Commentary

Jordan T. Jones 1-30-2023

Image of Otis Moss III's book, Dancing in the Darkness (2023). Image credit Betsy Shirley.

In Dancing in the Darkness, Moss urges readers to move through the sorrow of the blues to what he calls “jazz politics” — one of collaboration, community participation, and dialogue: “If we had a jazz version of democracy in our politics, where each of us could play all our notes, even the blue notes, and contribute them to the music of the whole, then dialogue and honest debate would be the norm rather than demonization and incivility.”

Abby Olcese 1-24-2023
A human-like figure with angel wings rears it's head toward the sky.

A scene from 'The Devil Conspiracy.'

Here’s the setup: A shadowy biotech conglomerate and a cabal of satanists (gasp!) are planning to release Lucifer from hell by… wait for it… stealing the linen cloth used to cover Christ’s body during his entombment, using it to clone Christ’s DNA, and then implanting it into a surrogate mother, allowing Lucifer to possess the fetus. The Devil Conspiracy is like a mix of Rosemary’s Baby, Demon Seed, and the surrogacy mix-up romcom The Switch.

Michael Woolf 1-19-2023

Puss from DreamWorks Animation's Puss In Boots: The Last Wish (2022). Courtesey of DreamWorks Animation.

Being unafraid of death is easier said than done. Death is one of the great fears that stalks the minds and hearts of human beings. That being said, there are times when Paul still dares to mock death: “‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’” (1 Corinthians 15:55). As a pastor, I have held plenty of hands as people die, yet I have never heard such boasting. What I have heard are regrets, contentment, fear, and any number of emotions. How we face death is complicated.

U.S. military vehicles at the U.S. military base being established at the Mielec Airport in Poland on Feb. 12, 2022. (Photo by Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto)

As followers of Jesus, bringing “good news to the poor” and promoting peace should be at the center of our worldview and vocation. In our advocacy work at Sojourners, we constantly find ourselves trying to convince our country’s decision-makers to prioritize government spending that provides a lifeline to people experiencing poverty. Unfortunately, we have often found that securing adequate resources to help people lift themselves out of poverty is a constant uphill battle. While I believe in the importance of fiscal responsibility, when members of Congress become concerned about the national deficit, the programs that wind up on the chopping block are usually the programs that offer a safety net to those who are most vulnerable — while military spending continues unchecked.

JR. Forasteros 1-18-2023

Brendan Fraser in the role of Charlie, in ‘The Whale’

Darren Aronofsky’s latest film The Whale has made a splash, both for Brendan Fraser’s heart-wrenching portrayal of the 600-pound Charlie and for critics’ accusations of fatphobia in the film.

Matt Bernico 1-17-2023

An artisanal miner works at a cobalt mine-pit in Tulwizembe, Katanga province, Democratic Republic of Congo, November 25, 2015. Credit: Reuters/Kenny Katombe.

Christians need better analytical tools that can help us parse out the systems of global exploitation. These systems keep us from loving our neighbors from every nation, which is a central emphasis of the gospel. For example, investigating who is producing the products we buy and under what labor conditions they work can show us where our neighbors are hurting and how we’re implicated.

Martin Luther King, Jr. delivers his famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial during the Freedom March on Washington in 1963. Bettmann/Contributor via Getty images.

King’s preaching used the power of language to interpret the gospel in the context of Black misery and Christian hope. He directed people to life-giving resources and spoke provocatively of a present and active divine interventionist who summons preachers to name reality in places where pain, oppression and neglect abound. In other words, King used a prophetic voice in his preaching — the hopeful voice that begins in prayer and attends to human tragedy.

A line of people wearing hats and sweatshirts lean against a low fence next to the U.S.-Mexico border wall. Mountains are in the distance.

Migrants from Venezuela, who are subject to Title 42 and unsure of whether to turn themselves in, wait next to people from other nationalities who are in line to be processed by United States Border Patrol in El Paso, Texas on Jan. 4, 2023. REUTERS/Paul Ratje

During his recent visit to the U.S.-Mexico border, President Joe Biden announced changes to border enforcement and the asylum process — the legal process that allows people fleeing danger to seek safety in the U.S. One of the most concerning changes was an expansion of Title 42, a public health policy invoked by former President Donald Trump that weaponized the pandemic to turn away many Black and brown migrants looking for asylum.

Carissa Zaffiro 1-11-2023

Late last week, the White House announced new enforcement measures at the U.S.-Mexico border. Among other things, these measures expand the pathway for migrants from Haiti, Cuba, and Nicaragua to receive two years of legal entry if they have an eligible U.S. sponsor — and allow the administration to expedite removal of migrants from these nations who cross into the U.S. from Mexico without documentation. It’s unclear what the full human impact of these measures will be, but when I read the news, my heart broke for those whose pathway to safety just slipped even further out of reach.

A person wearing a green puffy coat holds a lit candle and sign that says "demand democracy"

People gather for the January 6th Day of Remembrance and Action event in front of the Capitol on January 6, 2022, the first anniversary of the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.Credit: Jasper Colt-USA TODAY

In the immediate aftermath of Jan. 6, 2021, I naively believed that the violent attempt to overturn the 2020 election outcome would serve as a breaking point for the nation and the Republican Party. Despite the party’s anti-democratic slide, including so many embracing the lie that the 2020 election was stolen, I thought the collective horror of the day — felt across the political spectrum — would awaken everyone to the danger that former President Donald Trump and his enablers posed to our democracy. Of course, we now know that isn't what happened.

