Magazine

Tim Brinkhof 5-09-2024
The illustration shows a hand in priests robes holding St. Basils Cathedral in Moscow

Illustration by Nico Ortega

IN JULY 2014, the Russian state-owned television network Channel One aired a news story that sickened many Russians.

Speaking from a refugee camp near Rostov, a woman named Galina Pyshnyak claimed to have seen Ukrainian soldiers in the contested Donbas region torture a child while his mother watched. Pyshnyak said, “They took a 3-year-old child, a small boy in panties, in a T-shirt, and nailed him as Jesus to an advertisement board.”

The story, which independent journalists were unable to verify, was quickly called out by international watchdogs as Russian propaganda: a way for the Kremlin to rally support for its occupation of Crimea and — in time — plant the seeds for its 2022 invasion of Ukraine as a whole. The “crucified boy” story served as a call to arms, as cases were reported of Russians who volunteered to fight against those Ukrainians who crucify little children. Subsequent investigations showed that a version of the story had first appeared on the Facebook page of Alexander Dugin, one of the most successful propagandists of the Russkiy Mir (“Russian World”) ideology. Channel One retracted the story in December 2014.

To Netherlands-based theologian Katya Tolstaya, however, the explicit Christian imagery of Pyshnyak’s “eyewitness” account and the visceral responses it elicited throughout Russia represented something else: In Putin’s world, religion and politics were becoming narrowly intertwined.

Over the years, experts have produced various explanations for Russia’s return to totalitarianism and who should be held responsible. Some argue the development stems from the ambition and personality of Russian President Vladimir Putin himself, while others point the finger at a broader Russian culture. Assorted studies focus on the political or the historic, the economic or the religious roots of totalitarianism. Tolstaya, for her part, sees religion as both a problem and a solution. Divorcing Russian Orthodoxy from the Kremlin’s imperialist agenda, she argues, can help Russians come to terms with a dark past that they have yet to process.

Raj Nadella 5-09-2024
The illustration shows the woman who grabbed onto Jesus' cloak. Both figures have brown skin and are wearing purple toned cloaks

Illustration by Lauren Wright Pittman

U.S. REPRESENTATIVE John Lewis’ more than 60 years of extraordinary activism unfold in the 2020 documentary John Lewis: Good Trouble. He took his stand on the most critical issues of our times — voting rights, civil rights, health care, and more. Lewis knew firsthand that many systems and practices in our country were undemocratic, designed to benefit the few and to increasingly disempower the many. He refused to let democracy slide backward or normalize the status quo, and he called for positive, creative disruption of bad systems. Lewis’ call for people to engage in “good trouble” used the power of nonviolent disruption to leverage transformative change.

“Disruption” is a buzzword these days in the world of business and technology. Individuals at the forefront of “disruptive technologies” are often hailed as visionaries, regardless of the ends to which such disruptions are employed. In many ecclesial traditions, emphasis is placed on conserving church structures, processes, and hierarchies. This is the nature of institutions that seek to preserve traditions beyond a single generation. However, too much of this runs the risk of ossifying the tradition, such that the next generation sees no value or life in the institution. Ecclesial traditions also need prophetic energy that embraces the power of disruption to create positive change.

Disruption is complex. The lectionary texts this month invite us to see the tensions — while there are things that need to be disrupted, there are others that need to be preserved. These texts present Jesus as a disrupter of oppressive systems but also as a preserver of calm amid destructive storms. In 2024, nearly half the world’s population will vote in a national election — including the United States. As Christians, we are called to be intentional about disrupting oppressive systems and to be vigilant about preserving democratic systems that protect the most vulnerable and secure peace and justice for all.

D.S. Martin 5-09-2024
The image shows the ampersand symbol made out of a collage of magazine strips.

Illustration by Bri Robinson

A poem.

Cassidy Klein 5-08-2024
The picture shows the cover of the book "Devout" by Anna Gazmarian, which is a blue book with a gray graphic that looks like two arms holding hands except the tops of the arms are churches.

Simon and Schuster

AT 16, WHEN I finally named that I had an eating disorder, I stood in the doorway of my bedroom and Googled “patron saint for people with eating disorders.” Knowing I needed help, I first looked for guidance in my faith tradition. It began a lonely and shaky journey of figuring out what faith means in the context of my yearslong struggle, why this was happening, and what to do when answers weren’t there.

