Not long after being abandoned by the woman she calls her “Biomom”, little Christine and her older sister, Cathy, were sent to a private school in St. Petersburg, Florida, run by a fundamentalist church organization.
The emphasis was completely on the Bible. As Rosen
recalls with good humor throughout, her earliest lessons were focused on memorization of Bible verses, including a high-powered game called “the sword drill”: “As soon as I heard the verse my heart would pound and I’d start fumbling for the passage. I never won. Those of us with regular Bibles were often out maneuvered by students who owned deluxe Bibles with tabs marking each separate book.” Chrissy went on to become an A student, but her Bible markings showed her questioning spirit as she grew older.
One particular sticking point was creationism. When Biomom sent the girls to science camp one summer, Chrissy came back with dangerously radical notions that challenged what she was being taught at Keswick Christian School. Desperately, the sensitive little girl sought to reconcile what seemed so logical at camp with what was decried as “secular humanism” by her teachers at Keswick. “In my excitement over the Big Bang, why had I forgotten the countless Bible verses and poems I’d memorized, all of which lent weight to the creation story?” Even the beloved school librarian, who had been a kind of intellectual confidante, failed the child in this search for clarity. Chrissy turned instead to the public library, and her reading there led her along broader avenues of understanding.
Meanwhile, Biomom kept the girls in constant nervous confusion as she shopped for ever more accepting and farther-out kinds of charismatic, Pentecostal sects where she sought healing. Later the girls learned that Biomom suffered from bipolar disorder, and her longing for solace through emotional paroxysms was perhaps not the worst path she could have chosen. But much of what they were made to endure by Biomom was greatly at odds with the staid, Bible-centered religion they were taught at Keswick.
Eventually Chrissy’s parents, father and loyal stepmom, realized that Keswick was perhaps too staid, forbidding the enjoyment of popular music and damping down the natural questioning of bright young minds. They sent the sisters to a more liberal high school, and neither girl is now a fundamentalist. Rosen credits her Biblical scholarship with teaching her “to examine, to question, and to criticize- even if this questioning eventually led me away from fundamentalism.”
The book is a great handbook for understanding the many arcane differences between fundamentalism, evangelical sects, Pentecostalism, and mainstream Christianity. It’s also amusing and well-organized, created by someone who obviously loves the craft of writing. Kudos to Kewsick if she learned it there.