The Unlikely Disciple
I finished The Unlikely Disciple a week or so ago and have been thinking about it ever since, wondering what I was going to say about such a unique book. It’s easy to jump to the conclusion that Kevin Roose was making an unfavorable statement about the evangelical community, but the book is much more complex than that.
Kevin is a sophomore at Brown University in Providence, RI who, instead of taking a semester in Italy or Australia, decides to transfer to Liberty University, Jerry Falwell’s college in VA for evangelical youth. While working with A.J. Jacobs (author of The Year of Living Biblically), Kevin got the idea to transfer and write a book about his experiences. Raised in a pretty non-religious Quaker home, Kevin was curious and a little skeptical about the evangelical community.
Kevin’s integration into Liberty University, from his homophobic and manic roommate to his attendance at a “Chronic Masturbators” group, is an eye-opening experience, for both Kevin and the reader. For every “crazy” rule (no hugging for more than three seconds) there is a touching moment and a real understanding and appreciation of the values of his peers. Kevin develops true friendships with his classmates at Liberty and there is an underlying reluctance for the reader to realize that Kevin is not who his friends think he is. And Kevin has a hard time coming to grips with this as well. It’s so sad to watch Kevin “break up” with his Christian crush Anna and essentially lie to his friends, who he is becoming so close to. We grow to really like Jersey Joey and Zipper, even if we don’t fully understand or agree with their belief system.
Kevin pulls out all the stops in his semester at Liberty – he sings in the church choir, interviews Jerry Falwell for an article in the school paper and goes on a missionary trip to try to convert spring breakers in Florida. There comes a point when Kevin is torn between the concern of his family, especially his gay aunts, and the friendships he’s formed at Liberty. But Kevin’s hilarious narrative emphasizes the fact that these worlds can safely collide, with just a little effort from both sides.
Although parts of this book were difficult to read (Liberty kids have no qualms about throwing around the word “faggot” and the double standard between men and women was frustrating), I truly enjoyed reading about Kevin’s journey. I think tolerance and understanding of others, no matter what their beliefs, are underrated in today’s society. And I commend Kevin for bringing a new light to a community which I’m sure many of us have only stereotypical views of. If everyone were as caring as some of Kevin’s Liberty friends, the world world would be a better place. As long as they stop using the word “faggot.” 🙂
Learn more about Kevin Roose here.