Maybe you have seen the board games. Christianity has Vatican: The Board Game; Journeys of Paul, Armor of God and Divinity (the only game to have the imprimatur of the Catholic Church). Islam and Judaism have Race to the Kabah, Mecca to Medina, Exodus, and Kosherland. Buddhism has Karma Chakra and BuddhaWheel. And then there are the dollsaplush and plastic talking Bible dolls, Christian action figures, and talking Muslim dolls that teach Arabic.
Have we humans blended fun with spirituality for good or for ill? And what does all of this say about our insatiable need for fun?
Written with verve and a healthy dollop of humor, "Toying with God" examines the sometimes zany world of religious games and dolls, from pre-history to today. Packed with examples that propel the narrative (and add immeasurably to readersa knowledge of religious trivia), this is a must-read for anyone interested in the intersection of popular culture and spirituality.
SNikki Bado-Fralick is Associate Professor and Director of the Religious Studies Program, Iowa State University. She lives in Ames, Iowa.Rebecca Sachs Norris is Associate Professor and Chair of Religious and Theological Studies, Merrimack College. She lives in the Boston, Massachusetts area.
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. Theyd rather cast dice than throw stones.
- Publishers Weekly
- Its only a game. How often have parents said this to children upset over losing a game? Games and leisure activities throughout the ages have flown under the radar, so entirely woven into the fabric of everyday life that religious studies scholars seldom regarded them as worthy of examination. Against the serious business of scriptural exegesis and high ritual, religious games and dolls seem to express a trivial form of play. Until recently this meant they were often overlooked as subjects of scholarly inquiry. But as artifacts of religious practice, of what folklorist Leonard Primiano (1995) calls "vernacular religion," or what Nikki Bado-Fralick terms the level of "individuals-practicing" (2005), religious dolls and games serve an important pedagogical function: they educate and proselytize within the context of play, and that play raises serious questions.
- excerpted from the Introduction