Entries Filed Under “Misc.”
PBS has a new special called “God in America” which they are premiering on Monday night. Below is a sneak peek....
She’s not the first Modern Orthodox contestant to bring drama onto a reality TV show. Read my latest essay for the Huffington Post about the trend.
My close friend Joseph Skibell (who was one of the first authors to offer me much-needed advice when I started writing “My Jesus Year”) has a new book out called “A Curable Romantic”. In the video below, he explores the book’s themes and talks about the writing process. Enjoy...
Maybe the “my year doing such and such” fad has jumped the shark. On this morning’s “Today” show, author Hephzibah Anderson talked about her new book about going a year without sex. Video below:
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
You can read the article here...
6 questions for an atheist undercover in an Evangelical church
In the new issue of Esquire magazine, disgraced former governor of Illinois Rod Blagojevich calls himself “blacker than Barack Obama”. Not surprisingly, that caused quite a stir and a quick apology from Blago. What the media hasn’t written much about is the other person Blago compares himself to in that very same article: Mordechai.
In the course of a conversation, he is not only Galileo; he is Teddy Roosevelt and Robin Hood and Bobby Kennedy and Rocky Balboa. And Mordecai of the legend of Purim.
“The Book of Esther.”
“Yeah. And I’m Mordecai. Falsely accused. I didn’t do those things. This whole story is epic. What helps me get up every morning is, I’m fighting the fight for something much larger than me. I’m fighting for what is at the basis of what our country is supposed to be, a place where you’re presumed innocent, where if in fact you did something wrong, the system plays out in such a way where the truth comes out, not people being forced to lie and being squeezed to lie. If you love your country as I do, this is a fight worth fighting.”
You can read the entire Esquire interview here.
I recently wrote two essays which I wanted to share here, both of which are bizarre in their own way. Here are the links:
Slate: The little-know Jewish holiday of Christmas Eve. Seriously.
The Daily Beast: The Jewish condom magnate and the Nazis who stole his company.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below. Thanks!
Of course I had a copy of My Jesus Year with me and autographed a copy for him. Now, if I could only get him to blurb my next book....
ParentDish.com published this quote from Jon:
I just went through Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur and learned about the new year and every Friday is the Shabbat dinner. I love challah bread. I’m learning about Jewish food, going to Zabar’s. I love that place. I’m learning about kosher and when not to order a bacon, egg and cheese and make an ass of myself. Hailey makes fun of me. My mom came to the city on Yom Kippur and asked where all the traffic was. I got from the West Side to Midtown in five minutes. She wants to come to the city every year on Yom Kippur.
If you like these bizarre stories at the intersection of pop culture and religion, follow me on Twitter. I post links to articles like this on a daily basis.
[Hat tip to Alana Newhouse at Tablet for the heads-up on this story.]
“My Jesus Year” comes out in paperback this week and, to celebrate, I created a book trailer to help promote the new edition. Hope you enjoy it...
A friend forwarded this to me. It’s “Hava Nagila” sung by a Texas church. Not sure whether to wince or clap along. Decide for yourself ...
With the right ingredients of salaciousness and scandal, the news appeared to be straight out of a Hollywood screenplay: corrupt politicians, money laundering, people being arrested by the busload, raids on synagogues, an Apple Jacks cereal box stuffed with $97,000 in cash, and rabbis trafficking organs. Allegedly, one paid $10,000 to an impoverished Israeli for his or her kidney and tried to sell it for upward of $150,000 in the United States. The criminal complaint quotes the rabbi as saying he was in the organ business for a decade. (And in a you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up twist, it wasn’t even the day’s only story on Israelis trafficking human body parts.)
Read the entire story on Slate here...
Follow My Jesus Year on Twitter.
Update: I just sent this blog post to Stephen. So he’s checking in throughout the day. Post your well-wishes in the comments section below.
Follow My Jesus Year on Twitter.
Follow My Jesus Year on Twitter.
A Jesus-loving trucker uses big-rigs to attack Hollywood. NBC News reports:
At a recent book signing for “My Jesus Year” (you can buy a copy here), I met some people who asked about my infamous Stephen Baldwin encounter so, for them and anyone else who’s interested, here’s the essay I wrote for the Daily Beast about it. And, as an added bonus, I’ve include the video from my FOX segment where I met Baldwin. (If you’re interested in more updates like this, feel free to follow me on Twitter.) So, without further ado...
Stephen Baldwin is hugging me. Yes, that Stephen Baldwin. And I feel a tad uncomfortable. I should add that I had only met him about an hour ago, here in the green room of a local FOX affiliate. And, yet, here we are--hugging.
Allow me to explain.
