Book Excerpt: 'My Fundamentalist Education'

But Keswick was in many ways separate and very different from the world I had known up until then, the world of Grandma and Grandpa and home and Cathy and Cindy and swimming and ballet dancing. Keswick seemed intent on teaching me about more serious things, and it faced all the plagues, tempests, and uncertainties that Florida could throw at it with stubborn defiance. Driving into the gates of the school every morning was a bit like entering an alternative universe. We defied the climate by wearing clammy polyester uniforms that emphasized modesty more than comfort; we defied the culture by refusing to accept the latest offerings of popular entertainment; we defied the disorder and anxieties of modern life by turning to the Bible to learn where we came from and what would happen to us in the future. And the commitments we were expected to make to that world were new and unusual, and meant rejecting things that nearly every grown-up I knew did with regularity: smoking, drinking, dancing, cursing, and card playing. My new world was one of nonalcoholic grape juice communions and full-immersion baptisms, a world of hymn singing and pledges to Scripture. It was a world whose end, I learned, was prophesied in the Bible.

This was a world far removed from the mild Methodist devotion of my infant baptism, yet I conformed to it quickly. On my report card that year, my teacher wrote, "Chrissy is doing a beautiful job memorizing Scripture and poetry," and in the boxes marked "spiritual and emotional development," she noted, "seldom displays fear or timidity" and "usually listens and responds to Bible lessons." In fact, I'd taken to Scripture like a saw palmetto to Florida soil. I thrived in it even though I couldn't possibly understand everything about it.

But my teacher must have had an inkling that the roots I was putting out might not yet be deep enough, because her final remark about my first year at Keswick was more ambiguous: "She voices the opinion now," she wrote in her smooth cursive, "that everything should go her way." If I did think everything should go my way, it was thanks in large part to what I had learned that year. I had learned who God was. I had learned how the world began and how it would end. I knew what I had to do to get to heaven and what might send me to hell. I knew all of this by the time I was six years old.

The foregoing is excerpted from "My Fundamentalist Education: A Memoir of a Divine Childhood " by Christine Rosen. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission.

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