Editor, sojo.net

Betsy Shirley is the editor of 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

A Post-Roe Reading List To Inspire Faith and Justice

by Betsy Shirley 06-24-2022

Abortion rights supporters protest in New York after the United States Supreme Court ruled in the Dobbs v. Women's Health Organization abortion case, overturning the landmark Roe v Wade abortion decision on June 24, 2022. REUTERS/Caitlin Ochs

Ten stories that show how Roe's overturn will impact economically poor, politically marginalized, and socially vulnerable people — and what Christians can do.

I'd Like To Speak With a Human

by Betsy Shirley 06-17-2022
A human hand and a robotic hand both reach for a vintage telephone on a yellow background.

Image: LightField Studios Inc. / Alamy

Ten stories you won't find on a pre-recorded menu of options.

50 Ways To Thwart Your Enemy With Noncooperation

by Betsy Shirley 06-10-2022

Paul Simon poses for a photograph on Nov. 10, 1997. Photo: PA Images via Reuters Connect

Actually just 10. But that's five more than in Paul Simon’s famous song.

30 Years After LA Riots, Churches Must Dispel Model Minority Myth

by Betsy Shirley 04-28-2022

On April 29, 2017, a protester holding a sign participates in a march where the LA riots started in 1992. REUTERS/Kevork Djansezian

The devastation of the 1992 riots inspired Hyepin Im to advocate for the economic and political empowerment of underserved communities, including Korean Americans — and her own faith led her to look for ways that churches could be more effective partners in this work.

When ‘Alleluia’ Feels Hollow

by Betsy Shirley 04-22-2022
A Chocolate Easter bunny, wrapped in shiny golden and silver aluminum foil, partially nibbled away, foil ripped open at the top

A Chocolate Easter bunny, wrapped in shiny golden and silver aluminum foil, partially nibbled away, foil ripped open at the top. EThamPhoto / Alamy

Jesus rose on Sunday, but my heart is stuck in Lent.

Last week my church gathered our first in-person Holy Week services since before the pandemic. We sung Charles Wesley’s classic Easter hymn, “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today,” our trailing alleluias slightly out-of-sync as we remembered how to blend our voices. But when we got to the line, “Where, O death, is now thy sting?” the words stuck in my throat. Love’s redeeming work is done — I do believe that — but fresh examples of death’s sting aren’t hard to spot.

Smiling in Triumph Despite Decay

by Betsy Shirley 03-11-2022

A dental x-ray. Photo: Opreanu Roberto Sorin / Alamy

Several days ago, I spent more than I would have liked on a dental procedure that involved removing decay from one of my molars, doing a lot of horrible-sounding drilling and scraping, then saving the delicate bits that remained by capping it with a fake tooth. My dentist insisted this was called a “crown,” but I know a euphemism when I see one.

10 Lent Devotionals and Books That Inspire Faith and Justice

by Betsy Shirley 03-01-2022

Photo: DRasa / Alamy

The resources in this list — books, free downloads, email series, audio formats, and other media — aim to accompany us as we accept Lent’s invitation to self-examination, renewal, and yes, good old-fashioned repentance. Some of the resources zero in on a particular sin, like racism or ableism; others invite us to consider the myriad ways to renounce all the death-dealing powers of evil.

Barbecue Sauce, Bombs, and the Strange Juxtapositions of War

by Betsy Shirley 02-25-2022

A night view Applebee's restraunt in New Hartford, N.Y., Mar. 20, 2020. Mahmoud Masad / Alamy

Maybe you’ve seen the now-viral clip: As air raid sirens wailed, a camera panned the skyline of Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital. The previous evening, Russia launched a full invasion of the independent democracy, prompting tens of thousands of Ukrainians to flee their homes. In the distance, the gold onion domes of a church glowed, architectural symbolism for divine light, intended to point worshippers to the world beyond. Then CNN’s coverage abruptly cut to an Applebee’s commercial.

Rev. Katey Zeh Is Done With Circular Abortion Debates

by Betsy Shirley 02-14-2022

Katey Zeh. Courtesy photo. Graphic by Tiarra Lucas / Sojourners.

As Baptist minister and CEO of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, Zeh has participated in plenty of “circular conversations regarding the moral absolutes of abortion.” But as she writes in her new book, A Complicated Choice: Making Space for Grief and Healing in the Pro-Choice Movement, these debates often overlook how abortion always “happens within a person’s real, full, and complex life.”

Our 2021 Book Roundup to Inspire Faith and Justice

by Betsy Shirley 12-07-2021

“Above all else, guard your heart,” warns Proverbs, “for everything you do flows from it” (4:23). But can any of us say we’ve made it through the past few years with our hearts in good repair? 

Yet whenever I’d crack open a book, something stirred; stories have a way of seeping in where tweets, memes, and news alerts fail.

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.