The Common Good

Blog Posts By Brandon Hook

Posted by Brandon Hook 8 weeks 6 days ago
Last night, Washington, D.C., residents young and old gathered in the Columbia Heights neighborhood to protest the shooting of Michael Brown, stand in solidarity with those on the front lines of continued protests in Ferguson, Mo., and let our governmant and law enforcement officials know that #BlackLivesMatter. The protest was organized by a Howard University student who hails from St. Louis and "needed to do something" given the reports she received from friends and family on the ground in Ferguson.About a dozen Sojourners employees were in attendance. Check out the video below with testimony from two protestors who spent some time over the last week in Ferguson.
Posted by Brandon Hook 22 weeks 16 hours ago
The last time I listened to Nickel Creek was to analyze their adaptation of Robert Burns’ poem, “Sweet Afton,” in my English literature class in college three years ago. Indeed, the waters of Nickel Creek flow gently, a trait reflected in “Sweet Afton” and many other Nickel Creek staples. And that general lack of bite, paired with an almost robotic mastery of each band members’ respective instrument, pushed me away from the band.So it was strange that, with no expectations and an arbitrarily negative perception of the classic folk band, I really enjoyed seeing Nickel Creek reunite in Washington, D.C. after a six-year hiatus. The show, in sum, was really, really good.
Posted by Brandon Hook 22 weeks 1 day ago
I was born in 1990. That puts me squarely in the middle of what is referred to as the millennial generation.It also, apparently, makes me a lazy, entitled, narcissist who still lives with my parents.But that’s beside the point. What’s more important about the date of my birth is that it places me at a distinct and pivotal point in human history: I grew up with the Internet — what they call a “digital native.”I (vaguely) remember when the Internet got popular; having slow, dial-up that made lots of crazy noises whenever you wanted to use it; talking to other angsty teens on AOL Instant Messenger (“AIM”); downloading music on Napster and Kazaa; and then, slowly but surely, having the Internet became engrained in my everyday life as if it was there the whole time.But, like the bratty sibling I grew up with (upon reflection, I was equally, if not more, bratty — #humility #perspective), I’ve recognized that I have a love/hate relationship with the Internet. It’s a game-changer for the human experience, so, like that sibling, I think I’ll always love it. But, for every positive, innovative element of the Internet there is an equal and opposite reaction.
Posted by Brandon Hook 47 weeks 6 days ago
How can we save 40,000 lives in under three minutes?That question served as the provocative title of Israeli medic Eli Beer's TEDMED talk. Beer is the founder and president of Israel-based United Hatzalah (which is Hebrew for "rescue"), a rapid response team of 2,000 skilled volunteers — EMTs who range professionally from "expensive lawyers to people who sell fish or shoes," he said to CNN Health.Beer answered his question this way, "The average response time of a traditional ambulance is 12 to 15 minutes — we reduce it to less than three minutes. Our response is the fastest in the world. We call our approach a lifesaving flash mob. On motorcycles, traffic doesn't stop us. Nothing does."
Posted by Brandon Hook 51 weeks 14 hours ago
It seems rare these days to find an album where each song is valuable both individually and as part of the collective whole that makes up the record. Musicians are always telling us that they “don’t want to make just a few good singles with filler,” but few are able to fulfill those lofty intentions. Wilco did it on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, where the songs were different from themselves and anything Wilco had ever done in the past, and Animal Collective did it more recently on the 2009 album Merriweather Post Pavilion with the opposite approach: each song was unified by a cohesive and consistent sonic palette. Many point to Fleetwood Mac’s 11th studio album Rumours as another example, and there are surely others depending on one’s musical tastes.But I think a newer, much lesser known group has entered that conversation, and they’ve done it on their first studio release, nonetheless. Brooklyn-based Lucius have managed to craft an album with diverse songs, catchy hooks, and really powerful vocals and harmonies stick in your head for days. There isn’t a song on their debut, Wildewoman, I want to skip through. Bob Boilen of NPR’s ‘All Songs Considered’ perhaps says it best when describing their EP: “If it were possible to wear out a digital file, then my copy of Lucius' self-titled 2012 EP would now be scattered digital bits.”
