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Stephen McGarvey Christian Blog and Commentary

My Fundamentalist Education

  • Stephen McGarvey
    Stephen McGarvey is the Executive Editor of Crosswalk.com and Christianity.com for the Salem Web Network. He is a World Journalism Institute fellow and has previously worked for BreakPoint with Chuck Colson, and the Home School Legal Defense Association. His articles have appeared in several publications including WORLD, The Washington Times, byFaith, BreakPoint WorldView, and the Union Leader (Manchester, NH).
  • 2006 Feb 27
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Those of us who grew up in the evangelical subculture sometimes forget how odd we look to those outside it.  While Christians know we have been given God's truth, we must always be gracious in how we present that truth to others. Christine Rosen's new book "My Fundamentalist Education," can give us an often important outside perspective. In the book Rosen tells of her life growing up attending a Christian school and idiosyncrasies of her environment.

Ray Pritchard wrote about Rosen's book on his blog a few weeks ago. Ray talks about seeing Rosen interviewed on Good Morning America:

In many ways Rosen still looks and talks like a well-educated, attractive, Christian school graduate. She speaks with fond appreciation of her years at Keswick, but she no longer calls herself a Christian. Exactly what happened is hard to say because Rosen stops her narrative when her parents take her out of Keswick in favor of another Christian school that is evidently a bit less strict. The loss of faith must have come later.

It's not surprising "My Fundamentalist Education" has garnered some attention from the secular media. We can imagine many want to read into this book an "I survived my crazy, right-wing upbringing" story. The might be disappointed. This week the Washington Post's Book World took a look at the book, giving a generous, yet thoroughly post-modern, perspective:

Readers disturbed by the ease with which children can absorb religious beliefs may be tempted to view Rosen's book as a survival story -- one girl's escape from the clutches of fundamentalism. But to those of us who grew up in and around fundamentalism ... the tale rings true in a way that is at once simpler and more profound than that. Rosen, now a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, didn't become a right-wing fanatic; nor did she break from the church in dramatic and rebellious fashion. She presents instead an account of what it's like to be immersed in fundamentalist ideas as a child, slowly sort out your own beliefs and eventually learn to balance faith and inquiry.

The Washington Post Days of Grace

What are we to make of this book, a memoir of someone who grew up practically immersed in the Christian faith yet turned away from it? The Post calls the book, "an affectionate but uncompromising work that may be one of the best descriptions of faith through a child's eyes yet written." I think Ray hits the nail on the head when he says,

That's why preachers preach and teachers teach, because we believe that truth implanted may be dormant for years and then bring forth a harvest of righteousness. Who knows what God will do? The grown-up Christian schoolgirl who leaves her childhood faith may find it once again.