- 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: 3.9 out of 5 stars See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,357,927 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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My Fundamentalist Education: A Memoir of a Divine Girlhood Hardcover – December 26, 2005
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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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Top Customer Reviews
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? My three sisters and I went to Keswick at roughly the same time she did (I spent my 5th to 8th grades there - from 1975-1979, my little sister went there until from kindergarten to 8th grade) - however, unlike Rosen's experiences, which she remembers somewhat fondly, mine aren't so benign. As a new kid with few social skills, the "Christianity" of the students there did not seem so evident in their initial bullying of an outsider. The Bible (King James Version, of course), was the major textbook and while the constant memorizing of verses was pedagogically useful, and the school provided a solid education in reading (especially in Olde English) and writing, science was quite lacking, as can be expected from those believing in a 6-day creation. However, what can be considered most disturbing about such an education and the beliefs that derive from it (as I experienced it) is the belief in the inerrancy of the Bible, in spite of multiple internal contradictions, and the willingness of those in power to use its verses, often out of context, to control social behavior, such as how one dressed and acted. In my experience there, religion became a bludgeon, with the ever-present threat of the rapture and being "left-behind" scaring children into unquestioning obedience, the potential for pregnancy through boys and girls holding hands (yes, my elder sisters' classes were told this by the school's chaplain) confusing us, and the King James Version of the Bible providing an unassailable rationale for a variety of "un-Christlike" behaviors. Probably most disturbing for me in the end was that the insularity of the school and its beliefs led to spiritual breakdowns when the reality of everyday life confronted the teachings of fundamentalist beliefs.
What one may take away from reading "My Fundamentalist Education", and what I took away from my very own fundamentalist education, is that while the teachings of the Bible and Jesus can provide a moral background and spiritual enlightenment, the insularity of fundamentalist Christianity, now becoming more pervasive in our country, is a way of hiding from the often difficult and complex reality of life, and provides an easy way of blaming complex societal problems on easy bogeyman, thus evading responsibility without dealing with the problems themselves. After all, if you are a "believer" the rapture will take you before the problems need to be solved.
Difference between my viewpoint and the author's is that I have a little more anger about that type of schooling. Some of the stuff they taught me (end of times, mark of the beast) was extremely disturbing to me as a child. I was terribly afraid of going to hell, even though I was a sweet little child who would barely even step on a bug. And it took many years before I realized how much brainwashing took place in that school. I had to get a long way away before I learned to think for myself. But now that I do, I reject all of fundamentalism. Anyone who thinks they know the "truth" about the universe shouldn't be teaching children in my opinion. Stick to academia and leave religion out of schools. Or if you want to teach religion, teach about ALL religions, teach tolerance and working through differences, and leave the children to decide for themselves what they believe in (if anything).
And whatever else, teach science and biology without filtering it through some crazy religious perspective. I'd be willing to bet they *still* don't teach evolution at Trinity....