And I still say that Rosin's book is seriously meanspirited and biased, and was painful for me to read even when I superficially "agreed" with her. I was hoping for one of two things with this book. Either a kind of ethnography, where Rosin goes undercover and befriends the exotic "others" and tells the general reading public about a world they would never otherwise experience, describing candidly the author's own personal thoughts and struggles with the experience. Rosin was not able to set aside her disgust with the people she is portraying long enough to accomplish either of these things. For one thing, Rosin complains a little too much about the efforts some of her subjects as a religion reporter have made to convert her. While I can understand her not wanting to convert, surely a religion beat reporter needs a thicker skin than to take this kind of thing personally.
The book does a very good job examining the politics of conservative evangelical Republican-Christianity, and how the politics are often built in to the culture itself. So it raises my hackles a bit when 1) Homeschooling is portrayed as the sole domain of conservative evangelicals (plus or minus skirt-wearing homesteaders), 2) Abstention from, say, pop music/culture/Facebook/whatever is portrayed as The Weirdest Thing Ever, and 3) Belief is portrayed as silly or unnecessary. Usually), and the book does a superb job contrasting the smart, ambitious women with their accepted idea of being a wife-and-mother, and the reality of male headship that seems culturally inevitable. There were definitely places where the tone bugged me, but overall it's the best diving-into-superconservatice-Christian-culture book I've read.
It also showed that the PHC students are very committed to being a part of the political process and will devote huge amounts of time to internships and volunteer opportunities with politicians who share their values, with the main value being that church and state should NOT be separated.
This begs the question: Why do we train our girls in the same way as men if their roles are to be so different? But this book reminds me that in addition we need to be training our women how to run a home in such a way that it is imminently satisfying, as a center for education, hospitality and productivity -- a place where lively conversation is the norm, where people gather to read and discuss issues, where we feast on food that deeply satisfies, where true fellowship overflows and we create a refuge that refreshes our own families and visitors. The book also covers a troubling time at Patrick Henry in 2006 when a rift developed between Farris and several of the more popular professors on campus. All in all, a compelling book, worthy of reading, but so unflattering to Patrick Henry College that one wonders why Farris ever agreed to the project.
Rosin's diatribe on the recently founded Patrick Henry college unfortunately alienated me even in the introduction, where home education is described as "a relic of the age of separatism and retreat." I nevertheless attempted to suspend my judgment until I had read the thing cover to cover. Ultimately my foremost criticism of this book is simply that it lumps all Evangelical Christians into this particular bubble that she experienced in a very tiny microchosm of conservative religious educators.
My thought while reading was how well Hanna Rosin conveyed a positive image of the students at PHC.
While Jesus Camp gives us a window into the methods that Evangelical Christians are using to indoctrinate their younger children (did you know, by the way, that 75% of homeschooled kids in this country identify as born agains?), God's Harvard is an investigation of Patrick Henry College, an evangelical four year institution. Because they like her- and, ostensibly, because they think that even though she's Jewish and basically writing an expose on their beloved PHC, she still might be saved through their interventions- they tell her lots about their upbringing, their goals, and, as young women getting an education but expected to use it only as a method of enlightening their own 6 or 7 kids, their fears about their futures. Rosin also gets the insiders' story about the firing and subsequent resignations of many popular professors, who, though Christian to the core, are encouraging a bit too much "exploration" for the likings of the college's President.
This book, written from the perspective of a journalist who does not fit the evangelical mold, allowed me to get to know the men and women of Patrick Henry in the same way I might.
She pokes fun at the values of the Evangelical Christian students' families. Now if any of this bothers anyone, let's see what the alternatives are in many families: 1) Poor school performance 2) Kids AND parents dressing like tramps, even when going to church 3) Absence of spirituality at home 4) Entire family has an eye on 2-1/2 Men and other garbage on television.
The places she is very critical and less charitable are where she perceives incongruity or inherent inconsistency in what people say as Christians and what they do, particularly where she sees hypocrisy.