Oppenheimer, Mark 1974–
Oppenheimer, Mark 1974–
PERSONAL: Born 1974, in Springfield, MA. Education: Jonathan Edwards College, B.A., 1996; Yale University, Ph.D., 2003.
AWARDS, HONORS: Mellon fellowship in humanistic studies, 1997; John Addison Porter Prize, Yale University, 2003; Top-Ten Books in Religion citation, Booklist, 2004, for Knocking on Heaven's Door: American Religion in the Age of Counterculture.
Knocking on Heaven's Door: American Religion in the Age of Counterculture, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 2003.
Thirteen and a Day: The Bar and Bat Mitzvah across America, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2005.
Contributor to numerous periodicals, including New Yorker, Christian Century, American Scholar, Harper's, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, Yale Review, Hartford Courant, Playboy, and Slate.
SIDELIGHTS: Mark Oppenheimer's book Knocking on Heaven's Door: American Religion in the Age of Counterculture is adapted from his doctoral thesis for Yale University. Through case studies of mainstream denominations, Oppenheimer reveals that the counter-culture movement that began in the 1960s and ended in the mid-1970s did not reveal itself primarily through fringe religions and cults but was rather addressed by large bodies of believers in established Catholic and Protestant churches and in Jewish synagogues. By concentrating on the Unitarian Church, small Jewish worship groups, changes to Catholic liturgy, ordination of female Episcopal priests, and anti-war challenges to the Southern Baptist Convention, Oppenheimer demonstrates that wider issues of the times managed to influence both conservative and liberal religious denominations. As Maurice Timothy Reidy noted in America, Oppenheimer's work "sets out to examine how five 'mainstream' religious traditions adapted—or failed to adapt—to the spirit of the age."
In her Christian Century review of Knocking on Heaven's Door, Marcia Z. Nelson praised Oppenheimer for taking "a fresh look at an era popularly known for its assault on all things traditional and sacred." Nelson further observed that the author "offers a study of organizational transformation and persistence that can reassure those who are nervous and defensive about attacks on esteemed institutions…. His interpretation is fresh, carefully grounded and footnoted, and very readable. This study of the dance of institutional resistance and change is a welcome antidote to voices proclaiming decline in American religious forms." In American Jewish History, J. Shawn Landres called Knocking on Heaven's Door "enthusiastic and well written, and the case studies are valuable field reports…. Oppenheimer's conclusions, though incomplete, are insightful." Reidy concluded that Oppenheimer "is a sharp and witty writer and his book is … fun to read…. The questions he raises—how and when should religious institutions adapt to the culture?—are more relevant than ever."
Thirteen and a Day: The Bar and Bat Mitzvah across America is Oppenheimer's examination of the important Jewish religious rite of passage that welcomes young teenagers into membership in the faith. Oppenheimer reveals the Bar/Bat Mitzvah to be not only an opportunity for a lavish personal celebration, but also a deeply moving religious experience for young men and women from all parts of America, from Arkansas to Alaska.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
America, May 10, 2004, Maurice Timothy Reidy, review of Knocking on Heaven's Door: American Religion in the Age of Counterculture, p. 20.
American Enterprise, December, 2004, Naomi Schaefer Riley, "Religion '60s-Style,'" review of Knocking on Heaven's Door, p. 56.
American Jewish History, June, 2003, J. Shawn Landres, review of Knocking on Heaven's Door, p. 328.
Booklist, October 1, 2003, Bryce Christensen, review of Knocking on Heaven's Door, p. 286; October 1, 2004, Ray Olson, review of Knocking on Heaven's Door, p. 302.
Books & Culture, November-December, 2003, Alan Wolfe, "How the Counterculture Went to Church," review of Knocking on Heaven's Door, p. 34.
Christian Century, May 4, 2004, Marcia Z. Nelson, review of Knocking on Heaven's Door, p. 39.
First Things, November, 2004, review of Knocking on Heaven's Door, p. 60.
Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2005, review of Thirteen and a Day: The Bar and Bat Mitzvah across America, p. 339.
Library Journal, October 15, 2003, James A. Overbeck, review of Knocking on Heaven's Door, p. 73.
Publishers Weekly, August 25, 2003, review of Knocking on Heaven's Door, p. 59.
Wall Street Journal, November 11, 2003, George Sim Johnston, review of Knocking on Heaven's Door, p. D8.
Holtzbrinck Publishers Web site, htt//www.holtzbrinckpublishers.com/ (February 24, 2005), "Mark Oppenheimer."