Kevin Roose, student at the ivy league and liberal-leaning Brown University in Providence, RI, decided to go "undercover" at a religious conservative school and write about his observations.  And what more religiously conservative than Liberty University, founded by none other than Jerry Falwell.

To Roose’s credit, it was not his intent to take the path of least resistance.

"As a responsible American citizen, I couldn’t just ignore the fact that there are a lot of Christian college students out there," said Roose, 21, now a Brown senior. "If I wanted my education to be well-rounded, I had to branch out and include these people that I just really had no exposure to."


He was determined to not mock the school, thinking it would be too easy — and unfair. He aimed to immerse himself in the culture, examine what conservative Christians believe and see if he could find some common ground. He had less weighty questions too: How did they spend Friday nights? Did they use Facebook? Did they go on dates? Did they watch "Gossip Girl?"

I would encourage you to read the whole article.  He seems to have been generally fair about the whole thing, a feeling that Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. shares.  He even got an interview, while still "undercover", with the elder Falwell himself.

And once he got to know the people, and what they really thought and believed, there were some changes he noticed in himself.  He didn’t necessarily agree with them politically, but…

Roose said his Liberty experience transformed him in surprising ways.

When he first returned to Brown, he’d be shocked by the sight of a gay couple holding hands — then be shocked at his own reaction. He remains stridently opposed to Falwell’s worldview, but he also came to understand Falwell’s appeal.

Once ambivalent about faith, Roose now prays to God regularly — for his own well-being and on behalf of others. He said he owns several translations of the Bible and has recently been rereading meditations from the letters of John on using love and compassion to solve cultural conflicts.

He’s even considering joining a church.

Not the outcome one would expect if Liberty was rife with homophobic, intolerant ignoramuses.  In fact, the article notes that one "aggressively anti-gay" student was an "outcast on the hall, not a role model". 

I imagine this would be an interesting read.  Amazon is selling it, and I found a review from Publisher’s Weekly on it with this odd line:

He trains himself to control his foul language and even begins to pray and study the Bible regularly, much to the bewilderment of his liberal Quaker parents.

Is it bewildering to his liberal Quaker parents that he would pray and study the Bible?  Or bewildering to them that prayer and Bible study would be found at Liberty University?  Either of those option seems strangely close-minded.  There may be another, but I’m hard-pressed to figure it out.

Roose has a blog on the Amazon site and I peeked at some of the entries.  Most had to deal with his book tour and a giveaway promotion, but this entry written at Easter, entitled "Why you need to know the Bible (even if you’re an atheist)" was another example of how his time at Liberty had affected him. 

Liberty University could possibly be termed the capitol of the Religious Right, and, as I said, given what you hear from media and pundits, you’d not expect this sort of outcome.  And yet an open-minded student walks in and comes out with a deeper appreciation for God and His Word.  The rest of the liberal punditry would do well to figure out why they’re stereotype is so wrong.

Filed under: ChristianityCultureMediaReligion

Like this post? Subscribe to my RSS feed and get loads more!