Anna Gazmarian’s Devout: A Memoir of Doubt traces her evangelical upbringing and bipolar diagnosis as she searches “for a faith that can exist alongside doubt, a faith that is built on trust rather than fear.” Growing up, Gazmarian was taught in church that depression signals a lack of faith, recalling a time a pastor told the congregation that his bipolar diagnosis was caused by his own sin. As she seeks treatment, Gazmarian engages with scripture through her experiences of mania and depression, doubt and despair, looking for validation and comfort between the lines of Bible verses.

Gazmarian’s prose is clear, engaging, accessible, and alive. With gentleness and compassion — toward herself and all who struggle with mental health — she writes about how she learns to believe that God is with her.

Jenna Barnett 5-08-2024
The image shows the book "Zero at the Bone" by Christian Wiman, which has a tan cover with an orange circle drawn on it.

Farrar, Straus, and Giroux

IN HIS LATEST book, Zero at the Bone: Fifty Entries Against Despair, Christian Wiman is not concerned with suspense. Two paragraphs into his first “entry against despair,” he discloses the fiercest nemesis of that tried-and-true doom and gloom. “The only true antidote to the plague of modern despair is an absolute — and perhaps even annihilating — awe,” he writes.

That’s probably why Wiman, writer, translator, and professor of communication arts at Yale Divinity School, begins Zero at the Bone by mining the wisdom of the world’s biggest experts on awe: children. His latest collection leans on the “visionary innocence” of a child “whose unwilled wonder erases any distinction between her days and her dreams.” Wiman has had daily access to two such visionaries: his twin daughters Eliza and Fiona.

Unfortunately, he has also had steady access to despair, most visibly through his 19-year battle with a rare, aggressive form of bone cancer. He is currently in remission.

Josina Guess 5-08-2024
The image shows a painting of a black woman wearing jeans and a white tank top sleeping on a mossy log. The background of the painting is a layer of brown leaves and blooming flowers.

Kehinde Wiley, Young Tarantine (Ndeye Fatou Mbaye), 2022 © Kehinde Wiley. Courtesy of Galerie Templon, Paris

DID THE TRAVELER who saw me asleep on the floor of an airport prayer room think I was dead? I wore black leggings, a black hooded dress, and black socks. My black shoes were tucked neatly beside me. My puffy black jacket served as a pillow atop my black backpack. My scarf was a blanket over my face. Perhaps I looked like a shrouded portrait of death. But I was and am very alive, just tired. After a red-eye flight with a long layover, I came seeking rest.

I sought the hidden upper room, described on the airport’s website as “a calm respite before and after flights,” to restore my soul on a Sunday morning. After sitting, then kneeling, I finally curled up in a fetal position and drifted off to sleep until an employee entered the immaculate space. The keys on her hips jangled as she wiped and rearranged the holy books and beads on the altar. As she refolded prayer mats, I silently prayed for her. The jangling got closer as she announced that she needed to vacuum. I asked if I could remain in the room. She told me the room was not for napping and that a person had opened the door earlier, saw me, thought I was dead, and walked out. Dear traveler, dear prayer-room cleaner, if you are reading this, if you thought I might have been dead, why didn’t you first say, “Are you OK?”

The Editors 5-08-2024
The image shows the cover of the podcast "reclaiming my theology" which shows churches in front of a mountain, with a cityscape in the front.

reclaimingmytheology.com

Finding Faith Again

With breadth and depth, the Reclaiming My Theology podcast seeks to “take our theology back from ideas and systems that oppress.” Host Brandi Miller interviews diverse thinkers who are building a freer faith and traversing heavy topics, such as purity culture, with candor and diligent hope. reclaimingmytheology.com

Abby Olcese 5-08-2024
The picture shows an old white man with glasses wearing a suit looking at something, semi-puzzled or surprised. There are people behind him.

Anthony Hopkins in One Life 

ONE OF MY favorite literary quotes comes from David Mitchell’s novel Cloud Atlas. When Adam Ewing, a 19th-century notary from California, decides to become an abolitionist and protest the transatlantic slave trade, he imagines his father-in-law declaring that Ewing is condemning himself to a meaningless life that will amount to nothing more than a drop in the ocean. Ewing responds, “Yet what is any ocean but a multitude of drops?”

