Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Unlikely Disciple

I just finished this book, "The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester At America's Holiest University". In a nutshell... in an effort to understand the "Christian Right" and mainstream evangelicalism, a journalism student from Brown University goes to study as an undercover Christian at Liberty University. It's a witty and generous take on his pilgrimage to the Mecca of Christian subculture.
I'm struggling with whether or not to recommend it. Maybe those of you who have read it can help me out here. One way of saying it... it's not a book that will inject more faith into your soul, but it will help you understand how unbelievers view Christians.

Here were some excerpts that I found insightful:

"At first, I was almost offended by the nonchalance with which people probed my soul...after answering enough of these questions, I'm starting to realize that in the evangelical world, prying can be an indicator of compassion. In Liberty's theology there are only two kinds of people: believers and non-believers, people headed to heaven and people condemned to hell. So Rodrigo's attempt to suss out my faith isn't intended to be obnoxious. He just want to make sure I'm safe." (p 73)

"At Liberty, unlike many secular schools, profs teach with the view that there is one right answer to every question, that those right answers are found plainly in the Bible, and that their job is to transfer those right answers from their lectre notes to our minds." (p 87)

"Two days later, I'm still in a funk about my roommate's gay bashing. I can't pay attention in my classes. Whatever spiritual momentum I built up over the past few weeks has gone down the drain...I feel like I did during orientation week- anxious, out of place, aloof..." (p 110)

"Claire's total linguistic isolation [while doing beach evangelism]...she speaks in long, flowery streaks of opaque Christian speak..." (p 155... that whole paragraph quoting this girl's Christian speak was hilarious- but it's stuff we have all said at some point)

[regarding his experience doing beach evangelism- he had some great things to say that led up to this summary of his experience] "There must be an easier way." (p 160)

"My roommate Eric, upon hearing my news [that I was really not a Christian], apologized to me. 'Wait, why are you sorry?' I asked, 'I'm the one who was hiding things from you.' 'I know,' he said, 'But if I had known who you were, I would have tried to show you a better picture of myself.' " (p 312... his roommate was a gay bashing, unhappy, judgmental Bible beater)

His final summary of his semester at Liberty: "But by experiencing your warmth, your vigorous generosity of spirit and your deep complexity, I was ultimately convinced- not that you were right, necessarily, but that I had been wrong. Thank you for the lessons you taught me, even when you didn't know you were teaching them at all." (p 319)

Kevin Roose, wherever you are out there... thanks for taking an honest look at Christianity, especially at Liberty (you are a braver man than me). And then to communicate it in a way that "both sides" could enter in. Good work.


Anonymous said...

if this presents some sort of immature christianity, what is a good book for a "mature version"?

Metropuritan Mark said...

It depends on what aspect of Christianity you're looking for...

I think "Mere Christianity" is a good read on the basic Christian beliefs. A book I want to get to soon that was just recommended to me is "Simply Christian" by NT Wright.

A basic book that gives a basic defense of Christian belief is "The Case for Christ" by Lee Strobel.

A good starter for Christian spirituality would be "The Life You've Always Wanted" by John Ortberg.

Although I'm not sure exactly what you're looking for, those are some good starters.

Missy said...

Have you ever heard of "Religulous"? I have a friend at work who keeps telling me I should watch it. Personally, Bill Maher comes off as kind of well.. offensive. I wanted to get a believer's take on it!