Baldwin is the self-proclaimed Jesus Freak of Hollywood. Keep in mind we’re talking about a guy who has starred in movies with less-than-holy names like The Sex Monster and Threesome. But the New York native ditched his ungodly ways and became a born-again Christian about a month after 9/11. Apparently, a terrorist attack on his hometown screamed Armageddon. The Rapture. Resident Evil.But you’ve got to give this guy some credit. Becoming a born-again has completely changed Baldwin’s life. He started his own skate punk ministry (although I’m not really sure what that means), became a cultural advisor to President Bush (um, ditto), and wrote a 2006 memoir about his spiritual sojourn, The Unusual Suspect, a play on the name of the one movie he’s actually famous for. This is a guy who, while appearing on The Celebrity Apprentice, told Donald Trump to take his Sodom and Gomorrah business acumen and shove it. But his book actually made it onto bestseller lists. That’s a testament if I’ve ever heard one.
Call him the PT Barnum of evangelical Christianity. As Esquire’s Sean Gibson once described, “Baldwin’s nurtured a unique kind of religious conviction, one that’s equal parts scripture and Mountain Dew Code Red.” His hard-core fundamentalism--peppered with hyperbolic overuse of the term “dude”--really boils down to this: Accept Jesus or you won’t get into heaven.
As for me, I’m Jewish, from a family of rabbis no less. You can see where Baldwin and I might disagree. And yet here we are, two men of faith, hugging it out in a FOX green room. Rupert Murdoch would be so proud.
Stephen Baldwin’s predilection for all things Christ was actually not news to me. I spent a year immersed in Christian pop culture and let’s just say his name came up a time or two. But I never imagined I would actually meet him. I guess it’s divine intervention that we are both here
promoting books we wrote--mine, a memoir of my year living like a Christian and his a Moral Majority message masked in detective fiction.
As we were chatting about faith, the fact came up that I had visited 52 different Bible Belt churches and not once had someone tried to convert me. Stephen’s pupils went from their default half-mast glazed-over look to the wide-eyed look of a Baldwin on the prowl. Apparently, I had woken the beast.
“How much time do I have before my segment?” he asked his publicist.
“About an hour,” she called back from across the room.
“An hour,” Baldwin said, “should be enough time to convert you, Ben.”
He was taking this challenge as a badge of honor--that somehow he would be thefirst Christian to try and convert me--and actually succeed. My first thought? I’ve been an observant Jew for more than three decades and here was a guy who played Barney Rubble in the Flintstones sequel trying to undo it all in under an hour, like a twisted LensCrafters for the soul. Now that’s chutzpah.
Rolling up his sleeves, Alec’s little brother began spouting verse after Biblical verse. I tried cutting him off, explaining to him that I’ve been an Orthodox Jew my entire life. He could quote either Testament until the Messiah came home, and it wouldn’t make a difference to me. Being a guilt-ridden Jew is part of my DNA and, for better or worse, will always be a part of me. Like Crohn’s disease. Unfortunately for him, these theological acrobatics were simply bouncing off of me, as if I was sporting some sort of military-grade Baldwin-proof vest.
The hour went by. I was still Jewish. He was still the non-Pauly Shore lead in Bio-Dome.
We agreed to disagree. And that’s when I experienced the aforementioned Great Big Baldwin Hug. For some reason, standing there with my Jewy face pressed against his cross necklace, I actually felt bad for the guy. That I had somehow let him down. Sure, I wasn’t going to convert, but I think we both got something out of this back and forth interfaith dialogue. So I told him I would try to catch up with him later that day at his book signing. What can I say, he grows on you.
When I arrived at the bookstore that night, Baldwin was already in front taking questions from the audience. Just as I was sneaking in quietly, he spotted me.
“My Jewish friend Ben just walked in,” he felt compelled to say into the microphone. The crowd whipped around to lay their eyes on the lucky Semite. “Let’s see if we can convert him.”
This time Baldwin opted for a different approach. Instead of pelting me with liturgy, he dialed it back a bit. He talked about his personal journey, how his life was transformed when he stopped being Stephen Freaking Baldwin for just one moment and let a Higher Power in. It was his own spiritual narrative and it was surprisingly, serenely, humbling. Call it the Gospel According to Stephen.
We chatted some more after he finished signing books. I told him I respect him for being a man of faith, and admire his efforts to convert me--twice. After all, his faith obligates him to seek out new converts. He’s just doing his job. Just as I do mine by keeping kosher. He’s looking for fresh meat; I’m trying to avoid the shellfish. I guess at the end of the day, it’s not so hard to take spiritual cues from a guy who appeared on Celebrity Mole--twice.
Benyamin Cohen is the author of My Jesus Year: A Rabbi’s Son Wanders the Bible Belt in Search of His Own Faith (HarperOne). He can be found at www.myjesusyear.com.
- Buy a copy of My Jesus Year
- Watch video clips about My Jesus Year
- Join the My Jesus Year Facebook group
- Follow My Jesus Year on Twitter
My friend Rabbi Shmuley was on MSNBC the other day and mentioned that he was working on a book called “In the Soul of Michael Jackson”. Watch the interview here:
Larry David was on Jon Stewart’s show last night. Enjoy...
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
My buddy Stephen Baldwin is back on the television circuit, this time promoting his new show:
My fascination with Stephen Baldwin continues...
