I’m reading The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University by 21-year old Kevin Roose (he was 19 when he started writing this book). I picked this up at the library a few months ago and skimmed it. Just yesterday I downloaded the kindle version for $9.99; well worth it.
So the thing is, the author of this book is a college kid at Brown university who ran into some evangelical Christian college students and became intrigued. So he decided to transfer from Brown for one semester to Liberty University, founded by Jerry Falwell: “Training champions for Christ” since 1971. I admit, I’m attracted to this book for a couple reasons: I really feel for young people these days: I think they’ve got a tough row to hoe in many ways. Also, it reminds me of my own university days at Northwestern — definitely not a religious school, but with a couple strong youth fellowship groups that I connected with at that time.
I’m halfway through and I appreciate the author’s genuine attempt to remain open-minded and engaged which can be tough with a group with a strong, insulated cultural bent like this one. He attends prayer meetings, sings with the choir, goes on dates and reports with reasonable respect, even when documenting, among other things, some extremely odd science classes “proving” that the earth was created in exactly six days, and a frankly bizarre sermon by Mr. Reverend Falwell criticizing the global warming ‘alarmists” as a conspiracy of “the United Nations— no friend of the U.S.— liberal politicians, radical environmentalists, and of course, liberal clergy, Hollywood, and pseudoscientists.” hoo, boy.
He also talks about the strains — and odd kind of relief — of college life without binge drinking, with sex-free and kiss-free dating, and trying to avoid the temptation of, well, other types of, uh, personal individual sexual behavior. You gotta hand it to this kid, and to the other young people who have voluntarily (for the most part) chosen to live a life of such strict personal standards.
One deeply concerning scene — one of the guys in his dorm is very vocal about disapproving of “inter-racial” dating. That’s not too surprising in a conservative Southern school — but I was shocked nonetheless that the other students, while denouncing this opinion, never apparently confronted it for what it is: a profound character flaw that contradicts everything that these young people are attempting to represent.
I just thought everything would be better here,” says a young black student, despairing of ever being able to fit in and date this young woman free of other people’s unwanted opinions. “We’re all Christians, yeah, but I guess that’s not everything.”
It broke my heart. More later.