In the Book of Acts, their are several “outsiders” to the early church community that in a variety of ways end up blessing the early Christians. There is the Roman jailer who invites Paul and Silas into his home after they escape from the prison he was guarding. There is the Roman army officer, Cornelius who receives a vision from the Lord directed to Peter. He sends his men to get Peter, and like the jailer, brings Peter to his home. There is the treasurer of Ethiopia, who challenges Philip to include him in the blessing. There are the Gentiles as a whole, who challenge the early church on the issue of radical inclusion, eventually changing the face of Christianity.
The soon to be released book by Kevin Roose; ” The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University”, continues in that tradition. Kevin Roose is a senior at Brown University in Rhode Island, one of the more liberal schools in the country. Kevin is a typical college student in many ways. He enjoys the freedoms that most college students enjoy. He comes from a Quaker background, and could be described a “Christianish”, a belief in something bigger, but not too caught up in the details. His parents are progressive types, and he has a lesbian aunt in a committed relationship.
You can imagine his family’s surprise and bewilderment, when he announced that we would be spending his spring semester of his sophomore year as a transfer student at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, the super conservative evangelical school founded by the late Moral Majority leader, Jerry Falwell.
You might be wondering the same thing. What was he thinking? Is he a glutton for punishment? Does he want to expose the hateful ways of Liberty students? Does he want to brush up on his conservative interpretation of the Old Testament? He is tired with parties, drinking and making out with the ladies? Maybe he thinks this is a sure fire way to a book deal?
His reasons for his semester “abroad” are none of the above, though some of the above reasons do seep in occasionally. As it turns out, his motives for this project are a lot more pure and uncynical than you might think they would be. Kevin, ( I keep calling him by his first name, because the book is so personal, that by the end of it I felt like I had a new friend) really wants to understand and develop relationships with his evangelical counterparts. He is even willing to acknowledge that they, and Liberty, might have something to teach him.
Now Kevin doesn’t go into this abandoning all reason, or his own personal beliefs. Quite the opposite. He is disturbed by the homophobia he sees on campus, and is perplexed by the anti-evolution stance of the science department. He is confused by the 3 second rule in regards to hugging at Liberty and is not surprised that this rule seems to have bred the need for an “Every Man’s Battle” support group, a sort of masturbators anonymous.
Within this critical thinking though, he sees the beauty that a life of faith can produce. During his semester he tries his hand at praying, and ends up kinda liking it. He also comes to a conclusion about moral code issues, musing that “love with strings attached seems better than no love at all.”
Throughout the book, Kevin questions basic tenets of the Christian faith as well as traditions that have sprung up around the faith. Through this questioning, I came to examine my own beliefs, and in the process I learned quite a bit about my own faith journey. On top of that, the book is a real page turner, and it reads almost like a detective story. Though he uses his real name, Kevin is undercover as a born again Christian during his time at Liberty. I found myself worried about him, and hoping that he would not be exposed, fearing what might happen. I hope that Kevin writes a follow up, perhaps documenting the reactions of his fellow students to the book.
I thank Kevin for his attempt to bridge the God Divide and wish him well as he ventures further in attempts to understand his brothers, his sisters and himself. I highly recommend this book and encourage to you read, laugh, think and enjoy. In a way we are all, “Unlikely Disciples”. Kevin Roose helps us to see that.
Buy the book here
Visit Kevin’s website and blog