Betsy Shirley

Assistant Editor

I took a lot of poetry classes in college and read some pretty good poems, but the only poem I ever loved in a serious, gushing way was T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets. I loved it so much that I wanted to hear someone read it out loud, but none of my friends wanted to read a 64 page poem to me and the only audio copy at the library was on cassette tapes, which were quaint, but inconvenient. In the end, I got the tapes anyway and listened to T.S. Eliot read his greatest work on the plastic Fisher-Price tape player I had as a kid, the kind where all the buttons are primary-colored and the size of hotel soaps.

The poem is full of really beautiful parts, but I especially liked the first few lines of the very last stanza where it says, "We shall not cease from exploration; And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started, and know the place for the first time."

A professor told me these lines were probably referring to heaven, and how all we're really trying to do in life is get back to the Garden of Eden, where we started. And to me that seems very wise and probably true, but I think it's also true in a more ordinary way. The best things in life always seem to be coming full-circle, like when you reread The Chronicles of Narnia noticing things you never saw as a kid and love the same stories all over again, but in a deeper way.

That's the best I can do to explain why I wanted to spend a year as an intern with Sojourners: it's not about learning a new story, but about learning to read a well-loved story with new eyes, taking account for all that's happened since I first read it. It's about learning to see the gospel of Jesus through the lens of social justice, noticing things I missed as a kid, ending up a little closer to where I first set out, but somehow changed because of all that's happened in between.

Posts By This Author

Christian Leaders in U.S. Voice Support for #SCOTUSmarriage

by Betsy Shirley 06-26-2015

Brian Talbot/Flickr

Following the Supreme Court’s ruling today that “same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry in all States,” many wondered how Christian leaders in the U.S. would react.  

But despite lingering stereotypes, many religious folk in the U.S. are now supportive of same-sex marriage. In fact, a recent survey found that “among religiously affiliated Americans, supporters today actually outnumber opponents.”   

Below, read some of the responses from Christian leaders — including evangelicals, Catholics, and Protestants — who have expressed their joy and support for today’s Supreme Court ruling, as well as the work left to be done towards full LGBTQ inclusion in our nation and churches.  

How One Conservative Evangelical Pastor Changed His Mind About Gun Rights

by Betsy Shirley 06-23-2015
As Rev. Rob Schenck discovered, it turns out being "pro-guns" poses a challenge for those with pro-life commitments.
Screenshot from "Armor of Light"

Screenshot from "Armor of Light"

A lifelong anti-abortion activist, Schenck has impeccable evangelical credentials. Consequently, after the 2013 D.C. Navy Yard shooting left 13 people dead in his own neighborhood, Schenck risked losing those credentials — and possibly his career — as he publicly began to question the unholy alliance between God and guns that exists among many conservative evangelicals.

Though Schenck has already made a few public statements about his support for stricter gun control as part of his pro-life stance, he expects that The Armor of Light, released earlier this year, will cause him to lose "significant" financial support. 

Not that he minds.

A New Wave

by Betsy Shirley 07-01-2013

The Evangelicals You Don't Know: Introducing the Next Generation of Christians. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers

Vehicles for Grace

by Betsy Shirley, by Francisco X. Stork 11-27-2012

Francisco X. Stork

Betsy Shirley talks to author Francisco X. Stork about helping young adults ask the hard questions.

Being Like Deborah

by Betsy Shirley 10-03-2012

What in heaven's name does "biblical womanhood" mean? Rachel Held Evans embarked on a yearlong journey to find out.

Doing it the Hard Way

by Betsy Shirley 05-01-2012

Gamaliel's Ana Garcia-Ashley is the first woman of color to lead a national community organizing network, faith-based or otherwise. And she's pulling no punches.

Practice, Practice, Practice

by Betsy Shirley 11-01-2011

How to deepen our spirituality, one step at a time.

Six Questions for Jose Penate Aceves

by Betsy Shirley 11-01-2011

1. What led you to start an intentional community ministering to gang members? Gangs have a really strong sense of community: They fight and die for their homies and they support each other. Other programs offer job skills or anger management, but don’t offer community. We offer a community like the community they have. After many years working with them, we realized that was attractive to them—they feel at home.

Interview With John Francis

by John Francis, by Betsy Shirley 07-27-2011

Interview with John Francis by Betsy Shirley

The Harry Potter Prayer

by Betsy Shirley 07-19-2011

oh yes I amphoto © 2007 Laura Askelin | more info (via: Wylio)Though I like a rousing round of ave maria's as much as the next person, the past few centuries of church prayer trends have eschewed Latin in favor of the vernacular -- that is, the language of the people. And to the tune of 450 million copies in more than 70 translations (and counting), it's clear that people the world around speak the language of Harry Potter. Or rather, the story of Harry Potter speaks to them.

So as I watched the final Hogwarts Express depart from Platform 9¾ in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II this past weekend (slightly teary-eyed, I confess), I started to wonder: What might it sound like to pray in the language of Harry Potter -- language that clearly resonates with folks around the world? Would it be cheesy? Probably. Profane? Perhaps. But I figured the God who relied on earthly parables about wineskins and fig trees to explain the Kingdom would understand.