In preparation for her visit, I read Rosen’s memoir, My Fundamentalist Education. Anyone who has been raised in a conservative evangelical or fundamentalist household, or attended a Christian school, should read this book. Rosen writes of her experience in a fundamentalist school in Florida and how, as a child, she navigated an educational world defined by creation science, the rapture, missionary visits, a literal interpretation of the Bible, and a host of other fundamentalist beliefs.
Many of us academics and intellectuals who were raised in fundamentalism (or, as in my case, converted to it during my teenage years only to part ways with it later in life) will connect with Rosen’s narrative and sympathize with her eventual journey away from her childhood faith. Fundamentalism is a unique religious subculture and Rosen knows it well and writes well about it.
If Messiah College is any indication, Christian colleges are filled with former fundamentalists who have been scarred by their experience in the movement. Unfortunately, these professors often deal with the scars of their fundamentalist pasts in the midst of the unexpecting students who enroll in their courses. Education thus becomes little more than an attempt to tear down the faith or belief systems of students and replace it with a world view more in line with that of the professor. Dispassionate or neutral treatments of a subject give way to indoctrination. While many fundamentalist beliefs should certainly be questioned and criticized, such debunking must be done with care, caution, and nurturing along the way–especially in a college that claims to be “Christian” in orientation. It seems to me that Rosen, if her book is any indication, understands this. Yes, fundamentalism can leave emotional scars, but we must remember that the classroom is not the place to work out our anxieties over them.