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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 18 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 9 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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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 29, 2012

    Insightful

    A must read for people of all faiths.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 3, 2012

    Highly recommended

    A fair report of Liberty college life.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 26, 2012

    Not what I expected

    I thought this might be a book that bashed evangelical Christians. Although Roose does not agree with may of the views of the other students at Liberty, he does portray them with respect. I enjoyed this book. I do not hold the same views as Roose does on many issues but I liked that he was able to build relationships and his sense of honor that showed through in his book.

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

    Posted January 9, 2012

    Almost made me miss my flight...

    ... I was so caught up this well-balanced report of the author's experience as a student at Liberty University. Although I, like many Americans, am quite firmly set in my spiritual and political beliefs, this book honestly got me thinking about what it means to hold certain beliefs and how people interact with those who hold other beliefs. And it was a pleasant experience!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2011

    A Must Read for Conservative Christians

    This book was a rare find. Think the author did a great job as an undercover Christian. His goal was not to judge, but to learn about a culture so he could communicate with his conservative Christian peers in an educated and civil conversation. Thus he does a fieldstudy of sorts. This book leads to the question, why can't we all listen and learn from others...when you walk a mile in someone's shoes, you will know more about their heart and soul; then compassion will open the doors of communication.

    Loved this book, hope he writes more soon.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 28, 2011

    extreme culture shock with a religious twist

    a student of a non religious prestigious school decides to go to an evangelist based college to see what happens. Interesting but forgettable story in my opinion.

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  • Posted September 12, 2011

    I loved it.

    Great first book by a new author. If you're looking for something to awaken your ability to empathize and get a glimpse of human nature, pick up this great peice of journalism.

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  • Posted August 22, 2011

    FUN / OPEN MINDED

    I really enjoyed this book. Kevin was honest and humorous. A liberal minded college student takes a semester at a very conservative Christian college and compares his findings to what he thought he would find and changes a bit from his experience. Shows how silly us Christians can be at times. Historical inside event at the end of book was interesting.

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  • Posted August 9, 2011

    A big culture change for the author. Christian or not, this book is a must read.

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  • Posted July 3, 2011

    Terrific read...couldn't put it down

    Full of great wisdom, wit and some terrific analogies --both re: life at LU as well as his family/friends and time at Brown. If you can't find something new and eye-opening in this book, as one of the teachers at LU said, perhaps you don't have a "teachable spirit." (inside book joke here, BTW)

    I didn't know what I was getting into, but could not have enjoyed it more. Great research, great adventure, great insights, and great new author!

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  • Posted July 3, 2011

    Full of heart, but missing a clear thesis

    I enjoyed the read, but was looking for more than a linear recounting of events. The book could have used some introspection.

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  • Posted June 29, 2011

    For anyone of any religion

    The character was writing through honest eyes. Took me three days to read and that's b/c i couldn't stop reading! As much as Christianity is confuses me the author was clear, descriptive and faithful to his Christian mission.

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  • Posted April 1, 2011

    Highly Recommended...

    I really enjoyed this book. More people should be open to others beliefs instead of shooting them down right away. This helped me to open my mind. Take sometime to read this book you may surprise yourself.

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  • Posted March 13, 2011

    A must read for culture warriors

    This for me was a real page turner. Excellent writing that moves the story along, especially for a senior in college (although it appears the author got a lot of help). Nice job of bringing his Liberty College classmates so alive that you feel sad for Roose and them when Roose has to leave Liberty at the end of the semester. As a non-christian member of an evangelical extended family, I find exactly what Roose describes, that ideological barriers need not and do not prevent genuine human relationships.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2011

    very insightful!

    this book was really good. it was interesting to get an inside look at a somewhat fanatical cultural climate. i especially enjoyed the final interview with jerry falwell.

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  • Posted March 1, 2011

    A must-read for anyone who calls himself a Christian

    As a Christian - that is, a follower of Jesus Christ and his teachings - I wanted to gain an understanding of what the secular people of the world think that "evangelical" means. Kevin Roose's point of view did help answer that question. While I don't necessarily support all the modes that Liberty students use to share the Christian faith, it must be made clear that Jesus himself is the one who gave the Great Commission. So even Catholics are evangelical - Mother Theresa being one of the most notable evangelicals in modern times, along with Rev. Billy Graham. Though each had their different styles of carrying out the Great Commission, they understood what Jesus asked his followers to do. Mr. Roose accurately exposes exactly how difficult that is for most college-aged Christians; in fact for most all Christians. The part of Roose's research that I find fault with is that he buys into the wrong definition of evangelical. Being evangelical doesn't equate to being a fundamentalist, and he should have done more homework on that. While fundamentalism takes a narrow minded approach to interpreting Biblical teachings, not all "evangelicals"...er, followers of Christ, view the old covenant as being literal in every respect. I'm disappointed that Roose did not learn, and Liberty failed to show him, that real Christians desire to be more and more like Jesus. He did learn that humans are imperfect and are never going to be able to follow the teachings to the point of perfection, but the ones who try are going to live a better life and they sincerely do seek the eternal life that Jesus promised when he said, "...And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." In a nutshell, Mr. Roose missed the point of Christianity. It may well be because Liberty failed in every way to show him. Liberty faculty, staff, and students, are you listening?

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  • Posted February 21, 2011

    Not what I expected

    The concept of an author going undercover in an evangelical Christian university intrigued me but I didn't believe that someone young enough to still be in college himself would be able to separate his own bias from his observations. Roose was able to treat the students and professors he met as individuals and to allow himself to like them. He writes honestly about how his time at Liberty University affected him. The book serves as a reminder that evangelicals really believe that they are doing the right thing.

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  • Posted December 31, 2010

    Good read

    I actually enjoyed this book.

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  • Posted December 11, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Great Read!

    For non-fundamentalists who have been in these shoes before, this is an absolute must-read.

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  • Posted September 15, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Interesting look at young Christians

    I enjoyed reading this book. It's about a student from Brown University who decides to spend a semester at ultra-conservative, Christian, Liberty University. He gets a quick education in basic Christianity from some friends and he manages to blend in without raising too much suspicion.

    I consider myself to be a moderate Christian, but I was raised in a rather conservative Southern Baptist home, so I can identify with many of the people and experiences described in the book, although they may sound odd to non-Christians. Author Kevin Roose does get to know many students at Liberty and he does portray them fairly and as individuals.

    I would read other works by this author.

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