iOS app Android app

Mark I. Pinsky
Mark I. Pinsky is the author of the bestselling "The Gospel According to The Simpsons: The Spiritual Life of America’s Most Animated Family" and "The Gospel According to Disney: Faith, Trust and Pixie Dust." He is co-author of "The Gospel According to The Simpsons Leader’s Guide for Group Study." He is currently working on an updated version of The Simpsons book that will discuss religious themes in other animated television shows such as South Park, Futurama, King of the Hill and Family Guy.

Since 1995, Pinsky has covered religion for the Orlando Sentinel, specializing in coverage of evangelical Christianity in the Sunbelt. The immersion of this self-described “nice Jewish boy from Jersey” and “unreconstructed sixties lefty” into evangelical Christian culture is the subject of his latest book, "A Jew Among the Evangelicals." It’s a cause for concern among his family and friends, he notes, tongue firmly in cheek: “Both my son Asher and my friend T.D. Allman have suggested that I have been in the thrall of evangelicals for so long that I have become their sympathetic hostage. Each points to the fact that I seem to be wearing my hair in a poufy way, like a TV preacher.”

The subtitle is from a book by the 12th century Jewish sage, Maimonides, “A Guide for the Perplexed.” Writing for Jews, mainline Christians and others who are baffled by the rise of evangelicals, Pinsky intends the book to be an introduction for the uninitiated.

Pinsky’s journalism career began in the 1960s at Duke University, where he wrote a column called “The Readable Radical” for the campus daily. After graduation, he worked for several underground papers before heading to Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism where he earned his M.S.J. He spent most of the 1970s in the Southeast as a freelance writer, covering racial and criminal justice trials and the death penalty for outlets such as the New York Times. After stints in China and Northern Ireland, he joined the Los Angeles Times in 1985, writing about religion, the performing arts, philanthropy, courts and criminal justice.

His writing on faith, media and popular culture appears in such magazines as Christianity Today, Moment, The Columbia Journalism Review, Quill and Harvard Divinity Bulletin. His reporting has also appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post.

Pinsky, 59, lives in Maitland, Fla., with his wife, photographer Sarah M. Brown, and their children, Asher and Liza. The family worships at the Congregation of Reform Judaism in Orlando.

Entries by Mark I. Pinsky

Saint Junipero Serra: A Second Thought

(1) Comments | Posted September 25, 2015 | 5:10 PM

In canonizing Father Junipero Serra in Washington, D.C. on September 23, Pope Francis signaled that the Vatican believes the founder of the California mission system did his best for Native Americans. Serra's defenders say it is unfair to judge the 18th century Franciscan missionary by contemporary standards. Even though thousands...

Read Post

Islam, Satire & The Simpsons

(3) Comments | Posted June 25, 2015 | 1:45 PM

In the latest salvo of anti-Islamic cartoons aimed at the Muslim community, Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders has broadcast derogatory images of the Prophet Muhammad on Netherlands television.

Islamic tradition prohibits any representation of Muhammad, and previously published images have enraged Muslims around the world, leading to violent attacks...

Read Post

Martin Scorsese To Direct 'Silence', Movie About Jesuit Mission To 17th-Century Japan

(10) Comments | Posted September 7, 2014 | 8:07 AM

(RNS) Although evangelical moviemakers have been in the spotlight lately with features such as “Son of God” and “God’s Not Dead,” at least one other prominent, mainstream director is also turning — or returning — to religion.

Martin Scorsese, whose 1988 film “The Last Temptation of Christ” ignited national controversy,...

Read Post

Cancun: Save the Iguanas!

(0) Comments | Posted May 30, 2014 | 2:40 PM

It was the twilight of the iguana.
From the rainbow-arched battlements
his tongue like a dart plunged into the greenness...
-- "Algunas bestias" (Some Beasts), Pablo Neruda

Imagine: For nearly 30 years, a valuable patch of resort real estate on Mexico's Caribbean coast is left as an...

Read Post

Stand Your Ground (White Man)

(43) Comments | Posted February 13, 2014 | 2:05 PM

As difficult as it may be for those outside Florida to comprehend -- much less accept -- there is a slim but real possibility that a white software engineer may escape punishment for killing an unarmed black teenager. A predominantly white jury, now considering the first-degree murder charge in Jacksonville,...

Read Post

Happy 100th, Norm

(0) Comments | Posted February 4, 2014 | 1:10 PM

My friend, Dr. Norman M. Wall, was convinced -- to an absolute certainty -- that on Feb. 9, 2014, he would be celebrating his 100th birthday.

At our weekly luncheons, where he was invariably dapper and immaculately turned out, he would talk about whether this weekend's observance should be a...

Read Post

War on Poverty at 50: Religion's Roots and Lessons

(1) Comments | Posted January 8, 2014 | 8:56 AM

HOT SPRINGS, North Carolina

The 50th anniversary of Lyndon Johnson's launch of the War on Poverty reminds us how intractable that effort can be, despite the hope and determined idealism when the legislation was signed.

Appalachia was one of the targets for the newly-established Office of Economic Opportunity, utilizing programs...

