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



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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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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