When I first heard about the book The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University, my first reaction was morbid curiosity. I wanted to see what types of horrible things a leftist Quaker would write about a university that even I, as a relatively conservative Christian, find to be over the top and distastefully unyielding. What I found by listening to an excerpt from the audio book was a pleasant surprise so I decided to listen to the whole thing (I typically prefer reading a book to listening to the audio book, but for something this personal, there’s just something about hearing it read in the author’s own voice that makes it hit home all the more.
I found myself instantly caught up in Kevin’s story. I felt the tension he experienced from the disparity of the two lives he lived: the liberal life he had led up to this point, the person his friends and family knew him to be, and the conservative evangelical persona he had assumed to blend it at Liberty University. I understood the sympathy he felt towards his new friends as the events they faced resulted in cognitive dissonance they were ill prepared for as well as Kevin’s own cognitive dissonance at finding the students at Liberty to be completely different than what he had imagined them to be. And of course, as someone who spent a decade and a half hiding any hint of my same-sex attractions, I identified with his double life, the fear that one slip up could lead to catastrophe.
I was so swept up in the story that I listened almost any chance I got in an frenzy to know more and find out what would happen. I quickly finished the story and was left with that empty feeling I often get upon completing a book or movie I really enjoy. There’s a sense of loss knowing that I can never experience it for the first time again. The comprehension that the world that I’ve felt a part of while reading is now gone and I’ll never be able to go back there. This being a non-fiction book about a person who is still alive, well, and writing is a small blessing since I can continue to read the things he writes, follow him on Twitter, and find out more about the story of his life, however, the fact that he is a real person and not a fictional character means my emotional attachment was that much stronger. Worst of all, the fact that the story ends without Kevin accepting Jesus as his Lord and Savior has left me in a funk. As he discusses more than once in the course of the book, the fact that a loving God would invite hateful, angry, destructive Christians into heaven while barring it’s doors to loving, gentle, peaceful people who don’t accept Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for them doesn’t seem to jive with the picture the Bible paints of a merciful, just God. While my reading of scripture can’t make a case for heaven being populated with the unsaved, I hope against hope that some way, some how, I find Kevin Roose there.