Starred Review. Beal, a religion scholar who took his family on a summer RV tour of some of America's oddest religious sites, explores the varieties of religious experience while daring to be vulnerable and personal about his own faith. Whether he's tackling the popularity of biblical mini-golf courses or Precious Moments figurines, Beal (Religion and Its Monsters) uncovers serious questions about religion and its sometimes highly singular practitioners. It's clear that the sites he finds most compelling are those whose creator has stepped out of the mainstream to carry out a quixotic personal vision, like the Maryland man who is building a gigantic replica of Noah's Ark to the size specified in the Book of Genesis; or the quiet Alabama Catholic who discovered his life's calling in transforming throwaway items (lipstick tubes, broken china) into sacred grottoes and replicas of biblical and historic sites. (Beal doesn't have as much patience with the slick Orlando theme park Holy Land Experience, which he calls "a fundamentalist Magic Kingdom.") The book is full of gentle humor and clever observations, such as when Beal notes that the World's Largest Ten Commandments site, in rural North Carolina, makes "a graven image of the prohibition against graven images." Although he can be critical, Beal is never cynical or snide, guiding readers to an informed understanding rather than simply proffering these sites as case studies in a religious freak show. (May 15) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Beal chose to discover religion in contemporary America by traveling with his wife and two children in a rented 29-foot-long motor home to visit roadside religious attractions. He reports about 11 of those, such truly unusual places as Holy Land USA in Bedford County, Virginia; Golgotha Fun Park in Cave City, Kentucky; Biblical Mini-Golf in Lexington, Kentucky; and God's Ark of Safety in Frostburg, Maryland. The book is full of good humor, and Beal doesn't patronize the creators of these attractions but accords them respect and dignity. He takes the attractions seriously, as unique expressions of the religious imagination and examples of "outsider religion." Part of his purpose in writing the book, aside from slaking his own curiosity, lay in discovering not only what kind of person would go to such lengths to display personal faith so publicly but also, and more important, why. Why write the Ten Commandments in five-foot-tall concrete letters on the side of a mountain? Why use miniature golf to tell the Creation story? Entertaining, quirky, and surprisingly thoughtful. June Sawyers
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
A bit too scattered for a fully effective presentation of the weird stuff in American rural religion but a fun read nonetheless.Published 8 months ago by John C Holbert
I enjoyed reading this book - funny as well as inspiring. Having been to three of the places in this book I felt this was a well written account of those interesting home grown,... Read morePublished on March 22, 2011 by Beverly Leach