Posted by Brandon Hook 51 weeks 3 days ago
 “I’ve always believed that there’s an amazing number of things you can do through a rock ‘n’ roll song,” Lou Reed, who just this past week passed away, once told the journalist Kristine McKenna.English band Noah and the Whale take that observation and run with it. I had the opportunity of seeing the band live last week, and the show — and their sound — was simple, as nearly every rock song is, yet cathartic and delightful. It mixes elements of Reed and his sixties and seventies peers with Springsteen and sprinkles on touches of indie-folk that’s flourished over the last decade. And the results are marvelous.
Posted by Brandon Hook 1 year 15 hours ago
Life is riddled with a smorgasbord of emotional highs, lows, tragedies, triumphs, and what might feel like monotony to fill in the gaps.On the newest album from Seattle folk and Americana band The Head and the Heart, you can feel the wear and tear of a group who have simply experienced a lot and probably had little time to rest and reflect.“When I think about the two records together, the first one feels like we all wanted to fulfill this dream we’d had about playing music, meeting people and traveling around,” drummer Tyler Williams told Sub Pop. “This one feels like the consequences of doing that — what relationships did you ruin? What other things did you miss? You always think it will all be perfect once you just do ‘this.’ And that’s not always the case.”
Posted by Brandon Hook 1 year 3 weeks ago
Seattle-based folk group The Head and the Heart released their newest single, "Another Story," off of their anticipated upcoming album, Let's Be Still. The song beautifully wrestles with the grief and confusion that struck the country during the chaos that followed the Newtown, Conn., shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School.Check it out below:
Posted by Sandi Villarreal, Brandon Hook 1 year 12 weeks ago
It may have taken a little bit of prodding — a little ‘you-want-me-to-do-what?’ and a lot of faith — but in the end, Congressman John Lewis agreed to go along with staffer Andrew Aydin’s out-of-the-box idea. The result: March (Book 1) — the first of a three-part graphic novel autobiography chronicling Lewis’ life and the Civil Rights Movement.“The story of the movement that we tell is very much John Lewis’ story in this first book,” Aydin said. “It is a story of him growing up poor, on a farm, and it builds to a climax of the national sit-in movement.”Lewis certainly has a lot to tell. He and other activists famously were beaten by police on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., in 1965 during an attempted march for voting rights — an event that became known as “Bloody Sunday.” He served as chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee during the height of the movement, spoke at the historic March on Washington alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and was instrumental in the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.Aydin, who co-wrote the book with Congressman Lewis, and illustrator Nate Powell sat down with Sojourners to explain how the series came about and why it is such an important story these 50 years later.
Posted by Brandon Hook 1 year 13 weeks ago
President Obama addressed the nation today regarding the George Zimmerman trial, giving his thoughts on the nation's response to the verdict and the state of racism in our society.Folks understand the challenges that exist for African-American boys, but they get frustrated, I think, if they feel that there’s no context for it or — and that context is being denied. And — and that all contributes, I think, to a sense that if a white male teen was involved in the same kind of scenario, that, from top to bottom, both the outcome and the aftermath might have been different.You can read the full transcript of his speech here.
Posted by Brandon Hook 1 year 16 weeks ago
Oddly enough, whenever I think about eternal life, Animal Collective come to mind.That might — well, almost certainly will — need some clarification because, as many Christians might be quick to point out, shouldn’t Jesus be the first person that comes to mind, or maybe living on some clouds in a golden city or something?Yes and no. What comes to mind when I think about eternal life is painted by Frederick Buechner’s entry on the subject in his book Wishful Thinking, which I studied for a class in college. Buechner takes religious terms and eloquently and poetically explores what they might mean.