I thought about that quote while watching One Life, a 2023 film based on the real life ofNicholas Winton, a British stockbroker who, in the year before World War II, rescuedmore than 600 Jewish refugee children in Prague by relocating them to England in what came to be called the Czech Kindertransport. Winton’s determination was indeed amazing, but as the drama shows, his efforts depended on many people who did what they could to help — many drops in an ocean of good.

Emma Cieslik 5-07-2024
A person wearing a tall pink wig and a pink dress with rainbow fluffy sleeves is standing at the pulpit of a church, preaching. There is a pride flag in the background.

Marge Erin Johnson preaching at Wake Forest Divinity School in North Carolina, March 2023

PREACHER ACTIVIST AND drag queen Marge Erin Johnson walked up to the wooden lectern at Fort Washington Collegiate Church in Manhattan wearing a sequin rainbow dress and high hot pink wig. “I want to give an extravagant welcome to the LGBTQIA+ community,” she said, “especially those of us that have been burned by the demonic homophobic and transphobic flames of the church. You are welcome here. And lastly, a special welcome to those who are here today — whether you are queer or straight — but for some reason, you feel more seen and comfortable and heard because there is a drag queen at the pulpit.”

Marge Erin Johnson is the drag persona of James Admans (they/them), a nonbinary minister, currently ordained, pending call, in the United Church of Christ. A graduate of Union Theological Seminary, Admans served as assistant minister at Fort Washington Collegiate Church where they coordinated an LGBTQ+ ministry called Beyond Labels, and edited the 2022 anthology Beyond Worship: Meditations on Queer Worship, Liturgy, and Theology. They are most well-known, however, for hosting drag church services where LGBTQ+ individuals can feel affirmed and welcomed back into spaces that may have caused immense trauma.

Marge told Sojourners that drag church “might be exactly what we need to remind us of the beauty and diversity and God’s infinite love for all.” But her ministry comes at a time when drag culture itself is under fire from U.S. conservatives. According to the ACLU, there are 319 anti-LGBTQ+ bills under deliberation or passed into law in the United States. These include legislation that would censor books with queer characters or ban trans youth from sports, and several anti-drag bills that could make performing drag to younger audiences illegal. These bills, often used to create moral panic by associating trans people and drag queens with sexual endangerment of children, are in large part created and supported by Christians.

Josiah R. Daniels 5-06-2024
The illustration shows a man in a suit holding up a blue poster with a solidarity fist. In the shadow of the poster is a group of people.

Illustration by Guang Lim

Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared on sojo.net on Jan. 9, 2024 as “What DEI Trainings and Evangelical Retreats Have in Common.”

JONATHAN TRAN TELLS a story he encountered while researching his book Asian Americans and the Spirit of Racial Capitalism, about Chinese immigrants who lived in the Mississippi Delta during the Reconstruction period. After the Civil War, Tran says, white people not only prevented Black people from living in certain neighborhoods and attending schools with their white children — they discriminated similarly against people of Chinese descent.

But dissimilar to the Delta’s Black population, the Chinese immigrants were able to open modest grocery stores, which allowed them to accumulate wealth thanks to Black patronage. In this way, the Delta Chinese immigrants saw their material conditions improve — but this improvement came under a system of white supremacy, which necessitated the exclusion of the Delta’s Black population.

Tran tells this story to demonstrate the ways that capitalism and white supremacy have become intertwined. In a nod to the Black radical tradition, Tran refers to this system as racial capitalism. The account also demonstrates Tran’s commitment to storytelling. He doesn’t explain the negative effects of racial capitalism in a removed or abstract way; rather, he leans into the complicated histories that have pitted racially marginalized groups against one another.

Tran, an associate dean of Baylor University’s Honors College and an associate professor of theology, understands how stories are influenced by material reality — which is why, for Tran, criticism of racism that does not also include a critique of the capitalist system is wrong-headed. But Tran doesn’t just critique racial capitalism or anti-racist enterprises that avoid economics. Tran believes that Christian theology offers an alternative story to racial capitalism, one that finds its locus in the “divine economy.”

