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?

An illustration of a figure balancing on a tightrope.There's a boat with fantastical creatures in the background at sea. A purple figure is raising their hands on the left side. On the right, people sit around another purple figure teaching from a book.

Illustration by Changyu Zou

JEWISH NEW TESTAMENT scholar Amy-Jill Levine claims that all religions are a little bit supersessionist. Christian supersessionism — which understands God’s covenant with Christians to nullify God’s covenant with the people of Israel — has been so mainstream throughout most of Christian history that it has hardly required articulating. It was just the anti-Jewish water in which we swam. Following the Holocaust, however, Christians recognized how much we’d weaponized supersessionism into antisemitism, which provided support for Nazi and white supremacist ideologies and perpetuated anti-Jewish violence. Unfortunately, Levine argues, no exegetical maneuver can fully expunge supersessionism from the New Testament — though many have tried. It’s there. And the authority of God’s word in Christian lives keeps its dangerous power ever-present.

Still, Paul’s letter to the church in Rome (which we read this month) contains Paul’s own grappling with these questions. Chapters 9 to 11 — wherein Paul corrects some of the Gentile converts who think God has now rejected the covenant with Israel — comprise the hook on which most contemporary attempts to dismantle supersessionism hang their hat. So, we’ll pay special attention to these.

This isn’t going to be an easy fix — particularly for Christians (like me!) who want to hold fast to the gospel, atone for complicity with antisemitism, and stand in solidarity with Palestinians under occupation. Still, I trust God’s promises: I believe both that God’s covenant with Israel endures and that Jesus is the Messiah. So, this month, we are going to sit with the discomfort of failing while attempting the impossible. Because, in trying, we might find a new way through.

Paula Bohince 7-10-2023
A white silhouette of a person's head with a brown backdrop and large bees surrounding the head like a halo. A bright pink rose with a bee pollinating it is inside the silhouette.

llustration by Danzhu Hu

Lisa Montgomery, the first woman killed by the U.S. federal government since 1953, was executed under former President Trump.

Red roses blooming all at once
when she finds between herself and any door
a male, be him grandson or lawyer, any flinch of any him brings a springtime
terror of thorn and attar, shivering with adrenaline, a clawing
of petal-flesh, the past beneath it, the blood

Joey Thurmond 7-10-2023
The book ‘Non-Toxic Masculinity’ features a black illustration of a male figure from the side. He's sitting, partly leaning back and lifting up one leg over the other with a hand resting on his knee. Large yellow leaves fall in the blue background.

Non-Toxic Masculinity: Recovering Healthy Male Sexuality, by Zachary Wagner / IVP

ENDORSEMENTS RARELY CATCH my eye, but some names that grace Zachary Wagner’s Non-Toxic Masculinity: Recovering Healthy Male Sexuality made my jaw drop. Amy Peeler and Kristin Kobes Du Mez — scholars renowned for tackling purity culture and male-centric theology — aren’t names you’d expect on a book like this. Most traditional Christian men’s thoughts on “biblical manhood” are not only flimsily dressed in culturally secular activities like playin’ sports and shootin’ guns, but also fatally based in unbiblical standards of hypersexual and violent behavior. Thankfully, Wagner swings over such pitfalls, laying out an expansive vision of masculinity rooted in the Jesus ideal: love for God and neighbor.

Wagner articulates how purity culture failed both women and men. “Many of the theological and cultural foundations of the movement were sub-Christian, even worldly,” he writes. “Dehumanizing theology leads to dehumanizing behavior” — behavior that includes fetishized virginity, body hatred, tolerated abuse, and sexual segregation. Purity culture, Wagner explains, calls men “animals” and “perverts,” confounding rhetoric I heard growing up in the church. This type of gendered, sexual denigration — especially when attributed, in part, to God’s design — only serves to further dishonor the imago dei of men and excuse sexual sin.

There’s a “pathetically low and impossibly high bar for masculine sexuality [that] trains men to resist, flee, and medicate (through marital sex) their untamable boyish immaturity rather than grow beyond it,” Wagner writes. The divinization of high libidos and heterosexual marriage can be doubly damaging for queer Christian men, who face additional stigmatization and erasure in the church.

Elinam Agbo 7-10-2023
The book ‘Monstrilio’ is at an angle hovering in the air. Various shapes of different colors are spread across a gray-green background on the cover. A small brown creature with round red eyes and pointy ears is visible in the lower center of the cover.

