Book Review: Unlikely Disciple


I decided to read “Unlikely Disciple” after reading A.J. Jacobs’ “The Year of Living Biblically.” The two follow a similar format — first person accounts of people participating in a “challenge,” of sorts, involving Christianity. Plus, Unlikely author Kevin Roose was Jacobs’ intern in Living Biblically, and the two books crossreference each other kinda — Roose is mentioned in Living Biblically and Jacobs’ review is quoted on the cover of Unlikely Disciple. (Read my complete thoughts on Living Bibically here.)

In Unlikely Disciple, college student Kevin Roose infiltrates Liberty University and writes about college life at the super-strict, “holier-than-thou,” Christian university. The word “infiltrates” might seem a little harsh, but it’s true. Roose was a student at Brown University which he describes as “free-spirited” and “ultra-liberal.” He left Brown to attend Liberty, which is pretty  much the exact opposite of Brown, with the intent of seeing how the other side lives. Of course, to successfully do that, Roose couldn’t tell anyone at Liberty what he was doing.

While I get that it was necessary to keep his plight a secret, that aspect is what troubled me the most throughout the entire book. I felt bad for the people Roose was befriending because they were trusting that he was nothing more or less than what he said — a recent convert and a Liberty transfer student — when all the while he was assessing them, measuring them, judging them, picking their brains, so he could write about them in a book.

That bugged me.

A lot.

But I understand it was necessary for Roose to get the untainted story.

Aside from the secrecy being unsettling to me, in general, like in Living Biblically, the book showed me sides of my faith — of Christianity — that I don’t always, or sometimes ever, see. While Roose set out to learn for himself what Christian kids at a Christian college are like, he showed me what non-Christians think Christians are like and how important that impression can be. I was proud of the students that Roose met that they broke down some of the stereotypes, showing him and his readers the human side of being a Christian.

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