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Every Christian Needs to Read This Book! (And Every Atheist Too!)

Updated on March 23, 2013

"The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University," by Kevin Roose

(No, I'm not talking about the Bible.) We're all on one side or the other of the "God Divide." As an atheist, do you ever wonder about believers? As a Christian, are you curious how the world views you?

A journalism student jumped the Divide in a study-abroad semester at home ... but a whole world away: an undercover secular liberal from Brown University masquerading for a semester as an evangelical at ultra-conservative Liberty University, the school founded by televangelist Jerry Falwell.

Whichever side of the God Divide you are on, get a little insight into the other ... and maybe into your own side as well.

What Prompted This Experiment?

Why did Kevin Roose decide to attend Falwell's Liberty University for a semester?

Kevin Roose was first taken to Jerry Falwell's Thomas Road church by his mentor, A.J. Jacobs, as research for Jacobs' book The Year of Living Biblically. While there, he encountered some Liberty U students with whom he signally failed to connect. Recalling it later, he found himself frustrated at the incident:

"I replayed those fifteen minutes over and over in my mind. Every time, I got more frustrated with myself. Why wasn't I able to hold down that conversation? I mean, I've heard of the God Divide before, in a thousand Newsweek articles and one-hour CNN specials. I'm aware that a tree-hugging Brown student isn't supposed to be able to talk to a Bible-thumping Liberty student. But why not? Aren't we all part of the Millennial generation? Don't we all carry the same iPhones and suffer from the same entitlement complex?

"I started reading up on Liberty and other evangelical colleges, and the more I read, the more I began to realize the importance of knowing about my Christian peers. This isn't a fringe culture, after all. According to the Barna Group, an evangelical polling firm, a full one-third of America's teenagers self-identify as born-again Christians....

"What exactly do they believe? And are we really that different? I also felt intuitively that there was something limiting about being an outsider in the evangelical world. When I told the Liberty students at Thomas Road that I hadn't accepted Christ as my savior, the entire dynamic of the conversation changed. It began to feel distant and rehearsed, like a pitch for Ginsu knives. So how could I, a curious non-evangelical, get the inside scoop?

"Several months after my Thomas Road visit, while browsing Liberty's website one morning, it clicked: What if I spent a semester at Liberty as a student? What if, instead of speculating about Christian college life from afar, I jumped over the God Divide and tried to experience it myself?"

"The Unlikely Disciple" - Kevin Roose spent a semester undercover as an evangelical Christian, to try to understand their culture from their point of view.

"Here, right in my time zone,

was a culture more foreign to me

than any European capital."

~ Kevin Roose ~

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

Hoping to connect with his conservative Christian peers, Roose leaps across the God Divide and embeds himself among Liberty’s 10,000 undergraduates, who call themselves “Champions for Christ.” At Liberty, he sings in Rev. Falwell’s church choir, takes classes like Evangelism 101, and makes surprising discoveries about the true nature of America’s culture war. The chronicle of Roose’s journey is timely, hilarious, and thought-provoking, and will inspire and entertain believers and non-believers alike.

 

"The Unlikely Disciple" Book Trailer - Kevin Roose talks about his reasons for spending a semester at Falwell's Liberty University.

"A tree-hugging Brown student

isn't supposed to be able to talk to

a Bible-thumping Liberty student.

But why not?"

~ Kevin Roose ~

Why Should Everyone Read This Book? - Although there are very real differences, the people on both sides of the "God Divide" are still people, and it is possibl

"Is the God Divide really

as big as we say it is?

Well, no, it's not.

And I'm the proof."

~ Kevin Roose ~

Do you agree that it is important to humanize and empathize with the other side of the God Divide?

What Did the Author Discover About His Classmates?

Kevin Roose went to Liberty with an idea of the evangelicals he would meet.

"The thing that strikes me hardest:

this is not a group of angry zealots."

~ Kevin Roose ~

"They're not rabid, frothing fundamentalists

who spend their days sewing Hillary Clinton

voodoo dolls and penning angry missives

to the ACLU. Maybe I'm getting a skewed

sample, but the ones I've met have been

funny, articulate, and decidedly non-crazy.

~ Kevin Roose ~

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

Will You Read This Book?

See results

Going All the Way

Doing nothing by half, if an evangelical opportunity presented itself, Kevin Roose took it.