Monstrilio, by Gerardo Sámano Córdova / Zando

ON A BRIGHTLY lit stage in Berlin, a performing artist drapes her dead son’s pajamas over her lap and begins to cry. She cries “loud and unabashed” until her ponytail starts to unravel, and her face becomes swollen and red. Soon, the audience begins to cry too.

The artist is Magos, mother to Santiago, the boy who dies in the opening pages of Gerardo Sámano Córdova’s novel Monstrilio. When Santiago dies, his parents — Magos and Joseph — begin to drown in their grief. But where Joseph isolates himself, weeping endlessly, Magos does something strange. She cuts out a piece of her dead son’s lung, leaves Joseph, and retreats to her mother’s house in Mexico City.

Part family drama, part queer coming-of-age story, Sámano Córdova’s debut gracefully wields its horror elements while navigating the complexities of grief. Structurally, the novel unfolds in four unique perspectives: Magos, Lena, Joseph, and M. After Magos learns about a folktale in which a dead girl’s heart grows into a young man, she sequesters herself in her mother’s house and feeds the lung pork and beef. She doesn’t clean or air out the room. Instead, she uses her odor as a shield, to keep her loved ones away from the lung, to protect its growth. This moment captures the overwhelming nature of Magos’ grief, but it also foreshadows the extent to which she will go to protect what she has left of Santiago.

Josina Guess 7-10-2023
A black woman in a white dress with long dark brown hair smiles while dancing with her elderly mother on a porch, who's wearing a black t-shirt and jeans. A man in a black t-shirt plays music in the background with a laptop and speaker on a table.

Pandora Thomas and her mother, Frances Thomas, at EARTHSeed Farm in California. / Devin Ariel / Mahogany Visions

“DO YOU MAKE any money from it?” a visitor asked as we walked behind my house, where goats, chickens, fruits, and vegetables grow among the weeds. I shook my head and laughed.

We entered the garden where my 74-year-old father knelt, breaking up soil with an old cultivating fork. He was planting spindly tomato plants I had started from seed and almost abandoned.

We don’t make money from it, but the garden is the place where my father cultivates joy. When I was a child, he poured water on rows of collards to wash away stressful days working for a Washington, D.C., nonprofit. Gardening restores his soul. These days, Dad splits his time between my parents’ home in Ohio and my home in rural Georgia, planting gardens in both places.

We don’t weigh the bushels of okra, cantaloupe, peppers, watermelon, and beans to see if they equal or surpass expenditures of time or money spent on Dad’s trips down South. Some work can’t be measured in dollars.

The Editors 7-10-2023
A photo from the docufilm ‘Blackberry.’ Actor Jay Baruchel is Mike Lazaridis, co-CEO of Blackberry. He has short gray hair, glasses, and wears a white dress shirt. He glares down at a phone with wires plugged into it. People behind him are cheering.

From BlackBerry

Capitalist Cautionary Tale

BlackBerry highlights the role of greed in capitalism through the story of the rise of the BlackBerry smartphone. The film, which transports us to a time when smartphones weren’t omnipresent fixtures in our lives, shows the danger of valuing innovation more than ethics.
Elevation Pictures

Abby Olcese 7-10-2023
A young white teenage girl named Jem Starling (played by actress Eliza Scanlen) is sitting on the edge of a bed. Here elbows rest on the quilt blanket with her hands folded in prayer as she looks beyond the frame toward an unseen ceiling.

From The Starling Girl

THE WORD “SELFISH” is used many times throughout writer-director Laurel Parmet’s coming-of-age film The Starling Girl. Seventeen-year-old Jem Starling (Eliza Scanlen) hears it most often from her parents. Her father (Jimmi Simpson) uses the word to describe the period of his life before he got saved and gave up drinking. Her mother (Wrenn Schmidt) chides Jem for selfishness when she isn’t performing her duties at home. And at church, congregants direct the insult at Jem whenever her performance in the worship dance troupe pulls attention toward herself and away from God.

This understanding of “selfishness” dismisses the community members’ unmet needs. Jem, like most teenagers, is starting to consider what kind of person she’ll become. However, the only guidance she’s getting is from her fundamentalist church, which advises her to give up her dreams, fear her changing body, and let her church decide who she’ll marry. It’s no wonder that Jem’s thoughts turn increasingly to the only person who gives her positive, albeit problematic, attention: the youth leader, Owen Taylor (Lewis Pullman), the married son of her church’s pastor.