Posted by Brandon Hook 1 year 18 weeks ago
Vampire Weekend are a little like a college-educated version of the rich young ruler in Mark 10. I say a little because, despite the fact that they have gotten flack for being “privileged, boat shoe and cardigan loving Ivy League graduates,” the New York-based foursome actually probably aren’t as wealthy as skeptics think, and the late 20-somethings probably haven’t been as straight edged as the rich young ruler. I mean, they’re rock stars. And even though they went to Columbia University, rock stars aren’t widely renowned for their moral rigidity.But on Vampire Weekend’s third album, Modern Vampires of the City, which was released last month to critical acclaim and commercial success, we find lead singer Ezra Koenig asking honest questions of God, much like the young ruler.On this album, the third in what Koenig sees as a trilogy, Vampire Weekend manage to mature their poppy, eclectic sound, drawing from all sorts of genres and international songs — as they normally do — but also exploring deep questions of morality, love, faith, and belief in complex ways.
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss, Brandon Hook 1 year 18 weeks ago
Days before President Barack Obama's high-profile speech on drones and U.S. counterterrorism efforts, Sojourners sat down with investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill to take an inside look at U.S.-led covert wars and the drones that have become an integral part of our global “war on terror.”His thesis?"After years of traveling in these countries, I really believe that we’re creating more enemies than we’re killing.”In some respects, drones are simply a new tool of old empire. Scahill, author of Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield and producer of the documentary of the same name, now in theaters, calls this an "unending war ... being legitimized under a popular Democratic president, who is a constitutional lawyer by trade.”Indeed, within five years, the Bush administration's invasion of Iraq for terrorist attacks the country did not commit has transformed under the Obama administration into pre-emptive assassinations halfway around the world, for crimes citizens have not yet committed. The result, Scahill suggested, is our collective complicity to “unending war.”
Posted by Brandon Hook 1 year 21 weeks ago
Jesus flips things upside down. DC 127 plans to follow suit.The Washington, D.C.-based foster care initiative created by the District Church seeks to reverse the foster care waitlist in our nation’s capital, leaving parents waiting to foster the 3,000 children currently on the list instead of children waiting to be taken in by families.“The heart behind DC 127 is to reflect God’s heart,” said District Church Lead Pastor Aaron Graham. “We believe there are no orphans in heaven. And Jesus taught us to pray, ‘your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’ And so our prayer is that we would reflect God’s heart, who’s adopted us, by helping adopt and foster kids in D.C.”
Posted by Brandon Hook 1 year 23 weeks ago
Passion and purpose.Sounds familiar, huh? Those two words are at the heart of activism and social justice. I could have safely assumed that almost every young Christian activist at the Justice Conference in Philadelphia back in February was passionate about a particular purposeful cause. I’m surprised a Christian conference hasn’t already picked up on the whole passion and purpose thing for slogan or tag line.Christian conferences aside, I never thought those two words would be the foundation of a cutting-edge music and food festival at Merriwewather Post Pavilion, and certainly not one where 18,000 people were jamming to some of their favorite artists and scurrying over to local food trucks for healthy, delicious food in between sets. Heck, I didn’t know there was such a thing as a festival that focuses on both music and food.
Posted by Brandon Hook 1 year 23 weeks ago
Recent studies from both the Urban Institute and the Pew Forum tell the story of America's growing racial wealth gap. In the May issue of Sojourners magazine, Otis Moss III talked about the unjust trend: The call of the church has been, and always will be, to become the compassionate hands and feet of Christ. Poverty, when attached to race, is the original sin of America, a country built by slave labor and enriched by the unfair labor practices of the Industrial Revolution.Read the full piece HERE.See the full infographic at the jump.
Posted by Brandon Hook 1 year 24 weeks ago
I first got wind of Stornoway back in 2011 when Izzy Westbury was president of the Oxford Union during the Michaelmas term of 2011 at Oxford University while studying abroad. The group of Oxford natives were Izzy’s favorite band at the time, and she made sure to give them a chance to play that I regretfully passed up to grab a pint with some friends.So when the opportunity arose to see Stornoway in Washington, D.C., envelope myself in Oxford nostalgia, and enjoy some good tunes, I couldn’t pass it up.And Stornoway delivered with hopeful, honest songs about life, love, and everything in between. Delightful is probably the best word to describe their music and the experience of seeing them live. It’s like taking a deep, refreshing breath. The British quartet mix elements of beach boys-esque pop with fleet foxes’ harmonies and a low fi, organic feel.
