving Jesus thing)
    I am really judgey of Jesus-schools. Growing up in an Assembly of God church, they spewed that if you didn’t go to an AoG university, then you weren’t as good as your peers. Which I thought was ridiculous and I was proven right.
    Everyone went to their Jesus-school to find an aspiring pastor to marry, or to be that aspiring pastor. Of course no one is because they end up leaving, or getting married and then getting preggers and working retail. (no offense to retail! major offense to not finishing school and being forced into retail!!)
    My sister’s friend is a math education major at Evangel and she was taking some summer classes at my University while she was back home. She openly admitted that Milwaukee’s classes were harder and required more work than hers. I don’t even know if she gets real grades, but I know she never has tests and homework like my sister and I have. I’m sure they’re not all the same… but stories like that from people I knew growing up AoG, make me dislike Jesus-schools. Which is weird because I really want my kids going to the Lutheran grade/high school that is affiliated with our new church πŸ™‚ Maybe because Lutherans aren’t as judgmental as the people I grew up with? Idk.
    This long comment’s point is that I want to read this book to see what he saw πŸ™‚

    • I don’t remember why exactly I wanted to go to a Christian school so bad, but I did not go there to find a husband. I was very adamant about that. John was a nice surprise at SBU, but not my goal. That’s why I made him wait 2 years for my graduation day before we got married. Although, I do know a lot of girls who did go to a Christian school for that reason, but not all of us did.

      I think it’s funny that you dislike Christian universities but want your kids to go to Lutheran grade/high schools, but I understand your reasoning.

      And you should read the book. I think you would enjoy it.

  2. 3 mountainsofbooks

    I read an article about this guy awhile back. It definitely piqued my interest too.

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