The Christian College Experience

by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free

If I didn’t already have a stack of unread books on my nightstand, I’d love to check out The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University by Kevin Roose. (Check out the book trailer above.) The book chronicles Roose’s experience when he transferred from Brown University to Liberty University, a conservative Christian college founded by Rev. Jerry Falwell.  Raised in a secular/liberal home, Roose struggles to keep up with the Bible classes at Liberty and to make sense of some of the idiosyncrasies of the conservative evangelical subculture.  Both secular and religious publications have given the book positive reviews, describing it as empathetic, fair, and well-written.

The author’s Web site includes some additional resources and information, including a list of required reading for Liberty students. The list made me smile because it reminded me of some of my own college experiences.  Books included:

  • The Purpose-Driven Life by Rick Warren
  • One Thing You Can’t Do in Heaven by Mark Cahill
  • A Journey Through the New Testament by Elmer L. Towns
  • A Survey of the Old Testament by Andrew E. Hill and John H. Walton
  • What Christians Believe by Alan Johnson and Robert Webber
  • Bible Doctrine by Wayne Grudem
  • Refuting Evolution by Jonathan Sarfati
  • Revised Answers Book by Ken Ham et al.

I graduated in 2003 from a Christian College—although a smaller, less conservative one.  The experience, for me, was fantastic overall, but there were disadvantages as well as advantages.


An English major, I found my schoolwork to be academically challenging and my professors interested and involved. Small classes meant individualized attention from instructors and more opportunities to excel. I learned a lot about the Bible from a variety of theological perspectives—an advantage of attending a non-denominational school. My friends cared about my spiritual life and encouraged me to love God and love others. There was never any pressure to veer from my personal morality standards. Best of all, I met my husband Dan in college!


It is hard to really think critically when you are surrounded by people who share your background, beliefs, and worldview. Also, some of my professors (not all) had a tendency to belittled or misrepresent the perspectives of non-Christians and so-called “liberals,” sometimes setting up false dichotomies that left me with the impression that you can’t be a good Christian and believe in evolution, that you can’t be a good Christian and vote for a democrat, that you can’t be a good Christian and support women in church leadership, that you can’t be a good Christian and appreciate postmodernism or like the Emerging Church, and so on. Obviously, my perspectives have changed a lot since then, but I still struggle sometimes with the feeling that I have to choose between my intellectual integrity and my faith. Sometimes  I wish I had been presented with a more generous definition of orthodoxy.

So what is your educational background? If you went to a Christian college—what was your experience like? If you didn’t—what is your impression of Christian colleges and Christian college graduates?

(Note to fellow Bryan grads: Please avoid mentioning any professors by name.)

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