The Starling Girl is an empathetic portrait of the vulnerability and power of young women. It shows what can happen when the structures around them — family, church, patriarchy — limit that power and stifle their desires and dreams. This leads Jem to a sexual relationship with the similarly frustrated Owen, who’s drawn to Jem’s seemingly boundless potential.

From left to right, musicians Lucy Dacus, Phoebe Bridgers, and Julien Baker are dressed in black and cast in the warm glow. They stand in a cascading line next to one another, staring off beyond the left side of the photo with waves in the background.

boygenius / Chuff Media

AT THE CLOSE of the music video for “$20,” all three bandmates of boygenius — the young indie band turned chart-topping supergroup —  cut their palms and swear a blood oath to each other. As I watched it for the first time, I couldn’t help but feel drawn toward prayer — is this what love looks like? It is subversive to hold on to the tenderness of friendships in a world rife with violence. But boygenius, consisting of Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus, refuses to do anything less in their debut full-length album the record — a searing homage to their love for each other. It is nothing short of divine.

Ringing with angst and affection, these songs meld post-grunge guitar riffs with heartfelt existential threads. In “Satanist,” they respond to ruminations in Ecclesiastes 1:2, “Everything is meaningless,” by singing, “If nothing can be known, then stupidity is holy.” By embracing the finitude and vapor of our existence, they, like the Teacher in Ecclesiastes, “[make] peace with [their] inevitable death” (from the song “Anti-Curse”).

Yet, amid all the nihilism, there’s joy. Boygenius’ gushing piano ballad “Letter to an Old Poet” nods to Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet, in which the Austrian writer and mystic offers this instruction: “Believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance.” Boygenius finds this love in friendship.

Diane Wilson 7-10-2023
The author of this piece, Diane Wilson, is wearing a tan vest with a purple long-sleeve shirt, jeans, and brown boots. She's rolling up rope on a boat, which is docked next to another one to the left.

In 2019, shrimp boat captain Diane Wilson won a landmark case against Formosa Plastics for illegal dumping of toxic waste on Texas’ Gulf Coast. / Goldman Environmental Prize

Diane Wilson, a 2023 Goldman Environmental Prize winner, spoke with Sojourners’ associate news editor Mitchell Atencio.

I'M A FOURTH-GENERATION FISHERWOMAN. In 1989, I was working in Froggy’s Shrimp Company as one of the only woman fish house managers. A shrimper came in the office and pitched a [newspaper] article on the desk. It was the first time the toxic release inventory ever was made public. It was part of the Community Right-to-Know Act. Calhoun County is a small, rural county, but we were number one in the nation for toxic disposal.

That information just blew me out of the water. I walked down to city hall demanding a meeting. The backlash to that simple request was how it started — and it’s been like a rolling cannonball to hell ever since. We have Alcoa, Formosa, Union Carbide, and they all dumped into the head of the bay. The head of the bay is the nursery area — yet these chemical plants are discharging there. Fishermen would bring me fish that were rolling on top of the water, alligators rolling on top of the water. Shrimp had black spots in their heads. Juvenile black drum fish had stomachs that were disintegrating.
Liuan Huska 7-10-2023
An edited photo of an overhead view of a sprawling green forest with two barren sections in the shape of footprints.

Eoneren / iStock

IN COLOMBIA, the highest rainfalls in 40 years had reduced coffee production by nearly one-third at the end of 2022. In the United States, tornado deaths for the first quarter of 2023 were already nearing the annual average. In Jakarta, Indonesia, the government barrels forward with constructing a 29-mile sea wall to protect the city, which is sinking under rising sea levels.

Everywhere, the planet is changing. Land once known for certain weather patterns, flora, and fauna is becoming strange and unfamiliar. Ways of life forged from old patterns are crumbling. Communities scramble to find new ways to farm, fish, graze, and live in what increasingly feels like uncharted territory.

Many have taken up the language of grief and loss to guide us through this turbulent era. Australian philosopher Glenn Albrecht even coined the term “solastalgia,” which describes “the homesickness you have when you are still at home.” We long for the forests and meadows of our childhoods, alive with spring peepers and monarch butterflies, which today seem diminished or have completely disappeared, paved over by strip malls and subdivisions. The land that shaped us is still there, but it’s not the same.

Bill McKibben 7-10-2023
An illustration of a white house against a crème-colored backdrop. The house's red roof is being blown off and upward by an explosion of fire from within.

