This year marks the 50th anniversary of the birth of hip-hop. From the rubble of gentrification and political abandonment in New York’s South Bronx, overlooked Black and brown kids used turntables and records to create new words and beats, movement and art. They built community and kinship, created meaning and culture, and developed self-worth in a world that hated them. “We were creating something that took up our time and made us feel good and brought us together,” Easy A.D., a member of Cold Crush Brothers, told oral historian Jonathan Abrams. “You have to imagine walking out your house every day and seeing abandoned cars burnt up, empty buildings, and you’re going to elementary school.”
At the first 2024 Republican presidential primary debate on Aug. 23, presidential hopeful Vivek Ramaswamy called for a return to involuntary institutionalization of “violent, psychiatrically deranged people” as a solution for our country’s gun violence epidemic.
His voice joins that of former Vice President Mike Pence who made a similar call at an NRA convention in April. Democrats are also pushing for the involuntary institutionalization of people: Last November, Democratic New York City Mayor Eric Adams laid out a plan for involuntary hospitalization as a solution for addressing homelessness, and Democratic California Governor Gavin Newsom recently amended his proposed $6 billion mental health bond language that would have prohibited involuntary psychiatric institutionalization. Pence, Adams, and Newsom identify as Christian.
The word “monster” originates with the Latin words for “omen” or “warning.” The best monster stories teach us about ourselves — about the evil that lurks in our own spirits. That’s something horror stories and the Enneagram have in common.
In launching The Reconstruct, Sojourners’ newest newsletter, we hope to continue what we have been doing, but with more regularity: Offering thoughtful, constructive conversations with folks who are changing the world and reforming our faith.
As a Jewish atheist, I’m not invested in arguments about which version of Christianity is truer. However, I am skeptical when I hear Christians respond to Christian nationalism by distinguishing it from “true,” “Christlike,” “pure,” or “orthodox” Christianity. If Christianity is only true Christianity when it is good or kind, then no “true” Christian ever does anything bad. That makes it easy to dismiss Inquisitors and slaveholders alike in the past, and it makes it easy to dismiss structural power to do harm that you may have as a Christian now as well.
Many Latines living in this country have adopted a form of white, Western Christianity that has come at a great cost to our cultural identity, our communal connection, and our sense of belonging. We’ve faced the tension of embracing a faith marked by discourses that demonize Indigenous, Afrolatine, and mestizo wisdom and spiritual practices. In trying to live out our new faith values, we wrestle with continuing to trust the goodness of the traditions and saberes in which we were raised. If we have internalized the air of superiority that white, Western Christianity breathes, we are at risk of losing the very wisdom that allowed our people to resist the dagger of colonization. But our bodies, our hearts, and our communities often clamor to remember, and they will not go silent.
Across the U.S., a coordinated effort is being made to suppress any history that might be deemed “uncomfortable” to its listeners.
In Oklahoma, the state’s superintendent of public instruction Ryan Walters sparked outrage by saying that teachers could teach about the Tulsa Race Massacre so long as they did not, “tie it to the skin color and say that the skin color determined it.” New legislation restricting the teaching of “divisive concepts” in Tennessee, Georgia, and New Hampshire has teachers fearing they’ll be fired simply for discussing racism or sexism in history.
Rev. Sam Dessórdi Peres Leite is rector of St. James the Apostle Episcopal Church in Tempe, Ariz. He spoke to Sojourners associate news editor Mitchell Atencio.
IN MY CHILDHOOD we would go to the cemetery early in the morning on the Day of the Dead [Nov. 2]. We would clean the graves and paint them. We would eat by the graves and tell stories of the person buried there and laugh. It was a light experience and joyful in the sense of becoming one family again, so the deceased and living were together for at least one day.
When I was in Washington, D.C., I noticed the Days of the Dead becoming more popular for people who are not of Mexican, Central American, or Latin American descent. Churches started bringing in the elements [of the celebration], not knowing how to properly use them. So I offered workshops to help church leaders understand where the tradition came from. It’s important for people to learn the historical meaning, how Latinos identify with the festival, and ask, “How can we honor that tradition?”
I’m tired of hearing politicians using “family values” as shorthand for a narrow and often misguided agenda. It is time to broaden and reclaim a truly pro-family agenda to protect and strengthen all families.
“No god, no gods, no spirits,” declares Detective Hercule Poirot in A Haunting in Venice. “It’s only us.” Throughout the film, in theaters now, Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) points his ostentatious mustache at all manner of explanations to discredit the spiritualist Mrs. Reynolds (Michelle Yeoh) and her apparent powers of divination. But Poirot doesn’t just want to expose the alleged artifice of Mrs. Reynolds’ powers; he wants to reject any and all higher power. In a world so full of injustice, Poirot reasons, how could a just and powerful God exist?
