Dark Christianity
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May 2008
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Book Review - My Fundamentalist Education


A Book Review: My Fundamentalist Education by Christine Rosen.

This slender memoir (231 pages including the acknowedgements) is the surprisingly sweet story of roughly 10 years in a girl's life in Florida from the mid 70s to the mid 80s. It's a good read, but one for a very limited audience. The title, and the drive behind writing the book, was an attempt to explain what fundamentalist beliefs are and how they shape the children raised in them. This is not, however, an angry expose by a breakaway; Rosen is quite matter-of-fact, humorous and even a little nostalgic as she describes what she thought and felt as she was taught to list the Dispensations, "Walk Thru The Bible," and pledge allegiance to the Christian flag and the Bible, while admitting that she has long since fallen away from that life.

Religious tension runs as an undercurrent throughout the book. Rosen wavers between wanting despearately to be a missionary to rejecting several core teachings, especially when she realized that girls were punished for independence and spirit. Rosen's father and stepmother weren't particularly religious; like many parents, they sent their daughters to the school because it was the best and safest one they could afford, not specifically because it provided religious indoctrination. (Indeed, that indoctrination finally alarms them to the point of withdrawing the girls from Keswick and ending the book.) Rosen tries her underaged best to Save her immediate family, but she is also unprepared to deal with, much less understand, what her birth mother is going through during her brief visitations and custody weekends. The reader will figure out long before the child narrator that "Biomom" is manic-depressive and self-medicating with increasingly hardcore Pentacostal and evangelist churches.

The book is divided into thematic chapters told in chronological order. "Sword of the Spirit" talks about how important the Bible was as the fundamental textbook (while pointing out the desirability of the tabbed Bibles - they gave you an edge in the daily verse-search competitions.) "Here Comes the Son" was about learning about Revelations, and the terror of wondering each time she heard a loud car horn, thinking she was about to be swept away from life before she'd lived it. My favorite chapter was "Heresies" which was about the tension between her interest in evolutionary biology and the creationist teachings she was surrounded with in school, and includes this great paragraph:

I found I didn't like the science I learned at school as much as I had liked it at the science center, where we had learned that part of the appeal of scientific research was the opportunity to do great things in the world with it, like cure diseases and win Nobel Prizes. At school, science was simply another reminder of God's power and of the wonder of His creation. We learned about it so that we could learn more about God, not so that we could use it to do exciting things.

I love that paragraph because I think it sums up the current religio/science situation so nicely.

There are no deep answers here nor major religious insights, but there is a pleasant story and a little bit of understanding of the child's eye view of religion.

x-posted to personal journal

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