Greta Lapp Klassen 4-25-2024
The illustration shows six rats chilling on an orange couch in front of a the iconic fountain from the show "Friends" and there is also a lamp

Illustration by Melanie Lambrick 

WHEN I MOVED to Washington, D.C., the second thing I noticed was the rats. (The first was that D.C. drivers are more aggressive than those from Indiana. I’ve since learned to use my horn liberally.)

I’m not proud of my initial response to these furry children of God. I shrieked. I complained. I was frightened to go outside at night, because with every step I took, I heard them scurrying. I could practically feel their long, pink tails tickling my ankles. I filled their burrows with dirt and rocks, covering them with bricks. I was proud of my resourcefulness, until I found the bricks shoved aside and the burrows reestablished. These rats were strong and resilient. Touché, rats. Touché.

As winter approached, the rat population shrank. Small communities could still be found dwelling near dumpsters, and I realized that like me, the rats were just trying to survive. I began learning about the plight of the urban rat and became convicted that as Christians committed to social justice, we must open our hearts to Rattus norvegicus.

You might roll your eyes and ask, “Is a Christian response to rats really necessary?” I assure you, it is. We don’t bat an eye at squirrels (also rodents), yet we are universally disgusted by rats, which are, in case you’ve forgotten, also part of God’s creation. We are so possessive over our trash that we would rather kill the rats than let them enjoy our chicken bones. We must do better.

That’s why I’m launching NIBBLE (Nonviolent Interventions By Bible-Loving Evangelicals), a nonprofit focused on improving human-rat relations in accordance with the gospel. Here’s a preview of our five-step plan for building Beloved Community with neighborhood rats:

Ed Spivey Jr. 2-15-2024
The illustration shows a man lounging on top of a solar panel with a fruity looking cocktail and a book at his side. He is wearing sunglasses.

Illustration by Melanie Lambrick

WE RECENTLY SPENT a couple hours with a salesman who was promoting the advantages of installing a passive solar system.

He had me at passive.

He also mentioned the federal incentives and tax breaks, but it was the promise of passivity that would have made me jump for joy, had I believed in that level of exertion.

Passive is right up my alley. I love anything that you can do from a seated position. My oven is self-cleaning, I wear no-iron shirts, my refrigerator defrosts itself, sometimes even while I’m in the same room, seated. Those unexpected dripping noises remind me it’s working hard even when I’m not, unless the day’s Wordle is frustratingly difficult.

Not to mention the satisfaction of having skilled workers around the house, role models in an honest day’s work by able-bodied — albeit excessively tattooed — men that are otherwise missing from my home.

A cartoon woman, stylized to look like Snoopy from Peanuts, is lying on top of an American flag, with rain falling. Her eyes are closed.

Illustration by Melanie Lambrick 

YOU THOUGHT YOU were going to be selected for the trial of some of the fascists who staged an insurrection at the nation’s Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. You went through jury selection and everything! But for some reason (maybe your use of the word “fascists”), they turned you down. What’s next?

Here’s what to expect when you’re expecting Jan. 6-jury-related grief:

1. Denial

C’mon. There’s no way. Why wouldn’t they want me? I am a morally upright and very impressive person who has all the right opinions and does all the right things. I am a good Christian who believes that God’s law is what matters most, and I will do the right and just thing even when it is against human law. I am the most law-abiding citizen of the United States re: God’s law. Which is totally relevant to what the judge is looking for. Totally.

Ed Spivey Jr. 8-02-2023
An illustration of a gold cross with a light green dress tie just above the horizontal arms. It blows in the wind against a gray-green backdrop.

Illustration by Melanie Lambrick

AFTER THE SOUTHERN Baptist Convention announced that women cannot be pastors, Sunday mornings have taken a new form across the nation. People are seeing the potential of an uninterrupted two-day weekend for the first time and relishing the freedom.

In clarifying its stand on women in leadership — that Baptists won’t stand for it — the SBC suddenly confirmed what groggy teenagers have been telling their parents for generations — namely, that sleeping in might be a better idea than attending a church where females are only needed for child care and potlucks.

