Book Review: The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University by Kevin Roose

the-unlikely-disciple-coverAfter interning for A.J. Jacobs (author of The Year of Living Biblically), Kevin Roose decides to take a semester off from Brown University and attend Liberty – a conservative Baptist university in Lynchburg, VA. As a liberal young adult, who grew up in a secular home, Roose wanted to see what it would be like to immerse himself in a strict, Christian community.

Roose attempts to blend in with the rest of his peers by revealing very little about himself and this allows him to easily delve into relationships with others in his dorm. He quickly finds out that the students at Liberty do not fit the mold of what he thought a Christian college student would be like. They do not all think and act the same. The same goes for his professors.

What’s the point? That’s one of the main things I thought after finishing this book. It really doesn’t bring anything new to the table. The portrayal Roose gives of Liberty is exactly what you would expect. Most of the students/faculty are misogynistic and homophobic, even if they are very subtle about it. The classes are not up to par with other academic institutions, especially in the science department. The majority of the students are struggling with their faith and are at all different levels of believing. Also, plenty of the students and professors are likable and easy to get along with on a surface level. Absolutely nothing groundbreaking.

Maybe this story would have been told differently or had more to offer if it was written by someone else. And this is not a knock to the writer. I’m bring this up regarding factors that he has no control over. As a straight white male, Roose was able to blend in so easily. He even admitted as much in the book, recognizing that his experience would have been different were he gay or female. It might have been a lot more difficult for Roose to easily forgive his friends for all their constant homophobic slurs if he was not straight.

I think the biggest problem I had with the book was the portrayal of Rev. Jerry Falwell and the conclusion Roose had after his interview. I found it incredibly naive. Roose scores an interview with Rev. Jerry Falwell. Falwell is known for infamously outing the purple Teletubby,  called AIDS the “wrath of a just God against homosexuals,” and blamed abortionists, feminists, pagans, and the gays and lesbians for the attacks on 9/11. Yet somehow Roose is able to come out of his interview believing that Falwell is a pretty nice guy. He mostly comes to this realization because he felt he humanized Falwell by finding out trivial deatils, such as his favorite music and food. If you use that logic, you can find a way to humanize almost anyone. I’m sure that when he wasn’t orchestrating one of the most horrific events in human history, Hitler had a favorite song and a meal he loved. Falwell may have been nice to his followers but that doesn’t change his hateful views. Views that he willingly passes on to others to follow and accept.

On a less serious note: When I was reading the passage about Day of Purity and it’s creator said the following regarding a man’s wedding night “Do you want to know that you’re going to be killing your wife by not knowing you’re carrying an incurable STD?”, I couldn’t help but think of this:



Final Verdict: This book wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good either. I gave it a 3-star rating on Goodreads.


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