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

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

13 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

Kevin Roose's courage and honesty are evident in this book!

What happens when an intelligent, interested, Ivy League student wants to study in a different culture for a semester? He (or she) studies "abroad," enrolling in a different college where that culture can be experienced first hand. For Kevin Roose, "abroad" was Lynchb...
What happens when an intelligent, interested, Ivy League student wants to study in a different culture for a semester? He (or she) studies "abroad," enrolling in a different college where that culture can be experienced first hand. For Kevin Roose, "abroad" was Lynchburg, VA. at one of the most (for him) alien cultures he could find, Liberty University. As a marginal Quaker, going to a Fundamentalist, Evangelical Christian school (described as a "Bible Boot Camp") was an experiment in: honesty, education, challenging himself and his beliefs.
He entered Liberty for the Spring 2007 semester with expectations he had developed from secondary sources (media reports, unfounded opinions, etc.), his family and misconceptions of what L.U. really is. (This reader had many of those same ideas.) What he gained from his semester at Liberty , aside from a surprisingly rigorous academic course load, was the discovery that some of his presumptions were well-founded but many more were shattered by his experience. He found genuine humanity, intelligent people, a stifling administration, narrow-mindedness, a hunger for knowledge, typically bad cafeteria food, beautiful girls, deep friendships and one unanimously agreed upon "Christian Jerk." In attending L.U. he agreed to abide by "The Liberty Way ," a 46-page manual that outlines the code of conduct for all Liberty students and includes the consequences for infractions.
Mr. Roose, a 19 y/o, second semester Freshman when he began his span "abroad," was surprised by how he was challenged in this term. He learned the benefits of prayer and of being prayed for, the power of community, of communal events and experienced the cleansing miracle of confession. He discovered how much effort is required to live a life of righteousness and how that life must be more about practice than orthodoxy. He saw the absurdity of "The Liberty Way" while noting its power in bonding people as a community. He tasted the depth of intimacy available in a romantic relationship when sex is out of the equation. His stint at L. U. was a busy one: six classes, singing in the Thomas Road Baptist Church choir (2 credit hours for that endeavor), played intramural softball and "went to every extracurricular activity I could find." He became so involved and connected in his life at Liberty that, when the semester ended, he was torn about returning to his "old life."
The bitterness of his time at "Bible Boot Camp" was voiced in his experience of having to live a "shadow life" while there. He could not tell anyone (until eleven months after leaving L.U.) his real intentions of being at this school. This caused an inability to be as real with his new friends as they were being with him. It did help him to become far more open & real after he completed this experiment (he has become so earnest in his relationships that a friend has nicknamed him "Hallmark").
Mr. Roose is wonderfully honest in this work. He speaks clearly of what was gleaned from his time at Liberty , of his prejudices, choices and allows the reader to share many of his experiences seemingly without filters. He is likewise fair in his reporting of what he found Liberty University to be. When L.U. was found to be noteworthy, he named that moment in detail. When it was lacking, in his opinion, he was similarly forthcoming with his unvarnished assessment.
I read this book with relish. It was well written, funny, insightful, painful, engaging & a

posted by YoyoMitch53 on September 7, 2009

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Most Helpful Critical Review

2 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

Unlikely to Inspire

Not quite what I thought it would be. The characters were great, the writing style was fine, but I guess I just wish he had been as open minded as he tried to paint himself as being. At the end of the read, without giving anything away, I felt as if his 'experiment' w...
Not quite what I thought it would be. The characters were great, the writing style was fine, but I guess I just wish he had been as open minded as he tried to paint himself as being. At the end of the read, without giving anything away, I felt as if his 'experiment' was a 'roose' from the beginning and was simply about getting attention and finding a story good enough to make money from - which there is nothing wrong with at all, IF that's how it's portrayed. Bit of a wet read overall, felt like I had wasted my time which seldom happens with ANY book.

posted by PowdersReadingAgain on August 24, 2010

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  • Posted September 7, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Kevin Roose's courage and honesty are evident in this book!

