The Unlikely Disciple by Kevin Roose

I read The Unlikely Disciple by Kevin Roose after seeing a quick review of the book on The Prince’s blog. It’s a very interesting (and entertaining) read.

As a student at Brown University, Kevin decides he’d like to do a semester abroad. After considering his options, he instead opts to enroll for a semester at Liberty University. Being that Liberty University is so different from Brown University, he decides that his experience could be just as “foreign” as if he were studying in another country. Kevin entered his time at Liberty with a very open mind. It’s very interesting to read about Kevin’s experience and his perceptions of the Christian community.

It caused me to think about how the things we (those who identify ourselves as Christians) do and say can be perceived by others. A couple of things he wrote really struck me…as part of his time at Liberty, Kevin attended Thomas Road Baptist Church and even sang in the choir. Growing up in a Quaker home, the “religious” services he attended as a child were the opposite of what he’d experienced at TRBC. However, he did write something rather poignant that really made think. After describing the differences between his Quaker upbringing and Thomas Road, Kevin writes,

“As a kid groomed on cartoons and video games and Little League, an hour of motionless silence was excruciating. At Thomas Road, on the other hand, there’s almost too much stimulation. The stage lights, the one hundred-decibel praise songs, the bright purple choir robes, the tempestuous bellowing of Dr. Falwell–it’s an hour long assault on the senses. And all you have to do is sit back in your plush, reclining seat, latte and cranberry scone in hand, and take it all in. It’s Church Lite–entertaining but unsubstantial, the religious equivalent of a Jerry Bruckheimer movie. And once the novelty wears off, once the music becomes familiar and the motions of praise become pro forma and mechanized, you start to realize that all the technological glitz and material extravagance doesn’t necessarily add up to a spiritual experience.

“Today, from my perch in the Thomas Road choir loft, my mind wandered back to the little brown house with stone steps. I think I’d appreciate the minimalist Quaker worship more now than I did as a kid. It didn’t have Jumbotron screens or a five-thousand-watt sound system or a cafe in the lobby, and it wasn’t run by a world-famous televangelist with millions of followers. But at least it felt real.”

That last line got me.

It caused me to think if people who know me think my Christian faith is “real” and not just my attempt at living life by a list of rules (which is quite opposite from how I look at it). I hope that my life is not defined by going through familiar motions in an attempt to live the Christian life.

It also made me wonder how people feel coming into church environments similar to the one Kevin described. Do they see it as a show? Trust me…I don’t think there’s anything “wrong” with cafes in church lobbies or large screens in the sanctuary, but his impression as a relative outsider makes me wonder what others think. And it makes me wonder if that type of “assault on the senses” turns people away from the church?

I won’t give away the ending of the book, but there are some sections at the end that got me as well. I would highly recommend reading this book. It’s a quick and interesting read. I think it’s worth your time! 🙂

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2 Responses to “The Unlikely Disciple by Kevin Roose”

  1. sunshinekmp Says:

    You beat me to the review! I still need/want to write about this too. Glad you could borrow it while I still had it.

  2. The Unlikely Disciple « What a world… Says:

    […] since it wasn’t due back to the library yet. She too finished it rather quickly. You can read her review here. If you want to read it and can’t get it from the library, you can look here at Amazon for […]

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