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My Fundamentalist Education: A Memoir of a Divine Girlhood Hardcover – December 26, 2005

4.2 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Rosen (Preaching Eugenics), a fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, knows her King James Bible backward and forward. For this she thanks the fundamentalist school she attended from kindergarten until eighth grade, when her parents finally figured out "what we were learning about television, and movies, and, most important, about men and women." In many respects Keswick Christian School in the 1980s was like fabled Catholic schools of the 1950s: misbehaving students were paddled, girls forced to kneel on the floor to check skirt lengths, boys and girls required to keep a respectful six-inch distance from one another. But to Keswick students, Catholics and even some Protestants weren't true Christians, and it was incumbent upon the children to learn "strict morals and Bible belief" and then to "witness" to playmates and families. Alas, writes Rosen, "by the close of third grade, I found I'd not yet converted a single living soul." While young Christine was absorbing an ascetic worldview, her erratic mother was discovering—and unsuccessfully trying to interest her daughter in—Pentecostal fervor. Although today Rosen lives "an entirely secular life," her tone is affectionate rather than critical, and her subtle humor and ironically accurate descriptions will appeal to others with stringent religious backgrounds. (Jan.)
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From Bookmarks Magazine

Though no longer a fundamentalist, Christine Rosen manages to spin a tale of her childhood that is mostly free of animosity. Critics appreciate her open-mindedness and vivid prose, as well as the insight she gives into a child's predisposition to believe. Some reviewers cited a lack of context (how fundamentalism compares to other tenants in Christianity) and an inadequate explanation of how her upbringing affects her today. A few also fault My Fundamentalist Education for not furthering the debate between faith and evolution, but the criticism sputters like ideological rabble rousing. Rosen, a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and author of Preaching Eugenics, intended to write a personal story of her childhood, a feat most reviewers feel she's accomplished.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; First Edition edition (December 26, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586482580
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586482589
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 6.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,247,553 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I picked this book up on a whim because its title caught my eye. I'm not a reader of memoirs, but since I also came from a fundamentalist/evangelical background similar in many ways to the author's, I figured it might be of interest. I was right. Rosen has done a superb job in this book and its writing style and charm, coupled with my occasional outbursts of laughter led me to finish it in one afternoon and evening.

For those of us who come from this background, it is easy to see reflections of our own life experiences in her memoir. Rosen perfectly captures the mixture of seriousness and comic amusement that accompanies the experience of growing up in fundamentalism. Being of the same age range as Rosen, I can not only relate to the curious lifestyle of fundamentalism (it is definitely a lifestyle) but I remember watching the exact same End Times movies and hearing the exact same historical events she describes used to appropriate apocalyptic prophecy. Its historical context made the book an especially poignant and thoughtful experience for me. And her descriptions of the interactions among the competing views of fundamentalism, evangelicalism, and charismatic Pentecostalism are an accurate depiction of how these worlds intersect in so many ways.

Rosen is most brilliant when she subtly conveys the innocent intentions of those who firmly believe that they are doing God's work, while at the same time indoctrinating the minds of young people and stifling independent thought. This environment is a strange mixture of compassion, kindness, love, yet at the same time, dogma, intolerance of dissent, and radical closed-mindedness.
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The Rapture. The Anti-Christ. Satanic subliminals in rock music. Creation in six days. Fear of sex. Self-loathing. Bad polyesther uniforms. Welcome to Keswick Christian, St. Petersburg, Florida's fundamentalist Christian school. Welcome to your fundamentalist Christian education.

In an era where a majority of Americans believe in creationism, the "born-again" President of our country sends "coded" messages to "believers" through speeches on stages in the shape of a cross, "faith-based" non-profits are taking over for governmental services, and "men of god" are making political speeches from their tax-exempt pulpits, Christene Rosen's "My Fundamentalist Education" should be required reading for all those "Blue Staters" trying to understand the mindset of fundamentalist Christians. Her well-written and entertaining memoir strikes home, laying bare what is taught and thought behind the doors of exclusionary fundamentalist churches and schools, and provides insights into the people who read the "Left Behind" series, whose cars have fish symbols and bumper stickers stating "In case of rapture, this car will be empty", whose favorite book is the Bible - which is (of course) literally true, and who believe in the creationist theory of Intelligent Design, in spite of the lack of evidence for it and the preponderance of evidence supporting Darwin's "dangerous idea" of evolution.

Rosen's book is an accurate and compelling recount of her time at Keswick Christian while living in the retirement town of St. Petersburg, Florida (its unofficial motto "The old people live in Miami, their parents live here"). How do I know?
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Format: Hardcover
The school that the author attends in this book reminds me of many parts of my childhood. I didn't go to a Christian school, but in our small town there were many clubs and Sunday Schools and Vacation Bible Schools and Good News Clubs and Pioneer Clubs and so on! My parents loved to get free child care and have us out of the house for a bit, so even if they didn't believe what was being taught to us, they had us attend many of these religious clubs and events. The mostly kind, mostly truly caring people at Christine's school remind me of most of the people I encountered at these clubs---true believers, who did their best to practice what they preached. In this day and age of such separation between blue states and red, believers and not, we often get distorted views of deeply religious people. Although my own beliefs waver often and are not at all fundamentalist, I, like the author, am glad to have had the experience of reading the King James Bible and meeting religious people. This book is very well written, humorous without being flip, and most of all kind. I really enjoyed reading it.
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Format: Hardcover
When I read the St. Petersburg Times article announcing this book, I knew I had to read it. When I picked it up at my local library, I gritted my teeth, expecting to be eviscerated by a bitter cynic. Instead, what I found was a thoughtfully written piece about growing up and the influences that shape our world view. I graduated from Keswick while Christine was attending elementary school, but the biggest grin was her reference to the guys by the pickup truck with the Ayatollah sign. All those guys were my friends from my graduating class (we were seniors that year) - and I can tell you that all of them grew up - like Christine - as free thinking, contributing members of society. I guess that having a firm foundation in the bible isn't a bad place to begin your education.

The only puzzling but necessary part of the book were the name changes of the teachers and students. I was able to identify most of the people she referenced by her descriptions, including the principal and head master, but it did make for some puzzling reading at first.

My experience at Keswick was "mixed" as well, with some pretty horrific experiences, like being banned from the library and the bus my last two years at school, but also positive, like meeting my future wife and having a very weird and memorable time at school. Having boundaries is an important part of growing up - and Keswick certainly created those! What fun is it to misbehave if you don't get in trouble?

Christine puts the "FUN" back into FUNdamental education. So, as a fellow Keswickian married to another Keswickian - thank you.
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