CSA-Printstock / iStock

THERE IS A reasonable argument, I suppose, that Christians should eschew insurance — after all, the lilies of the field and the birds of the air, and letting tomorrow be anxious for itself. But almost all of us have it, and it is one of the most interesting parts of our economy: In essence, we’ve asked insurers to be the people who understand the concept of risk for us.

So, we should probably pay some attention when — as happened this spring — State Farm and Allstate both announced they would no longer be writing new homeowners policies in California. Why? In a word, fire — or, as that good neighbor State Farm put it, “rapidly growing catastrophe exposure.” There’s simply too much chance that any given home in the Golden State will burn to the ground in any given year, and when it does it costs too much to replace. Something of the same is happening along the Gulf Coast, where increasingly state governments are becoming insurers of last resort — and where, when a hurricane approaches, economists now have models to show if the destruction is likely to bankrupt any companies.

You would think that this experience would be enough to convince insurers to become activists in the climate fight. After all, their basic tool — the actuarial table, which lets them predict and thus hedge risk — depends on the world working in the future as it has in the past, something that’s increasingly a sucker’s bet. But truth be told, insurers go on investing vast sums in the fossil fuel industry, and even underwriting new pipelines or coal mines. (One is reminded of the Leninist dictum that capitalists will sell you the rope with which to hang them.)

Jenna Barnett 7-10-2023
An illustration of a soccer ball with an American flag all over its surface. It's on the ground of a completely white background.

aboost / iStock

IN THE SUMMER OF 2019, I fulfilled one of my childhood dreams: I cheered from the stands as the U.S. Women’s National Team won the FIFA Women’s World Cup in France.

This summer, I’ll be traveling to New Zealand and Australia to watch the team compete to win a third straight World Cup, a feat never before accomplished. I loved every moment of the 2019 tournament — the clutch penalty kicks and the cheeky goal celebrations — but two of my favorite moments came right after the final whistle blew.

The crowd of 57,900, which had been loud the whole game, got even louder.

The first chant was an easy and obvious way to cheer on the new champs: “USA! USA! USA!” I said it a couple times, but not with much gusto. It felt weird. If I said those letters, I wondered, what exactly was I cheering on? Just the team? Or also the U.S. president (at the time, Donald Trump) and his administration’s policies?

Fortunately, the chant shifted to one I could get behind wholeheartedly. As FIFA president Gianni Infantino, head of the international soccer governing body, walked to center field to begin the trophy ceremony, people around me started chanting: “EQUAL PAY! EQUAL PAY! EQUAL PAY!” Drummers behind the goal line punctuated the sound. Within seconds, the whole stadium had joined in.

At the time, a top-performing player on the U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) earned only 38 percent of what was earned by a top-performing player on the U.S. Men’s National Team. But as of 2022, the USWNT signed a collective bargaining agreement with the U.S. Soccer Federation that ensures that the national women’s team will be paid at the same rate for game appearances and tournament victories as the men. With this agreement, the U.S. team is setting a powerful global example.

An illustration of Africa filled in with a rainbow gradient cast against a gray backdrop.

nikonomad / Adobe Stock

IN MAY, UGANDA'S President Museveni signed a law that criminalizes same-sex sexual acts between consenting adults and allows for the death penalty in some cases. Homosexuality was already illegal in Uganda under a colonial-era law and punishable by life imprisonment. Uganda joins four other countries on the continent where being gay may be punishable by death.

When African leaders say that homosexuality is alien to African culture and is being introduced into Africa by Westerners, they are referring to African history that was strategically redacted over time by European colonizers and missionaries. This erasure was counter to original colonial annals that reflect exceptions to heterosexuality as far back as the 1500s. Portuguese documents identify esteemed same-sex male relationships in the kingdom of Kongo and a male-identified female warrior class in Dahomey.

One result of this redacted history is that in later anti-colonial struggles, African nationalists would uphold a moral “African” sexuality (one actually rooted in standards imposed by colonizers) against the immoral West, according to historian Marc Epprecht. Both religious and state power have been used to suppress LGBTQ+ people in African societies while also promoting heteronormativity for building the nation-state collective identity. Even today, “patriotic heterosexuality” is promoted by some state and religious leaders.

This religio-political system blurs the lines between state and religion. In fact, state power immediately positions itself as a tool for promoting collective Africanness within a particular nation-state, allowing it to make religion a partner in its use of force to control those it deems to exist at the peripheries of heteronormative society.

An example is in Uganda. The Anglican archbishop there has openly aligned the Anglican Church with the state authorities in ensuring that homosexuality is criminalized.