My quote appears on the third page of the article:
“I don’t find it offensive at all,” says Benyamin Cohen, the son and brother of Orthodox rabbis and the author of My Jesus Year, which recounts the tale of his tour through the world of Christianity. “If you’re not Jewish, I have no reason to expect you to follow my laws. I’d rather if people name their kid Cohen than if they name it Britney. At least Cohen means something.”Read the full article here.
Why do you think the majority of contemporary religious satire and parody is written by Jewish writers? Do Christians just not have a sense of humor?
Well, he’s not contemporary anymore, but Mark Twain did a retelling of the Adam and Eve story, of which I was completely unaware. Somebody told me about it recently and I picked it up and started reading it and had to stop because it was so great and so funny, it just made me feel terrible about myself.
But Twain is the exception. When you think of religious literary humor, one tends to think of Philip Roth and Woody Allen, or more recently A.J. Jacobs and Benyamin Cohen.
I don’t know why that is. It may have something to do with the fact that a Jew’s relationship with God is supposed to be one of wrestling. You’re constantly wrestling with God’s truths. And when you start to humanize the characters in the bible, they become more than just objects used to unravel moral lessons. That’s where the comedy starts to seep in.
You can read the full article here.
Below is a two-minute audio clip from the part of his sermon which mentions my book and my journey:
And, here’s a link to the previous article I wrote for the Beast.
Only Quentin Tarantino could direct something like this ... actually looks pretty good:
- Latke Latte: Is there a Starbucks Chanukah blend or is it just a sad, sad, hoax?
- Book him: James Frey, the disgraced author that duped Oprah and the literary world, is taking a stab at channeling God. His next book, as reported by London’s Guardian newspaper, will be a third book of the Bible in which Jesus performs gay marriages and lives with a prostitute. “[It’s] my idea of what the Messiah would be like if he were walking the
streets of New York today,” says Frey. “What would he believe? What would he preach?
How would he live? With who?”
- Turn right at the reindeer: Afraid someone may nab that precious baby Jesus nestled in the snow on your front yard? No worries ... protect baby Jesus with GPS and webcams.
- Nazi nuggets: A New Jersey father was denied a birthday cake with his 3-year-old child’s full name on it by a local supermarket. The kid’s name? Adolf Hitler Campbell. And his little sister’s name is JoyceLynn Aryan Nation Campbell. Seriously.
In honor of the upcoming holiday of Chanukah, here’s a new song that just came out. It’s sung by the brother of Sacha Baron Cohen (aka Borat) and my friend Y-Love, a black Jewish rapper. They’re supposed to be on Conan O’Brien tonight. Yes, I know tonight is the Sabbath. They pre-taped it last night. In the meantime, below is the music video. Enjoy.
For those of you still debating whether or not to buy a copy of ‘My Jesus Year’, have no fear. Amazon is here. They just added the “Look Inside” feature on my page so hesitant buyers can take the book for a test drive before they purchase. Now, there’s no more excuses...
I explained (first-time author, excited to see book in stores, etc.) and, to my surprise, he offered me a pen and asked me to autograph all the copies of ‘My Jesus Year” that were in his store. I did and then he slapped an “Autographed Copy” sticker on it and gave it better placement (see accompanying pic). Maybe I should do that more often.
We’re still looking for pictures of the book in a store near you. Snap a pic and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll post it soon and give you a shout-out.
Rabbi Benjamin Blech, the author of more than a dozen of books including The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Understanding Judaism, is quoted a bunch of times in My Jesus Year. So when I saw on YouTube that he posted his review of Bill Maher’s controversial new film Religulous, I figured I’d share it here. Feel free to discuss in the comments section of this post.
I’ve got to admit, it’s pretty “gosh-darn” (as Sarah Palin would say) cool to see My Jesus Year actually at bookstores. I snapped the two photos below and am trying to collect pictures from as many places as possible. So if you see the book on the shelf at your local store, send in your picture to email@example.com and we’ll post it right here on the blog and mention your name as well.
Oh, and as for the rest of you ... Amazon will be shipping the book out in less than a month. So, assuming you’ve already pre-ordered your copy, you’ll be able to thank UPS as well in due time.
Behold, the teaser trailer for My Jesus Year:
And here’s the Amazon version:
Please feel free to embed either video on your blog or webpage so we can continue to spread the gospel of (My) Jesus (Year).
For those of you who just can’t wait until October 7th, this site is for you. October 7th may be known for many things -- the day of the first transaction on the Helsinki Stock Exchange (1912), the day Pope Mark died (336), the birthday of Australian cricketer Graham Yallop (1952), and the day Hollywood adopted the movie ratings system (1968) -- but this year October 7th brings with it new import. It is the day -- drumroll, please -- of the release of the long-anticipated (by me), much hyped (by me) memoir My Jesus Year: A Rabbi’s Son Wanders the Bible Belt in Search of His Faith (um, also by me).
October 7th is only 1536 hours away. That is when you can finally buy the book your nightstand has been waiting for. In the meantime -- between eating and basic human tasks of functionality -- read this blog, surf this site. It is for you, dear reader. It is for you. (Ok, it’s for me, too.)