This past week I finished reading My Fundamentalist Education by Christine Rosen. The book is largely a memoir of Rosen's experience at a fundamentalist Christian school in Florida and is a reflection on the contours of that education.
What had made me want to read the book was the fact that the book is one of many known as "Apostate Lit"; the author no longer maintains the belief system she was raised in and I wanted to know why.
It is not clear why the author's parents chose to put Rosen and her siblings in a Christian school as it becomes apparent early on in the book that they weren't Christians. Along with this, was the fact that the author's biological mother left her and her younger sister when they were just babies. She was an unstable person in their lives and yet, a professing pentecostal Christian who was quite active in a long string of churches over the years.
What struck me was that despite a Bible based, Christian Education Rosen's familial experiences and influences held the most sway. This was a reversal of what I am accustomed to hearing in homeschool circles. I have chosen to homeschool because I want to maintain the primary sphere of influence over my children. What this book showed is that parental influence does override outside influences - or at least, has a greater affect on the lives of children than we often like to acknowledge when arguing against public education.
But this isn't why Rosen is not a Christian. The most telling pages of the book are in the last chapter where she reflects on how she's benefited from her fundamentalist education and ultimately why she rejected fundamentalism (and along with it Christianity).
The main reason she gives is a desire to engage in the culture and world around her, to understand it and not avoid it. Fundamentalism encourages a disengagement from the world and culture - a sort of segregation from society. This is sadly, a gross distortion of Christianity and is the reason many have fallen away; the difficulty Rosen had in merging her interest in world history and culture with fundamentalist values is easy to understand.
Sadly, the main reason I believe Rosen never embraced Christianity and salvation in Christ alone is found on the last page of the book when she is describing the notes scribbled onto the margin of her school "textbook" the Bible,
"The questions written in an older hand grow more pointed: 'What is the Gospel?' 'Why without blood no forgiveness?'"She received an education devoid of the Gospel. And if she didn't hear, how would she know? This is the most valuable point I took from the book: if we desire to see our children come to a saving faith in Christ, what is most important is keeping the Gospel message central so that they may never wonder, after years of Christian school or homeschool, "What is the Gospel?"
It is humbling to see that the message is far more important than the method. This book is a great case in point.
Labels: 52 Books 52 Weeks