Kevin Roose joined the choir at Jerry Falwell's Thomas Road mega-church; took the typical freshman courseload (including a Christian ethics course, Old and New Testament classes, Evangelism 101, and creation studies); attended regular Bible studies, prayer groups, and one-on-one Christian counseling; and even signed on for a trip to evangelize college students visiting Daytona Beach for spring break.

"Evangelizing to secular spring breakers in Florida struck me

as an enormous waste of time.

Why not go somewhere Jesus

would be an easier sell?

Like Islamabad?"

~ Kevin Roose ~

Kevin found that, true to a prediction made by his only Christian friend from high school, the hardest part of blending in was making his language fit to be heard on a Christian campus.

"I want a refund for that 30 Days

to Taming Your Tongue book

that was supposed to teach me

how to speak to evangelicals in

their own language.

After reading it, I went around

for several days saying things

like 'Mercy me, that was a

doozy of a class, wasn't it?'

But instead of credibility,

I mostly got looks of pity."

~ Kevin Roose ~

What Do You Think About the Undercover Semester? - For a semester, Kevin Roose presented himself with a false identity.

"If I were a normal Liberty student,

I would have no qualms about

making friends, dating girls,

and following all my social impulses.

But I'm not a normal Liberty

student, and as I'm learning,

I'm not immune to guilt."

~ Kevin Roose ~

What did you think?

"When I wake up at 7:45 on Sunday morning,

I expect to feel much worse.

It's 7:45 on Sunday morning, after all."

~ Kevin Roose ~

"It's a novel idea - Bible study as singles

mixer. And since the alternative is to watch

my roommate play solitaire until he claws

his eyes out, I decide to go along."

~ Kevin Roose ~

"In nearly two months of booze-free

Christian living and twice-a-week jogging,

I've lost 15 pounds without trying, and

I forget what a hangover feels like.

All college students should do a semester

at Liberty for the health benefits alone."

~ Kevin Roose ~

"The Year of Living Biblically" - One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible

Kevin Roose was first taken to Falwell's Thomas Road church by his mentor, A.J. Jacobs, as research for Jacobs' book The Year of Living Biblically.

The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible
The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible

Make no mistake: A.J. Jacobs is not a religious man. He describes himself as Jewish "in the same way the Olive Garden is an Italian restaurant." Yet his latest work, The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible, is an insightful and hilarious journey for readers of all faiths. Though no fatted calves were harmed in the making of this book, Jacobs chronicles 12 months living a remarkably strict Biblical life full of charity, chastity, and facial hair as impressive as anything found in The Lord of the Rings. Through it all, he manages to brilliantly keep things light, while avoiding the sinful eye of judgment. - Dave Callanan

 

Praise for "The Unlikely Disciple"

Secular and religious reviewers praise Kevin Roose

"Hallelujah for Kevin Roose. This is a remarkable book. He takes us on a fascinating, funny, nuanced journey that doesn't condescend or make glib judgments. It's just what the culture wars need. If I didn't already have kids, I'd adopt Kevin."

A.J. Jacobs, New York Times bestselling author of The Year Of Living Biblically

"What happens when a Brown undergrad goes undercover at Liberty University? If he's a writer as insightful and open-minded as Kevin Roose, he ends up learning as much about himself as he does about the evangelical Christians he lives with. The Unlikely Disciple provides a funny, compassionate, and revealing look at Jerry Falwell's 'Bible Boot Camp,' and the surprisingly diverse band of true believers who make it their home."

Tom Perrotta, bestselling author of Little Children and The Abstinence Teacher

"This is a brilliant book. Absolutely brilliant. Roose's wisdom, humanity, and love kept me going. And I laughed. A lot."

Rob Bell, founding pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church, author of Velvet Elvis

"Keenly observed, funny, and compassionate. Kevin Roose parachutes us into a seldom-glimpsed and little-understood pocket of America, then guides us through a story of religion and country more resonant than any of us could have imagined."

Robert Kurson, bestselling author of Shadow Divers and Crashing Through

"Kevin Roose has produced a textured, intelligent, even sympathetic, account of his semester at Liberty University. He eschews caricature and the cheap shot in favor of keen observation and trenchant analysis. The Unlikely Disciple is a book of uncommon wisdom and insight. I recommend it with enthusiasm."

