When I find a book I really like, it doesn't take more than a maximum of five days to read it. If I'm struggling to enjoy a book then I usually don't get more than a quarter through, over the course of several months, before I abandon it forever. The Unlikely Disciple took me about a week to finish. I picked it up at Barnes & Noble after being intrigued by its premise as an undercover outsider's view of an evangelical university. Specifically, Jerry Falwell's evangelical university.
I fall into the spectrum, regretably, of people who are equally prejudiced against fundamentalists as some fundamentalists are against "liberals." I once read an article that said even the word "liberal" sounded like the biological name for a squirmy worm. Clearly there is animosity on both sides... anyway.
The author's task of humanizing a group of people that are often estranged socially as well as religiously and politically seemed like a good read. Having been a teacher in a small, white-flight bedroom community where I got asked at least once a week if and where I went to church, (I didn't), and working with students who wanted to insist that reading the bible, again, should count as outside reading (it did, but only for first-timers), as well as having factions of my family divided by the conservative/liberal split, I've had to do a lot of tongue biting and jaw clenching. The problem with myself, and a lot of people I'm sure, is that I/we tend to be drawn to reading and consuming material that only expounds upon things already believed. This must be old news to everyone else, as no one should be shocked by the fact that I'd be just as hard pressed to get some of my cousins to read Harry Potter as they would be to get me to crack open Left Behind, (although I hear there's a movie version coming out, which my curiosity may compel me to watch). Point being, reading this book was like baby stepping my way into getting the other side's perspective while still having it gently fed to me by someone of similar persuasion. And it was funny. Really funny. What could be banal about naked skateboarding? Nothing.
The author, Kevin Roose, spoke extensively about his concerns towards the possibility of conversion after being immersed in conservative, evangelical culture. Spoiler alert - he didn't convert, but he did expound upon his spiritual growth through incorporating prayer and fellowship into his life. This is one of the aspects of Judaism that drew me in so deeply that I even got up early on Saturdays to attend Torah study for a while... there IS something spiritually satisfying about making a place for God, (or what/whom ever) in your life daily. I have sort of let this knowledge slide over the past couple of years, and it's something I would like to rectify. Very few days go by that I don't remember Dr. Neralich hammering into his classes about the importance of meditation, and practice, but I never actually do it. Tomorrow, God and alarm-clock willing, I plan to try attending an Austin church, to try and bring back some of my wayward focus in life. Maybe the book is responsible for this, maybe the universe is, or maybe I've just exhausted my spiritual supply stores and feel compelled to replenish. Either way, great book. I'm glad it was serendipitously found while going to purchase something else... but then, (can't resist), isn't that a great metaphor for most things in life? (sorry)
I'd also like to note, just for posterity, how jealous I am that this guy researched and wrote a book at nineteen years old. At that age, I was still scribbling Bright Eyes lyrics into my journals every night. I have author envy, and it's dangerous. Although watching Texas Roller Derby tonight was a suitcase full of inspiration as far as character development is concerned... just a mental note.