Managing Editor, sojo.net

Betsy Shirley is managing editor, sojo.net. She rejoined the editorial staff of Sojourners in 2015 after previously serving as an editorial assistant from 2010-2011. She holds an M.Div. from Yale Divinity School and a B.A. in English from Butler University.

Betsy’s articles and essays have appeared in America magazine, Religion Dispatches, Religion & Politics, OnFaith, Reflections, UTNE Reader, and of course, Sojourners. She is president of the Religion News Association and also serves as a board member of the Religion News Foundation. She is a 2015-2016 recipient of the Handa Fellowship in Interreligious Communication. She can be found on Twitter @betsyshirley.

Betsy began writing narrative nonfiction at the age of 6, though she now writes less stories about cats than she did back then. These days she prefers to focus on stories that delve into the complexity of contemporary religion — faith, doubt, scandal, schism — and the ongoing tension of believing in an unseen reality while living in this one. She’s especially interested in stories about gender, sexuality, evangelical history, and interfaith collaboration.

When she’s not cooking up story ideas for an award-winning publication of faith and social justice, Betsy enjoys walking tours, refinishing furniture, and sitting around campfires.

Posts By This Author

Hallmark Failures: What Our Editors Are Reading

by Betsy Shirley 12-03-2021

A lot of people I admire are fascinated with Hallmark Christmas movies. Chief among them is Mariame Kaba, founder of Project NIA, a leading advocate of prison abolition, and a self-described “Hallmark Channel devotee.” “I love the anthropological whiteness of those films,” Kaba told public radio in 2018. “I’m pretty sure there are white people who live like that. I don’t know any of those white people. I find it fascinating for that reason.”

‘God Is Weeping’: Faith Leaders React to Rittenhouse Verdict

by Mitchell Atencio, by Betsy Shirley 11-19-2021

Judge Bruce Schroeder listens during Kyle Rittenhouse's trial at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Nov. 19, 2021. Sean Krajacic/Pool via Reuters.

Kyle Rittenhouse was found not guilty of homicide, attempted homicide, and reckless endangerment by a Wisconsin jury on Nov. 19, following a trial that lasted nearly two weeks.

Rittenhouse, then 17, shot and killed two people and injured a third in Kenosha, Wis., during August 2020 protests against police brutality and racism after a Kenosha police officer shot Jacob Blake in the back in the presence of three of his children, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down.

The defense team argued that Rittenhouse, now 18, traveled to the protests to provide medical aid and defend a used-car dealership from property damage; they argued that Rittenhouse only fired his weapon in self-defense.

“Kyle was a 17-year-old kid out there trying to help this community,” Mike Richards, Rittenhouse’s defense attorney, said in his closing statements.

The prosecuting attorney, Thomas Binger, told the jury, “This is a case in which a 17-year-old teenager killed two unarmed men and severely wounded a third person with an AR-15,” saying that Rittenhouse was not defending his home or family, and that Rittenhouse had stayed out past Kenosha’s citywide curfew.

Rittenhouse’s case elevated national conversations over self-defense, vigilantism, and gun access.

Okla. Governor Grants Julius Jones Clemency After ‘Prayerful Consideration’

by Betsy Shirley 11-18-2021

Julius Jones supporters and their signs on the second floor rotunda at the Oklahoma Capitol Wednesday, November 17, 2021. Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman via Reuters.

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt accepted a recommendation from the state’s parole board on Thursday to grant Julius Jones clemency, sparing the life of the man who was set to be executed later that day. Jones was convicted of killing Paul Howell during a 1999 carjacking, but Jones maintained his innocence during the nearly two decades he spent on death row.

“After prayerful consideration and reviewing materials presented by all sides of this case, I have determined to commute Julius Jones’ sentence to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole,” said Stitt in a statement issued on Thursday around noon in Oklahoma.

Yes and Also Yes: What Our Editors Are Reading

by Betsy Shirley 11-05-2021

The stories we're reading this week offer a binary-rejecting spin on a classic riddle.

Sherlock's Best Sermon: What Our Editors Are Reading

by Betsy Shirley 10-15-2021

A statue of Sherlock Holmes in London on Oct. 18, 2012. Photo: sergomezlo / Shutterstock.com

One of the best things I ever found at Goodwill was a complete set of all Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories — a major coup for middle-school, mystery-loving me. Unfortunately, the books smelled as if they had spent a few decades in the smoke-infused den of Holmes’ Baker Street lodgings. I sandwiched dryer sheets between the pages and read them all cover-to-cover.

