This summer I read one of those books you simply can’t stop reading. The Unlikely Disciple by Kevin Roose is a journey through Kevin’s “undercover” semester at Liberty University. Kevin was a student at Brown University when he decided to enroll at Liberty University for one semester and write a book about his experiences as a liberal non-evangelical at a conservative evangelical university. Kevin’s perspective was very engaging and very objective (especially when his liberal background collided with Liberty’s conservative environment). You can learn more about Kevin and the book at www.kevinroose.com.
I had the chance to ask Kevin a grand total of 5 questions through e-mail last summer. Here are some of Kevin’s thoughts on my questions specific to Bible college:
1) What are the biggest assumptions that Bible college administrators make regarding their students?
Well, I can’t speak about all bible college administrators, but at Liberty, the administration’s tendency is to make rules about social conduct (i.e. no drinking, no smoking, no R-rated movies) and expect students to follow them more or less effortlessly. Which doesn’t seem realistic. I was living with 18- and 19-year-old guys, all of whom had hormones and rebellious urges, and if you’re a Liberty administrator, asking them to follow this strict neo-Victorian social code without giving them any sort of institutional support is either cruel or naive or both.
2) In your book you talk about your interactions with and impressions of various pastors. From your experience with pastors at Liberty, what characterizes an effective pastor vs. a non-effective pastor?
The pastors who made the best impressions on me were the ones who celebrated doubt and skepticism as central parts of the Christian faith, and the worst were the ones who treated those emotions as weaknesses. Also not a big fan of the pastors who try to connect with college kids by using teenage slang. You know who I’m talking about – the guys who describe their morning devotions as “dope” and call Jesus “J.C.”
3) What is the biggest cause of hypocrisy among Bible college students?
I’m not sure if I’d call it hypocrisy, but it always struck me as odd on the few occasions when my Liberty friends would spend hours and hours talking about the need to do Christ-like good deeds to impress non-believers, and then proceed to treat each other with disrespect. It’s understandable – college kids, religious or not, can be pretty cruel at times – but “love thy neighbor” doesn’t just refer to people you’re trying to convert, you know?
4) Do Bible college students understand unbelievers at all? Why or why not?
I think it depends. I met Liberty students who grew up in secular schools and communities and had just as accurate a view of non-evangelical culture as I did. I also met students who thought all secular schools were filled with amoral, binge-drinking Satanists. There’s a tendency to assume the worst about a foreign culture until you’re actually exposed to it firsthand, and I think a lot of these misconceptions will work themselves out when Liberty students head into the real world and meet happy, moral people of all faiths, or no faith at all.
5) Name the top 3 actions Bible college students, professors, and administration can demonstrate to a student like yourself.
Love (with no strings attached – in other words, not “hate the sin, love the sinner”), intellectual honesty, and a sense of humor.