Posted by Sandi Villarreal, Brandon Hook 1 year 24 weeks ago
According to UNICEF, 29,000 children under the age of five – 21 each minute – die every day, mainly from preventable diseases.The GAVI Alliance, a public-private partnership aimed at increasing worldwide access to immunizations, has a goal of reaching 250 million children by 2015. Dr. Mercy Ahun, GAVI special representative in Geneva, sat down with Sojourners to discuss the role of faith-based organizations in helping reach those 250 million,and the role her own personal faith plays in her work.“What really got me into public health is my time in the children’s wards. We were working with children who had preventable diseases,” Ahun said. “… I thought to myself, why should stay here waiting for the children to fall sick before they come to the hospital. It’s better actually to go out there and prevent this in the first place.”
Posted by Brandon Hook 1 year 26 weeks ago
A while back I had an opportunity to sit down and talk with up-and-coming singer-songwriter Nataly Dawn about faith and songwriting. Dawn grew up in France, went to Stanford for undergrad, and made it big on YouTube with a duo called Pomplamoose before signing with Nonesuch records and starting her solo work.This interview was edited for length and content.Nataly: I have to warn you, I’m in a little bit of a food coma; I just made a really big brunch. I had probably five pancakes.Brandon: Wow. Impressive. That’s awesome.
Posted by Brandon Hook 1 year 26 weeks ago
Today is Earth day! More than 1 billion people in 192 countries are participating in Earth Day festivities, which means there must be some good videos out there on the Internet commemorating this occasion, right? Right. So here are the five of our favorites videos  — in no particular order — celebrating the Earth and the day designated for it.1. Where did Earth Day come from? Get some info about Earth Day. 
Posted by Brandon Hook 1 year 26 weeks ago
The last Terrence Malick film I went to see was Tree of Life, in which the critically acclaimed director — and devout Christian — advised audiences to “experience [the film] like a walk in the countryside. You’ll probably be bored or have other things in mind, but perhaps you will be struck, suddenly, by a feeling, by an act, by a unique portrait of nature.” Needless to say, the film was long — extremely beautiful, but a wee bit slow.So you can imagine the shock I felt when Malick’s latest film, To the Wonder, abruptly ended after almost two hours and I thought to myself, “Wait, it’s already over?”To the Wonder is certainly different from its immediate predecessor in Malick’s catalogue — there aren’t any dinosaurs in his latest effort. But it does still manage to have both the look and feel of a Malick film (i.e., it intersperses a linear story with lots of fluid, beautiful cinematography shot during “magic hour” with voice overs asking deep questions), albeit one that doesn’t drift off into long montages of the creation of the universe with voiceovers almost lifted from the book of Job.
Posted by Brandon Hook 1 year 26 weeks ago
Photographs tell stories. At least, good ones usually do.And there were some good pictures on display in Washington, D.C., for Oxfam America’s pop-up photo exhibit from acclaimed photographer Emma Hardy, whose work is regularly featured in The New York Times magazine, TIME, Vanity Fair, and Vogue.The images tell the particular stories of Cambodians directly affected by land grabbing, the buying or leasing of large pieces of land in developing countries, by domestic and transnational companies, governments, and individuals, which in turn displaces the poor and vulnerable.
Posted by Brandon Hook 1 year 27 weeks ago
Chesapeake, Virginia-based folk band The Last Bison talked with Sojourners about music, creativity, and God before their show in Washington, D.C. a while back. Be sure to listen to their recently released debut album Inheritance and catch them while they're on tour in the U.S.! Their music is definitely worth a listen.
Posted by Brandon Hook 1 year 28 weeks ago
Hipsters. Not gonna lie, that was one of the first words that came to mind when Local Natives took the stage at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C., on Friday. I wasn’t sure whether it was guitarist Ryan Hahn’s floral skinny jeans, the luscious mustache of singer/guitarist Taylor Rice, or singer/keyboardist Kelcey Ayer’s flannel — buttoned all the way up, which seems to be the latest amendment to hipster fashion these days— or all of the above.But then again, almost every young person these days seems to have absorbed some of the styles characteristic of hipsterdom, and Local Natives seem to do so in an unpretentious way. They’re cool. And, more importantly, their music is awesome.
