Profile for Lilit Marcus

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Pray Tell: On Joan Rivers And That One Time I Laughed At A Holocaust Joke

Call me a humorless feminist, but I’ve always thought certain subjects were beyond the realm of comedy: Helen Keller, rape, the Holocaust. But then last week I caught a clip of Joan Rivers’ E! show “Fashion Police.” While critiquing a photo of Heidi Klum wearing this dress, Rivers quipped, “The last time a German looked this hot was when they were pushing Jews into the ovens.” And then something odd happened. I laughed.

I’m Jewish. So is Joan Rivers. Does being in “the club” mean that it’s okay to laugh at jokes about our own people? One of the reasons I don’t think Holocaust jokes are funny is that they poke fun at people who are victims, and it’s much funnier to laugh at the bullies. Did I laugh because Rivers was making fun of a German person in relation to the Holocaust, instead of a Jewish one? Keep reading »

Pray Tell: Jenna Miscavige Hill And Megan Phelps-Roper Escape Scientology And the Westboro Baptist Church

This week, two women who escaped from extreme religious sects told their stories. One escaped from Scientology, the other from the Westboro Baptist Church. Although a small number of people grow up inside groups like these in America, it’s as important as it is startling to hear from these women and hear how, even in this modern world, there are still people who want to oppress women, control their bodies, and prevent them from getting educated. Keep reading »

Pray Tell: What Women Should Know About Scientology

These days, Scientology is everywhere – three books are out this month alone, including Pulitzer Prize winner Lawrence Wright’s Going Clear, which has been featured everywhere from CNN to the New York Times Book Review. Yesterday, several ex-members filed a lawsuit against the Church, saying that Scientology kept asking them for more and more money for shadowy projects which were never completed, then had them blacklisted for asking questions about where the money went.

I believe in freedom of religion. But as a longtime religion reporter, I know enough about Scientology to think that the Church is dangerous and harmful. In particular, it’s terrible for the women who join it. It may be funny to watch the Xenu clip from South Park, but many of the labor violations and harsh punishments against women in the Church should give you a sense of why this religion isn’t amusing – it’s scary. Keep reading »

Pray Tell: Megan Fox Considers the Possibility That Celebrity Culture Is the Antichrist

Megan Fox covers this month’s issue of Esquire, and she’d like you to know that she’s actually been religious this entire time.

“I’ve read the Book of Revelation a million times,” she told interviewer Stephen Marche. “It does not make sense, obviously. It needs to be decoded. What is the dragon? What is the prostitute? What are these things? What is this imagery? What was John seeing? And I was just thinking, What is the Antichrist? When war breaks out in the Holy Land, like it is right now, if that is a sign of the immediate end times, then where are the other signs? Is it possible that it’s the Internet or fame itself or celebrity?” Keep reading »

Pray Tell: Why I Write About Religion

Telling people that you write about religion for a living always raises a couple of eyebrows. In the past, I’ve covered everything from fashion to pop culture, but no one ever questioned why someone might be interested in lipstick or TV.

However, religion is one of those things that can scare people just by being mentioned. I’ve been accused of promoting an agenda, of lecturing people, and of being boring – and that’s without putting a single word on a page. As a kid, I learned that you should never talk about religion, sex, or politics in polite company, but it’s only when I write about the first one that people start to clam up or get upset. So, why do I write about religion?

Keep reading »

Pray Tell: What The Brooklyn Hasidic Rape Trial Tells Us About Religion Colliding With The Modern World

In Brooklyn, a 17-year-old girl just testified against the man accused of sexually assaulting her. On the surface, this case is sadly too familiar: she and her accused rapist are both members of a strict right wing sect of ultra-Orthodox Judaism, known as the Satmar Hasidim.

Extreme groups exist in every religion, and Judaism is no exception. However, the Satmar Hasidim are a fringe group within a fringe group. Though they are ultra-Orthodox Jews (meaning that they keep kosher, observe the Sabbath, and follow all the other rules), they differ from other super-religious Jews in that they don’t support the nation of Israel. Like other ultra-Orthodox Jews (this isn’t really a thing in the more liberal branches of Judaism), they keep strict gender segregation, sending boys and girls to different schools that teach different subjects and keeping men and women separated in synagogue. But the rape case currently happening in Brooklyn could blow the roof of the place. Keep reading »

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