religion, scams

Pastor Greg Locke demands his followers unmask, or he’ll throw them out of his church!

I highly recommend listening to this mood music… It sums things up nicely.

A couple of days ago, one of my Facebook friends shared with me a sad story about Pastor Greg Locke. The link she sent was from Newsweek, but I have a subscription to the Washington Post, and there’s an article about this incident in that publication. So I’m going to base today’s fresh content on that piece.

So who is Pastor Greg Locke?

As I discovered in my 2018 post on this guy— Greg Locke is a self-described pastor from Tennessee. He runs the Global Vision Bible Church (GVBC). Over the years, he’s said and done some controversial things that have put him in the news. When I wrote about him in 2018, he was in the news because he had referred to Stormy Daniels as a “hooker” as he praised the orange turd, Donald Trump, as the president. Locke had tweeted his disdain for Daniels and was soon thoroughly shaded and schooled by a Catholic priest.

After reading about that incident in 2018, I did more digging about Locke and read about his sad situation with his ex wife, Melissa, at whom he had cursed and fat shamed. Locke didn’t sound very “Christ-like” to me, and that was pretty much what I expressed in that old post. Then I promptly forgot about him and went on with my life.

Now, Locke is back on the radar, because he recently told his “flock” in his Nashville area church that if they “start showing up [with] all these masks and all this nonsense, I will ask [them] to leave…” Locke, who is 45 years old, has repeatedly and falsely claimed that COVID-19 is a hoax. It seems that Locke’s followers are inclined to agree with him. His declaration on Sunday of his intent to ban mask wearers at his church was met with cheers and applause. Below is a video of the live streamed service that happened on July 25, 2021.

At 1 hour and 10 minutes, he launches into an anti-liberal rant. He sounds like a complete lunatic. At 1 hour and 13 minutes, he starts going off about COVID and talking about asking people to leave if they come masked.

Well… as I have written many times in this blog, I am a big believer in personal rights and liberties. And if Greg Locke thinks that COVID-19 is a hoax, nothing I can say or do will change his mind. But I do think he ought to take a good look at fellow pastor, Rick Wiles, who called COVID-19 a hoax. Wiles eventually caught the “hoax COVID-19 virus” and got very sick. He was ill enough to be hospitalized, and his followers were implored to “pray for him” as he got treatment for that “hoax COVID virus” that he refused to be vaccinated against, because vaccines are apparently a plot to kill people.

And he might want to read up on Stephen Harmon, a member of the Hillsong megachurch in California. Mr. Harmon was 34 years old and thought he knew better. In June, he tweeted to his 7000 Twitter followers “Got 99 problems but a vax ain’t one…” Next thing you know, Harmon was being treated for the virus in an L.A. area hospital. Sure enough, that “hoax virus” killed Mr. Harmon in what should have been the prime of his life. In his last days, Harmon was begging for prayers. Posting pictures from his hospital bed, Harmon pleaded “Please pray y’all, they really want to intubate me and put me on a ventilator.” His last tweet was posted last Wednesday, as he had decided to go on the ventilator. He wrote, “Don’t know when I’ll wake up, please pray.”

Even as he lay in his bed, gasping for breath, Harmon still said he wouldn’t be vaccinated. He said his religious faith would protect him. That turned out to be untrue.

In March 2020, Pastor Landon Spradlin went to New Orleans to preach during Mardi Gras. He said he wasn’t worried about the coronavirus. He said the concern about it was “hysteria”. Sadly, Spradlin was wrong about COVID-19, and he died a month after his Mardi Gras trip. Spradlin was described as a “great man” who was musically gifted. I can almost excuse him for his premature exit, as he got sick very early in the pandemic. But these other guys– well, they’ve had a year to see just how “fake” the COVID virus is. Where did those 650,000 dead Americans go? Roswell, New Mexico?

I really do think people should think and act for themselves. I am hesitant to agree with measures to force people to do the right thing, even though I realize some people won’t do what they should unless they are compelled. I do think it’s sad, though, that charismatic people– men– are spreading lies and conspiracy theories about this deadly virus. I hate masks. I really do. I don’t think masks are going to save people from COVID. BUT– I do think that vaccinations are essential. I base that belief on a basic knowledge of science and trust in people who have spent their whole lives studying medicine.