Posted by Brandon Hook 1 year 32 weeks ago
A few weeks back at the Justice Conference we had the chance to sit down with Jeremy Courtney, cofounder of the Preemptive Love Coalition, to tell the story of his amazing work in Iraq providing heart surgery for children.Special thanks to Matthew Willingham and everyone at the Preemptive Love Coalition for providing us with footage from Iraq to tell their story.The video below is a first in our new series Sojo Stories, where we sit down with individuals to hear their stories about using their talents for the common good. 
Posted by Brandon Hook 1 year 33 weeks ago
When I first listened to Tame Impala, I was almost convinced they were the late-60s Beatles reincarnated. Lead singer Kevin Parker’s nasally yet gentle voice sounds about as John Lennon as you’re gonna get.But Parker makes it work. And Tame Impala, under his leadership, sounds fresh in a world saturated with music. Critics agree that Tame Impala manage to fuse classic psychedelic rock and blues with jazzier and more modern music. And that seems pretty accurate. Ezra Pound urged his modern contemporaries to “make it new” in regard to poetry, and even though Parker’s project may not be entirely or dramatically new, it is innovative.
Posted by Brandon Hook 1 year 33 weeks ago
At the Justice Conference last weekend I had the opportunity to sit down with Nathan George, founder of Trade As One, and ask him about buying fair trade and his company's awesome — and newly launched — fair trade subscription service. Here is the fruit of that conversation.The interview was edited for length and content.
Posted by Brandon Hook 1 year 34 weeks ago
Dancing lessons from James Brown, water balloons popping in space, chicken and waffles on a stick, a sweet badminton rally, and a British guy finding the Wolf Eel. Some awesome links for an awesome day.
Posted by Brandon Hook 1 year 34 weeks ago
While everyone was blowing up the Twittersphere decrying the injustices of the Oscars, as movies like Argo walked away with Best Picture honors, I was sitting in a Philadelphia hotel lobby trying to chew on everything I’d heard and seen at this year’s Justice Conference.The two-day event brought together more than 5,000 people to promote dialogue around justice-related issues, like poverty and human trafficking; featured internationally acclaimed speakers such as Gary Haugen, Shane Claiborne, and Eugene Cho; and exhibited hundreds of humanitarian organizations.While there is certainly more thinking and processing to be done, here are four things that stood out.
Posted by Brandon Hook 1 year 34 weeks ago
Our friends and up-and-coming musicians Branches trekked all the way from California and stopped by our office in D.C. last week to play a couple of their songs during their East Coast tour! Their songs explore the ideas of doubt, faith, loneliness, love, and above all, hope for life as it was meant to be.Best friends turned band-mates, the lady and gentlemen of Branches are an independent, self-writing and self-producing collective. Birthed in a living room in the suburbs of Los Angeles in 2010, Tyler, Natalie, Jacob, Mitch, Tyler, and Mike have since spent their time together making friends, playing shows, and writing and recording the songs for their EPs ("O, Light!", "Cabin", "Covers", "Songs For Christmas") and their full-length ("Thou Art The Dream", released 2/12).
Posted by Brandon Hook 1 year 35 weeks ago
Conan, Bonarroo, a 42-wheel BMW dream car, a 7-year-old's interpretations of the Best Picture nominees, Google glasses, and puppies. Yes, these are awesome.  
Posted by Brandon Hook 1 year 35 weeks ago
Just as the winter months tend to bring a mellower, melancholic feel to life, so too can music. And some of this month’s more obscure releases do just that. If you’re looking for an album to check out on a dreary winter morning, look no further.That’s not to say at all that they’re bad releases. One can quickly point to the likes of Bon Iver or Radiohead as figureheads of melancholy. They’re just different from the bubbly pop one might hear a lot on the radio.
Posted by Brandon Hook 1 year 36 weeks ago
With the Pope's unexpected resignation, and consequent endless "Ex-Benedict" memes, millions have taken to the Internet to voice their opinions on who will become next at the top of the Catholic hierarchy. Here are some of the standouts.