Read Post

Juggling Faith and Forensics

(0) Comments | Posted November 21, 2013 | 11:46 AM

HOT SPRINGS, North Carolina

When I switched from the crime beat to covering religion -- during the height of the televangelism scandals in the 1980s - I joked to my newspaper colleagues that the only difference was that I would be encountering "a better class of felon," or...

Read Post

The Simpsons' Springfield Finds a Home

(2) Comments | Posted November 4, 2013 | 5:50 PM

ORLANDO -- For fans of The Simpsons, the long-standing debate on where the iconic family's hometown of Springfield is located is finally settled. It's Central Florida, in particular, here at Universal Studios Florida.

Over the years, the series' creators and writers have scattered tantalizing, coy, and intentionally contradictory hints about...

Read Post

The "Old Grayson": He's Back

(0) Comments | Posted October 31, 2013 | 1:03 PM

Was it just a gentle, instructive chiding from a senior party leader to an obstreperous junior member? Or something more?

Last week, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, criticized fellow Florida Rep. Alan Grayson for comparing the Tea Party to the Ku Klux Klan in a...

Read Post

Book Tour Stop: Scene of the Crime

(0) Comments | Posted October 30, 2013 | 6:06 PM

HOT SPRINGS, North Carolina - Book tours are rarely the stuff of high drama, but when one stop includes the scene of an infamous crime you claim to have solved, the tension and the room temperature tend to rise.

I recently came to this small town to read from...

Read Post

George Zimmerman: The Trial He Should Have Had

(164) Comments | Posted July 21, 2013 | 3:16 PM

Years ago as a freelance writer, I made a specialty of covering trials involving racial justice and capital punishment in the South, as well as less political but more sensational defendants like serial killer Ted Bundy and Green Beret Capt. Jeffrey MacDonald. Ultimately, despite the excitement and high profile exposure...

Read Post

Joel Hunter: Politics Are Costing Him Church Members At Northland Church

(20) Comments | Posted July 9, 2013 | 11:50 AM

LONGWOOD, Fla. (RNS) There’s a price to pay for becoming the voice of moderate conservatism and coalition politics. Even more so for refusing to march in lockstep with the Republican Party.

Ask the Rev. Joel Hunter of Northland Church, Florida’s largest evangelical congregation. Hunter, 65, says his suburban megachurch may...

Read Post

The Zimmerman Trial: How It Ends

(150) Comments | Posted July 9, 2013 | 11:47 AM

Now that the prosecution has rested and the defense is presenting its case, the odds of George Zimmerman being convicted of second degree murder in the fatal shooting of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin are hurtling toward zero.

Of course, if there is an acquittal, the state can say...

Read Post

Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman: Whose Ground to Stand?

(202) Comments | Posted June 25, 2013 | 12:21 PM

The burden of Southern history -- and Florida history in particular -- hovers over the trial of George Zimmerman, accused of second degree murder in the fatal shooting of the unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin: hundreds of years of slavery, white supremacist terror, segregation, and persistent racism.

But jurors...

Read Post

Trayvon Martin Trial: What to Expect

(1635) Comments | Posted June 2, 2013 | 8:18 PM

While handicapping a high-profile criminal trial before it begins is always a chancy undertaking, the outline -- if not the outcome -- is beginning to emerge in the murder prosecution of George Zimmerman for the Feb. 26, 2012, fatal shooting of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin.

Read Post

Cobalt Blue: Kundalini for Dummies?

(9) Comments | Posted February 15, 2013 | 7:26 AM

Although a religion writer by trade, I confess that some faith traditions and practices have remained mysterious to me, eluding understanding even for a reporter covering America's increasingly pluralistic, spiritual landscape.

But I've found that fiction can sometimes do what forbidding, serious scholarship cannot: provide insight into another's faith and,...

Read Post

A Tour of Turkey's Synagogues

(47) Comments | Posted January 10, 2013 | 5:40 AM

Appeared originally in the Forward.

Leon Elnekave, the affable leader of the dwindling Jewish community of Bursa, Turkey's old Ottoman capital, met my wife and me on a narrow, cobbled lane and unlocked the black wrought iron gate to the 500-year-old Gerush Synagogue. As he led us into...

Read Post

Alan Grayson, Jewish Democrat, Rides Hispanic Support Back to Washington

(12) Comments | Posted November 13, 2012 | 9:55 AM

Originally published by The Forward.

ORLANDO -- Thanks to overwhelming support from a growing Puerto Rican community in Central Florida, Alan Grayson, the pugnacious Jewish Democrat ousted in the Tea Party wave of 2010, is returning to Congress after a historic landslide.

Grayson's success comes after the...

Read Post

Learning From Dis(Ability): The Beautiful Stories of Faith, Disability and Inclusion

(9) Comments | Posted July 14, 2012 | 7:34 AM

As someone outside the disability community, I thought myself an unlikely choice to write a book about the faith dimension of disability. Over two decades as a religion writer for daily newspapers, I had written just a handful of stories about the subject.

But the Alban Institute, a religion think...

Read Post