    What happens when an intelligent, interested, Ivy League student wants to study in a different culture for a semester? He (or she) studies "abroad," enrolling in a different college where that culture can be experienced first hand. For Kevin Roose, "abroad" was Lynchburg, VA. at one of the most (for him) alien cultures he could find, Liberty University. As a marginal Quaker, going to a Fundamentalist, Evangelical Christian school (described as a "Bible Boot Camp") was an experiment in: honesty, education, challenging himself and his beliefs.
    He entered Liberty for the Spring 2007 semester with expectations he had developed from secondary sources (media reports, unfounded opinions, etc.), his family and misconceptions of what L.U. really is. (This reader had many of those same ideas.) What he gained from his semester at Liberty , aside from a surprisingly rigorous academic course load, was the discovery that some of his presumptions were well-founded but many more were shattered by his experience. He found genuine humanity, intelligent people, a stifling administration, narrow-mindedness, a hunger for knowledge, typically bad cafeteria food, beautiful girls, deep friendships and one unanimously agreed upon "Christian Jerk." In attending L.U. he agreed to abide by "The Liberty Way ," a 46-page manual that outlines the code of conduct for all Liberty students and includes the consequences for infractions.
    Mr. Roose, a 19 y/o, second semester Freshman when he began his span "abroad," was surprised by how he was challenged in this term. He learned the benefits of prayer and of being prayed for, the power of community, of communal events and experienced the cleansing miracle of confession. He discovered how much effort is required to live a life of righteousness and how that life must be more about practice than orthodoxy. He saw the absurdity of "The Liberty Way" while noting its power in bonding people as a community. He tasted the depth of intimacy available in a romantic relationship when sex is out of the equation. His stint at L. U. was a busy one: six classes, singing in the Thomas Road Baptist Church choir (2 credit hours for that endeavor), played intramural softball and "went to every extracurricular activity I could find." He became so involved and connected in his life at Liberty that, when the semester ended, he was torn about returning to his "old life."
    The bitterness of his time at "Bible Boot Camp" was voiced in his experience of having to live a "shadow life" while there. He could not tell anyone (until eleven months after leaving L.U.) his real intentions of being at this school. This caused an inability to be as real with his new friends as they were being with him. It did help him to become far more open & real after he completed this experiment (he has become so earnest in his relationships that a friend has nicknamed him "Hallmark").
    Mr. Roose is wonderfully honest in this work. He speaks clearly of what was gleaned from his time at Liberty , of his prejudices, choices and allows the reader to share many of his experiences seemingly without filters. He is likewise fair in his reporting of what he found Liberty University to be. When L.U. was found to be noteworthy, he named that moment in detail. When it was lacking, in his opinion, he was similarly forthcoming with his unvarnished assessment.
    I read this book with relish. It was well written, funny, insightful, painful, engaging & a

    13 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 26, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Bought It and Read it in two days---couldn't put it down!

    Im a local youth pastor in NC and I have a few students who attend Liberty so I was immediately interested in the book. Once I started reading my curiosity grew. I honestly feel that every campus/college pastor should read this book. It is very insightful, heartfelt and well written with authenticity, transparency and uniqueness.

    9 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 24, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    With No Axe To Grind What Does He Find?

    If you're looking for a book that will ridicule the students and life at Liberty University, you will not get that here. If you're looking for a book that will show how a sinner and a skeptic was converted by the students and life at Liberty University, you won't get that either. Kevin Roose was a moderate, was from a Quaker family, and had openly gay friends while he was at Brown University in Providence. After visiting Liberty University with A.J. Jacobs (The Year of Living Biblically) he decided to spend a semester there. He intended to write about his experiences, but kept that concealed. Roose had some ideas about what the life might be like, but he wanted to see for himself: he has an open mind. He wanted to blend in reasonably, so gets a crash course from a friend.

    Roose is reticent to tell the other students in his dorm that he was at Brown, since in many ways Brown is almost the antithesis of Liberty University, but when he's finally asked directly ("A college in Rhode Island" is not a sufficient answer) he finds that it's not really a big deal. Many or most of the students went to high schools where plenty of hanky-panky was going on, and they're at Liberty in part for spiritual growth, in part to get away from the temptations of the outside world. Roose makes a quick adjustment to the praying schedules, the host of restrictions (e.g. viewing an R-rated movie, 12 reprimands and a $50 fine). Some of the courses he must take he enjoys, others, which stress young-earth fundamentalism, etc, he doesn't enjoy. Roose writes in a fine self-deprecating manner. There are matters he covers which may make you flinch, but there's always a sense of wry humor.

    Roose finds himself changing, particularly in his spiritual outlook: he is not becoming a fundamentalist evangelist, but he finds he has more inner peace in many ways. He wants to know how his friends feel about Liberty, about Falwell, about all the rules and regulations. He encounters students who are rabidly anti-gay, far on the extreme side of even the average Liberty student. Roose himself does not become more intolerant: quite the contrary. By the end of the semester Roose has learned what it's like to walk in the shoes of the Liberty Students--it's a good attitude on his part. What you also find, however, is that this seems to make Roose unique, or almost so, at Liberty. The other students seem to have little interest in walking in the shoes of your average Brown student: there often seems to be a worry, in fact, that exposing people to other viewpoints (other than criticizing them) can be harmful, can lead a Christian into temptation, onto evil paths. If you're sure that you are right, why look too closely at the other side? Why take a chance on fostering doubt? There's a lot of depth here--a well-told tale.

