Similar elements drawn from distinctly disparate sources, presented with a beguiling blend of good humor and serious intent.

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MORALITY FOR MUGGLES

ETHICS IN THE BIBLE AND THE WORLD OF HARRY POTTER

With added input from some of his fifth-to seventh-grade students, a rabbi and private-school teacher reflects on values in the Harry Potter series and finds parallels in the Torah and Talmud.

Taking “life’s eternal questions” as his purview (“Sorry, not witchcraft and magic wands”), Rosenberg begins with personal behaviors (“Breaking the Rules,” “Manners”) and broadens the perspective as he goes to, ultimately, “Death,” “Good and Evil” and “Love.” He makes comparisons throughout—between Harry’s breaking rules for need, not fun and Elijah’s technically illegal “showdown” with the prophets of Ba’al on Mount Carmel; between the trios of Harry, Ron and Hermione and Moses, Aaron and Miriam; the bittersweet repentances of Snape and of David. They are only sometimes a little stretched and, except when he discounts the racist overtones some readers perceive in Rowling’s house elves (but does rebuke her for her treatment of the gnomes), clearly reasoned overall. Closing with 20 pages of generally engaging student essays (“Even though what Harry did was a little ‘braver,’ what Moses did was a little more sensible”) and a gathering of specific Bible references, the author gently eases even less contemplative readers into considering, as one chapter head puts it, “What Really Matters.”

Similar elements drawn from distinctly disparate sources, presented with a beguiling blend of good humor and serious intent. (Literary criticism/religion. 10-13, adult)

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-60280-183-7

Page Count: 128

Publisher: KTAV

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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PIONEER CHURCH

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.

BIBLE NATION

THE UNITED STATES OF HOBBY LOBBY

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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