Brown University student Kevin Roose decided to spend a semester at Liberty University and then wrote a book about his experience, The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University. Christianity Today interviewed Roose, who said his experience was surprisingly positive.
How does a self-professed “liberal” from Brown end up at Liberty?
I was fascinated by the idea of a school where every student has to follow this 46-page code of conduct called the Liberty Way, with no smoking, no drinking, no R-rated movies, no cursing. For me, this was more foreign than any European capital. And it struck me as sort of sad when I met the Liberty students. They looked like me, they talked like me, they acted like me, but they led totally different lives from me and I didn’t know what that entailed. I wanted to see if I could build a bridge there and find any common ground between my experience at Brown as a blue-state liberal, and the experience of a Liberty student.
What most fascinated you about evangelicals and evangelical culture?
My social circle was pretty much empty when it came to evangelical Christians, so my impression was that these students were just interesting and smart and personable. They were not at all like the caricatures I had adopted in the secular world: the placard-waving, backwoods evangelical. They were just nothing like that, so I was heartened by that. But it also made me intensely curious; they seemed like people I would get along with. What would actually happen if I tried? So I think it was their humanity that came through to me . . .
In a more recent interview, Roose says about his future plans,
“My first project is to graduate, and then I’ll pray about what to do next,” Roose said, acknowledging the follow-up question that regular prayer was one of the legacies of his semester at Liberty. “I’m comfortable calling myself a Christian now,” he elaborated. “I can reclaim that term. It means something to me now, even if it doesn’t mean the same thing to my friends at Liberty.” But the prayer, he continued, wasn’t about filing requests with God: “It’s not so much that prayer changes things,” he explained, citing the theologian Oswald Chambers, “but that prayer changes me, and then I can change things.”