When a friend told me about this book, I truly wasn't sure how I would feel about it. Having lived in Lynchburg but not gone to Liberty, I don't have much fondness for the school or Jerry Falwell...but I suppose I'm what is considered an "evangelical Christian". Still, I'm a bit tired of being lumped with nutcases who bash homosexuals and feminism (because I do neither). Wary as I was, I devoured this book and from beginning to end I was, well, pleasantly surprised.
Roose certainly doesn't gloss over the fact that he disagrees with much of the doctrine that is pressed on him during his semester at Liberty, but he writes about the people he meets and befriends with a kind loyalty that is nothing short of admirable. I literally could not put this book down and I recommend it to "evangelical Christians" and, well, everyone else alike. Personally, I think it would do all fire and brimstone believers a lot of good to see how they look through the eyes of an "outsider".
I do have to say that Roose's hard line logic did him a bit of harm, both in his experience as a Liberty student and while writing this book. He did seem to spend quite a lot of time convincing himself that he shouldn't (and in the end, didn't) believe and I got the impression that he did so because of outside influences (family, and friends from Brown) and also because he focused a bit too much on Liberty's belief system of being anti-homosexual and the like. While he was open-minded and as I said before, kind--his constant diatribe of "I'm not going to believe because I can't believe/shouldn't believe/can't get past the gay-bashing" seems a lot like excuses and ones that didn't need to be made. I just feel the book would have been stronger without them. Still, this one gets a solid 4/5 from me :)
"I knew I'd see a different side of Liberty students once I resolved to blend in among them, but I thought it would be a harsher side. I had this secular/liberal paranoia that when evangelical students were among themselves, they spent their time huddled in dark rooms, organizing anti-abortion protests and plotting theocratic takeovers. But that's not true at all. In fact, a lot of the time, the conversations I hear at Liberty are pretty banal...about their vacations...expensive textbooks and gossip..."
"I'm starting to realize that in the evangelical world, prying can be an indicator of compassion. In Liberty's theology, there are only two categories of people: believers and nonbelievers, people headed to heaven and people condemned to hell. So Rodrigo's attempt to suss out my faith isn't intended to be obnoxious. He just wants to make sure I'm safe."
"...outside of Jane Austen novels, nowhere is marriage a more frequent topic of conversation than at Christian college."
"If all the Christians who did believe [the rapture] was imminent went around doing good deeds with frantic urgency, would I object? Of course not.
Problem is, a lot of Christians who believe the world is headed for imminent destruction don't use their eschatology to motivate altruism. Some, in fact, use their belief in the coming apocalypse to justify negligence and destruction."
"'I'm an evangelical feminist. Here's the difference: Evangelical feminists don't believe we are better than men. Secular feminists do. They have meetings, and they sit around in a circle and talk about all the bad things men have ever done to them. It's a male-bashing system.'"
"'I believe that up until the seventies, [Dr. Falwell] was a racist bigot. And I'm sorry, but I don't think he changed because of God. I think he changed because he knew if he didn't, he wouldn't be as influential as he is now. I think he has a serious power addiction.'"
"...amidst the hard-line dogmatism of a Liberty education, human decency still shines through the cracks."
"...without skepticism, without challenging our own views, what we're learning is lifeless.'"
"[Jerry Falwell] may be friendly and compassionate with his followers, but making a judgment of him based on how he treats the people in his flock seems a little like complimenting the builders of the Death Star for their solid metalwork. It might be true, but it's sort of beside the point."