A welcome addition to the vast library on American religious discord.

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MORAL COMBAT

HOW SEX DIVIDED AMERICAN CHRISTIANS AND FRACTURED AMERICAN POLITICS

Thoughtful study of the great schism between religious conservatives and progressives about women’s control over their own bodies.

It may be hard to believe, but there was a time when many evangelical Christians were not against—and some even actively supported—abortion and its legalization. Indeed, writes Griffith (Director, Danforth Center on Religion and Politics/Washington Univ.; American Religions: A Documentary History, 2007, etc.), in 1969, a survey of Texas Baptists revealed that 90 percent “felt their state’s abortion law should be loosened.” What happened in the intervening years? By the author’s account, the story stretches back a century and more, to the time of Margaret Sanger on one side and Anthony Comstock on the other and their war over the issue of contraception. Through Comstock’s agitation, the federal government had made it illegal, as long ago as 1873, to even possess a pamphlet advocating contraception. Sanger’s militant working-class Catholicism, lashed with socialism and other progressive causes, would have made her a public enemy in her time in any event, but interestingly, as Griffith notes, she was strategically crafty in recruiting Protestant clergy to what boiled down to a fairly simple thesis: laws governing the “morality” of women should be “crafted by women themselves.” Though academically rigorous, Griffith’s account is both accessible and eye-opening: it simply astonishes that Christian organizations were instrumental in “family life”—meaning sex—education. But that’s one flavor of Christianity, of course; the other is a rigorously fundamentalist one, and the two eventually pitched “a battle over the moral framework in which sexual knowledge would be embedded and over who had the right to determine just what those frameworks would be.” As with every other battle in every other arena in which conservatives and progressives face off, the heat rose with the rise of Donald Trump; Griffith hopes that one day the rancor will finally “rouse a fractured nation to build a bearable peace.”

A welcome addition to the vast library on American religious discord.

Pub Date: Dec. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-465-09475-2

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2017

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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