Love books, culture, faith, and justice? Subscribe to Inscribed, a monthly newsletter by Da’Shawn Mosley and Jenna Barnett, here.
Last week, as I read a bedtime story to my two toddler nephews, I got a little nervous. I was reading them What Is God Like? by Matthew Paul Turner and the late Rachel Held Evans. In the imaginative children’s book, the authors portray God as a mother hugging her children, and God as a shepherd tending to her flock. I worried my nephews would flinch, or laugh, or tell me that I was reading it wrong. But they were unphased, simply absorbed in the story. In a way, I envied them — that they’d get to imagine a feminine God starting at such a young age, whereas I didn’t dare to imagine God as a woman until I was in my early 20s). Because when we overlook the feminine aspects of God — the creativity, the nurturing, the listening — our God becomes smaller.
Theology isn’t the only place we overlook the feminine. Mary Lou Williams was one of the best jazz composers you’ve probably never heard of (Deanna Witkowski, who talked with Da’Shawn Mosley for the August issue of Sojourners, is trying to change that). After converting to Catholicism in the 1950s, Williams began composing jazz Masses. I had never imagined Christianity communicated through jazz, but now I can’t unhear it: Holy Spirit as a sacred, improvisational grooviness.
Sister Corita Kent also saw art, and through it, God, in unexpected mediums. As Cassidy Klein reported for Sojourners’ August cover story, the pop-art nun “delighted in Los Angeles’ chaotic 1960s cityscape,” finding sources and inspiration even in “the supermarket parking lot in Hollywood she walked through each day.” In a 1968 poster commissioned for the Poor People’s March on Washington, she coined a slogan that’s as cheeky as it is theologically astute: “God’s not dead he’s bread.”
This month’s culture and art stories from Sojourners can conjure up similar refrains: God’s not dead she’s jazz. God’s not dead they’re a blanket fort. Holiness can be quite ubiquitous if we’re open to looking in unconventional places. — Jenna
1. “Finding Solace in the Work of the Pop Art Nun” by Cassidy Klein
Artists and activists are still learning from the vision of Corita Kent.
2. “Mary Lou Williams’ Jazz is for the Masses” by Da’Shawn Mosley
Deanna Witkowski is spreading the word.
3. “God Is Like a Blanket Fort” by Jenna Barnett
Rachel Held Evans and Matthew Paul Turner’s new children’s book helps all of us imagine What Is God Like?
4. She Survived a Shooting, Now She’s Disarming Her Christian Critics” by D.L. Mayfield
Taylor Schumann wants Christians to put the gospel before the Second Amendment.
5. “Billy Graham: Tragic Hero” by Danny Duncan Collum
Confusing the “kingdom of God with the American way of life.”
6. “Christian Hip Hop’s Openly Gay Rapper Is Done Evangelizing” by Mitchell Atencio
Three years after coming out publicly, JGivens reflects on friendships, addiction, queerness, and his shifting faith.
8. Why Martin Sheen Returned to Catholicism” by Ryan J. Pemberton
The actor and activist talks with Sojourners about faith, service, and his new film 12 Mighty Orphans.
9. “Bob and Larry Are Ready to Save the Planet” by Joey Chin
Our guest humor columnist reimagines VeggieTales.
10. “Journalism Needs a Wider Scope on Religion” by Audrey Clare Farley
Reporting on the full complexity of belief.