Tran talked with sojo.net associate opinion editor Josiah R. Daniels last fall about Christian theology, anti-racism, W.E.B. Du Bois, and what it means to live into a reconstructed reality. — The Editors

Diana Keough 5-06-2024
The sepia-toned image shows a family of three standing in front of a fireplace. There is a rip in the image, with the mother on one side and the daughter and father on the other.

Author Diana Keough, center, with her mother, Christine, and father, Roger, in the den of their Milwaukee home, circa 1980. / Courtesy of author

“IN THE BEGINNING was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” I had no idea what the words I recited in front of the church meant. My Mary Janes hurt my feet and my dress was so tight it left angry red welts in my armpits. Mom looked so proud; Dad, too, sitting in the front row, smiling. I didn’t want to disappoint them, especially here.

As far back as I can remember, my parents started churches in our suburban Milwaukee home. They were nondenominational, Independent, Calvinist, Fundamentalist Baptist. Initially, just a few families gathered, with Dad leading the service in our living room. Before long, our house overflowed, and the adults started raising money to construct a church. Once the building was complete, dissension began and my parents would leave, claiming the church was now too liberal. They disapproved of so many things: changes to the prayer book, Black people joining their all-white communities, homosexuality, women in ministry, the Equal Rights Amendment, anyone who questioned the literal translation of the Bible, adding rhythm to traditional hymns, accepting Catholics as fellow Christians. We were the “Chosen.” Predestined and proud of it.

My parents were also active members of The John Birch Society (JBS), the extreme right political organization, founded in 1958, which is known to be racist and antisemitic. They hosted monthly JBS chapter meetings in our living room. It was hard to know which belief system drove them more: the conservative politics of the JBS or the fundamentalist Christian fear of the rise of the Antichrist. Either way, to them the possibility of a communist invasion was a real threat.

They hired a handyman to build a hidey-hole in the back of the closet in our basement, where our whole family could hunker down if communists invaded the United States. Because we were Christians, educated, and part of the ruling class, Mom told us our family would be among the first to be imprisoned, then executed. Most of my nightmares as a child involved communists finding us in our hiding place.

I grew up listening to Mom and her friends, drinking coffee around our kitchen table while they animatedly discussed which group of people was ruining our country and if former President Dwight D. Eisenhower was really a communist agent.

I never quite understood what all the fuss was about. All I knew was that I adored listening to my Dad talk about politics and preach. I loved memorizing the verses he gave me about fleeing evil and avoiding temptation. I believed the words he spoke to be true. For me, he embodied the Heavenly Father he taught me about.

I didn’t feel the same about my mother. After every church service, whenever I’d overhear her describe someone as a person who “loved the Lord,” the hair on the back of my neck would stand straight up. If she caught me rolling my eyes as she quoted scriptures, I knew I had it coming. As soon as we got in the car, she’d slap my face.

My mother hitting me wasn’t unusual. Quite often after one of the regular beatings she gave me, she’d make me kneel in front of her, as she reverently prayed, eyes closed, “Please forgive Diana, Lord. She doesn’t know how to respect or obey me.” Never knowing when she’d strike, I was constantly on guard.

I believed in God as a child and deeply felt Jesus was my friend, responding to an altar call when I was 6. But Mom smugly told me Jesus could never love a naughty, backsliding little girl like me. Because of that, I was never sure my salvation stuck, so I made at least half a dozen more trips down the aisle. My teenage years and early 20s did little to reassure me of God’s love. I didn’t want to go to hell. It seemed like a scary place. But when I was 25, hell found me anyway.

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:

Angela Mason 4-25-2024
The photo shows a pile of Pauli Murray quarters

The U.S. Mint released the Pauli Murray (1910-1985) quarter in February, which includes Murray's likeness and the line, "Hope...a song in a weary throat." Lawyer, activist, and poet, and the first Black woman ordained as a Episcopal priest, Murray used he/she/they pronouns. / Candace Sanders / Sojourners 

IM EXCITED THAT more people will come to know Pauli by holding this piece of currency in their hands. Many folks feel connected to Pauli through her faith leadership, her Blackness, their queer identity, or their southern identity. That quarter represents so many things but when you flip it over, there’s that guy on the other side: George Washington. It feels a little strange. It’s also connected to our capitalist system, which is a bit odd. I don’t want our ancestors to become deities because it flattens them. That is a piece of my struggle with this quarter. “St. Pauli” certainly is a saint, but I want Pauli to remain whole and human. I don’t want them to be deified or objectified.

