A short, flattering biography.
I used to think I was the only living writer to have contributed to both The Christian Century and Playboy. But then someone told me Harvey Cox also did that. But these days I mainly write warm, humanistic, prematurely nostalgic stuff like this.
I write for The New York Times Magazine, The Believer, Salon, Slate, Mother Jones, The Nation, and elsewhere. I write a biweekly column about religion for The New York Times and a monthly column about fatherhood for The New Republic. Although much of my writing has been about religion (I have a Ph.D. in American religious history), I also write about politics, urbanism, family, and, as often as possible, myself.
I once had a conversation with a journalist who covers celebrities for magazines like Rolling Stone. She was envious that I got serious assignments — I was envious that she got frivolous ones. Grass always greener ...
My recent publication that is so definitely a bargain at $2.99 is “The Zen Predator of the Upper East Side,” a Kindle “single,” or novella-length e-book, published in a new series from The Atlantic. The story of a legendary Zen Buddhist monk who seduced and exploited numerous female students in his New York meditation center, it has been featured on NPR and excerpted in The New Republic and The Atlantic, and it has forced the issue of reform in the Buddhist community.
Also in 2013, I wrote this e-book about sex abuse in Zen Buddhism and this Atlantic profile of NPR phenom Glynn Washington (“NPR’s great black hope”). In recent years, I have written this profile of Stpehen Burt, “poetry’s cross-dressing kingmaker” (honorable mention in Best American Essays) and this lengthy review of the new collection from Janet Malcolm. A recent piece that I am proud of is my long profile of anti-gay-rights activist Maggie Gallagher, which ran in early 2012 in Salon. I have written many pieces for The New York Times Magazine, including articles about my street, Scientology, New Age diva Louise Hay, an evangelical Christian college’s first dance, and the renunciation of atheism by the philosopher Antony Flew. I also write for Slate, The Nation, and Mother Jones. I am the biweekly religion columnist for The New York Times, and you can find an archive of those columns here. Some favorite columns include this profile of the man who tracks what’s kosher at Starbucks, this piece on retired birth-control opponents, and this look at a lesbian anti-gay-marriage activist.
My latest book, Wisenheimer: A Childhood Subject to Debate, was published in 2010. You can buy it here. I am also the author of two other books, Knocking on Heaven’s Door: American Religion in the Age of Counterculture and Thirteen and a Day: The Bar and Bat Mitzvah Across America.
It’s not “writing,” but I still have to share with you this much-discussed debate between Dan Savage and “traditional marriage” activist Brian S. Brown — which I moderated. On my tombstone, it may read, “He kept them from killing each other.”
Other activities: I often speak to audiences about topics such as journalism, religion, ethics, parenting, and community. I post links to my latest writings on my blog. I teach one class a semester at Yale, and I do not permit my students to bring laptops to class. At the end of the term, they thank me, I swear. I have also taught at Stanford, Wesleyan, and Wellesley, where I was the Robert Garis Visiting Professor of Writing.
Other activities, franker version: Binge-watching Parenthood w/my wife. Hunting on websites and in stores for clothing with dog insignia. Häagen-Dazs. Online dialect quizzes that peg me, accurately, as a Western Massachusetts native.
With my wife, daughters, and dogs, I live in the Westville neighborhood of New Haven, Connecticut. I can be reached at mark.e.oppenheimer@[you know, the email server everyone uses; it starts with a “g”...]