Coltrane and Other Misbehaving Saints: What Our Editors Are Reading | Sojourners

Coltrane and Other Misbehaving Saints: What Our Editors Are Reading

Photo of John Coltrane via Reuters. Photo credit: Pictorial Press Ltd / Alamy.

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Did you know jazz musician John Coltrane was canonized by the African Orthodox Church in 1982? Coltrane was canonized at the behest of a religious community in San Francisco which founded a church in his name, and St. John Coltrane Church is still alive and well today. Coltrane's feast day was Dec. 8 according to the AOC calendar.

I find Coltrane’s sainthood inspiring because although he was a spiritual dynamo and an enigmatic genius, he never lost touch with his humanity or the struggle for earthly justice. I think many of us imagine sainthood to be synonymous with good behavior, orthodox theology, or a holy beauty. Humans — especially Christians — seem unable to resist the temptation to edit or, as the kids say, to “yassify” our heroes. In doing so, their humanity becomes obscured.

Conversely, Coltrane was deeply committed to showing that what the world called “ugly” should ultimately be called beautiful. So, the image of a Black Christ is not beautiful because it points to the resurrection but because it is a stark reminder that Black life, in and of itself, is sacred.

Jesus and Coltrane share many similarities but the one that sticks out is this: Both men were born into godforsaken circumstances, but they radiated a supreme love and uncompromising humanity that they freely offered the world. Hopefully, the pieces selected this week inspire you to do the same.

1. The Story Behind a Stolen Black Icon
A painting depicting a Black Virgin Mary and Christ was recently stolen from Catholic University, becoming the latest example of discomfort with Black depictions of the sacred. By Madison Muller via

2. The Canonization of Saint John Coltrane
The intensity of the jazz legend’s music has always inspired passion, but in the 1960s, one group of devotees was so stirred they founded a church in his name. By M.H. Miller via T Magazine.

3. Why We Need to See Beyond White Baby Jesus
I confess that, growing up, I would have had a difficult time thinking about Jesus as a baby with Black or brown skin. By Robert P. Jones via

4. The ‘Yassification’ of Christ
Jesus has been westernized and whitewashed to fit an image of divinity that is more palatable to white people. By Olivia Bardo via

5. Pastor Leaves His Church After Appearing on HBO Drag Show
A United Methodist Church pastor in Indiana stepped down after performing in drag and speaking about inclusion on the show “We’re Here.” By Amanda Holpuch via

6. ‘Spencer’ Is the Ultimate I-Won’t-Be-Home-for-Christmas Film
Kristen Stewart's Princess Diana brings surrealism and tragedy to the onslaught of royal Christmas movies. By Jenna Barnett via

7. Fleeing Global Warming? ‘Climate Havens’ Aren’t Ready for You Yet
Climate migration is already underway. Here’s how cities can prepare. By Kate Yoder via

8. The Abortion I Didn’t Have
I never thought about ending my pregnancy. Instead, at 19, I erased the future I had imagined for myself. By Merritt Tierce via The New York Times Magazine.

9. For Today's Moms, There's Still No Room at the Inn
We claim to celebrate motherhood, yet U.S. policies fail the Marys among us. By Lauren W. Reliford via

10. Politically Polarized Family Attempts White Elephant Gift Exchange
By night’s end, they would be full of carbs and regret, vowing to play charades next year. By Jenna Barnett via