Posted by Brandon Hook 1 year 36 weeks ago
People often say the mark of a true “master of a craft” is one who makes something ridiculously difficult look easy. Chris Thile, former member of Nickel Creek and front man for folk group Punch Brothers, is one of those people. As my buddy standing next to me at last night’s Punch Brothers show in Washington, D.C. said, “It’s like he’s an extension of the mandolin. He can do anything he wants with that thing.” I mean, the guy can almost flawlessly whoop out some Bach on the mandolin.While musicianship is certainly present on their recorded material, the talent of each member of the five-piece band is fully realized during their live shows, which are more like jam sessions. With the encore, they ended up playing for almost two hours to a sold out crowd at the 9:30 Club.It almost got to the point where I didn’t believe they were real. They almost seemed like robots.
Posted by Brandon Hook 1 year 37 weeks ago
If you’re looking for a pick-me-up, look no further than Cincinatti’s Walk the Moon. The group recently stopped in Washington, D.C., on their world tour and performed in front of an uber-hyped audience.Their songs blend elements of pop, rock, and dance music — like what you’d expect if you mixed The Strokes, Passion Pit, and sprinkled on some of the overall vibes from the Vans Warped Tour.
Posted by Brandon Hook 1 year 37 weeks ago
An awesome Big Game ad, a trip to the Grand Canyon, some sweet grooves, a dog that wears menswear, and Mumford & Sons jamming with a high school marching band. Yes.
Posted by Brandon Hook 1 year 38 weeks ago
A super clever resume, a cat using the force, a 30-year-old turtle surviving in a storage locker, a Downton Abbey video game parody, and some portraits made out of toast. Awesome.
Posted by Brandon Hook 1 year 38 weeks ago
An ad using YouTube stars, a homemade Star Trek trailer, some puppies in a pinwheel, a hilarious social prank, a dude that makes beach art with a rake, and, in case you haven't been on the internet lately, a viral video from Kid President. Happy Monday!
Posted by Brandon Hook 1 year 38 weeks ago
A kid that's born to play golf, a Microsoft that is still trying to make me think they're cool, a hotel room in a shipping container, an art exhibit made out of used Christmas trees, and a design company that gives away half of its work for free. Woah.
Posted by Brandon Hook 1 year 40 weeks ago
The best selfies, absoluetly amazing kids, a really great short film, a sci-fi adaption of the Odyssey, and the kids of Sandy Hook teaming together with Ingrid Michaelson to sing somewhere over the rainbow on national tv. Okay, that's pretty awesome.Unfortunately your browser does not support IFrames. 
Posted by Brandon Hook 1 year 40 weeks ago
A super artsy way to make shirts and furniture look cool, a wolverine that saves people from avalanches, a bird singing dubstep, a guy who documented his year in one-second video clips, and a petition to the White House to make the Death Star. Awesome.
Posted by Brandon Hook 1 year 41 weeks ago
Today in 1894, Thomas Edison made the first copyrighted film. It looks super hipster. Come on, Thomas. [via GOOD]Betty White painting the IKEA monkey? Take a look at the restoration process of a painting that bares a striking resemblance to the now famous meme. and tune in to "Hot In Cleveland" on Wednesday, Jan. 9 at 10 p.m. EST on TV Land.[via Huffington Post] The Internet is good for a lot of things, and a GoPro camera on a trombone is one of those things.The National Geographic Photo Contest winners are in, and there are some pretty cool photos. [via Laughing Squid]It's the little things in life that keep us going. And for Aleksander Gamme, Norwegian Explorer, finding some Cheez Doodles he placed in a pit stop on a trek in Antarctica made a huge difference. Keep on keepin' on, Aleksander. [via Huffington Post] 
Posted by Brandon Hook 1 year 42 weeks ago
 Amidst the jubilation of the new year and a long awaited solution to the fiscal cliff crisis lies sad news: Lillian Miles Lewis, the wife of U.S. Rep. John Lewis, died Monday morning in Atlanta, his office announced. Spokeswoman Brenda Jones said John Lewis is returning to Atlanta but had no more details to release about the cause of death.The Lewises had been married 44 years. They have one son, John Miles.