    8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 1, 2009

    Unlikely Disciple is Provocative Read

    I read this book in three days. Behind the scenes expose of Liberty University is very interesting and hard to put down! The author's account of his time at the unversity is very revealing and honest. Kevin Roose shows a talent for storytelling and self reflection that makes the reader feel part of the process.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 24, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Unlikely to Inspire

    Not quite what I thought it would be. The characters were great, the writing style was fine, but I guess I just wish he had been as open minded as he tried to paint himself as being. At the end of the read, without giving anything away, I felt as if his 'experiment' was a 'roose' from the beginning and was simply about getting attention and finding a story good enough to make money from - which there is nothing wrong with at all, IF that's how it's portrayed. Bit of a wet read overall, felt like I had wasted my time which seldom happens with ANY book.

    2 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 18, 2009

    Roose is a risk taker, and it worked for him!

    I highly enjoyed Roose's book. His writing was entertaining, and always kept me wanting more! Roose had a unique but prevalent perspective; that must be shared with the evangelical culture (because they are often ignorant to how their ways are not attractive to the outside world). Roose did often hold a balanced view between the world and the so called 'evangelical view'. Roose is honest and real with his readers. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
    The only part of the book I saw as unbalanced, was when Roose speaks of the university as being biased with education; for the reason of, most public secondary schools only teach evolution and not creation. Furthermore if a student attends a University to get a balanced view of how the world was created, against what they have been taught their entire life, I find that balanced, not biased. In my opinion public schools that only teach evolution or that praise evolution and bash creationism is the same bias. Roose did fair job at balancing most of LU, and their students; the creationism/evolution ideas were the only part I felt were not seen in an even perspective.
    Roose is a very creative thinker, and an out of the box American. I appreciate his willingness, to go where not many people have gone. He was open, willing, and diligent. These are all qualities of a great writer. I hope he will take on more writing adventures that open communication for many subcultures in this world.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 25, 2009

    Must read for anyone who has questioned their faith in God

    I was fotunate enough to meet Kevin at a local bookstore recently. To look at him he looks as if he would fit more with the LU sterotype than a student a secular college. I will start off by saying Kevin is VERY smart and you can tell he did a lot of research for this book. As a former student a Liberty from the early 90's (lived off campus) and growing up in Lynchburg and presently attend TRBC I think he did an amazing job of capturing life at LU. I pray that Kevin does accept Christ as his savior. This would be a great bookclub read, because it would open up so many different views: religious, friendship, family and peers.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 17, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Into the Looking Glass

    THE UNLIKELY DISCIPLE
    A Sinner's Semester at America's
    Holiest University
    Kevin Roose
    Grand Central Publishing
    Hachette Book Group
    ISBN: 978-0-446-17842-6
    $24.99 - Hardback
    315 pages
    Reviewer: Annie Slessman

    Bringing to the forefront one of the most debatable subjects, i.e., religion, Kevin Roose, author of THE UNLIKELY DISCIPLE: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University, shares his experiences as a student of Liberty University, one of the largest Christian universities. As a student of Brown University, Kevin arranges to attend Liberty University for one semester so he can research a book on the Christian university culture. When he adjust to the "Liberty Way" some weeks into the semester he realizes that he is opening his mind to what some would deem "a cult environment."

    What Roose discovers both about himself and Liberty is that there is good and bad in most situations. Founder of Liberty University - Dr. Jerry Falwell - is well known worldwide. He made the statement during the building of Liberty that he wanted this university to be "as far right as Harvard is left." One brochure describes the university as having a "strong commitment to political conservatism, total rejection of socialism, and firm support of America's economic system of free enterprise." Not only does Falwell teach strong political views, he also condemns homosexuality and other social issues. At Liberty University there is only one way to think - the Jerry Falwell way.

    Roose has hurdles to jump due to his belief that, "I could never become an evangelical if it meant condemning homosexuals or proselytizing aggressively to non-Christians or believing that the Bible is infallible." The thing is Roose finds Liberty a supportive, warm environment and this causes some confusion in his attempt to remain neutral about the subject matter taught at this university.

    Roose ends up writing the last written personal interview with Dr. Falwell. He didn't intend to happen that way and found himself somewhat upset by the fact that this brought him so much notoriety after Dr. Falwell's death.

