Weekly Wrap 12.18.15: The 10 Best Stories You Missed This Week

As the lead editor behind the dubious byline “the Web Editors,” it is within my job description to read all the Internet. And this is how the Weekly Wrap was born. This week, I decided to show all my biased cards and give you, fair reader, a glimpse behind how I decide what’s worth your spare few minutes on Fridays.

As a religion writer and journalist, I give special attention to mainstream outlets that actually get faith right; I get sucked in by clickbait on the regular; I have a few favorite go-to publications (can you spot ‘em?); I link to a piece or two from our own publication that I think are excellent and perhaps underappreciated; I usually find at least one thing from my home state of Texas; and I cry ugly tears at most things having to do with babies. There are all my secrets. And here is the Weekly Wrap.

—Sandi

1. Why the Mock Mass Shooting Matters

So, you probably heard about the weirdos down in Austin who decided to do a mock mass shooting at the University of Texas (the site of the first modern mass shooting, in 1966), to protest gun-free zones on campus. They got a lot of coverage, as the rest of the country shook its collective head. But, as the great publication is wont to do, Texas Monthly delves deeper into the modern-day gun rights debate. “Guns provide a powerful sense of agency and certainty to their owner, a feeling of dominion over the world. The activists who organized the Saturday event — the same type of people who were most active in advocating for open and campus carry laws at the Legislature — don’t just own guns; their entire lifestyle is oriented around being armed. That’s a relatively new phenomenon.”

And speaking of mass shootings …

2. House Dems Lose Fight to Nix Gun Research Ban in Budget

Long story short — there’s a reason we don’t know a whole lot about the roots of gun violence: the Centers for Disease Control, which would normally look into such public health crises, has been banned from any study on the topic for the past 17 years. And this week’s omnibus budget agreement did nothing to change that despite outcries in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., anniversary and San Bernardino, Calif., shooting.

3. Keeping the Force: Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and the Divine

Ideated and edited by our very own Catherine Woodiwiss, this series has kept the staff entertained all week as we’ve waited in joyful hope for the coming of the new Star Wars. With pieces exploring the faith components of cult favorites like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, Doctor Who, Harry Potter, The X-Files, and of course Star Wars, there’s truly something for everyone (including C.S. Lewis aficionados).

4. Serena Williams Is Sports Illustrated’s 2015 Sportsperson of the Year

[Insert praise-hands emojis]

5. In America’s Heartland, Building One Home for Three Faiths

This week, the Internet exploded with the tale of a Wheaton professor who was suspended for standing in solidarity with Muslims and saying Muslims and Christians worship one God. But do they worship at the same church? NPR reports from Omaha, Neb., on a place of worship bringing together Christian, Muslim, and Jewish congregations.

6. ‘We Need a Conviction:’ Baltimore Reacts to Mistrial in Freddie Gray Case

“’Indict! Convict! Send those killer cops to jail! The whole damn system is guilty as hell,’ is what protesters shouted outside the courthouse in Baltimore Wednesday after the trial of Police Officer William Porter ended in a hung jury.”

7. Exposure to Nature Linked to Stronger Communities and Reduced Crime

Yet another reason to #getoutside? From Grist.org: “With increasing urbanization and environmental destruction related to climate change, more people are becoming alienated from the natural world. Although further research is needed to confirm the findings, they do suggest that improving access to nature — for instance, through urban planning initiatives to create more green spaces in cities — could reduce crime rates.”

8. The Search for Humanity in War Photography

As writers and editors and activists, we know that nothing affects hearts and minds like storytelling — and nothing tells a story quite like images. Just look at how the image of a Syrian toddler who drowned as his family searched for safety changed the conversation of the entire world around the refugee crisis. The Atlantic is featuring a fascinating six-part video series offering testimonies of professional conflict photographers.

9. Another Way to Say Happy Star Wars Week

Full disclosure, this photo is from my church in Silver Spring, Md. — where my husband is the pastor. And he is responsible for this.

 

10. Help Us Counter Hate With Hope

You may have noticed an uptick in the video coverage Sojourners has been doing over the past year or so. That’s JP Keenan, our team’s incredibly talented multimedia associate. He created this video to share our message of hope. We offer it here as a special thank you to our readers, and to ask for your continued support. Merry Christmas!

Sandi Villarreal is Web Editor and Chief Digital Officer for Sojourners. You can find her on Twitter @Sandi.

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