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Cannonball Read #3: The Unlikely Disciple

11/12/2009

I love my public library. I wasn’t looking for The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University, and in fact, I rarely read non-fiction. But as I was browsing the new book display, something about this book jumped out at me. And since it didn’t cost me anything, I figured I should take a chance on it. What a great decision!

The author, Kevin Roose, takes a semester off from Ivy League Brown University and enrolls at Liberty University, the late Jerry Falwell’s “Bible Boot Camp” for young evangelicals. Roose spent a bit of time at Liberty as a research assistant for the journalist A.J. Jacobs, who wrote The Year of Living Biblically. He got to meet some of the students there, and he realized that he didn’t know anything about evangelical Christians.

“What if, instead of speculating about Christian college life from afar, I jumped over the God Divide and tried to experience it myself?

Roose tells the story of his semester with humor, compassion, truth, and wisdom. He guides us through the history of Liberty and Falwell, and while he could have snarked his way through the behind-the-scenes experiences, he handles it with humanity. This is not to say that the book is a fluff piece, glorifying Liberty U. or Jerry Falwell; but the author looks at the students and faculty, listens to their questions and beliefs with thoughtfulness and understanding.

The factual information about the university and evangelical life are also balanced with Roose’s questions about his own faith. His semester was not quite what he expected, and his book was nothing like what I expected either.

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