I don’t listen to loudmouthed idiots like “Pastor” Greg Locke, who allegedly hit, spit on, fat shamed, and drove into a women’s shelter his ex wife, Melissa, while he dated her former best friend. This is not a Christ-like or “godly” man. This is a man who is hooked on power and money. Recent history has shown me that I’m right to trust scientists and physicians over so-called “holy men” like Greg Locke, who screams like a banshee, paces back and forth, denies science, and praises people like Donald Trump. According to the Washington Post,

Locke’s evangelical church in Mount Juliet, Tenn., about 20 miles east of downtown Nashville, has grown during the pandemic, CNN reported. The pastor’s controversial commentary on covid and the 2020 presidential election has attracted far-right churchgoers.

During a sermon last month, Locke called President Biden a fraud and “a sex trafficking, demon-possessed mongrel,” a reference to QAnon, an extremist ideology based on false claims.

He has also falsely claimed the pandemic is “fake,” the death count is “manipulated,” and the vaccine is a “dangerous scam.”

And the pastor has preached misinformation about the vaccine, including falsely claiming it’s made of “aborted fetal tissue.”

I remember when Locke was in the news having just split from his ex wife, Melissa. He claimed that she was lying about what happened, and that he was the innocent party. I watched the tearful video he posted, which was later taken down, in which he cried about her so-called lies about his character. Maybe I would have given him the benefit of the doubt if I didn’t see so many instances that point to his lack of wisdom and poor character. I was raised to believe that Christianity is about love for other people and peace, not screeching about politics and denying science.

I think Greg Locke is a fool, and I feel sorry for his followers, some of whom will foolishly continue to follow his nonsense, get sick, and perhaps pay with their lives. I know some people have no pity for followers of bullshit, but I think people who purport to be leaders should be held responsible for leading people astray. And Greg Locke, is leading a flock, much to their detriment. Hopefully, a few of them will wise up and find another church.

COVID-19 is not a joke; it’s not a hoax; and unless you’re ready to meet your maker, you’d better have some common sense about this. It’s probably going to get worse before it gets better. If Locke doesn’t watch his step, he’s going to wind up in a hospital bed or a coffin. Or maybe it will just be his hapless and clueless followers who’ll suffer as Locke continues to peddle snake oil to the uneducated and ill informed. It reminds me of a scene from Little House on the Prairie.

These kinds of charlatans are still around…

Pastor Locke is worse than this so-called faith healer, isn’t he?

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narcissists, rants, religion

Repost: The crying pastor… or, I fell down another rabbit hole…

I am reposting this old blog post from 2018, because I am about to rant about Pastor Greg Locke, who was the subject of this post. It appears here as/is, minus the videos that Locke apparently took down.

Yesterday, I became aware of yet another “pastor” out there who was “up and coming” and is now disgraced.  I found out about Greg Locke and his church, Global Vision Bible Church (GVBC), when I read an article shared by the God page about how Locke slut shamed Stormy Daniels and then got thoroughly schooled by a Catholic Priest.  When I read the first article, I thought it was going to be another piece about right wing jerks claiming to be pastors and not actually knowing the Bible.  But it turns out Locke’s business is more sinister than his simply being a jerk. 

WokeSloth is a page that “God” has been sharing a lot from lately.  Its writers generate content based on other people’s content.  I’m familiar that process, since a lot of my own content comes about that way.  Hell, some people reach this blog because some of my posts have been linked to Wikipedia or other popular pages. 


I’ve found that a lot of people don’t click the links within articles.  Most people read something and move on, not digging deeper.  I, for one, like to follow links because they often lead to greater understanding and context.  Such was the case yesterday, when I read about how Locke called Stormy Daniels a “hooker” and reminded everyone that Donald Trump is still the president.  This so-called pastor apparently forgets that Jesus Christ spent a lot of time with prostitutes.  Moreover, Daniels is not actually a hooker.  She’s an adult film star. 

In any case, Locke posted this on Twitter.

This Tweet garnered a lot of responses, including the one below from a Jesuit Priest…

Boom!

I don’t know what prompted me to keep looking, but I clicked a link within the Woke Sloth article and ended up on a site called Pulpit & Pen, which posted a detailed article about the type of person Locke really is.  There was a video from CNN showing Locke in a suit, preaching to evangelicals in a small church outside of Nashville.  “You, ladies and gentleman, must get right with God!” he booms at them with his southern accent.