In fairness, when the SBC committee — composed almost entirely of men — made the recommendation, it was mainly to free up parking. The SBC is the largest Protestant denomination in the country (high five!), and what better way to open more spaces than by telling half of humanity they’re not appreciated?

the Web Editors 7-21-2023

Photo by Namroud Gorguis via Unsplash.

Shortly after former president Barack Obama released his annual summer playlist, this missive showed up at the Sojourners office emblazoned on stone tablets. We're publishing it here in full.

 A cartoony illustration of muscled white man, bald and completely shaven, wearing a green sweatshirt as he lifts up a tiny deadlift bar. He's closing his eyes and grinning as light shines on his face from clouds above him.

Illustration by Melanie Lambrick

I LIFT WEIGHTS and I am a Christian, which means every day I have to ignore the norms of what makes a “good Christian” and a “fit person” and instead follow my own compass and live how I choose. But what if I didn’t? What if instead, through the power of televangelism and protein powder, I turned into the pinnacle of both conservative Christianity and weightlifting culture: a white male Incredible Hulk, a powerlifter for Christ?

What follows is a dispatch from the alternate reality in which this transformation occurred. Look upon it with awe and dread. Don’t let this happen to you.

I AM A POWERLIFTER for Christ. My reps and my PRs ascend to the highest heaven. My delts are for the Divine, my pecs for the Promised Land, my triceps for the Trinity. (Truly I tell you, this makes my triceps confusing.)

Were you to ask: “Do you lift His name on high?” I would answer, “Yes, my brother in Christ, bring it in.” And we would embrace like true godly men, slapping each other’s backs to remind each other and ourselves that we are violent and therefore heterosexual.

It is written (upon my workout shirts): “Reps for Jesus,” “Hallowed Be Thy Gains,” “Jesus Lifts.” So, to you I must ask: Wherefore art thy gains?

Jenna Barnett 6-03-2023
An illustration of several git items (from article) on a light green background: a red bandana with white patterning, one blue Birkenstock sandal, a green candle, a blue tattoo engraving pen, a white lily, and perfume in a round pink bottle.

Illustration by Melanie Lambrick

THERE'S NEVER A bad time to show a woman you value that she’s a woman of valor. But there are bad gifts. Just because your favorite Jesus feminist loves Mary Oliver, for instance, doesn’t mean you should gift her a wild goose — no matter how harsh and exciting the goose may be. Also, do not arrange a telegram delivered to her by a man dressed in a gazelle outfit reading the Song of Songs; her parents might be over for Sunday dinner! And I can’t emphasize this enough: Do not gift her an animatronic infant in a basket floating down a river. I learned that one the hard way.

But don’t worry, there are plenty of other options:

A cartoon illustration of a woman with orange skin and gray hair lying prone on the floor with a blank expression. She's wearing an orange shirt, blue pants, and green slippers. Chips and a crinkled green bag are spread out in front of her.

Illustration by Melanie Lambrick

WHAT DO YOU MEAN, “How to keep going,” you may ask? I’m fine, you may say. The increasingly fraught political landscape, the ominous signs of climate change, the erosion of voting rights, the crushing “invisible hand” of global capitalism, and a lack of space to collectively process any of the above — these are all things that are totally fine and normal and do not bother you. Your eye is not twitching right now as you say this.

Hush, you. I made a list of five easy steps to help you keep on keeping on. Read it and weep. I mean, stop weeping.

Jenna Barnett 4-21-2023

Original photo by Arturo Rey via Unsplash. Graphic by Mitchell Atencio/Sojourners

Given my preferential option for the poor, would it seem kinda hypocritical of me to pay a billionaire for a blue check mark?

Ed Spivey Jr. 3-20-2023
An illustration of the upper half of someone's head. They're wearing glasses and a tired expression. There's an abstract drawing of a brain (with one half made to look like circuitry) above the head. There are icons of a plane and luggage to the sides.

