Commentary

Kendra Weddle 3-20-2024

Letha Dawson Scanzoni. Graphic includes elements from the book ‘All We’re Meant to Be,’ By Scanzoni and Nancy Hardesty. Image by Mitchell Atencio/Sojourners.

Born in Pittsburg on Oct. 9, 1935, Letha was an independent scholar, writer, editor, and writing consultant who specialized in the intersections of religion and social issues. She passed away on Jan. 9, 2024, at a nursing facility in Charlotte, N.C. She was 88.

Her primary metaphor for God was that of a loving friend. She understood Jesus to be the perfect embodiment of the friendship that God offered. For her, this meant that just like a friend changes their likes, activities, and interests due to the growth of a relationship, God also changes because of God’s friendship with us. In any true and deep friendship, both of the friends, as well as the relationship itself, will necessarily shift and adapt. Nothing can stay the same because deep caring calls for responsiveness. “To think God doesn’t change,” Letha said, “doesn’t account for God to have empathy and compassion for us.” She wasn’t striving to put a particular branch of theology into practice, she just trusted her experience.

An Orthodox Christian woman belonging to the Amhara ethnic group in Ethiopia. Photo: Franck Metois / Alamy via Reuters.

Holy Week and Easter are perhaps the most important days in the Christian calendar. Many associate those celebrations with church services, processions, candles, incense, fasting, and penances. However, there is another tradition that many Christians follow — that of tattooing. Historically, Easter was an important time for tattoos among some Christian groups. Today, Christian tattooing happens in many parts of the world and all year around. Some Christians visiting Jerusalem around Easter will get a tattoo of a cross, or a lamb, usually on their forearms.

Benin, West Africa, Ouidah, the memorial zomachi on the slave trail showing free slaves. Credit: Reuters/ Eric Lafforgue.

Some books utterly disrupt you. I was doing research for an essay on St. Augustine and slavery when I first came across humanities scholar Jennifer Glancy’s Slavery in Early Christianity. Reading this book made me realize that everything I thought I knew about the history of Christianity and slavery was wrong.

Ezra Craker 3-06-2024

'Dune: Part Two,' Warner Brothers

Though Paul might be a Christ, an “anointed one,” he’s no Jesus. His road does not lead to a Roman cross. Instead of forfeiting power, he’s supposed to accumulate it.

Images from Mark Doox's The N-Word of God. Graphic by Mitchell Atencio/Sojourners.

As racist ideas continue to plague U.S. politics, Mark Doox’s Afro-surrealist and satirical graphic novel, The N-Word of God, couldn’t have arrived at a better time.

The book is a visual novel told through depictions of anti-Black images — Black people eating watermelons, Jim Crow caricatures, mammies, and blackface — all stylized in the form of Eastern Christian iconography. This is a style that Doox has termed “Byzantine Dadaism.” Doox’s novel deconstructively takes these caricatures that have historically harmed Black people and reimagines them as symbols of Black resilience and healing, restoring the inherent dignity that belongs to every human being, especially those who have been racialized and subjugated by U.S. anti-Blackness.

A man casts his vote at a polling location in Faith Lutheran Church in Grand Rapids, Mich., on Feb. 27, 2024. REUTERS/Carlos Osorio

I have a testimony: At the end of last year, I felt an unshakable sense of dread about the 2024 elections and all that it could entail. This dread was accompanied by an acute feeling of burnout, fueled by my exhaustion with how broken and polarized our politics have seemingly become and how another election year would test both our faith and democracy. This burnout showed up in restless sleep, nagging fatigue, and a frustrating sense of déjà vu, all of which impacted my mental, physical, and spiritual health.

Joe George 2-28-2024

'Perfect Days,' Neon

Hirayama’s mundane work of toilet washing becomes a sanctified act, for one simple reason: He does it for other people.

Greta Lapp Klassen 2-28-2024

Mennonite protesters organize in the Cannon House Office Building in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 16, 2024. Photo courtesy of Mennonite Action.

Earlier this year, I was arrested alongside more than a hundred other Mennonites in Washington, D.C., as we raised our voices in song, demanding that our elected officials call for a cease-fire in Gaza. Being a part of this act of peaceful civil disobedience, organized by Mennonite Action, gave me a sense of clarity about my faith that I had sought for years. As Capitol Police officers zip-tied my wrists behind my back, I sang louder and thought to myself: “This is what it means to be a Christian. This is what pacifism meant to my Mennonite ancestors.”

Eugene Cho 2-22-2024

A Palestinian woman bakes bread as children sit next to her on Jan. 24, 2024 in the southern Gaza Strip. REUTERS/Arafat Barbakh/File Photo

In Gaza, millions are being “overlooked or ignored.” Right now, people are starving and clinging to the fading hope that somehow territorial, historical, religious, and political crisis can yield to compassionate humanity. This, friends, represents our highest and most crucial calling. We are compelled by the teachings of Jesus to offer help — and we must act.

Walid S. Mosarsaa 2-20-2024

A Palestinian woman walks with a child past a shadow of a cross cast by the Church of the Nativity, the site revered as the birthplace of Jesus, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, before Christmas December 16, 2010. Credit: Reuters/Ammar Awad.

