President
 
Rev. Adam Russell Taylor is president of Sojourners and author of A More Perfect Union: A New Vision for Building the Beloved Community. Follow him on Twitter @revadamtaylor.
 

Taylor previously led the Faith Initiative at the World Bank Group and served as the vice president in charge of Advocacy at World Vision U.S. and the senior political director at Sojourners. He has also served as the executive director of Global Justice, an organization that educates and mobilizes students around global human rights and economic justice. He was selected for the 2009/2010 class of White House Fellows and served in the White House Office of Cabinet Affairs and Public Engagement. Taylor is a graduate of Emory University, the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government, and the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology. Taylor also serves on the Independent Sector Board, the Global Advisory Board of Tearfund UK, and is a member of the inaugural class of the Aspen Institute Civil Society Fellowship. Taylor is ordained in the American Baptist Church and the Progressive National Baptist Convention and serves in ministry at the Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, Va. 

Posts By This Author

One Year After The Election, I Won’t Let Nobody Turn Me Around

by Adam Russell Taylor 11-04-2021

Attendees join hands while singing "We Shall Overcome" during a Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration in Nashville on Jan. 21, 1991.

I remember the flood of emotions I felt almost a year ago when I heard that the major news networks were calling the 2020 election results: overwhelming relief and renewed hope. Far beyond a victory for then-to-become President Joe Biden, it felt like a victory for our democracy — and an imperative to resuscitate, revitalize, and reinvent that democracy.

Fast forward a year: I’m filled with a festering weariness and escalating heartache.

Destroyed for Our Lack of Knowledge

by Adam Russell Taylor 10-14-2021

Most of the U.S. public doesn’t “know anything at all” about congressional Democrats’ Build Back Better infrastructure plan, according to a CBS poll released this week. Even though the provisions the plan contains could help countless families, the language of “infrastructure” is both distant from our daily lives and too obscure to generate a sense of urgency. “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge,” the prophet Hosea warns (Hosea 4:6). How true that rings now.

Teaching Anti-Racism Won’t Shame Kids. It Will Empower Them

by Adam Russell Taylor 09-30-2021

Opponents of critical race theory attend a packed Loudoun County School board meeting in Ashburn, Virginia, on June 22, 2021. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein

Perhaps you have seen the photos: Protesters at school board meetings holding signs that say “Stop Teaching Critical Racist Theory To Our Kids” or “I Am Not An Oppressor.” At the heart of these protests is opposition to teaching children about the United States’ shameful racial history — a history that repeats itself in systems and structures today. Many of these protests appeal to white parents’ fears that reckoning with our nation’s past sins and injustices will make their kids feel ashamed or that — in some twisted logic — this reckoning is itself “racist.” I’ve watched this growing campaign with anguish; I believe that cultivating a greater commitment to anti-racism within the next generation will empower our kids, not instill shame.

Five Decades of “Creative Maladjustment”

by Adam Russell Taylor 09-21-2021
We’re looking forward to the next 50 years of speaking truth to power.
An illustration of a tree and its roots with people along the branches and trunk

Illustration by Jackson Joyce

A TREE'S LONGEVITY and fruitfulness are tied to the health and strength of its roots. I’m deeply grateful for the deep roots of Sojourners. For the past 50 years, Sojourners has provided a countercultural Christian witness for peace and justice. We have been rooted in a commitment to relentlessly making the case that faithful discipleship involves a transforming and redemptive relationship with Christ, which then empowers and enlists us to serve as change agents in the world to advance God’s reign of peace, justice, and radical love.

Martin Luther King Jr. captures the ethos and charism of Sojourners in his sanctified remix of Romans 12, in which he proclaims that the “saving of our world from pending doom will come not through the complacent adjustment of a conforming majority but through the creative maladjustment of a nonconforming minority.” Sojourners’ 50-year history is full of examples of creative maladjustment and transformed nonconformism—from our founders’ early opposition to the Vietnam War, which led to them being pushed out of divinity school and starting The Post-American (the precursor to Sojourners magazine), to our prophetic actions to end the nuclear arms race and seek peace in Central America, our work in the anti-apartheid struggle, our efforts against the war in Iraq, our current battles against voter suppression, and so many more.