    So, does Roose convert to Liberty's description of a Christian? Does he find it difficult to fit into the strict belief system required to participate fully in the school's activities? Has his experience at Liberty University provided a life changing opportunity? Read the book and draw your own conclusions.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 1, 2009

    AMAZING BOOK! - Correctly and Respectably Depicts the "Bible Boot Camp"

    As a current student at Liberty University (the college that Kevin spends a semester at in this great book) this book was on point and very accurate. I also transfered to LU from a very secular school myself and really agree with the image that Kevin paints of Liberty and some of the culture shock that is felt initially. This book is very thought provoking and does a great job to "blend" the line between the saved and unsaved. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it to anyone and everyone; it will leave you with a new perspective on the "Bible Boot Camp"

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 14, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Thought-provoking and fun

    I'm not normally a non-fiction reader, yet once I started this book, I couldn't put it down. I was intrigued by the premise of the book, a generally liberal, non-religious kid from Brown goes undercover at evangelical Liberty College. I wasn't sure what to expect, but what I got was more thoughtful and well-balanced than I could have imagined. I was impressed by the pragmatism and thoughtfulness of the author. Reese is a likable character who doesn't jump to conclusions. This book made me contemplate my own thoughts about Christianity and the interplay of society, politics and religion in general, all the while being a completely enjoyable read! Reese is obviously a bright kid and this is a remarkable product for his first book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 17, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Not what he was intending to write

    What would it be like for a Northeastern liberal to infiltrate America's largest Christian university? That is exactly what happened when Kevin Roose enrolled at Liberty University in 2007 as a second semester freshman. He writes about his experience in The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University. It is no exaggeration to label Roose as a Northeastern liberal, for that is how he would identify himself. During his freshman year at Brown University, rather than engage foreign cultures by studying abroad like most of his peers, Roose decided to engage a completely foreign culture closer to home. Early in the book, he cites the study indicating that 51% of Americans do not even casually know an evangelical Christian. He was one of the 51%. All he knew of evangelicals was the caricature portrayed by televangelists and politics-and what he saw was an ugly picture. His family's concern could not have been deeper if he were going to investigate prison life from the inside. When the author first stepped foot on campus, his preconceptions were not exactly unbiased. By his own testimony, the book he wrote is not the book he initially intended to write. The book he wrote is a wonderful snapshot of a small corner of Liberty University and an even smaller corner of evangelical Christianity.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 2, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Slow

    This was one of those books that you bought and went into with high hopes. Your hopes continue while reading, waiting for it to take the turn into the interesting part. However, aside from an insiders view into the death of Jerry Falwell from the "university" he founded.

    While the authors point that "god" camp and "no god" camp are neither as fanatic as they are commonly portrayed. While attempting to portray himself and many close to him as persons that have a certain belief system but are tolerant to others, he misses an important concept. That when a person lives there life being sad or pittying others for not having the same insight into god as they do, they arent exactly being tolerant. I personally object to those believing that I'm lacking some form of understanding that they have.

    Wasn't exactly the page turner promised. Unfortunately it comes across as somewhat preachy, even though that is the exact opposite of the author's stated goal.

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 20, 2009

    An interesting look into Conservative Christian lifestyle from an outsiders point of view. Good reading for the Christian

    I am 48 years old, a Christian since childhood. I attended a very conservative Christian College for 1 year (Cedarville College) in 1979-80. At that time it was more conservative than Liberty University is today. I came from a conservative background, but not that conservative. In fact, I attended a Catholic High School in the Mormon Kingdom of Salt Lake City. I also lived in the Valley of Southern CA in 1975 in Encino, CA (90% Jewish at the time). So, you could say I've been exposed to the gammit!

    I really enjoyed Kevin's description of his time spent at Liberty University. I compared his stories to mine back in 1979. I could relate to his "shock and awe" with some people's conservative views, but most always found the good students at Cedarville College to be fun loving and caring people. I think Kevin's brutal honesty is refreshing, and right on the mark. "Does God really change His mind when I pray to him?" I love that question. I've never really thought of it that way!!.

    I believe this book is terrific reading and I'd recommend it to any Christian who wants on outsider's look into the Americanized society of Conservative Christianity. I've certainly liberalized my thinking as I've grown older and wiser, and really appreciated the fair look from his perspective.

    I'm recommending this book to my many Christian "straight" men! I think its good to stand back, take a look and contemplate what you think. If we didn't we might just become a bore!

    Way to go Kevin.

    Brian

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 14, 2009

    Cross cultural experience

    It is an interesting cross-cultural experience. The atuthor learned a lot about other views at Liberty. He did well for a college student.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 24, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Page Turner!

