Reviews forThe Unlikely Disciple
From Publishers Weekly
In what could be described as religious gonzo journalism, Roose documents his experiences as a student for a semester at Liberty University, the largest Christian fundamentalist university in the United States. Coming from progressive Brown University, the author admits that the transition to Liberty, with its iron-clad attempts at controlling student behavior, came with much anxiety. He trains himself to control his foul language and even begins to pray and study the Bible regularly, much to the bewilderment of his liberal Quaker parents. He suffers his way through a course debunking evolution, but finds enjoyment in a Scripture class. Roose may be young—he's a 19-year-old college sophomore—but he writes like a seasoned veteran and obviously enjoys his work. He quickly makes friends at Liberty, but is naïvely stunned and not a little disgusted by their antigay rhetoric. School founder Rev. Jerry Falwell granted Roose an interview for the student newspaper shortly before the famous evangelical's death in May 2007. "Complicated" is how Roose describes Falwell, which is a good descriptor for his undercover student experience. (Mar.)
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Brown University student Roose didn’t think of himself as being particularly religious, yet he conceived the novel idea of enrolling at Liberty University, the school Jerry Falwell built, thereby transferring from a school “a notch or two above Sodom and Gomorrah” to the evangelical equivalent of Notre Dame or Brigham Young. His reasons were logical, though curious. To him, a semester at Liberty was like studying abroad. “Here, right in my time zone, was a culture more foreign to me than any European capital.” He tells his story entertainingly, as a matter of trying to blend in and not draw too much attention to himself. One hardened habit he had to break was cursing; he even bought a Christian self-help book to tame his tongue. Throughout his time at Liberty, he stayed level-headed, nuanced, keenly observant. He meant to find some gray in the black-and-white world of evangelicalism, and he learned a few things. His stint at Liberty hardly changed the world but did alter his way at looking at it. That’s a start.