Is a ‘Redemptive Patriotism’ Possible?

by Adam Russell Taylor 09-14-2021

People in the United States have deeply conflicting understandings of our nation’s history: Are we a nation that guarantees “liberty and justice for all”? Or are we a nation that will continue to confine this promise to only certain Americans, falling short of realizing this promise for all? When we explore these questions, we start to see that many injustices that show up today have been with us since the nation’s founding.

How Voting Rights Became a Privilege For Some, Not a Right for All

by Adam Russell Taylor 08-26-2021

Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyer's Committee For Human Rights Under Law, speaks at a voting rights rally near the White House on Aug. 24, 2021, demanding that President Biden take actions to support voting rights. Photo by Bryan Olin Dozier/NurPhoto

On Tuesday, as the House passed the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, I was filled with hope for our democracy. But overshadowing that hope was moral indignation, as I realized that not a single Republican member voted in favor of the act — further proof that voting rights has metastasized into a hyper-partisan issue in 2021, despite its long history of bipartisan support.

The Antidote to Individualism

by Adam Russell Taylor 07-20-2021
A southern-African philosophy points the way to a thriving society.
An illustration of nature and humans co-existing in an abstract style.

Illustration by Thiago Limón

In a real sense all life is interrelated. All [people] are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. ... This is the interrelated structure of reality.  —Martin Luther King Jr.

WHEN I STUDIED abroad in South Africa in 1996, I learned much about the power of interdependence and mutuality. There I encountered and experienced the southern-African philosophy of ubuntu. Through Nelson Mandela’s moral leadership and embodiment of ubuntu, the nation was led through transformational change. Like Dr. King, Mandela refused to hate his enemies, including those who kept him imprisoned for 27 years, as he envisioned a future South Africa that included Black and white together.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu summarized ubuntu in what became a marker of both a movement and a philosophy: “I am because we are.” Mpyana Fulgence Nyengele, author of Cultivating Ubuntu, offers this definition: “Ubuntu is the substance and core being of a person and speaks particularly about the fact that we cannot be fully formed as human beings in isolation.” Rather, as Stephen Lewis, Matthew Wesley Williams, and Dori Baker share in Another Way, Nyengele explains that “it is only through our communal participation and interaction with other people that we begin to develop trust, compassion, caring, humility, kindness, and forgiveness, which are all qualities of what it means to be human and humane toward others. Similar to the fruit of the spirit, ubuntu is possible because ntu or Spirit ‘orients persons toward life-giving choices, actions and behaviors.’ ... Therefore, ‘ubuntu promotes and enhances the abundance of human life in community and beyond.’”

I think of ubuntu as an expanded, vivid version of the Golden Rule: We are called to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Or, as King so often put it, we are to be “our brothers’ and sisters’ keeper.”

Our Democracy Is Not a Given

by Adam Russell Taylor 07-08-2021

Sign directs voters to a polling station on Election Day in Tucson, Ariz., on November 3, 2020. REUTERS/Cheney Orr/File Photo

As many people in the United States prepared for the holiday weekend, the Supreme Court’s conservative 6-3 majority upheld two laws that restrict voting in Arizona. The first law the court upheld disenfranchises voters if they cast a ballot in the wrong precinct, invalidating not just their votes for local races, but also their entire ballot, including votes cast in U.S. presidential elections or Senate races, even though all eligible voters in Arizona can vote in those races regardless of the district where they live. The other law prohibits most people from delivering another voter’s absentee ballot to a polling place, making it a crime for anyone but a family member or caregiver to do so.

How Has the Pandemic Changed You?

by Adam Russell Taylor 06-22-2021
Breaking the stigma around mental health.
An illustration of someone helping another person up, who has fallen on the gorund.

Illustration by Jackson Joyce

HOW HAS THE pandemic changed you? This question can feel loaded, as though our answers should contain revelatory insights or transformational changes in our mindsets or lifestyles. My answers have varied. Since the pandemic forced my intense travel schedule to come to a screeching halt, I’ve realized just how unsustainable that schedule, with its impact on my family life, had become. I look forward to returning to traveling soon, but I am determined to be much more selective about it. I also often reflect on the ways that my family deepened our love for nature during the pandemic, breathing in the beauty of God’s creation. These are just a few of my answers.