Illustration by Ken Davis

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE HAS been raising a lot of eyebrows lately and, to my surprise, it has nothing to do with “guar gum” or Red Dye No. 40, the ingredients that make most things artificial. (Is somebody working on organic, free-range intelligence?) The main concern — other than a complete takeover by machines — seems to be that AI could write term papers for high school kids. I’m sympathetic to that concern, but from the students’ perspective. If I’d had that kind of help in school, I would have earned more than just the one A in typing class.

Most reporting has been about ChatGPT and Bing, Microsoft’s AI search engine, which still has some bugs, including combative responses. But who cares about that when you just want to find good airfares?

Jenna Barnett 2-24-2023
An illustration of crickets being grilled with globs of honey in a gray pot over a blazing fire.

Illustration by Melanie Lambrick

TODAY I WANTED to take the time to spotlight a recipe from my forthcoming book, Appetizers to Prepare the Way: Not the Main Course, but Still Pretty Cool.

Now, Honey-Crisped Locusts are delightful to eat year-round (God knows I do!), but they are most satisfying on an early spring day. Just imagine it: You ask some followers friends to meet you by the river. The air is still too cold for a jaunty baptismal dip, but it’s perfect for a picnic. You lay out your camel-hair picnic blanket, which took you two years to knit, and invite your friends to sit down. Then you reach into your (also) camel-hair knapsack, and one of your friends says, “Heck yeah! Did you bring us some bread and wine?” And you say, “Never! I’ve brought something better!” You hand each of them three honey-soaked locusts. Undoubtedly overcome with joy, your friends are at a loss for words, so speechless that they don’t talk to you for the rest of the picnic. The perfect day.

Jenna Barnett 12-27-2022
A teenage girl holds her boyfriend around the waist from behind, while the boyfriend hugs a golden cross from the front.

Illustration by Melanie Lambrick

“I’m getting into you / Because you got to me in a way words can’t describe.”

WHEN I FIRST heard these lyrics in the early 2000s, I was smitten. I pressed the soft foam of my headphones against my ears to better hear the lyrics of Relient K. My crush, who we’ll call “Jamie,” had chosen this song as track one on the mix CD he burned for me. Near the top of the CD, he sharpied the name of the song: “GETTING INTO YOU” (emphasis Jamie’s).

Surely this was confirmation that Jamie didn’t just like me as a classmate — he was, as Paramore sang it best, into me. But I was naïve; I was mainline; I interpreted Relient K’s lyrics romantically when I should have approached them hermeneutically. Reader, I was so Presbyterian Church (USA) that I had never heard of the PCA. I knew there was an old rugged cross on a hill, but I’d never heard of Hillsong.

Julie Polter 11-22-2022
An illustration of a squirrel hanging upside-down outside a window, looking in and winking at the viewer. A white cloud, blue sky, and river are visible behind the squirrel

Illustration by Melanie Lambrick

I RECENTLY SUFFERED a home invasion by one of the Four Rodents of the Apocalypse, which are mice, rats, squirrels, and something called “roof rats” (rats tired of the climate-change-induced uptick in flooding of sewer-front properties). I was blessed with the deceptively cutest of these four: Squirrels. In. My. Ceiling.

(Reader, I want to be clear that “squirrels in my ceiling” is not a reference to my scattered thoughts but to literal bushy-tailed rodents doing tumbling runs in the crawl space above a bedroom.)

Squirrels strike a rare balance: They are both adorable and terrifying (like some toddlers I know). One day they’re hanging upside down outside the window to say hello or sitting and nibbling on a nut held just so in their wittle paws, so winsome! The next, a squirrel appears out of nowhere as I enjoy a sunny day on my front stoop, its eyes locked on mine. It skitters forward, then freezes. Forward and freeze, forward and freeze, like a glitchy squirrel robot. It is undeterred by “Shoo!” or “What do you want from meeeee?” Staring blankly, it just keeps coming — for the peanuts it imagines are in my pockets? For my soul? Or are there now flesh-eating squirrels? I run inside and lock the door.

Cartoon-style illustration of a dark cave with Christmas lights around its mouth; the sleeve of a green sweater is visible out of the darkness of the cave and hands a red envelope to a snowman dressed as a mail carrier.