A illustration of a Black woman looking at the labels on human-sized pill botles

Annika McFarlane / iStock 

EVER SINCE THE release of Bessel van der Kolk’s 2014 best-selling book The Body Keeps the Score, trauma education has proliferated. I have seen training in everything from trauma-informed lawyering to trauma-informed care in emergency rooms. Trauma-informed practices have even started making their way into some correctional facilities and corporate boardrooms. Yet much of the popular writing tends to focus deeply on the more personal elements of trauma, rather than systemic elements, such as poverty.

My colleague Derrick Stroud, who survived 27 years in prison and now is a clinician, once described poverty as the “first trauma” in communities of color. The impact of poverty increases the chances of both low educational attainment among children and placement in foster care; this, combined with the challenges faced by under-resourced schools, can become a pipeline to prison. Neighborhoods impacted by poverty can reinforce traumatic conditions, since residents are more likely to witness or experience violence or be profiled by the police. These ecosystemic conditions impact human bodies and produce negative health outcomes that can have detrimental generational effects — all of which can be traced back to under-resourced systems.

Bill McKibben 4-25-2024
There is an image of a globe with a clock superimposed on top, with the minute hand almost striking midnight.

Bahobank / iStock 

THE NOTION THAT the world was created in six days has, for a long time now, been understood as a metaphor. The science is clear that creation takes a very long time, measured in eons and epochs — but creation is no less wonderful for that, nor any less God-tinged. We just need to underscore patience as one of God’s attributes.

But this understanding sometimes makes us think everything happens slowly, and that’s not the case. It turns out we can de-create things in the geological blink of an eye. A nuclear exchange — the milliseconds as an atomic reaction goes critical — is the most obvious example, but the climate crisis is in second place. And since we can (thanks to the U.S. bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki) picture the horror of nuclear weapons, we’ve since held off; not so much with the billion daily fires that add up to global heating.

Rose Marie Berger 4-24-2024
The image shows an older man in a suit and glasses holding up a finger emphatically while speaking in to a microphone. There is an Israeli flag behind him.

Ofer Cassif, representing the Hadash-Ta'al party, speaks at the Israeli Knesset in Jerusalem in February 2024. / EPA-EFE / Abir Sultan 

LIKE MANY ISRAELIS, Ofer Cassif, a member of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, knew people killed by Hamas militants on Oct. 7. “One of them was a very dear close friend of mine,” Cassif told Sojourners. “She actually texted me from the security room minutes before she was killed with her husband.” Many progressive, anti-occupation Israeli peace activists lived in the region where Hamas killed more than 700 civilians in one day. Cassif, whose grandparents came to Israel from Poland in 1934 as part of the Zionist movement, is a secular Israeli Marxist and a leading voice against the war in Gaza. During the first Palestinian Intifada in 1987, Cassif refused Israeli military service in the Occupied Territories and was incarcerated in military prison. In 2019, he was elected to Israel’s parliament as the only Jewish member of the Arab-majority Hadash-Ta’al party. In January, Cassif publicly supported South Africa’s petition to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to investigate Israel for violation of the 1948 Genocide Convention in its war on Gaza. In February, some parliament members tried — unsuccessfully — to impeach him. For this interview I spoke with Cassif in late March over WhatsApp. It was nearly midnight in Israel. He was still sipping his yerba mate through a metal straw.

Do you hold Hamas responsible for the Oct. 7 attack? Yes. Obviously, I hold Hamas responsible. That’s not to say that the government of [Benjamin] Netanyahu is not responsible in some respects, too. But definitely the guilt, the blame, is on those who killed, on those who raped, on those who tortured, and torched. And those are Hamas’ people.

Why do you support the petition before the ICJ to investigate Israel for genocide in Gaza? I do not trust the Israeli government or Hamas or any other government to investigate itself. The ICJ is the authoritative branch to investigate allegations of genocide. Israel recognized its authority in 1949, when Israel became one of the first states to ratify the convention. The bottom line is to support the ICJ in calling on Israel to stop the war — to save lives, as simple as that. The more than 30,000 deaths in Gaza, most of them women and children, the disease and starvation, this is totally the blame of the government of Israel. And it should be stopped. Stopping the assault on Gaza is the only way to save the Israeli hostages. There’s no military way to release the hostages, only a political one — which necessitates ceasefire.