But for some of us, the question elicits anxiety about going back to the broken “normal” of pre-pandemic times. For many, lurking behind the question is a recognition that some of the ways COVID-19 has changed us may not be for the better, and some of our struggles during this time may not simply go away because we are vaccinated and can now resume social activities. Sadly, the pandemic amplified a preexisting mental health crisis in this nation. A New York Times article by organizational psychologist Adam Grant popularized a new term: “languishing,” which describes the state of feeling aimless, joyless, and unfocused. This captures a wide continuum between flourishing and full-scale depression. Languishing can also have a deep spiritual dimension: We feel a sense of spiritual fatigue and emptiness or even feelings of abandonment and anger toward God. They can be compounded by the inability during the pandemic for most of us to experience in-person fellowship and worship.

The Moral Case for Suspending the Filibuster

by Adam Russell Taylor 06-10-2021

Protesters show support for voting rights during a rally against Texas legislators who are advancing a slew of new voting restrictions in Austin, Texas, May 8, 2021. REUTERS/Mikala Compton/File Photo

The filibuster, a rule that has typically been used by minority parties to delay or block legislation, often by making long speeches, can easily seem like an arcane and distant issue. While there is a compelling case to end the filibuster, that will be difficult to near impossible any time soon. But the Senate could act with urgency to suspend the filibuster for bills that directly address voting rights and democracy reform; doing so may be the last hope in the short term to strengthen our democracy and prevent future elections from being stolen.

For Lasting Peace, U.S. Must Stop Enabling Israeli Occupation of Palestine

A Palestinian man looks out as the remains of a building, which was destroyed in Israeli air strikes, are reflected in a window in Gaza, May 20, 2021. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

The images of civilian deaths and escalating violence in Israel and Palestine are heartbreaking. As this moral, political, and humanitarian catastrophe continues, we must urge our elected leaders to call for an immediate cessation of the current wave of violence, while also building the political will to interrogate the root causes of the crisis.

Protect People, Not Patents

by Adam Russell Taylor 04-29-2021

People with breathing problems due to COVID-19 wait to receive oxygen support for free at a Sikh temple in Ghaziabad, India on April 27, 2021. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

It is painful to know that here in the U.S., some states have vaccines that are going unused when vaccine shortages exist around the world.

Building on the Big Lie

by Adam Russell Taylor 04-27-2021
The ongoing work for voting rights.
Illustration of a person knocking down a brick wall and seeing a voting booth on the other side.

Illustration by Jackson Joyce

THE NATION'S COMMITMENT to “one person, one vote” is under assault. In the months after the horrific Jan. 6 violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, we have seen the greatest effort to restrict the right to vote since the Jim Crow era. A sobering report by the Brennan Center for Justice tracks the surge of legislation proposed by Republicans in statehouses across the country that would further restrict access to voting, all supposedly in the name of election integrity. As of April, Republicans in 47 states had proposed, introduced, or carried more than 360 bills that would further restrict the right to vote by limiting early and mail voting, imposing further ID requirements, enabling voter purges, and other tactics. The good news is that there has also been a push to expand voting rights, with 47 states having introduced 843 bills to expand voting access. The challenge is that in 24 states in which Republicans have a majority in state houses and hold the governorship, many of the voter suppression bills will be difficult to overturn without a surge of public awareness and outrage.

Voter suppression has been a fixture in our democracy since the founders limited the right to vote to land-owning white men. The passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act extended the right to vote to everyone, including Black citizens who were disenfranchised through violence and Jim Crow laws. Now, more than 55 years later, we are witnessing a resurgence of voter repression efforts.

U.S. Policing Is Broken. Christians Must Reimagine Public Safety

by Adam Russell Taylor 04-22-2021

Police officers stand guard as people demonstrate outside the Ohio State House after an officer shot and killed a teenage girl in Columbus, Ohio, on April 20, 2021. REUTERS/Gaelen Morse

Chauvin’s conviction was a relief, but our policing and justice systems still need a radical overhaul. 

