Wow. This is a fabulous book. I was expecting to enjoy it, but it was better than I would have guessed.
I was really impressed with Roose's writing, especially considering he wrote this while in college. The memoir has plenty of relevant statistics and information.
Roose enrolled at Liberty University (Jerry Falwell's college) during the spring 2007 semester, taking a semester break from Brown. He's a liberal guy with a minimal religious background. I was interested in reading this and when one of the challenge categories was "Read a book by a person, about a person, or about a subject that you totally disagree with or dislike. Then write a post and explain if reading the book altered your opinion at all or only furthered your dislike or disagreement," I thought it was perfect. (I sure as hell wasn't going to read Sarah Palin's book.)
I'm not really the evangelical Christian kind. At all. The whole evolution v. creationism argument blows my mind. I'm all for abortion rights and gay marriage. So, Liberty University sounds like my idea of hell. Students can't watch R rated movies or dance. They aren't allowed to hug a member of the opposite sex for longer than 3 seconds.
Roose found the majority of the people he met at Liberty to be friendly and nice people. He did a great job of humanizing his fellow students.
But, I couldn't get past the constant gay bashing, or his spring break mission trip (he refers to it as, "gentle Christian students condemning strangers to hell in Daytona Beach."), or the anti-intellectual attitudes ("My biggest worry...is that you'll become educated beyond your obedience," said a pastor to one of Roose's classes.) or the classes that teach doctrine such as women should submit to their husbands and such.
One of Roose's course is Evangelism 101. He has test questions such as:
God wants to be your_________.
b) Best friend *
Is this a college class or a kindergarten Sunday school class?!
It was a fascinating read and while Roose showed the students in shades of gray instead of only black or white, I still shake my head. Roose continued his friendship with many of the other students after he leaves and goes back to Brown. I really understand this as you get to know a person, but for the group as a whole? Omigoodness. Of course, I'm sure they'd say the same thing about me.
I'm sure this review makes me sound harsh, but I just disagree so fundamentally with their beliefs. I'd say this book only furthered my dislike for ultra-conservative evangelicals and one of their institutions.
I've read several religion books to try to enlighten myself on it all. I loved Take this Bread by Sara Miles (a woman's conversion to Christianity) and Sundays in America by Suzanne Strempek Shea(woman visits a different Christian churches each week for a year.) I also have C.S. Lewis's The Problem of Pain and Christopher Hitchens's God is not Great to read. I don't feel like I'm unfairly viewing the group portrayed in Roose's book.