This year marks 60 years since the death of W.E.B. Du Bois, who lived from 1868-1963. We remember the late sociologist, educator, socialist activist, NAACP co-founder, and revolutionary academic for his work in resisting racial capitalism in the classroom, the streets, and the Black church.
I first encountered Du Bois in middle school in an old biography — its pages falling apart, its cover hanging on by a thread. The writing was just dense enough to offer me a challenge but not so difficult that I couldn’t understand it. Ultimately, it provided the intellectual and vocational awakening I needed.
A Million Miles Away feels like a story too good to be true. But the new film is the true story of José Hernandéz (Michael Peña), a migrant farmworker who became a NASA astronaut.
As more people leave religious institutions, or never join them in the first place, it’s easy to assume this demographic will command more influence. But as a sociologist who studies politics and religion, I wanted to know whether there was evidence that this religious change could actually make a strong political impact.
There are reasons to be skeptical of unaffiliated Americans’ power at the ballot box. Religious institutions have long been key for mobilizing voters, both on the left and the right. Religiously unaffiliated people tend to be younger, and younger people tend to vote less often. What’s more, exit polls from recent elections show the religiously unaffiliated may be a smaller percentage of voters than of the general population.
For me, this faith has always been rooted in Jesus’ lived example of how we are to be unapologetic in our support for each other. And when Jesus says, “love thy neighbor as thyself,” I imagined this meant, well, help thy neighbor, assist thy neighbor, care for thy neighbor, nurture thy neighbor — all without condition or justification, just as Jesus did. But since then, I’ve learned a serious lesson about the limitations of the Christian imagination in politics. Despite our shared faith, many lawmakers in this country don’t seem to envision a country where we actually put these values into practice. My latest disappointment? Millions of people losing Medicaid coverage — our nation’s primary public health system that provides health care and support for folks with low income and/or disabilities — because states refuse to do the right thing.
In July, Ryan Burge, an associate professor of political science at Eastern Illinois University and an ordained minister in the American Baptist Church, made a case on his Substack that, with the exception of the rise of those who identify as non-religious or “nones,” the most important trend in American religiosity is the rise of nondenominational churches. For those who are actively engaged in denominational life, the numbers are staggering.
When taken together, those attending nondenominational churches now make up the second largest religious group in the United States after Roman Catholics. Rising from a mere 5 percent of the U.S. religious landscape in 1984, nondenominational adherents are now estimated to represent an astonishing 22 percent.
Yet a common assumption is that chaplains themselves must be grounded in a religious tradition. After all, how can you be a religious leader without religion?
In reality, a growing number of chaplains are nonreligious: people who identify as atheist, agnostic, humanist, or “spiritual but not religious.” I am a sociologist and research manager at Brandeis University’s Chaplaincy Innovation Lab, where our team researches and supports chaplains of all faiths, including those from nonreligious backgrounds. Our current research has focused on learning from 21 nonreligious chaplains about their experiences.
Two years ago, I spoke to one young woman with obsessive-compulsive disorder as part of my research into discipleship and depression. After this woman had received her diagnosis, some well-meaning but ill-informed members of her church instructed her to pray and read the Bible more. Because of their advice, she said, “I was always wrestling with whether it was spiritual warfare.” This spiritualization exacerbated her mental health struggles, adding on a religious component to her symptoms, including compulsive prayers and other spiritual practices to gain God’s favor and find healing. When it comes to accompanying young people through mental health challenges, I know the church can do better.
According to a recent Gallup poll, labor unions are enjoying their highest levels of national national support since 1965. One major reason for renewed labor organizing is the COVID-19 pandemic, as workers started to ask whether a new future for work was possible in the midst of the pandemic. Some of the demands that laborers were making then are still being made now: increased pay, safer working conditions, and flexible schedules. In the U.S., the federal minimum wage is still a paltry $7.25 per hour. Federal minimum wage has not increased since July 2009 but if it had been keeping up with inflation, it would be over $21 an hour today.
What would Jesus have to say about America’s hot labor summer specifically, and the renewed organized labor movement more generally speaking?
On the night of the 2016 presidential election, Jessica Reznicek, a Catholic Worker and water defender, began her “peaceful direct action campaign” against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Along with activist Ruby Montoya, they burned five pieces of heavy machinery in Buena Vista County, Iowa. From there, armed with an oxy-acetylene cutting torch, Reznicek went on to other pipeline construction sites and pierced through the empty steel valves, sabotaged electrical units, and burned other heavy equipment. In a 2017 statement, Reznicek wrote, “We acted for our children and the world that they are inheriting is unfit.”
Following her actions, Reznicek was arrested. She pled guilty to one count of “conspiracy to damage an energy facility,” but in the months following her court date, prosecutors persuaded the judge to add additional charges labeling her a “domestic terrorist.”