The Rev. Dr. Randall Balmer, Episcopal Priest and Professor of American Religious History at Barnard College, Columbia University

Did Crossing the "God Divide" Change His Attitudes?

Kevin Roose found real people with individual personalities, problems, and passions at Liberty.

"[My family] talked about how I

lived with 'brainwashed sheep.'...

It makes me uneasy when people paint

Liberty students with a broad brush,

just as it would make me uneasy if someone

said that all Brown students are

amoral, unpatriotic heathens."

~ Kevin Roose ~

"The Unlikely Disciple" Kindle Edition - Read Kevin Roose's book electronically now!

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Are the Cultural Differences Insurmountable?

"Bible Boot Camp is a surprisingly

messy place.... Liberty students

who struggle with lust.

Secular Quakers who enjoy prayer.

Evangelical feminists who [attend]

out of academic interest.

I used to think that my two worlds

were a million miles apart.

But tonight, the distance seems

more like a hundred thousand miles.

It's not a total improvement,

but it's not meaningless, either.

~ Kevin Roose ~

Crossing Another Cultural Divide - "Black Like Me" by John Howard Griffin

Similar to Kevin Roose, journalist John Howard Griffith went undercover to cross a serious cultural divide.

Black Like Me
Black Like Me

This mid-century classic on race brilliantly withstands the test of time. Concerned by the lack of communication between the races and wondering what "adjustments and discriminations" he would face as a Negro in the Deep South, the late author, a journalist and self-described "specialist in race issues," left behind his privileged life as a Southern white man to step into the body of a stranger. In 1959, Griffin headed to New Orleans, darkened his skin and immersed himself in black society. (c) Reed Business Information

 

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    • profile image

      jerrywil 7 years ago

      There is no God divide. There is a vocabulary and description problem. Like four blind men describing an elephant.

    • religions7 profile image

      religions7 8 years ago

      Great lens, but you knew that :) same for the: Interfaith - religious dialogue Headquarters

      https://hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/groups-in

      It's now transformed into a lensography and I would love it if you could show your appreciation by featuring it here, or lensrolling it or something.

    • religions7 profile image

      religions7 8 years ago

      Great lens, but you knew that :) Just wanted to remind you that this is featured on the Religious and spiritual gifts Headquarters: http://www.squidoo.com/groups/religious-gifts

      It's now transformed into a lensography and I would love it if you could feature it here, or lensroll it or something.

    • ayngel boshemia profile image

      Ayngel Overson 8 years ago from Crestone, Co

      I can't wait to read both books actually. I've watched a few of the interviews and videos on his year of living biblically and it was great. Maybe that's what I will ask for for Christmas!!! Great job, and I'll be back to get those books!

    • brittanyshaf profile image

      brittanyshaf 8 years ago

      interesting lens!

    • ajgodinho profile image

      Anthony Godinho 8 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Interesting...well done lens!

    • Everyday-Miracles profile image

      Everyday-Miracles 8 years ago

      Looking forward to reading this one! Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

    • KathrynDarden profile image

      Kathryn Darden 8 years ago

      This sounds like an interesting book. Thanks for pointing it out!

    • Kylyssa profile image

      Kylyssa Shay 8 years ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

      Great lens. I'll have to check this book out of the library, it sounds fascinating.

    • TreasuresBrenda profile image

      Treasures By Brenda 8 years ago from Canada

      Every Christian needs to read this lens! Great work, Carma & blessed.

      Brenda

    • profile image

      California_Dreamin 8 years ago

      I've ordered the book. I followed the link on this page, but finally bought it through amazon.com.jp, because I live in Japan, so I don't know if Squidoo gets any credit for that sale on not.

    • profile image

      maryannk 8 years ago

      Great lens. Can't wait to read the book. I live near LU and at one time lived and worked with many LU students, so it will be interesting to read Kevin's perspective.

    • Senora M profile image

      Senora M 8 years ago

      Sounds interesting.

    • tandemonimom lm profile image
      Author

      tandemonimom lm 8 years ago

      [in reply to spirituality] I have now! :-D

    • religions7 profile image

      religions7 8 years ago

      Great lens - you've been blessed by a squidoo angel :)

      Have you submitted this to my spiritual gifts group btw? http://www.squidoo.com/groups/religious-gifts

    • Dianne Loomos profile image

      Dianne Loomos 8 years ago

      I want to read it!