Utopias Fail, Forks Endure: What Our Editors Are Reading

by Betsy Shirley 09-09-2021

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

I often think about utopias as I unload the dishwasher.

In Case of Emergency: What Our Editors Are Reading

by Betsy Shirley 09-03-2021

How we respond to an emergency says a lot about who we are. This week, faith-based groups started organizing for disaster relief before Hurricane Ida even made landfall, while health clinics in Texas did their best to help everyone they could before a new law imposed a state-wide ban on abortions.

In Praise of Unfancy Things: What Our Editors Are Reading

by Betsy Shirley 07-09-2021

The Wonder Bread balloon and several other hot air balloons raising up into a cloudy morning sky at the Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, New Mexico on October 8, 2014. Tami Freed / Shutterstock.com

Lately I’ve spent a lot of time appreciating unfancy things: Stretchy pants. Popcorn. Picnics. Walks. Very Important Work Calls instantly derailed by a pet cameo.

Juicy Confessions: What Our Editors Are Reading

by Betsy Shirley 07-02-2021

In his spiritual memoir, Confessions, St. Augustine spends the better part of a chapter recounting how, as a teenager, he and his buddies once “filched immense loads” of pears from a neighbor’s tree. This and other confessions drew our attention this week.

Bitter and Beloved: What Our Editors Are Reading

by Betsy Shirley 05-14-2021

We work hard for diplomas and degrees, and yet as Jes Kast reminds college graduates, no title is more important — or utterly unearned — than being beloved.  

Thou Really Shalt Not: What Our Editors Are Reading

by Betsy Shirley 05-07-2021

The stories I read this week on the internet reminded me of the Ten Commandments, so please indulge this loose paraphrase of Exodus 20.

A Week of Villainy: What Our Editors Are Reading

by Betsy Shirley 03-19-2021

iku4 / Shutterstock.com

In Shakespeare's plays as in real life: When evil makes itself known, pay attention.

A Year of Imaginative Thinking: What Our Editors Are Reading

by Betsy Shirley 03-12-2021

 A year ago, I thought it’d be a stretch to get most folks to take abolition seriously. Then the pandemic hit.

It's All Impossible: What Our Editors Are Reading

by Betsy Shirley 03-05-2021

Stories for all of us who’ve had the courage to admit that nope, we’re not okay, and this is hard.

Our Collective Chess Match: What Our Editors Are Reading

by Betsy Shirley 02-12-2021

Stories about folks responding creatively to whatever is trapping them.

The Crack In Everything: What Our Editors Are Reading

by Betsy Shirley 02-05-2021

Healing and repair must start with holding the damage, not hiding it.

Old Sins, New Apocalypse: What Our Editors Are Reading

by Betsy Shirley 01-15-2021

"Free stuff pile or post-Rapture?" by quinn.anya / CC BY-SA 2.0

It was unclear to me why Jesus took the bodies but left the clothes, but as a middle schooler, the prospect of meeting my Lord and savior buck naked was horrifying.

Who Feels at Home in America? What Our Editors Are Reading

by Betsy Shirley 01-08-2021

Pro-Trump protesters storm into the U.S. Capitol during clashes with police. January 6, 2021. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton/File Photo

An attempted coup, theological reflections, and how the internet's algorithms help radicalize young Americans.

Don’t Read This If You’re Baking Cookies: What Our Editors Are Reading

by Betsy Shirley 12-18-2020

Web traffic slumps in mid-December, that’s just the way the internet works. And we — the people who make the internet, or at least, Sojourners’ humble corner of it — never much mind because we assume it means you are busy doing wholesome things like baking cookies, building snowfolk, or calling your elected officials to voice your support for the newest bipartisan COVID-19 relief bill.

Unbelievable: What Our Editors Are Reading

by Betsy Shirley 12-11-2020

The Macy's "Believe" sign on the side of the 34th Street Herald Square flagship store.  DW labs Incorporated / Shutterstock.com

Believe it or not, here we are. In the 10 stories below, you’ll see people wrestling with — and sometimes accepting — all the changes life throws our way.