James Shri Bhagwan 4-24-2024
The photo shows four men from the Pacific Islands, some are in traditional dress made of straw and other natural fibers, and one of the men is holding a flag that is wrapped around the flag pole

In October 2014, 30 Pacific climate warriors from 12 Pacific island nations joined hundreds of Australians to block the world's largest coal port at Newcastle, Australia, in a protest against the fossil fuel industry. / Jeff Tan Photography 

IN MARCH, CIVIL society groups across the Pacific — including churches — unveiled a landmark declaration to end fossil fuel expansion in the Pacific region. The Naiuli Declaration provides a moral rudder from Pacific communities to guide the international Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Pacific Islanders are championing the treaty as a legally binding mechanism to end new exploration and to support the rapid, equitable, and lasting phaseout of fossil fuels, core drivers of climate change and sea-level rise. To date, 12 nations have endorsed the treaty, including fossil fuel-producing countries Timor-Leste and Colombia. In the U.S., Maine, California, and Hawaii have also endorsed the treaty.

In envisioning our fossil free future, the Naiuli Declaration carries the twin aspects of vulnerability and resilience (the term Na i Uli draws from indigenous Fijian words for the steering oar in traditional double-hulled ocean canoes). There is the vulnerability of communities facing an existential crisis caused by climate change, putting at risk livelihoods, culture, our deep spiritual relationship with land and ocean, and the possibility for climate-induced displacement. The sense of exile evoked by this vulnerability resonates with the psalmist, who laments: “For there our captors asked of us songs, and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying, ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’ How could we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” (Psalm 137:3-4).

Julie Polter 4-24-2024
The illustration shows a little person lifting up the cover of a giant book, which other books are stacked on top of. It is on a light blue background.

Malte Mueller / Getty Images 

I WAS WHAT library advocate Mychal Threets calls a “library kid.” My mother, a high-school dropout who loved to read, took me almost every Saturday. One of my earliest memories is playing in the stacks while she picked out romance novels and murder mysteries. This 1903 Carnegie library, one of almost 1,700 U.S. libraries funded by industrialist Andrew Carnegie between 1886 and 1919, seemed elegant and grand to a Midwestern country kid. When I was a little older, the children’s annex became my spot — modern and sunlit, with kid-sized bookshelves and chairs.

I could check out as many books as I wanted, on any topic, with my very own library card. It was like a candy store without threat of cavities.

Public school and the library were my first experience with the commons — cultural or civic resources accessible to all. Libraries offer books, but also other media and things like board games for borrowing; meeting space; and access to computers, quiet, and air conditioning. They often house local history collections.

What’s not to love about spaces and books open to all? But attempts to ban books have also been part of the fabric of library life. A parent or a local group might challenge a book they deem risqué, biased, or ideologically dangerous. Historically these book challenges have come from both the Left and the Right.

The Editors 4-24-2024
The illustration is a side profile of Felipe Luciano, with a quote that says "A one point in every revolutionary's life, you have to know when to take the sword and pound it into plowshares"

Felipe Luciano, an Afro-Puerto Rican activist, poet, and journalist, co-founded New York's Young Lords Party and led their 11-day occupation of East Harlem's First Spanish United Methodist Church in December 1969. / Illustration by Adolfo Valle 

Sojourners had a wonderful in-person retreat this spring in Washington, D.C. Our gathering of editorial colleagues from California, Washington, Georgia, New Jersey, and D.C. sparked creativity, deepened commitment and community, and increased our love and respect for one another and our readers. Unfortunately, we also shared COVID — so we delayed the printing of this issue by a week to allow for rest and healing. (Hopefully, you didn’t notice.)

The Editors 3-27-2024
The image shows the cover of the BBC podcast "Heart and Soul" which shows a silhouette walking through a door

BBC

Dispatches of Devotion

The BBC weekly podcast Heart and Soul dissects religion’s ubiquitous and misunderstood presence in public life. Imbued with a refreshing human sensitivity, weekly episodes cover a range of faith topics — from Russian Orthodoxy in Kenya to a Sikh music revival. BBC