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A Brave New Book: Kelly J. Baker’s Gospel According to the Klan: The KKK’s Appeal to Protestant America, 1915-1930

A Brave New Book: Kelly J. Baker’s Gospel According to the Klan: The KKK’s Appeal to Protestant America, 1915-1930

By Kenny Smith….
Dr. Kelly J. Baker is a lecturer in Religious Studies and Americanist Studies at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Seemingly indefatigable, she has written for numerous academic and popular publications, has two additional books and several scholarly articles currently in the works, serves an editor for the award-winning American Religious History blog, oversees panels and groups within the American Academy of Religion and American Studies Association, all the while teaching a full-load of university-level courses each semester, raising a young daughter, and encouraging aspiring graduate students at other institutions. A glance at her resume suggests a broad range of teaching and research interests: world religions in America, apocalyptic and Rapture-oriented movements, the figure of the zombie in contemporary culture, religious in/tolerance in the South Park series, and of course, the early 20th century rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan and its relationship to “mainstream” American religion and culture, precisely the focus of her new book, Gospel According to the Klan: The KKK’s Appeal to Protestant America, 1915-1930

Creatures of the Night: In Search of Ghosts, Vampires, Werewolves, and Demons by Dr. Gregory L. Reece

Creatures of the Night: In Search of Ghosts, Vampires, Werewolves, and Demons by Dr. Gregory L. Reece

Kate Daley-Bailey
Before sparkly vampires like Edward Cullen, before Count Orlok of Nosferatu, even before Bram Stoker’s classic tale of Dracula, there were the vampire tales of European folklore. As Reece suggests, these early prototypes of the vampire are far-less glamorous that the stylized, Gothic vampires of Polidori, Le Fanu, and Stoker. They attack cattle as well as humans, resemble bloated ticks when exhumed, and they more physically favor our conception of a zombie than the modern day vampire. Not only does Reece present a thorough but enjoyable romp through the history of the vampire, he also explores research about various real-life vampire communities, such as work done by Joseph Laycock in Vampires Today: The Truth about Modern Vampires. Perhaps the most fascinating chapter in Reece’s book, according to this reviewer, is his chapter on werewolves, a chapter which plays upon the concepts presented in folktales made familiar by The Brothers Grimm, Perrault, and Paul DeLarue.

Mutants and Mystics

Mutants and Mystics

Carl Gregg, Patheos Book Club……
Have you ever been a comic book lover? Have you ever had a paranormal experience? If so, the author reports that his ideal reader is “Someone who (a) has undergone a profound paranormal event and (b) is obsessed with science fiction or superhero comics and does not know why.” As a lover of comic books in my teenage years and as a certified religion nerd fascinated by all things paranormal, I am perhaps dead center of Kripal’s target audience.

Review of Anthony Le Donne, Historical Jesus: What Can We Know and How Can We Know It?

Review of Anthony Le Donne, Historical Jesus: What Can We Know and How Can We Know It?

By James F. McGrath, Exploring Our Matrix….
Perhaps the most important contribution of this “new perspective on history” is its emphasis that the earlier quests for uninterpreted facts was misguided. When we consider something or someone significant, we interpret it. And unless we find something significant, we do not remember it. Therefore, all memory is interpreted. This should not surprise anyone, and yet the modern quest for certainty has trained many of us to desire more, even if such desires can never be satisfied.

So, Is Wal-Mart A Religion? A Review of Bethany Moreton’s, To Serve God and Wal-Mart: The Making of Christian Free Enterprise

So, Is Wal-Mart A Religion? A Review of Bethany Moreton’s, To Serve God and Wal-Mart: The Making of Christian Free Enterprise

By Kenny Smith……
But Wal-Mart also offered its customers “full fledged identity politics,” a sense that it was “preserving a version of America that its constituents felt was endangered.” (41) Through the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, Wal-Mart stores increasingly instantiated mainstays of rural, white, evangelical culture, such as country music, a patriarchal family structure, the “purging” of morally objectionable cultural media (e.g., music and magazines with sexually explicit content), and the “blending” and “intermingling” of evangelical worship and retail sales, for instance, hosting live in-store performances of Christmas devotional music to promote increased holiday sales.

Did the First Christians Worship Jesus?: A Review

Did the First Christians Worship Jesus?: A Review

The doctrine of the Trinity, which is the traditional answer to this dilemma is not only baffling to our monotheist friends, but it is a bit baffling to many Christians as well. Words like essence, substance, and even person make little sense outside their Greek philosophical foundations. Whatever theological answers have emerged over time, as Christians have wrestled with and reflected upon the biblical witness, a satisfactory answer to the question of whether worship should be given to Jesus requires us to attend to the New Testament evidence.

Julian of Norwich: A Review

Julian of Norwich: A Review

It was into this world, one in which superstition and fear made themselves felt, where dissent was viewed with suspicion, and the voice of an educated woman was rarely welcomed, that Julian of Norwich appeared on the scene. Although there were few places where a woman, especially an inquisitive one, could safely explore intellectual and spiritual ideas, the convent and the anchorage provided that kind of safe space. Julian of Norwich has become a well-known figure in the modern age among those who desire to engage the mystical side of the Christian faith.

Stories and Signals - My Morning with Robert Jensen’s All My Bones Shake: Seeking a Progressive Path to the Prophetic Voice

Stories and Signals – My Morning with Robert Jensen’s All My Bones Shake: Seeking a Progressive Path to the Prophetic Voice

Recently, I sat down with Jensen’s newest book, All My Bones Shake: Seeking a Progressive Path to the Prophetic Voice (Soft Skull Press, 2009). This is truly an ambitious work, one that hopes to integrate two often antagonistic perspectives not only within Jensen’s intellectual life and lived experience, but contemporary American society: the secular, even atheistic, social critic who has no interest in religion (and who may see religion as part of the problem, rather than part of the solution); and the visionary, prophetic voice deeply grounded in religious community.

Hannah's Child: A Theologian's Memoir

Hannah’s Child: A Theologian’s Memoir

In 2001, just one day before the events of 9-11 transpired, Time Magazine announced its selection of Stanley Hauerwas as America’s most important theologian. Although there may be dissent as to whether Hauerwas deserves the honor, the fact that a general news magazine would deem the Duke Divinity School theologian and ethicist worthy of the honor suggests that he has impacted America’s religious and public life. But, who is Stanley Hauerwas? What has he done and said and written that has attracted the attention not just of the religious press but the secular press as well?

Memoirs offer persons of note the opportunity to define themselves, to lay out their own sense

Year of Living Biblically: A Book Review

Year of Living Biblically: A Book Review

Throughout the year long transformation documented in his book, Jacobs’ life goes from being a secular endeavor to a routine suitable for living a biblical existence. He undergoes such feats as: blowing a rams horn or shofar to signal the start of every month, avoids making any graven images, opting instead for two-dimensional shapes even when he’s playing with his son, refrains from touching all women for fear of their being ‘unclean’ that week, even carries around a chair to ensure he never sits somewhere an ‘unclean’ woman may have, the consulting of a shatnez (mixed fiber) tester to make sure the cloth of what he wears is only made of one kind of fiber, and the adherence to biblical laws about eating which besides providing forbiddance against cheeseburgers, also lead to the tasting of a cricket.