Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Book Review: The Unlikely Disciple

Kevin Roose strikes me as the kind of guy Jesus would be friends with.

In his fascinating book The Unlikely Disciple, Roose tells the story of living undercover as an evangelical for a semester at Liberty University. He describes with humor and compassion what it was like for an Ivy Leaguer to pretend to be a product of the evangelical subculture.

Oh the evangelical subculture! Do we really talk like that? Are we really concerned about those things? Are those really the arguments we are having?

Roose holds a mirror up to what we really look like. And I've got to admit - I cringed. I cringed at our thoughtless cliches that we substitute for really wrestling with problems. I cringed at our pat answers. I cringed at our hero worship.

More than that, though, I cringed at how we tolerate some sins while pouncing on others. The students at Liberty are probably a good labratory for understanding how evangelicals in general look at the world. And it's obvious that in the evangelical mind not all sins are created equal.

Why is homosexuality wrong but homophobia is ok?

Why is masturbation wrong but being judgmental is ok?

Why is evolution wrong but being mean is ok?

Roose's findings confirm what many of us have sensed for a long time, that the evangelical approach to both life and politics is too shallow. Followers of Jesus who care only about abortion and gay marriage are missing a big picture that includes things like the environment and poverty. Likewise, personal piety includes more than sexuality; it also impacts interpersonal relationship and and attitudes.

Roose is far kinder to evangelicalism than it deserves, and he's far kinder than some of us in the emergent conversation have been. And that is the charm of his story. He's fair, honest, and kind. He disagrees without being obnoxious. And he seeks to understand without assuming the stereotypes are true.

That reminds me of Jesus, which is why I think Kevin and Jesus would get along so well.



kevin said...

sounds like a good book, i gotta get my hands on it

Sara said...

It sounds like a very interesting book.

Honestly, I don't think that any christian has a truly accurate understanding of sin. Liberal, Conservative, Emergent or Evangelical call them what you want every group has its own area that isn't a true biblical picture.

It seems like we all choose to overlook certain commands, certain aspects of Christian living that Christ calls us too. We all struggle with one another because we just don't understand why what seems to have been made clear to us hasn't been made clear to others

Evangelicals and Conservatives go to far in overlooking their own sins and condeming others being far to often very Hypocritcal. While Liberal and Emergents will look over others often having a "well you are human, God made you this way" and what seems to be very apethetic attitude towards sin in general. And then again not everyone in their prospective groups are fully guilty of these things.

All groups have their flaws, all groups are imperfect and until the Day of Christ Jesus no-one will have arrived. I think in the mean time we should be patiently, loving and enduring with one another. I hold very strongly to Romans 14:4 which says "Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand."

God will judge his own servants I don't need to do that...He is far better of a judge than I ever could be anyways. I may disagree and I may really struggle with my brothers and sisters oppionions on scripture but I just leave it with God...leave it up to him to change a heart, mind, life, ect...I've got my own planks to take care of first.

Robb said...

Sara, that's my point - we are too selective when it comes to sin. I said "we" and "our" throughout my blog post. Kevin Roose is not a Christian. That's what makes the book so interesting. His telling of his story is a really good mirror for us to see the plank in our eye.

Laurie said...

Finally getting to this, Robb. Been on a long road trip with Chelsea.

Of course I heartily agree with everything you've said. I find it fascinating that the very things that attract Roose to evangelicalism (kindness, sense of community, earnest desire to be holy) are the same things I love. And the same things that repulse him (over simplification, polar categorizing) also repulse me. Since I come from within the bubble and he comes from outside of it, there has to be some truth to this.

I'd also add that the overall message of the book for me was that both sides of the culture war should stop demonizing the other. Roose was just as fair in revealing the generalizations and assumptions of his parents and Brown friends' about Christian fundamentalists as he was about Liberty constituents' views of progressive liberals. I say bravo!

And check out the Liberty website; an English prof wrote a response to the book that is fabulous.

Anonymous said...

i think this whole site is really silly. I'm all for "conversing" but at the end of the day it's just all talk. It seems a lot of Christians are feeling better about themselves by pretending they are a softer sell by not meeting in what they call a "traditional" setting or speaking in recognizable "religous" language, but when one looks closer they find that even these "different" churches have set up their own traditions. I dont really see much here that teaches about God's holiness and repentance...of course love and grace are essential, but it seems like your whole become-behave-belong scenario isnt any differrent than any other church...just a different package that tries to pretend its in different wrapping paper. Eventually the box has to be opened. So why pretend there's something inside that is not?

Robb said...

I think critical, anonymous comments are really silly.

Anonymous said...

Agaian proving my point...instead of "continuing the conversation" you checked out because my comment didn't fit in your own little "believe/behave/become" box. Don't you see? You have become a traditional extablished church that you try to so hard to discredit? We must believe and behave like you to really become a relevant part of your discussion.