It’s Time To Rethink American Churches

by Adam Russell Taylor 04-08-2021

I believe the church is a critical and indispensable — though not exclusive — vehicle for sharing the good news and advancing God’s beloved community here on Earth. But last week, Gallup caused a stir when it released new research on the trends in Americans’ membership in houses of worship, which fell below 50 percent for the first time in the 80 years. 

God Suffers With Us This Holy Week

by Adam Russell Taylor 04-01-2021

Photo by Grant Whitty on Unsplash

Today begins the Paschal Triduum, the three days leading up to the celebration of Easter and Jesus’ triumphant resurrection. This year in particular, Holy Week is a reminder that we often have to linger in some suffering and struggle in order to fully appreciate the joy of Easter Sunday’s deliverance and liberation.

March Madness and the Israelites in the Desert

by Adam Russell Taylor 02-25-2021
Both offer lessons as we emerge from the pandemic.
Illustration of a kid with a foam finger watching a basketball game.

Illustration by Jackson Joyce

MARCH IS MY favorite month of the year and not simply because of the renewal of spring. As a college basketball fanatic, it is also because of the NCAA men’s tournament, otherwise known as March Madness. My passion for college hoops began when I moved to Tucson before my junior year of high school and started attending every home game at the University of Arizona, where college basketball is an obsession. In light of the hardship and devastation that this pandemic has inflicted, it feels overdramatic to say that my spirits were crushed last March when the NCAA made the necessary decision to pull the plug on the March Madness tournament. This year, the NCAA plans to host the tournament in a bubble, following the model of last summer’s NBA playoffs. The tournament will feel incomplete without screaming fans, but the fact that it will take place at all offers a signal that the beginning of the end of the pandemic is within sight.

As our nation moves out of a long, dark winter of COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations, and deaths, we can all use a dose of something to look forward to, even if those somethings don’t look identical to life before the pandemic. A bubbled March Madness feels like a fitting metaphor to the critically important space we will be in as vaccines help us turn the tide against this virus and toward a new normal. But the journey between the spring and fall will likely feel like a long and tortuous one, particularly if COVID-19 fatigue devolves into resentment, resignation, or at worst nihilism. With the advent of more contagious and possibly more deadly strains of the virus, social distancing and mask-wearing will be even more necessary to transition from the wilderness of the current pandemic into the promised land of a post-COVID-19 world.

The Church Must Model Lament for Our Grieving Nation

by Adam Russell Taylor 02-25-2021

Samuel Emanuel at the funeral of his son Samuel Emanuel Jr., 55, who died from complications from COVID-19, at Fifth Ward Missionary Baptist Church in Houston, Feb. 13, 2021. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare

This week the United States surpassed a tragic milestone: Half a million people in this country have died from COVID-19 — a number that, while devastating, doesn’t even take into account the full human toll of the virus. While numbers of cases, deaths, and hospitalizations have begun to fall precipitously (for a variety of overlapping reasons) and nearly 50 million Americans have received at least one dose of the vaccine, this dark winter feels like a prolonged wilderness of grief and loss.

This Year Is Dark, But We Still Need Lent

by Adam Russell Taylor 02-17-2021

Photo by Alex Ranier on Unsplash.

I’m latecomer to Lent. It wasn’t until I joined Sojourners in my first role as senior political director in 2004 that I learned from my Catholic colleagues the significance of this 40-day liturgical season in which we spiritually travel with Jesus through his fasting in the desert. In 2021, this time of reflection — so often marked by what we give up — comes amid what already feels like a dark, cold, and perilous winter.

When Christian Media Peddle Lies

by Adam Russell Taylor 02-11-2021

Woman wearing red Make America Great Again hat praying at “Stop the Steal” rally in support of Donald Trump, Nov. 7, 2020. Photo by Brandi Lyon Photography.

This all could have been avoided: More prominent conservative Christian leaders and Christian media could have spoken out against the lie and reported the truth. Instead, many of them fanned the flames that led to this tragedy.