An example of Locke’s preaching…

And yet, the recently divorced Locke, who is a “self appointed” pastor, evidently uses absolutely vile language toward his ex wife, Melissa.  Locke was married to Melissa for 20 years, but according to the Pulpit & Pen article, has designs on Melissa’s former best friend, Tai McGee, who is Locke’s church secretary.  Melissa reportedly shared hundreds of texts that were allegedly sent by Greg Locke.  In them, he calls Melissa a “selfish bitch” and says, “fuck you” to her.  He complains about her weight and predicts she’ll soon be “sleeping with strangers”.

In this blog, I have often stated that I don’t believe in “bad words”.  That’s still generally true.  I don’t think there is such a thing as a “bad word”.  What I do take notice of is the intent behind the use of words.  When a man says “fuck you” to the woman he’s been with for twenty years, it says a lot about how little regard he has for her.  When that language comes from a man who presumes to preach to other people about “getting right with God”, it’s especially egregiously hypocritical.  This is not a man who is “right with God”.  Sounds to me like he’s a garden variety abuser posing as a “shepherd”.  

And then, when he’s exposed for the person he is, Locke has the nerve to cry about it on YouTube and claim his ex-wife is a liar…  Where did all those texts come from?  

I can see why people are attracted to Greg Locke.  He’s not a bad looking man, though he’s not really my type.  He has a powerful speaking voice.  He has charisma and his audience is not exactly filled with mental giants.  These are evangelicals who ignored what an absolute horror Donald Trump is and voted for him, simply because he promotes their conservative agenda.  They are under the mistaken impression that Trump cares about their views and they praise him because he’s pushing their white supremacist, anti-woman vision on the rest of the American people and the world.

I noticed that Locke does not have a friend in fellow “pastor” Steven Anderson, who promotes his conservative messages out of his “church” in Tempe, Arizona.  Below is a video Anderson shared of Locke preaching about how his ex wife is “holding him back” (video was removed).

When I listen to Locke, I hear a guy who probably would have preferred to have been a comedian.  He sounds like someone who simply wanted to be a star.  He likes the attention and having people listening to him yell.  I imagine it’s easier to be a pastor than a comedian, especially when your audience is a bunch of evangelicals who aren’t exactly known for being free thinkers.  Locke and Anderson can spout their tripe, spicing it up by yelling, and evangelicals will eagerly eat it up.  I think both of these men are driven by narcissism, not a love for God or concern for their “flocks”.

This is the late Sam Kinison, who became a very famous comedian after he stopped preaching the gospel.  I think Locke is of the same ilk, although I doubt he has Kinison’s gift for comedy.   Kinison died very suddenly in 1992.  Locke probably knew his comedy, since he would have been 16 years old in 1992. 

I wonder what Greg Locke was like as a child.  I bet he was one of those insatiable kids who couldn’t get enough attention from Mommy.  I read in an article in The Tennesseean that as a teenager, Locke was full of rage.  On the day Locke was born, his father was in prison for armed robbery and drug charges.  Locke’s mother eventually remarried and he grew up hating his stepfather.  At age 11, Greg Locke was arrested for the first time.  In fact, by the time he was 15, he was sent to Good Shepherd’s Christian Home in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.  Locke claims he was “saved” there, but I think he was probably just attracted to the power that can come from being a charismatic speaker.  I don’t think Locke is really different now from the angry young man he was twenty years ago.  He’s just channeled that rage into “preaching”.

Anyway… I wish Locke’s ex wife peace, love, and luck.  She deserves better than this man.  So do all of Locke’s followers.  

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book reviews, LDS, religion

Repost: My review of Bringing Elizabeth Home…

Here’s a repost of an Epinions review I wrote in 2004. It appears here “as/is”. A whole lot has happened since 2004– to include Ed and Lois Smart’s divorce and Ed’s coming out as gay. I’m reposting the review for the sake of history, and because I think some people might find it interesting.

The first time I saw Ed and Lois Smart’s 2003 book Bringing Elizabeth Home: A Journey of Faith and Hope, I was tempted to purchase it. Their beautiful fourteen year old daughter Elizabeth was kidnapped from their Salt Lake City, Utah home on June 5, 2002. The Smarts’ other daughter, nine year old Mary Katherine, witnessed the abduction and alerted Ed and Lois Smart after Elizabeth and the kidnappers, later revealed to be Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee, were gone.

