Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Unlikely Disciple

2009 was a bit of a funky year reading wise for me. I'm sure I read some books, as I always do, but I don't have any serious recollection of them.

However, this year, I've already devoured 3 books and I'm looking forward to reading even more. The Pixar Touch fed into my tech geek and movie geek side (Excellent read). The View From the Bridge: Memories of Star Trek and a Life in Hollywood
fed my Star Trek nerd side (OK. The Star Trek parts were very interesting, but Nicholas Meyer's is a bitter, bitter man).

The most significant read I've done this year is Kevin Roose's The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University. And it might be one of the best I read this year. The upshot is that Roose is an Ivy League college student who decides he doesn't know enough conservative Christians. So he decides to take a semester studying "abroad" at Jerry Fallwell's Liberty University. But he decides to do it undercover as a conservative Christian. He rightly ascertains that Christians would put their "best face forward" if they knew he was writing a book about it or was not a Christian. So after a crash course from a Christian friend, he registers for classes and spends the spring semester of 2007 at Liberty University.

There are several excellent aspects of this book. Roose is an excellent writer. He has an engaging style and the fact that the book is written narratively makes it flow incredibly well. 2) Roose enters the world of a conservative Christian with as much of an open mind as it's possible for him to have, growing up outside of that world and having most of his opinions of Christians formed by the media. And it's because of this open mind that Roose himself is actually changed by his exposure to Christianity. Spoiler aalert: He doesn't become a Christian as a result of this, but what he does do is realize that Christian college students aren't much different than his friends at Brown. They're interested in pop culture and the world outside of Liberty. Roose also decides that he will abide by Liberty's rules (mostly) and do the things that a Christian would do. He dates but doesn't pursue sex (which he says frees up a man and woman to actually talk and find out about each other, rather than pursuing carnal pleasures), he prays (which he says forces him to focus on other people and their needs rather than his own [a lesson many of us Christians could stand to learn]), and he participates in a Spring Break mission trip (that one's best left for the book). Here's the other way I know this is a great book: Sheryl read it almost as quickly as I did and found it just as fascinating.

I've always been interested in alternate perspectives, especially ones of things that I believe or participate in. The Unlikely Disciple is a great example of this, and I think it's one that Christians should read to see what an outsider pretending to be an insider really thinks of us and one that nonChristians, especially nonbelievers in any religion, should read. Do we have flaws? Yes. Are these flaws sometimes so apparent that it's hard to see the good in us? Yes, maybe, but just as Roose looked at us with an open mind, not only would I hope that others look at us similarly, but that we should to those who don't share what we believe charitably as well.

9 comments:

Adam said...

Great review. I'm officially interested in reading the book now :)

greg said...

great book.

Celticopia said...

I read this too, and I agree with Phil, its a great example of 'everything is not black and white' too. A really good example of not throwing stones in glass houses, be you christian or not. I thought it was well worth the read.

Daren said...

I think it's "upshod".

Phil said...

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/upshot :-)

Daren said...

touche (don't know how to do the accent over the e)

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