Posted by Brandon Hook 1 year 43 weeks ago
Over the past few days on Twitter, NBC’s Ann Curry has almost single handedly popularized #26Acts, an initiative asking people to do 26 acts of kindness in honor of the 26 victims of the Newtown, Conn. shooting.In line with Momma T’s famous quote, “ We cannot do great things on this earth. We can only do small things with great love,” Curry says that #26Acts originated with a simple principle in mind: “If you do good, you’ll feel good.”But why does everyone have to Tweet about paying it forward? That’s a legitimate criticism and one that many a Twitter user have struggled with. As one person puts it, “While I get the intent of #26Acts fully, tweeting acts of kindness sometimes comes off as patting one's own back. Conundrum.”Indeed. But even if these acts of kindness are sensationalized and socialized, they’re still encouraging people to do good — albeit in a potentially imperfect way.So, in honor of those honoring those taken so suddenly, here are some of the most heartwarming #26Acts of kindness I’ve seen so far. 
Posted by Brandon Hook 1 year 44 weeks ago
I’m sure most of us have played the scene in our heads one too many times: little baby Jesus, presumably Caucasian, lying in a tiny crib-esque manger comfortably padded with hay — even though the song specifically says “no crib for a bed” — while the animals, which are perfectly behaved, quietly and reverently look on. Cue the wise men, in their strange, exotic garb, and sprinkle a few angels in there — you know, the ones that look like babies with wings and white togas.That was my impression of the nativity scene as a kid, and the popular children’s Christmas carol, “Away in a Manger” didn’t do anything to help. It seemed to perpetuate the picturesque nativity image of most of the figurine depictions in our living rooms.But, if only for a few minutes, put aside the notions that the “manger” probably wasn’t as clean and cozy as we thought, that it probably wasn’t a silent night — have you met a baby that’s gone through its first 24 hours without crying? — or that Jesus probably wasn’t snug in a crib conveniently left in a manger.Even though the song may seem like it only deserves a cursory glance, as it was originally published in theLittle Children's Book for Schools and Families in 1885, I purport there’s something more to the childhood classic.
Posted by Brandon Hook 1 year 44 weeks ago
Christmas is less than two weeks away, and even though most of us probably started cranking the Christmas tunes the day after Thanksgiving, here’s a look at some of this year’s best Christmas compilations so you don’t overplay, say, Amy Grant’s classic 1983 Christmas Collection.
Posted by Brandon Hook 1 year 45 weeks ago
Dogs driving, trailers premiering, Oscars meriting info graphics, musicians making cool songs, Terrence Malick making a new movie in less than two years, and people of the slums taking garbage and making beautiful instruments. Crazy awesome.
Posted by Brandon Hook 1 year 45 weeks ago
Some macro snowflake shots, an awesome Home Alone Sweater, oreo-stuffed chocolate chip cookies for the holidays, Star Wars Christmas cards, and a buggie for parrots. Let's 
Posted by Brandon Hook 1 year 45 weeks ago
Up-and coming-/singer-songwriter Noah Gundersen stopped by the Sojourners office to talk with our Brandon Hook about music, his new album Family, God, and creativity.The Seattle-based folk artist was recently featured on Spotify’s Emerge app, which pits rising artists against each other based on play frequency, and is currently on a U.S. tour.Special thanks to Noah for stopping by and being so open with us!
Posted by Brandon Hook 1 year 46 weeks ago
On Monday, three West Virginia bishops joined by families and advocates pressed the state's politicians to protect poor and working families — or, in other words, the “least of these” — during budget battles in Washington.The budget and tax negotiations are complex and important. They're driven in large part by the expiring Bush tax cuts and steep across-the-board spending cuts set to kick in if Congress does not act.Congressional Republicans have been demanding deep spending cuts in programs, including Medicaid and Social Security. They've also defended tax cuts for the wealthy. A number of religious figures say those priorities are backwards.Felicia Thomas, 24, director at Fort Hill Child Development Center, spoke at the meeting. Thomas is a single mother of a five year old little girl. Federal programs like Earned Income Tax Credit and child care subsidies have allowed Thomas not only to pursue her dreams of a better future, but also to keep the lights on and the fridge stocked.