I remembered how the summer of 2002 was a summer plagued by a rash of child abductions. A couple of those abductions had ended tragically– five year old Samantha Runnion was killed soon after she was taken, but not before she was brutally molested by her captor. Elizabeth Smart had, against all odds, survived her abduction, reuniting with her family in mid March 2003. And Elizabeth Smart’s story is a bizarre one indeed. Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee were revealed to be believers of a fundamentalist branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. According to news reports, Brian David Mitchell meant to make Elizabeth one of his wives.

The Smart family fascinated me. On the front cover of Bringing Elizabeth Home: A Journey of Faith and Hope there is a lovely picture of Elizabeth and her parents, and on the back cover, the whole family of eight is pictured. The Smarts seem to espouse the epitome of the American Dream. Ed and Lois Smart are well off financially, and they have six beautiful children. I wanted to know what lingered beneath the surface of the Smart family’s attractive facade. Nevertheless, I had read negative reviews about Bringing Elizabeth Home: A Journey of Faith and Hope, so I passed up the book.

Then last week, my husband went out of town for a meeting and I found myself with some extra time to do some reading. It wasn’t long before I found myself purchasing Bringing Elizabeth Home: A Journey of Faith and Hope. I finished the book in a few days and am left with my own feelings of ambivalence about the Smart story. On one hand, Ed and Lois Smart are not professional writers and they were telling the heartwrenching story of their daughter’s abduction. On the other hand, Bringing Elizabeth Home: A Journey of Faith and Hope was ghost written by Laura Morton, who, according to information on the book jacket, has written a total of eighteen books, six of which were New York Times bestsellers. Unfortunately, I would have expected more from someone who has had such an auspicious career in writing.

While at times, I found Bringing Elizabeth Home: A Journey of Faith and Hope to be a warm, touching story, the writing is sometimes awkward and repetitive. Also, although the book is supposed to be written entirely from the Smarts’ point of view, the authors don’t seem to be very selective about their usage of pronouns. For instance, the chapters that are supposedly written by Ed or Lois as individuals read like personal narratives and employ the pronoun “I”. In other chapters, “we” is used, but so is “Ed and Lois”, as if the story is being told from a different point of view. It makes for awkward reading.

This book doesn’t shed a lot of light on the case, either. Bringing Elizabeth Home: A Journey of Faith and Hope doesn’t offer many more details than what was already printed in the news or portrayed in the television movie that was made about Elizabeth and broadcasted last fall. There are, however, a couple of interesting chapters about Ed and Lois Smart’s extended family. There’s also a lot written about Elizabeth’s love for playing her harp. Mary Katherine also plays the harp. I don’t know of any kids who play harp, so it was interesting to read about that. The book also offers some very nice pictures of the family. Again, however, it seems like I had already seen some of them in magazines.

The thing I liked the least about Bringing Elizabeth Home: A Journey of Faith and Hope was the “preachy” tone in the book. Yes, I understand that the Smarts’ faith had a lot to do with keeping them sane while Elizabeth was missing, but the book, particularly at the beginning, is very heavy on quoting scriptures from the Book of Mormon and the D&C (Doctrine and Covenants), which is another LDS document. If readers aren’t members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, they might not understand some of the significance of the quotes.

Speaking of quotes, the Smarts start most chapters off with one, and they are generally from LDS sources– either the Book of Mormon, or the D&C, or perhaps from a well known LDS leader like church president Gordon B. Hinckley. Again, it seems to me that the Smarts might have forgotten that they might have readers who have no understanding of the LDS Church. On the other hand, the inclusion of the LDS quotes may have been by design– to get more people to investigate the church. All one has to do is contact LDS missionaries and they can start learning about the church and possibly become a member. In any case, it seems to me that some folks might find all the LDS stuff included in this book off putting, particularly if they don’t believe in God or going to church. That said, I will also mention that before I picked up Bringing Elizabeth Home: A Journey of Faith and Hope, I figured I would be reading something about the Smarts’ faith, so this aspect of the book didn’t surprise me much.