    I had a hard time putting this book down, it opened up a part of history that I did not know about, and it kept my interest by weaving the past and the present in alternating chapters.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2009

    Really Enjoyed this Adventure

    As I believer, I was interested to in an outside point of view, though I'm not nearly as strict a Christian as Liberty U. students. The author is very balanced and does a great job keeping an open mind, and being very open about his feelings through the journey as well. Wonderful book, I've shared it with many already.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 12, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Real, Honest, and an unblinking look into Bible Boot Camp

    Kevin Roose decided to do an experiment on going from one of the most liberal universities in the country to one of the most conservative, and the results are stunning. The compartisons to the different walks of life is just the beginning as Roose experiences everything from shock, to the numbness of not belonging, to stunned disbelief, and quiet transformation. From his first steps onto Liberty University, to Roose's own unexpected spiritual journey, this book is a page turner and a unflinching look into a world in which few dare to go. Highly recommended!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2014

    The Unlikely Best Read I recently read ┬┐The Unlikely Disciple┬┐ b

    The Unlikely Best Read
    I recently read “The Unlikely Disciple” by  Kevin Roose, it may sound like a super christian love God and all his children book, but it’s not. This is a true story about a college sophomore that finds himself in an awkward situation with three Christian students. After being dumbfounded and majorly embarrassed, Kevin wonders why he was so different from the Christian students he had met.  After much thought Kevin decides to Enroll in one semester at Liberty University, the same college the Christian students attended. Liberty is a very conservative, Christian and strict school, they even have a 400 page rule book called The Liberty Way. At the time Kevin was attending Brown University, a liberal, loose and free spirited school. Kevin wants to live as a normal Christian Liberty student, which mean he will have to convince everyone around him that he is just like them and he’s doing this not to exploit or argue but just as a journalistic assignment for research and knowledge.  As the story continues we follow Kevin on his journey of friendship, investigation, and exploration. He learns about the lives of others and starts to understand the lies of the stereotypes put on them. Kevin founds out strange, scary and sometimes hilarious facts of the students and teachers of this legendary evangelical university. He makes friends and even has a cute love interest. Overall this book is funny, sweet, informational and fun. Kevin enters world that many people criticise and put down, he opens the door to what really happens and proves that you don't really know someone until you put yourself in someone elses shoes.

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  • Posted November 21, 2013

    This book could bring an end to the culture war or at least a ce

    This book could bring an end to the culture war or at least a cease fire.

    This book is about a student Kevin Roose who I would say grew up in a sheltered liberal environment having little contact with conservative Christians. His opinions and ideas about conservative Evangelicals come from his left learning parents, his gay aunts, and perhaps even his time spent at a boarding school and at Brown University. I have found that most people who grew up that liberal usually are intolerant of people who have more conservative views and vice versa.

    Roose goes to Liberty University as a student to gain a perspective of a conservative Christian's worldview. Considering his background, he does a really excellent job being unbiased and judging conservative Christians as human beings rather than by their political beliefs. He found that he has more things in common with conservative Christians than he ever thought that he would.

    When he does disagree with their views in the book, they are fair disagreements. He mentions that there are a lack of differing viewpoints with the faculty. Ideas and research that prove a different theory that LU doesn't agree with are censored. He feels that LU students should interact with people who disagree with them. He doesn't feel that evangelizing people isn't effective to win converts.

    I used to be a conservative Christian when I was younger because that was the environment that I lived in. Now I don't go to those churches anymore, but I still have respect for conservative Christians. It always makes me mad when I see left leaning people insult them just because they had different political beliefs. In this book, Roose disagrees with their viewpoints, but he respects them. If both sides could respect the others' beliefs, it could create a bridge between the cultural divide.

    Yes I would recommend this book particularly to conservative Christians so they could see that not all liberals believe that they are subhuman because they don't agree with them. Liberals should read this too and learn to adopt Roose's attitude when they meet conservative Christians. They are not all like Ann Coulter and Bill O'Rielly.

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  • Posted May 13, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    This is a book about a Brown sophomore (age 19) that decides to

    This is a book about a Brown sophomore (age 19) that decides to spend a semester at Liberty University 'undercover' to find out what it's really like. The author was raised a Quaker and his church attendance was rather low. Going into Liberty University was quite the culture shock to him, but I appreciate how he was willing to try things uncomfortable to him and really get involved in his new setting to give it a fair shake. I definitely enjoyed this book and highly recommend it. It was one of those books where I had trouble putting it down because I wanted to find out more. There were no dull moments, the author has an engaging style of writing. This is not a religious book, so don't be put off by the words disciple and holiest in the title.

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