Luckily, the picture is not completely bleak.

Jim Rice 7-10-2023
An illustration of a smiling mouth with green lips against a red backdrop. Vertical prison bars are visible in place of teeth. A red man holds onto two bars with both hands from within..

Illustration by Adrián Astorgano

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE IS all the buzz as I write this. It’s been impossible to ignore the omnipresent chatter about AI, from the deluge of online commentary to congressional hearings. As I thought about adding to the chatter — er, providing some insightful perspective from a progressive theological point of view — I wondered what more could be said. So, I decided to ask AI. I prompted Microsoft’s Bing AI chatbot to draft an essay, “from a progressive Christian perspective,” on the dangers of AI. The first line of the response: “As an AI language model, I am not capable of having a religious belief or point of view.”

Well, that’s reassuring.

Concerns about AI aren’t new — science fiction writers have painted grim pictures of machine consciousness at least since Samuel Butler’s 1872 novel Erewhon (wherein Butler wrote in his three-chapter “The Book of the Machines” that “there is reason to hope that the machines will use us kindly, for their existence will be in a great measure dependent upon ours; they will rule us with a rod of iron, but they will not eat us.” One hopes that we’ll find better reasons to hope.). Warnings of apocalyptic totalism abound: In May, Matthew Hutson wrote in The New Yorker, “In the worst-case scenario envisioned by [artificial-intelligence doomers], uncontrollable AIs could infiltrate every aspect of our technological lives, disrupting or redirecting our infrastructure, financial systems, communications, and more.”

Since the Bing chatbot is incapable of offering a theological perspective, I asked scholar Walter Brueggemann for his thoughts.

The Editors 7-10-2023
A vibrant illustration of pinks, blues, and oranges of soccer player Midge Purce leaping in the air, poised to kick the ball in front of her. Colored lines and curves surround her to emphasis her dynamic movement with a quote from her on the lower left.

Midge Purce plays forward for NJ/NY Gotham FC and the U.S. Women’s National Team and co-founded the Black Women’s Player Collective. Her soccer career has roots at Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic High School in Maryland. / Illustration by Arūnas Kačinskas

CHRISTIAN DISCIPLESHIP is inherently about choosing sides. Yes, some might harbor a temptation to take the supposedly safer path of remaining “neutral,” but that's a delusion: Such alleged neutrality always favors the status quo. To paraphrase Edmund Burke, if good people don't choose sides, the “side” with power and wealth will always win. Or as Lutheran pastor Korla Masters puts it in this issue, “Jesus invites ... us to whole lives of asking ourselves which side we are on and whole lives of answering that our entire selves belong to the kingdom of heaven.”

Korla Masters 7-10-2023
 An illustration of a protest for Michael Brown at a concert hall. Banners hang from the balcony on the left side over the audience as a conductor leads the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra on stage on the right side.

Illustration by Jocelyn Reiter

IN FALL 2014, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra performed Brahms’ Requiem on a Saturday evening two months after the murder of Michael Brown Jr., at a concert hall about 10 miles from Canfield Green, where Brown was killed and his adolescent body left out in the Missouri August sun for four and a half hours.

That summer and fall, people in the city and county of St. Louis lived in the tension of waiting — we were waiting for a grand jury to make a decision. Not a verdict about the officer’s guilt: The grand jury was tasked with deciding whether this murder was even a murder at all — whether anything happened on Aug. 9 that could even be considered maybe a crime. Maybe worth investigating. Or whether it was just a regular day’s work.

As intermission was ending and folks were back in their seats, just as the orchestra was regathered and the conductor was raising his baton, a small group of ticketholders in the audience stood up and sang. In singing, they asked the audience, made up largely of people who could choose whether or not they were impacted by the grand jury’s decision that loomed over the city like the shadow of death, to make a decision of their own. They stood up, one by one, and joined their voices in an old labor song: “Which side are you on, friend, which side are you on?” they sang. “Justice for Mike Brown is justice for us all. Which side are you on, friend, which side are you on?” They hung banners made of bedsheets over the balcony; one that echoed the piece being performed that evening was painted: “Requiem for Mike Brown, 1996-2014.”

These protesters brought this question — this disruption — into a space that could’ve kept it to business as usual. They sang the two refrains in repetition, almost like a Taizé chant, for several minutes, then they left the hall together, chanting a chant that at the time was still brand-new to most Americans: Black Lives Matter.