The Smarts continually contend that they want to protect Elizabeth’s privacy, and I respect that. On the other hand, I do find it curious that they published Bringing Elizabeth Home: A Journey of Faith and Hope, if they truly wanted to protect Elizabeth’s privacy. They write that they were hoping to put some of the false information to rest. It seems to me that the Smarts’ book is really more about how Ed and Lois Smart dealt with Elizabeth’s absence than Elizabeth’s ordeal, and to the Smarts’ credit, they do seem to convey that idea in the book. However, they had to know that people would buy this book expecting to read about what really happened to Elizabeth. The Smarts include a few details, but those who want to buy Bringing Elizabeth Home should realize that they won’t get the whole scoop.

I don’t think that Bringing Elizabeth Home: A Journey of Faith and Hope is a terrible book. It’s just that it doesn’t reveal that much more than what the public already knows about the Smart case. The writing is not as strong as it should be and there’s some preaching in this book that might turn some people off. Nevertheless, the Smart case is fascinating and if you want to know everything that’s out there about the Smart family, you might find reading this book worthwhile. On the whole, however, I think that most people would probably do well to skip it.

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book reviews, homosexuality, religion

Repost: My review of The Cross in the Closet, by Timothy Kurek…

I posted this review on my original blog on March 25, 2014. It appears here as/is.

Today’s review is about Timothy Kurek’s 2012 book, The Cross in the Closet.  I don’t remember why I downloaded this book.  I think I heard about it somewhere and decided it sounded interesting.  Right now, it’s selling for about $5 on Amazon, so that might have also had something to do with my decision to buy.  I read Kurek’s book in a matter of hours…  and when I was finished with it, I was kind of reminded of this video.

This video is definitely NSFW, but it’s funny… 

The Cross in the Closet is the true story of how Timothy Kurek, like several authors before him, decided to fake something in order to develop empathy.  Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed: On Not Getting By In America, faked being poor and uneducated so she could write about what it’s like to be poor and having to work at minimum wage jobs to get by.  I read her book in the early 2000s and enjoyed it the first time I read it.  Then I read it again and it kind of pissed me off.  Ehrenreich wasn’t really poor and knew there was an end to when she’d have to fake being poor.  She had an escape from poverty– there was a light at the end of the tunnel that she could use to bolster herself when things got really hard.  That’s not to say that I don’t think she learned anything.  It’s just to say that her experience wasn’t all that authentic.

In a similar fashion, Timothy Kurek, who grew up near Nashville in a conservative Christian home and spent a year at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, faked being gay for a year.  At the start of his book, Kurek writes about how Jerry Falwell had preached against homosexuality and how people who are gay or lesbian are living sinful lives.  When Kurek is confronted by a gay activist who calls him “brother”, he calls the man to repentance.  He is very sure of his position; that homosexuals are hopeless sinners who lead disgusting lives.  He treats them terribly.

After a year at Liberty, Kurek goes back to Tennessee because his parents split up.  He starts hanging around a karaoke bar in Nashville, where he becomes acquainted with some homosexuals.  One of his dear friends, a young woman he knew from church, comes out to him.  She is devastated because her parents have disowned her.  As Kurek awkwardly comforts his friend, he can’t find the right words to say.  He realizes that he’s been bigoted.  He starts to realize that homosexuals are people too.  Then, he decides he’s going to experiment.  He hatches his plan to come out as gay to his family and friends, even though he is straight.  He will spend a year on this charade, learning something about the homosexual community.

Kurek’s family seems to take his announcement with shock and dismay, but they still talk to him.  His pastor at church sends him a rather hateful missive about not condoning the sinful gay lifestyle.  Some of his friends quit talking to him.  Kurek goes to a gay bar and is immediately hit on, which makes him uncomfortable.  Fortunately, he has a gay friend from the karaoke bar who serves as his boyfriend during the year to keep him from being hit on by interested men.  The friend, whose name is Shawn, is black, handsome, and a very gifted singer… and he doesn’t have a problem playing “boyfriend” at first.

I was intrigued by Kurek, who claims to be a conservative Christian, but does things that I wouldn’t expect from a lifelong conservative evangelical Christian.  Though Kurek writes that he spent a lot of hours in church, he smokes clove cigarettes.  At the start of the book, he claims to have only tasted beer twice, but by the end, he’s very much a drinker.  He dances.  He also swears a lot for someone who is so apparently Christian.  All of these things go against what I’ve been taught about the evangelical Christian community and what they think is okay.     