Illustration by Melanie Lambrick

DECEMBER IS A stressful time for fundraisers, as a significant percentage of most nonprofits’ annual revenue comes in during the holiday season. We made a mistake this month when we asked Beth, who does much of Sojourners’ online fundraising, to write a humor column for this issue. Instead of a humor column, she sent us the following, in an envelope with a return address of “a cave in the woods; do not look for me.” We hope she’s doing okay. — The Editors

Dear Potential Supporter,

Now more than ever. This holiday season. In this moment, this urgent time, the most crucial of moments that all of us are in, right now. (Yes, you too.) Now — today — more than ever — Sojourners needs your year-end donation.

Did you know that the average American hears the phrase “now more than ever” 500 times a day? Did you know that all other organizations who use the phrase “now more than ever” are copying us, and we used it first? (Did you know that I, a fundraising professional hiding inside a cave, am both deeply normal and a trustworthy source of information?)

Jenna Barnett 9-30-2022
Two people illustrated in a cartoon style are dressed in workout clothes and sit on a bench under a glass window; between the two of them is the word "Blessed" with a red heart below it. A third passer-by stares at these two people.

Illustration by Melanie Lambrick

IT'S HARD TO tell whether Southern California, where I live, holds more nondenominational churches or neighborhood gyms. Sometimes, it’s even hard to tell whether a facility is a nondenominational church or a fitness center. At both the church and the gym, you are likely to encounter over-enthusiastic greeters in the foyer. And as you proceed farther into either type of institution, you’ll begin to hear vaguely inspiring pop-rock music. (Are the lyrics love songs to your boyfriend, to Jesus, or to an unrealistic projection of your future self? It’s hard to say — that’s the genius of it.) As you arrive in the back of these buildings, you’ll see a shared main attraction: a vivacious man in expensive sneakers urging you to strive for greatness, push through the pain, and please, please, please bring your friend with you next time. The websites of both the gyms and the churches will promise you a “no judgment zone” where “all are welcome.” Pretty good chance both are lying to you. But there’s free child care!

The biggest similarity of all between nondenom churches and neighborhood gyms? Their names: They will usually be one word long: Arise, Equinox, Crossroads. Likely, the names could also serve as code words for MDMA or WWE wrestlers’ stage names: The Rock, The Renegade, Saddleback.

Below are the names of gyms and churches. See if you can rise to the challenge, push through the pain, and determine which names belong to churches and which ones belong to gyms that I can’t afford.

Jenna Barnett 8-23-2022

A girl shaving her glitter covered face. By Victoria Alexandrova via Unsplash

What gives this smooth-faced woman the right to teach me something from the Bible? Fear not! I have a single hair sprouting from my chin.

An illustration of a brain sitting cross-legged on the floor with one eye closed and the other open, distracted by a fly buzzing around the room.

Illustration by Melanie Lambrick

READERS, I AM here to tell you about My Mindfulness Journey, but not in an annoying way, guaranteed or your money back. (Please keep reading. It’ll be different this time.)

But, before we get to mindfulness—aware of Carl Sagan’s comment, “If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe”—we will need to invent my brain, or at least take some major psychological detours. Which is appropriate, since ADHD is all about detours.

Oh, wait. Got ahead of myself there. Let’s start at the beginning.

My 2020 experience was a typical one, in that I spent 100 percent of it in my home and/or in untenable personal and professional situations. Switching to working from home utterly destroyed my routines and support systems. The accompanying collapse of my productivity, mood, and mental health prompted my therapist to ask if I’d ever considered that I might have Attention-Deficit/Hyperactive Disorder, or ADHD.

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects attention regulation, executive function, working memory, and a host of other issues—seemingly designed with the express purpose of embarrassing me in front of my boss.

In the months following my diagnosis, I analyzed my habits with the eye of a quality control inspector, dumbstruck by the breadth and scope of this particular unit’s malfunctioning. “How have I survived all this time?” I wondered almost daily. “And surely one of these ‘normal’ people could give me a scrap of their extra dopamine? For a good cause?”