The disrupters left to a mix of silence and applause from the audience and the musicians. The concert continued, but the question hung in the air. It’s the same question that hangs in the air of many of Jesus’ disciple-calling stories, and it’s certainly the question that pervades Matthew’s telling of Jesus’ good news.

Mitchell Atencio 7-10-2023
A picture of a well-dressed heterosexual couple as tiny figurines, standing in front of a large quarter. Smaller figurines of a white man carrying a dollar bill, and a black man carting around a dollar bill, are in the lower left and right corners.

CSA-Printstock / iStock

MATTHEW DESMOND, a Princeton sociologist and author, has grown tired of calls to reduce poverty — because he knows we can abolish it. In his new book, Poverty, by America, Desmond explores not the lives and struggles of people who are poor — but poverty, and the conditions that cause it. And Desmond contends that the lives the rest of us live are often connected to the conditions that cause poverty.

“To understand the causes of poverty, we must look beyond the poor. Those of us living lives of privilege and plenty must examine ourselves,” Desmond writes. “Are we — we the secure, the insured, the housed, the college educated, the protected, the lucky — connected to all this needless suffering?”

Desmond is the son of a pastor, and his work is rich with spiritual metaphor and flare while grounded in the material realities of poverty and the conditions that cause it. He dedicates a chapter of his book to refuting the idea that “neoliberal” cuts in welfare spending are to blame for poverty. “There is no evidence that the United States has become stingier over time. The opposite is true,” he writes. Instead, the problem is “a fair amount of government aid earmarked for the poor never reaches them.” associate news editor Mitchell Atencio spoke with Desmond about his new book, community building, and capitalism. —The Editors

Sojourners: Theologian Gustavo Gutiérrez defines poverty as “premature and unjust death,” saying that “the poor person is someone who is treated as a non-person, someone who is considered insignificant from an economic, political, and cultural point of view.” Is that a good way to describe poverty?

Matthew Desmond: I think that’s a factual way to describe what poverty is. Between 2001 and 2014, the richest women in America gained three years of life and the poorest women gained 15 days. So, poverty is death. There was a study that came out very recently that showed that one of the leading causes of death in the United States is poverty. I think that when we deny people access to basic needs, and we deny them basic economic security in this rich land, we do deny them life and happiness itself.

The other part of the quote about insignificance is very interesting because it does seem that in our popular culture — our TV shows, our movies, our children’s books — there are often no portrayals of real poverty in those media, and so it’s kind of amazing how seamlessly the poor can be erased from everything we’re reading and watching and reading to our kids.

Carmen Celestini 7-10-2023
An illustration of a large old book in Gothic print with four stars superimposed over the pages. Each displays photos with blue tinting of immigrant families climbing over or sitting on border fences, as well as parents carrying their children.

Illustration by Mark Harris

RELIGION PROMOTES WHAT is good in humanity —  mercy, wisdom, charity, justice, compassion. These are fundamental to most religious traditions. But religious institutions and movements consist of humans capable of both good and evil, truth and lies, peaceableness and violence. Most Americans have positive feelings about the role religion plays in American life, according to recent surveys. But more than 75 percent are against religious organizations endorsing political candidates or getting involved in partisan politics.

Religious zeal and political power can be an explosive combination — which is why the First Amendment promotes the separation of these powers. Yet the heart and faith of voters impact their choices in the polling booth — and the emotions and imaginations of voters can be swayed by media, social groups, and targeted manipulation to impact an individual’s vote.

One form of manipulation is through conspiracy theories — and conspiracy theories that manipulate religious and social imaginations are particularly potent. They are not new — recall the early U.S. grassroots movements, such as the Anti-Masonic Party and the Know-Nothings, who fought against perceived threats to Protestant Christian values, as well as the John Birch Society’s modern links to the Christian Identity Organization.

As conspiracy theories, disinformation, and populism become more mainstream, one less-understood conspiracy is having an outsized impact on immigration laws: The “great replacement theory” promotes the idea that nonwhite people are brought into the United States and other Western countries to “replace” white voters as part of a godless, liberal political agenda.

The 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, reminded many Americans that the horrors of organized hate were not something in the past. The refrain by white nationalists of “You will not replace us!” recalled virulent antisemitism and anti-immigrant rhetoric of earlier eras. The media repeated the slogan as it tried to make sense of how domestic terrorism, spurred on by online rhetoric regarding the removal of Civil War statues, could have culminated in such social violence and the murder of Heather Heyer by neo-Nazi James Fields Jr. It was a traumatic moment among many in America.

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: