Smiling in Triumph Despite Decay | Sojourners

Smiling in Triumph Despite Decay

A dental x-ray. Photo: Opreanu Roberto Sorin / Alamy

Several days ago, I spent more than I would have liked on a dental procedure that involved removing decay from one of my molars, doing a lot of horrible-sounding drilling and scraping, then saving the delicate bits that remained by capping it with a fake tooth. My dentist insisted this was called a “crown,” but I know a euphemism when I see one.

Or so I thought: By the end, my mouth was numb and I couldn’t tell the difference between my real teeth and this plastic imposter. I smiled in the mirror; my mouth was full of secrets.

I thought about this molar when I read Cornel West’s recent interview with The New Yorker. In it, West describes the “spiritual decay” in our culture: profit-maximizing commodification; widespread reluctance to risk careers to speak a prophetic word; collective failure to hold those at the top accountable.

Despite this, West sees bits worth saving: “Certain kinds of democratic processes are precious and fragile. That’s why we try to hold on to them,” West tells interviewer Vinson Cunningham. “We fight anyway, because it’s right and because it’s just. And we just get crushed when we get crushed, but we get crushed with a smile … because there’s a triumph in your spirit.” Normally, I’d be mad about someone telling me to smile, but from Cornel West, I’ll take it.

Here are 10 stories helping us reclaim triumph amid decay.

1. My Disabled Body Proclaims the Gospel
Growing up, most Christians would stare at me, ask what happened, and then apologize as if my disability was their fault. By Amar D. Peterman via

2. The Pope, Pets, and Childless Couples
Do childless people owe the pope forgiveness for calling them selfish? By Kaya Oakes via The Revealer.

3. In U.S., Reckoning Over Church-Run Indigenous Boarding Schools Begins
Native American leaders and Catholics in Minnesota are working together to confront past abuses. By Jordan Anderson via

4. Cornel West Sees a Spiritual Decay in the Culture
A conversation with the prominent philosopher about democracy, disagreement, and how to stay upright in a fallen world. By Vinson Cunningham via

5. Gen Z Is Remixing Religion
As religious institutions fail them, a new generation is combining faith, justice, and spirituality in a unique way. By Zaina Qureshi via

6. Most Women Denied Abortions by Texas Law Got Them Another Way
New data suggests overall abortions declined much less than previously known, because women traveled out of state or ordered pills online. By Margot Sanger-Katz, Claire Cain Miller and Quoctrung Bui via

7. 10 Christian Women Shaping the Church in 2022
These women are leading the church to become a more inclusive, bold, accessible, creative, and action-oriented community of believers. By Olivia Bardo via

8. After 20 Years at Guantanamo, Mohammad Ahmad Al-qahtani Transferred Out of Detention Facility Back to Saudi Arabia
A Saudi prisoner at the Guantanamo Bay detention center who was suspected of trying to join the 9/11 hijackers has been sent back to his home country for treatment for mental illness. By Ben Fox via

9. How Do You Memorialize One Million U.S. Pandemic Deaths?
A conversation with Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg about the power of art in the grief process. By Jenna Barnett via

10. Selected Negative Teaching Evaluations of Jesus Christ
“Very inconvenient class! Always holds lectures on top of mountains, in middle of the Sea of Galilee—but never close to the main campus.” By Amanda Lehr via McSweeney’s.