Utopias Fail, Forks Endure: What Our Editors Are Reading | Sojourners

Utopias Fail, Forks Endure: What Our Editors Are Reading

The Oneida Community. "Oneida Community, 'raking bee'" by Walter Parenteau is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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Oneida Limited — the prolific maker of flatware and dishes you can find in the “beyond” section of Bed Bath & Beyond — started as a free-love utopia in the mid-1800s. Led by an idealistic abolitionist preacher who’d been booted from divinity school for his unorthodox beliefs about sin (namely, that he himself didn’t have any), the community practiced mutual ownership, equality-ish between men and women, and coined the term “complex marriage.” To pay the bills, they made affordable silverware that looked fancy. Over time, the community broke up; the cutlery endured.

Utopias sound so good on paper: Faced with the soul-crushing failures of our society (and the church), why not escape from it all and build something better from scratch? Yet one way or another, utopian communities discover that the very failures they wanted to escape — in Oneida’s case, the sin they believed they didn’t have — weasel their way in. Or as David Leong wrote about the 20th anniversary of 9/11, the gospel “reminds us that terror does not only come from our enemies abroad; sometimes terror is homegrown.”

A past roommate left behind a set of Oneida’s “Picnic” dishes, so I often think about utopias as I unload the dishwasher. I appreciate utopian communities for their sharp diagnosis of what’s wrong in the world and stubborn belief we could do better. But ultimately, I have more admiration for folks like revolutionary love practitioner Valarie Kaur or the Texas pastors putting themselves at risk to help folks find health care: people who roll up their sleeves amid the mess and get to work.

1. As a Black Muslim Veteran, I Urge Biden to Close Guantanamo
The detention camp reminds me how the U.S. repeatedly equates Blackness and Islam with terror. By Rashaad Thomas via sojo.net.

2. ‘I Wish We Had Died Rather Than Live Through That Day’
Dispatches from the women of Afghanistan. Introduction by Zahra Nader and Amie Ferris-Rotman, via fullerproject.org.

3. Valarie Kaur Wants the U.S. to Recognize the Second Ground Zero
After 9/11, Kaur made a pilgrimage to a gas station in Arizona; her life was forever changed. By Josiah R. Daniels via sojo.net.

4. Incarcerated and Infected: How the Virus Tore Through the U.S. Prison System
Since March 2020, New York Times reporters have tracked every known coronavirus case in every correctional setting in the nation. More than 2,700 inmates have died. By Eddie Burkhalter, Izzy Colón, Brendon Derr, Lazaro Gamio, Rebecca Griesbach, Ann Hinga Klein, Danya Issawi, K.B. Mensah, Derek M. Norman, Savannah Redl, Chloe Reynolds, Emily Schwing, Libby Seline, Rachel Sherman, Maura Turcotte, and Timothy Williams, via nytimes.com.

5. Christians Must Challenge the Selective Memory of #NeverForget
Our memory of 9/11 should not be subject to the state’s agenda. By David Leong via sojo.net.

6. The Diapers.com Guy Wants to Build a Utopian Megalopolis
“Let the people own the land!” says Marc Lore. “But in a capitalistic way.” By Joshua Brustein via Bloomberg Businessweek.

7. Texas Clergy Are Taking a Stand Against the New Abortion Law
“I'm going to help get you the health care you need no matter the risk,” said Rev. Shelby Dean Nowland. By Sandi Villarreal via sojo.net.

8. The Pandemic Released a Wave of Anti-Asian Hate. Now They're Fighting Bias in Their Own Pews.
In the past year and a half, Asian American Christians across denominations have been calling out the anti-Asian bias they see in their own church congregations. By Sarah Ngu via nbcnews.com.

9. Sean Feucht to Hold ‘Worship Protest’ In D.C. On 9/11
The conservative Christian singer and activist will host two events in the capital, as well as a summit at the Trump International Hotel. By Joshua Eaton via sojo.net.

10. Race, Money and Exploitation: Why College Sport Is Still the ‘New Plantation’
Athletes are now able to make money from sponsorship. But many players believe that the NCAA maintains racial dynamics that are endemic in the U.S. By Nathan Kalman-Lamb, Derek Silva, and Johanna Mellis, via theguardian.com.

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