Matthew Vega 12-22-2022

Protestor on a loudspeaker. Credit: Unsplash/Clay Banks.

Black Dignity is a must-read for anyone struggling against domination in a world constituted by anti-Blackness. For Lloyd, domination is the arbitrary exertion of one’s will over another, and its “primal scene” is the master/slave relation. For Lloyd, his use of the language of “domination” points toward a specific kind of relation that permeates the world: anti-Black violence. Lloyd specifically says the purpose of the book is “to get a sense of this new language of Black dignity, to explore how the hashtags could be filled out, linked together, and oriented toward the struggle against domination in general and anti-Blackness in particular.” Morally stimulating, energizing, probing, and clear, Black Dignity demonstrates Lloyd’s ability to weave together and synthesize Black political and religious thought.

Amar D. Peterman 12-21-2022

Nativity scene with Mary, Jesus, and Joseph. Credit: Unsplash/Mick Haupt.

The following is an act of imagination. It is an attempt to fill in the gaps that are left for us in this story to bring the text to life. My hope is that this could be used as a resource for family Christmas Eve devotions or for congregations looking to creatively imagine the birth of Christ.

An image from the James Webb Space Telescope shows star formation with orange dust against a blue background.

This landscape of “mountains” and “valleys” speckled with glittering stars is actually the edge of a nearby, young, star-forming region called NGC 3324 in the Carina Nebula. Captured in infrared light by NASA’s new James Webb Space Telescope, this image reveals for the first time previously invisible areas of star birth. Photo via NASA/ESA/CSA/STScI

When the biblical writers penned words about the “creator of the heavens and the earth,” they didn’t have the faintest idea of what they were really saying. Yet Christian faith asserts the power that created galaxies full of black holes and dark energy is the same power that became mysteriously embedded in the uterus of a poor teenage girl in a forsaken village in present-day Palestine. The first chapter of the gospel of John describes Jesus’ arrival this way: “All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being” (1:3). That defies all boundaries of rationality.

Betsy Shirley 12-19-2022
Social media icons of hearts, like buttons, and smiling emojis are spray painted on a silver wall.

Image by George Pagan III via Unsplash.

Here at Sojourners, we believe following Jesus means being “creatively maladjusted” to the dominant definitions of success; for us as editors, this means resisting the tyranny of fickle algorithms that have so much power in determining which stories get read and which don’t. We love the 10 stories listed below, but each year we publish hundreds of beautiful and important stories, interviews, columns, reflections, reviews, and poems — and darn it, we aren’t gonna let algorithms tell us (or you!) what stories matter most.

Vanessa Corcoran 12-15-2022

A photo of a nativity scene. Image credit: Oscar Llerena/Flickr.

But as my research on the relationship between the New Testament and the development of popular Christian traditions shows, the earliest biblical descriptions do not mention the presence of any animals. Animals first start to appear in religious texts around the seventh century.

JR. Forasteros 12-15-2022

Melanie Field (Jo) prepares for her at-bat in Amazon series A League of Their Own. Credit: Anne Marie Fox/Prime Video.

Churches far too often operate under the “male gaze.” The male gaze, a term I'm borrowing from film criticism, always answers the question of “Who is this for?” with “Well, men, of course.” Some congregations, even though they affirm women pastors, worship directors, and singers, still caution them to dress so that the men in the congregation don’t find them “tempting.” The male gaze is always cisgendered and heterosexual, so churches that are formed by the male gaze are structured to be hostile toward queer people (no matter how kind congregants in those churches are to queer individuals).

Hannah Bowman 12-13-2022

Toronto, Canada light trails at night. Image credit: Unsplash/Namra Desai.

God’s promise in Advent is about meeting us wherever we are. We, too, can go out and build relationships with all our neighbors — housed or unhoused, incarcerated or not — as we prepare for a future where all people can be comforted.

Mitchell Atencio 12-09-2022

A scene from 'The Muppet Christmas Carol,' directed by Brian Henson. Entertainment Pictures / Alamy

The 1992 classic is full of wonders you can’t find anywhere else: Michael Caine starring in a children’s movie, a ghost of Christmas future that haunts me every time I consider splurging on frivolities, and a drum set at a Victorian England Christmas party. But the movie isn’t just a fun, Muppet-y take on Charles Dickens’ classic novella; it’s also a compelling screenplay with heart-warming, humorous songs that offer a radical Christmas message of “cast down the mighty … send the rich away empty.”

Zachary Lee 12-09-2022
Images of TV and movie posters are tiled against a green background.

The list below reflects my own preference for films and shows that help me leverage my own viewership to sustain a lifestyle of equity and inclusion. I’ve included 10 films and shows that gave the spotlight to communities, issues, and stories that we usually don’t see — and how richer the world is because of them.

Adam Russell Taylor 12-08-2022
An attendee poses for a picture near a large model earth inside a large room.

An attendee poses for a picture near a model earth during the COP27 climate summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt November 19, 2022. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

I know talking about international lending policies makes most people want to yawn, but the Bible takes debt — and the people who profit from it — seriously. In his opening Nazareth sermon (Luke 4), Jesus cites the prophet Isaiah to proclaim “the year of the Lord’s favor,” a passage that evokes the ancient instructions for debt forgiveness, such as those found in Deuteronomy 15 (“Every seventh year you shall grant a remission of debts”). While biblical scholars can’t confirm that these Jubilee injunctions were fully lived out, these instructions were understood to be a regular course corrective to extreme inequality and injustice. Other parts of the Bible flat-out forbid charging interest when the person seeking the loan is poor (Exodus 22:25, Leviticus 25:37).