From Publishers Weekly, a short review of a new book co-authored by Nikki Bado-Fralick, my co-editor in the Pagan Studies book series (This book is not a part of that series, however!)
Toying with God: The World of Religious Games and Dolls by Nikki Bado-Fralick and Rebecca Sachs Norris, Baylor Univ.
For Bado-Fralick and Sachs Norris (religious studies professors at Iowa State University and Merrimack College, respectively), religious games and dolls are charged with “the magic of childhood combined with the mystery of religion.”
The authors brilliantly use their subject to reveal a complex interplay between worship and the workings of popular culture. A detour into ancient divination practices using dice, magical dolls, and sports as ritual shows these items to be anything but superficial, and raises a central question: why do religious playthings often evoke feelings of unease?
Like the religious toys it analyses, this book is at once fun and serious business. Dolls like Buddy Christ and Nunzilla or unwinnable Buddhist board games may produce a few perplexed laughs, but a game like Missionary Conquest, won by setting up the most global missions, has an undeniably colonialist edge.
The authors also use toys and dolls to explore consumerism, feminism, politics, and the nature of ritual and play. In this readable and fresh look at religious culture, the authors are critical and respectful. They’d rather cast dice than throw stones.