As the year passes, Kurek finds himself becoming more involved and therefore more knowledgable about the LGBTQ world.  He makes many friends, works in a gay cafe where he learns how to make excellent lattes, and goes to a lot of karaoke bars.  He learns that many homosexuals are wonderful people and some are not so wonderful.  He makes some very dear friends, even as he fights his natural attraction to women.  He even discovers that homosexuals can love God when he stumbles across a transvestite singing “Awesome God” at a karaoke show.  In short, Kurek seems to learn that in the most important ways, homosexuals are really not so different than straight people are.  One thing I noticed from Kurek’s book is that the gay community he was briefly a part of seemed very tight knit and caring… not unlike some church communities.  Although knowing what I know about some churches, I bet the gay community’s caring was more genuine.  From what Kurek writes, most of the homosexuals he befriended during his gay year were still friends when he came clean.

Actually, Kurek’s description of the karaoke bars was interesting to me, since Bill and I once went to one in Key West, Florida.  I happen to love karaoke and they had a great show going.  We went; I sang; and the people there were really great.  We had a blast… though I would be lying if I said Bill wasn’t very uncomfortable at first.  He didn’t know how to behave.  Bill has an adopted “half-sister” who is a lesbian, though she’s 19 years younger than he is.  He doesn’t know her as well as he’d like to, but through Facebook we’ve discovered that she’s a truly wonderful person who is very involved in her community.  But despite having a lesbian sister, Bill hasn’t been exposed to members of the gay community nearly as much as I have and really felt out of his element in a gay bar.  For that reason, I could empathize with Kurek’s first experiences visiting establishments that cater to the homosexual community.

Kurek’s year of being “gay” was difficult, though his experience being “gay” definitely wasn’t as difficult as it was for most of the new friends he made.  Again, Kurek knew his condition was temporary and could count down the months before he could be straight again.  His family and friends were by and large decent about it… until his brother and his wife found out halfway through the year that Kurek had lied about being gay.  It caused a huge rift that Kurek describes rather poignantly.  Kurek is close to his brother, so his brother’s anger was very painful for him.  Unrequited love on the part of Kurek’s “boyfriend” Shawn, seems to make Kurek’s experiment more difficult for Shawn.

I was surprised by how Kurek’s homosexual friends took the news when he told them he wasn’t actually gay.  They mostly seemed okay with his experiment.  I’m sure that to many of them, what Kurek did was pretty bold and maybe even kind of cool, especially since it led to Kurek being more empathetic.  However, I couldn’t help but realize that Kurek’s experience with being gay was not as authentic as it might have been.  In fact, it was a bit contrived and what he did is nothing new.  And I wondered if any of his new friends were offended by Kurek’s decision to be “fake and gay”.  He doesn’t mention any that I remember, though.

Kurek’s writing is basically okay, though there are some typos and misspelled words in his manuscript.  Kurek’s dialogue also sometimes feels a little scripted… like something I might hear on a soap opera.  He seems very young, too… which I believe he was when he wrote this book.  The youth seems to inject his writing with the kind of testosterone that makes young men single-minded and dogmatic about certain things.  The writing got a little preachy at times.  That being said, I thought The Cross in the Closet was basically an interesting book.  I would recommend it to anyone who thinks reading about Kurek’s experiment might interest them.  You could certainly read worse.

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book reviews, education, religion

Repost: Kevin Roose tries out Liberty University…

Here’s a book review I wrote for Epinions.com in 2009. Since I’ve been on a fundie kick lately, I’m reposting it here as/is.

Sometimes life can take you to places you never dreamed you’d go. Such was the case for Kevin Roose, who was, in the fall of 2006, a student at Brown University. Like so many other students of his ilk, Roose was very much a free spirit who liked to party. But Roose was also a curious reporter who happened to be working with author A.J. Jacobs.  In 2007, Jacobs published his book The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible. Inspired by Jacobs’ experiment trying to live his life as literally by the Bible as possible, Roose decided to trade in his wild ways at Brown for a semester at Liberty University, a conservative evangelical Baptist school in Lynchburg, Virginia, founded by the late Jerry Falwell. Roose chronicles his experiences at Liberty in his book The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University (2009).

