A Memoir of a
Divine Girlhood

Christine Rosen
Part II
Rosen spent her primary years at Keswick Christian School, a part of the Moody Bible Institute of Chicago. Their textbook of choice was the King James version of the Bible, and their belief system was (and is) a bit peculiar. Mormons were considered to be "heretics" who were not allowed "to drink Coke or Dr. Pepper or coffee." Catholics were known as "the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth." Catholics also allowed "indulgences, which to a third-grader conjured confusing images of priests doling out unhealthy helpings of ice cream and candy."

Jews? They were the chosen people, and "from Leviticus, I learned the basics of kosher eating."

    I couldn't help but admire a religions that barred from the dinner table eagles, ospreys, ravens, cuckoos, and dear to the heart of any Floridian, the beloved pelican. Not to mention disgusting animals like bats, weasels, mice, ferrets, and moles.

One of Keswick's favored school plays was "Fiddler on the Roof,"

    Groups of children, many with thick southern accents, decked out in glued-on beards and sidelocks, burlap shtetl wear, and black greasepaint eyebrows, stomped around the overheated gymnasium shouting "L'Chaim!"

§     §     §

Despite it's slightly cynical subtitle, My Fundamentalist Education paints an affectionate picture of a school that gave simple messages from single-minded teachers:
  1. do everything the Bible tells you to do;
  2. if confused, the answer lies there in the King James Version;
  3. shut up and stop asking questions about evolution.

Some of the fears planted in those child hearts seem a bit drastic. For instance, there was a terror that the Rapture would put in a sudden appearance and lift her --- as a seven-year-old juvenile --- up at an awkward moment. Or worse, leave her behind because of her sins.

This is neither a bitter denunciation of a now-so-common "Bible" education, nor is it a vindication of Bible-driven schooling. Rosen tells us that, now, "I am no longer a fundamentalist. I no longer consider myself religious, and live an entirely secular life."

She was --- even during her early years --- a voracious reader, discovering (not at the school library but at the public library) texts on evolution but, more importantly, novels that would be frowned on by the librarian at Keswick. Television, as always, proved a reliable corrupter --- Ripley's Believe It or Not, Battlestar Galactica and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, and, presumably, Dallas. But probably not Debbie Does Dallas.

Rosen's autobiography is thus a forgiving one, touched at times with puzzlement, a little fear, some pride --- and not a little humor. One of their sports at summer camp was basketball. The Lady Crusaders --- her team --- was encouraged to "Dribble for Jesus." One of her friends, Manuel, "learned a song about Christ, which was set to the tune of "BINGO" --- "There is a Savior in my heart and Jesus is his name-o! J-e-s-u-s, J-e-s-u-s and Jesus is his name-o."

And when Rosen went overboard and faked a vision from the angel, her punishment was baptism in a nearby lake. "I thought, fleetingly, of how odd it was to have a strange man touch me, and how he would realize I was wearing a bathing suit [under her clothes], and how the pond water would flow into my ears, and then I was underwater, pushed back by the force of the minister's hand on my head. Once, twice, three times --- all while catching pieces of his incantation when I briefly broke the surface." From her readings outside of school, Rosen was already viewing this world of the fundamentalist divine in a slightly skewed fashion:

    He smiled at me in a reptilian sort of way, and I was reminded of Lewis Carroll's alligator: "How cheerfully he seems to grin, how neatly spreading his claws, and welcomes little fishes in, with gently smiling jaws!"

--- Carlos Amantea
Go back to
Part I

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