As a Palestinian Christian, I am proud to be a descendant of the world’s most ancient Christian community. My pride transcends the mere fact of belonging; it is rooted in the cultural legacy and global impact that our community has bestowed upon the world through nurturing and shaping Christianity from its earliest days until now. But this pride carries with it a solemn responsibility: I must be committed to preserving the integrity and values of this cultural and religious heritage, indigenous to my homeland, from being misappropriated to justify oppression, whether mine or someone else’s.

An In-N-Out burger, with a juicy beef patty, melted cheese, fresh lettuce, and tomato all stacked between two soft buns. Photo: Chin Hei Leung / SOPA Images/Sipa USA

“Eating is an inherently good activity,” writes Elizabeth Palmberg in the 2009 issue of Sojourners, “a channel of God’s goodness.” Eating is also an essential way for us to experience fellowship, build relationships, and share love. Yet eating can also be, as the Apostle Paul writes, an extension of our faithfulness: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (I Corinthians 10:31). And when I think about my diet, it’s hard to imagine how the overconsumption of meat — which so often exacerbates health problems and disproportionately contributes to climate change — can be to the “glory of God.”

Abby Olcese 2-15-2024

A scene from 'God & Country,' Oscilloscope Laboratories

The new documentary God & Country, inspired by Katherine Stewart’s book The Power Worshippers, fortunately escapes most of the major pitfalls of political documentaries as it addresses the rise of Christian nationalism.

Tyler Huckabee 2-12-2024

The cover of ‘Hell Is a World Without You.’ Background photo by S. H. Gue va Unsplash. Graphic by Mitchell Atencio/Sojourners

I don’t think I’ve ever read a book quite like Jason Kirk’s Hell Is a World Without You. This book, a bildungsroman about a teen’s evangelical house of cards and the mounting life experiences, new friends, and cold fingers of doubt that threaten to knock it over, is a call coming from firmly inside the house.

Jenna Barnett 2-09-2024

'Barbie,' Warner Bros.

The greatest single line in cinema of the past 12 months was delivered inside of a Barbie Dreamhouse.

Derrick Harris carries his son, Daniel, 5, Historically Black Colleges and Universities' March to The Well event in Greenville, SC, in honor of MLK Jr. Day on Monday, Jan. 15, 2024. USA TODAY NETWORK via Reuters Connect

Every morning, I drive my two sons, ages 11 and 13, to school. Normally these rides are mostly quiet as I listen to podcasts, and they watch something on their iPads. But this February, I told my sons we were starting a new tradition: Taking turns naming a figure of Black history and sharing why we believe that person was significant. To my surprise, my sons’ initial reticence quickly turned to enthusiasm. So far, we’ve talked about Louis Armstrong, Jesse Owens, Sojourner Truth, Thurgood Marshall, Rosa Parks, and Carter G. Woodson — the leader of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History who established the second week of February to be “Negro History Week” to counterbalance the ongoing erasure of Black contributions in the U.S.

Michael Woolf 2-07-2024


A vote sign on a pole next to a street with a church sign reading “JESUS LOVES ALL” in the background. Credit: Unsplash/Janelle Hiroshige (@jhiroshige).

It’s an election year again, and so far it sees that President Joe Biden and former President Donald J. Trump will again be on the ballot for the White House in 2024. For many churches, that means a repeat of 2020’s division, misinformation, and difficult decisions about corporate worship.

Buckle up.

We have been on this ride before, but that doesn’t mean it will be any easier.

Mitchell Atencio 2-05-2024

AFC running back Raheem Mostert (31) of the Miami Dolphins rushes the ball past NFC cornerback DaRon Bland (26) of the Dallas Cowboys during the 2024 Pro Bowl at Camping World Stadium on Feb 4, 2024 in Orlando, Fla. Nathan Ray Seebeck/USA TODAY Sports via Reuters

On Sunday, I tuned in to watch my first football game in over a year as part of my discipline toward Christian nonviolence. That may seem odd, especially since I’m the person who wrote about quitting the NFL as an act of nonviolence just last year. But this weekend I tuned in for the NFL’s Pro Bowl competition, including the flag football game, to signal my support for player safety and wellbeing.

U.S. President Joe Biden shakes hands with Speaker of the House Mike Johnson at the conclusion of the National Prayer Breakfast in Statuary Hall of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., USA, Feb. 1. Every U.S. president since Dwight Eisenhower in 1953 has attended the annual breakfast. Credit: Sipa USA via Reuters Connect.

I’m a historian and a religious studies scholar who recently published a book exploring the role of religion in political movements such as anti-abortion campaigns. Historical evidence can help identify trends that will likely influence the mix of religion and politics in the year ahead.

From my perspective, three key trends are likely to show up in 2024.

Fans pack near the stage to cheer the band The Afters at the Creation Christian music festival near Mount Union, Penn., June 29, 2008.  Mike Segar/Reuters

Payne details the creation, proliferation, and decline of CCM, tracing the industry’s relationship with conservative evangelical Christianity.

A family waits in line to receive groceries during a food distribution event organized by the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor on May 9, 2020. REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon

This week the House voted with a resounding margin of 357 to 70 to pass a bill that includes support for low-income families with multiple children. If passed in the Senate, the “Tax Relief for American Families and Workers Act” will enhance the Child Tax Credit by expanding eligibility and adjusting payments for inflation, provisions that would benefit about 16 million children in families with low income, lifting 400,000 children above the poverty line.