I had just started reading Jacobs’ book when I got my copy of Roose’s Unlikely Disciple. Though I was thoroughly enjoying reading about Jacobs’ stab at living biblically, I couldn’t resist putting down Jacobs’ book in favor of Roose’s. You see, I am a native of Virginia and graduated from Longwood College (now University). Longwood is located in Farmville, Virginia, just a mere 45 minutes east of Liberty. I had some high school friends who attended Falwell’s famous school and had driven past Liberty on many occasions on my way to my grandmother’s house in Natural Bridge, Virginia from Farmville. Though I never in a million years would have wanted to attend Liberty– not even for a semester– I have always been curious about the place. So reading Roose’s book seemed a lot more urgent to me than finishing Jacobs’ book was, even though it appears that Roose’s project was inspired by his mentor’s earlier work.

Roose’s background

Obviously, Kevin Roose is very intelligent, since he managed to get into Brown University. His parents are very liberal and not very religious.  Roose explains that they most closely identify with the Quakers but were never a particularly churchgoing lot. When Roose proposed to attend Liberty for a semester, his parents and the rest of his family were not too thrilled. Like so many other people, they had heard Jerry Falwell’s well publicized remarks about how secular America had caused God to punish Americans with 9/11. They had heard him talk about how Tinky Winky, the beloved purple Teletubby of the children’s show, was actually a symbol to promote the acceptance of homosexuality. They had seen Falwell on television, blustering about how the liberals were degrading America with immorality. Roose’s family and friends were shocked that he’d want to be associated with Jerry Falwell, even just for a semester. And yet, though he wasn’t that into being an evangelical Christian, Kevin Roose applied to Liberty University as a transfer student and was accepted.

Changes!

Using a witty and appealing writing style, Roose explains what it was like to be a fish out of water at Liberty. He writes about how he had to learn to fit in as an evangelical Christian. The process was harder than the average person might realize. For one thing, Roose had to learn how to refrain from cursing while, at the same time, not react too harshly when he heard someone refer to a homosexual as a f*gg*t. Next, he had to learn about the Bible and actually take classes in the Old and New Testament. He had to change the way he approached members of the opposite sex, including the way he dated them. And he also had to stop drinking.

The results of Roose’s new lifestyle had some surprising effects on him. Though he knew he would only be at Liberty for a semester, Roose found himself changing with the experience, mostly in a positive way.  Just quitting drinking allowed him to enjoy hangover free weekends. He also managed to score the last print interview with Jerry Falwell, who died at the bitter end of Roose’s semester at Liberty.

My thoughts

I hesitate to think that Liberty University is actually America’s “holiest” university. There are quite a few evangelical Christian colleges out there, at least a couple of which are much stricter than Liberty is. For instance, as Roose points out in his book, at Pensacola Christian College (PCC) in Pensacola, Florida, men and women use segregated stairwells and are not allowed to stare too long at each other. A prolonged gaze at someone of the opposite gender is known as “optical intercourse” or “making eye babies” and can lead to significant punishment. At Bob Jones University (BJU) in Greenville, South Carolina, students were not permitted to date outside of their races until the year 2000. And women are not permitted to wear pants in public at either PCC or BJU; instead, they have to wear long dresses or skirts with pantyhose. But, I think for someone like Kevin Roose, Liberty was probably holy enough.  Shoot, I always thought Liberty University’s name was very ironic, considering the restrictions its students live with.

In any case, I really enjoyed reading Kevin Roose’s story about life at Liberty. I was very impressed by how much research Roose did, both in terms of the school and the conservative Christian movement in general. His writing is very easy and fun to read, as well as insightful. Having spent some time around college students and graduates of prestigious universities, I think I was afraid Roose might be a snob about going to Liberty after being at Brown. But Roose manages to maintain a very objective and open-minded attitude about Liberty. In fact, he even reveals some of the guilt he feels about hiding his true agenda from his new friends and colleagues. I half expected Roose to decide he wanted to stay at Liberty after all.

Overall

I think this book will really appeal to anyone who’s ever been curious about the religious right or Jerry Falwell. Roose includes some tidbits about Falwell that humanize the man a great deal. I also think The Unlikely Disciple is good reading for anyone who’s either attended or is planning to attend Liberty University– as long as they have a sense of humor.  I would also recommend this book to anyone who’s just curious about it. It’s often very entertaining, yet ultimately rewarding to read. I came away from reading this book thinking that Kevin Roose’s life was greatly enriched from his semester at Liberty; so was mine, as a result of Roose’s willingness to share.

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