Review: The Unlikely Disciple

December 14, 2010

I had several points of contact with Kevin Roose’s The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University over the last year. Most notable was making the connection that Roose had worked briefly with AJ Jacobs while he was, um, researching The Year of Living Biblically. Most recent was a nice review by Adam Shields last month that finally bumped the book onto my Current Reads list.

A prominent theme in my life over the last 4-5 years is how much Evangelical Christianity in North America has disconnected from the culture it’s in the middle of. Working as a bivocational pastor the last few years amplifies this, but it’s been on my mind since well before that. Many futurists and demographers and theologians and missiologists have tried to describe this disconnect, but this book written from the “other side” might describe it best of all.

As a sophomore at Brown University, Roose decided to take a semester off to attend Liberty University, doing his best to live as a young evangelical while learning about it firsthand. While you might assume a self-described secular/liberal might have a field day with all the material available to him in this experience, Roose doesn’t go that route at all. He genuinely lives into the experience, opening himself up to the relationships he develops and what he might learn. The result is a fair and respectful description of what he encounters in his months on campus. (At least it appears fair to me, but I wasn’t there and I haven’t heard the other side.)

There is much that I don’t have in common with the strain of Christianity that Roose experienced at Liberty, but there is enough that I would share that Roose’s words were illuminating to me too. It’s a book that left me thinking, and my hunch is that it’s about to get another mention here in my Top 10 books of 2010 list.

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