At the same time, I realized: You know what would be a great way to help me learn to live with an overactive and unpredictable brain? Mindfulness.

Jenna Barnett 6-29-2022
Illustration of a video-game avatar in a kart sliding on a banana peel off Rainbow Road

Illustration by Melanie Lambrick

IN HER RECENT article “Praying the Imprecatory Psalms Is an Act of Nonviolence,” Liz Cooledge Jenkins explains that the imprecatory psalms of the Hebrew Bible “demand that God exact judgment against evildoers.” These psalms are particularly ... colorful. Take Psalm 35, for example:

Let ruin come on them unawares.
And let the net that they hid ensnare them;
                let them fall in it—to their ruin.

In comparison to other imprecatory psalms, the above is fairly sanitized. Often in these verses, the psalmist calls for teeth-breaking, infant murder, and widow-making. To be honest, I’ve struggled to read them. My privileged life has left me with few enemies worth cursing and scant violence to avenge. But I realize that many people of faith—especially those living under oppression’s boot—may find a certain catharsis in these psalms as they imagine God judging the truly hurtful people and powers of the world. “In praying these psalms,” writes Cooledge Jenkins, “we process our rage and give our violent impulses over to God.” One problem, though: The curses in the imprecatory psalms are a bit dated and unrelatable. I’ve gone to the trouble of updating them for modernity. For your consideration:

Psalm 1
O Lord, may the iPhone of the slumlord in Crown Heights fall into a toilet of his own urine. May a single AirPod follow quickly behind.

Joey Chin 6-07-2022
Illustration of pairs of animals carrying suitcases

Illustration by Melanie Lambrick

LEST YOU THINK labor organizing started with the most recent Amazon or Starbucks unionization, let’s look at this ancient document found submerged near the island of Patmos. The document appears to be from another group of mammals negotiating what is believed to be the first collective bargaining agreement.

Letter of Demands
From: The International Animals Union
To: Noah
Subject: Excessive Rainfall

Whereas the earth has become corrupt and filled with violence and
Whereas God has decided to destroy all living creatures and
Whereas Noah is required to build an ark and bring a pair of every kind of animal on the ark, therefore

Noah and the International Animals Union agree that the previous agreement has been terminated and replaced by the following agreement beginning on the 17th day of the second month and ending after 40 days and 40 nights, unless it rains the whole time.

I. Breaks
All animals shall be given 15-minute breaks for naps, whenever they feel like it. (We’re assuming any human over 600 years old on the ark will likewise be taking multiple naps per day.) Breaks can be used for whatever animals want, including but not limited to gathering around the water trough to talk about the change in rain patterns for the day.

II. Schedule Assignments
All animals shall be given their work assignments a week in advance via pigeon post delivered on papyrus. On holidays, work assignments shall be delivered on parchment. Ravens and doves are available for special work at the end of the cruise.

III. 40-Hour Work Week

Jenna Barnett 5-09-2022
Illustration of a brown foot in Birkenstocks and a white foot in pink Crocs walking along a Cheeto-strewn beach

Illustration by Melanie Lambrick

ONCE I HAD a dream that I was walking along the beach with my Lord. I felt self-conscious about wearing a two-piece swimsuit, but I didn’t know the Lord was going to be at Rehoboth Beach during spring break.

God said, Don’t worry about it, Jenna. Purity culture is so 2008.

Suddenly, scenes of my life flashed before me along the shoreline. I looked back at the footprints in the sand. In most scenes, there were two sets of footprints: Mine and God’s. God is a size 8.5 and has high arches, in case you were wondering. But then I noticed something troubling. At many of the hard times in my life, there was only one set of footprints.

When I needed you the most, why did you leave me? I asked God, with more sass than I’d like to admit. God whispered something in return, but I couldn’t hear the words. It’s really loud at the beach, and there was a sand volleyball game nearby. So then God yelled, I never left you! When you saw only one set of footprints, that was when I carried you.

I was so relieved. Sorry for the mix-up, I said to God. I also wear size 8.5, so I was confused.

But then I noticed something even more troubling.