For such an argument, see John van der Zee’s Agony in the Garden (Feb. 2003).




A flabby account of a dispiriting matter—namely, sexual abuse at the hands of priests.

In the 1980s and before, writes journalist France (Bag of Toys: Sex, Scandal, and the Death Mask Murder, 1992), without offering much in the way of evidence, little attention was given to instances of such abuse “thanks to cozy relationships among the Church, courts, and media.” That that priestly crime now commands the front pages of so many newspapers owes much to laypeople who, disgusted at what they perceived to be inaction and even cover-up on the part of the Catholic hierarchy, took matters into their own hands in communities across the country. American Catholics have effected such rebellions in the past, France suggests, offering as a useful example their overwhelming rejection of Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical on birth control, “the most disastrous for the Church in modern times,” which even the national conference of bishops opposed. That encyclical, France argues, was symptomatic of the Church’s unrealistic attitude on matters of sex, particularly in light of the sexual revolution sweeping the outside world at the time. The “generation of clerics who entered seminary in the buttoned-up 1950s and reemerged in the 1960s” behaved badly, so much so that a psychological report to the 1971 synod of bishops estimated that only “10–15 percent of all priests in Western Europe and North America are mature.” The bulk of France’s account is given over to campaigns on the part of the laity to remove “immature” priests from office, very often against the wishes of the Church itself, which has instead sought to protect the good name of bad people. His narrative, however, is excessively anecdotal and too often unfocused; a tighter, more economical argument would have been more useful, especially on so controversial a subject.

For such an argument, see John van der Zee’s Agony in the Garden (Feb. 2003).

Pub Date: Jan. 20, 2004

ISBN: 0-7679-1430-9

Page Count: 688

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2003

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This fictional history of a church records not just the architectural changes it underwent over the years, but the links and connections with both the congregation that built the church and the culture that spawned it. A close collaboration between Otto and Lloyd (the team behind What Color Is Camouflage?, 1996) has resulted in a story told equally through pictures and text; it depicts how central a church was to the growth of community in early pioneer days. The first church was a log cabin constructed of trees felled from the hill where it was built. Meetings, weddings, births, and deaths were marked under that roof; when the church burns down, a sturdier structure replaces it. The landscape and the culture change around the church; eventually men and women share the pews, and the sermon is in English, instead of German. With the coming of electricity, the church is closed down, and only swallows inhabit its rafters. Several decades later, it is renovated and re-opened by loving restorationists who appreciate its history. In a style remniscent of American primitives, Lloyd records important storytelling details such as the pots and baskets used to carry meals to those building the church. By capturing such particulars, from the archaic sound of people’s names to the creeping suburban sprawl, Otto and Lloyd create a record of the larger picture of transformation in the landscape. (Picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-8050-2554-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1999

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An impressive monograph by two scholars well-positioned to examine the impact of religion on secular life.



Two biblical scholars combine to dig into the actions and words of the billionaire Green family, founders of the Hobby Lobby chain of craft stores.

Moss (New Testament/Univ. of Notre Dame) and Baden (Hebrew Bible/Yale Divinity School), co-authors of Reconceiving Infertility: Biblical Perspectives on Procreation and Childlessness (2015), focus on the lawsuit filed by the Greens that reached the Supreme Court in 2014. The Greens, who have long been major funders of evangelical Christian initiatives, believed they possessed the right as business owners to ignore federal law requiring employers to cover the costs of contraceptives for employees. In a 5-4 decision, the justices sided with the Greens. The authors explain how the family arrived at their view of the prosperity gospel: due to their literal interpretations of the Bible and their generosity to evangelical Christian causes, God rewarded them with widespread business success. Patriarch David Green claimed that the legal battle occurred because the family could not abide abandoning religious beliefs to obey a provision of the federal government’s Affordable Care Act, signed by President Barack Obama. The authors began their deep dive into the Green empire after becoming aware of the vast sums the family was spending to inject religion into school curricula, to collect rare biblical manuscripts, and to open a massive Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., which is currently under construction. Moss and Baden portray the Green family members and their key executives as sincere evangelicals and benevolent employers. Throughout the book, however, they also show the Greens as naïve or disingenuous. To be sure, the family’s proselytizing is not neutral. Rather, they are promoting a historically inaccurate saga of the U.S. as an exclusionary Christian nation meant to marry church and state.

An impressive monograph by two scholars well-positioned to examine the impact of religion on secular life.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-691-17735-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: July 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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