Catherine Woodiwiss

Senior Associate Web Editor

I'm Senior Associate Web Editor for Sojourners, where I look for voices to contribute to conversations on faith, spirituality, justice, policy, culture, innovation, and daily life.

My favorite postures are ethnographer and producer — reporting on the spread of subcultures, ideas, objects, and beliefs through time and place; and creating the conditions for others'​ voices and talents to thrive.

In that capacity, I also co-founded a service design consultancy for creative businesses in emerging economies, and co-launched a DIY house show network to bring top local talent into supportive local living rooms. I was a speaker on collaborative solutions and the "Do It Together" culture at SXSW in 2014, and an ebook collection of my reporting for Sojourners on abuse and intimate partner violence in Christian congregations, I Believe You: Sexual Violence and the Church, was published the same year.

My nonofficial, not-so-subtle goal is to "keep DC weird." Hold me to it.

Posts By This Author

#KissShameBye Reveals Lasting, Harmful Effects of Purity Culture

by Catherine Woodiwiss 07-19-2016

Image via /Shutterstock.com

The conversation — tagged #KissShameBye and hosted by the No Shame Movement — explored purity culture and its impacts on sex, dating, and marriage. Participants discussed one “source text” for purity culture in particular — I Kissed Dating Goodbye, a hugely popular book among young evangelicals, published 20 years ago, that advocates against dating before marriage and underscores themes of purity, defilement, saving oneself for marriage, and losing one's self-worth if engaged in anything other than hetero marital physical contact.

A Testing Ground for Community

by Catherine Woodiwiss 07-05-2016
Having a front porch means regular congregations, planned and unplanned.
Iriana Shiyan / Shutterstock

Iriana Shiyan / Shutterstock

IF THE SWELTERING heat were not enough to dampen the midsummer soul, D.C.’s metro system has shut down portions of its train lines for long-overdue repairs, leaving us retreating to our homes—and, if we’re lucky, our porches: the outdoor living rooms of a city.

Summer is a time when lethargy reigns, especially here in the humid semi-South. Unlike in the North, where frigid winter inculcates an obstinate determination to prove that weather won’t hold us back, the South is a respecter of heat. Come August, everything s l o w s d o w n.

There’s no better time for porches than in a humid heat, when sleepy hospitality reigns supreme. Summer is the season for public myth-shaping, when private dreams and tweeted ideologies collide on the street with other humans and the full cacophony of life lived outside. Our systemic ills are most visible in the summer: residents suffering from water shutoffs, police brutality committed and pardoned, an education system that affords some children elite summer camps and denies others a glimpse of the outdoors, the merry-go-round of ads reminding us that “summer” is skin-deep and buyable. So is our hospitality most visible—music drifting from one door to the next, neighbors sharing an extra lemonade.

In earlier decades, houses were designed for life to happen just off the street. So the living rooms of most houses in D.C. are in the front—kitchens, studies, and bathrooms in the back or on another floor altogether. The dream of safe ensconcement away from the unpredictable intrusions of neighbors or vendors is unique to suburbia—in urban design, proximity is power. Front porches, just slightly removed from the chaotic spontaneity of summer streets, are both cachet and a basic necessity—permeable culture containers waiting to capture the overflow.

Sustaining the Daily Grind of Activism

by Catherine Woodiwiss 06-30-2016
A Q+A with activist Bree Newsome

Image via JP Keenan / Sojourners

Bree Newsome, a Christian activist from North Carolina, climbed into history last year when she scaled the flagpole of the South Carolina state house and removed the longstanding Confederate flag. One year later, Sojourners caught up with Newsome, an honoree at The Summit 2016, on what her action helped bring down — and build up.

Trey Pearson: 'It's Hard When You're the One Who Has Had to Go Through It'

by Catherine Woodiwiss 06-08-2016

Image via Trey Pearson.

It’s hard when you’re the one who has had to go through it. And that’s tough — it’s tough when you can pour your heart out to someone and they’re angry or not willing to listen to what you have to say. My hope is they’ll be willing to have a conversation, with compassion and love, even when they don’t understand.

...Can You Not?

by Catherine Woodiwiss 05-04-2016

Image via /Shutterstock.com

new PAC has popped up in Colorado with a simple platform: “Bruh, can you not?”

The PAC, started by Denver-based Kyle Huelsman and Jack Teter, seeks to help get more qualified women, LGBT people, and people of color in office — by convincing straight white men not to run.

The site is tongue-in-cheek, promising “interventions for the misguided bros in your life who looked in the mirror this morning and thought ‘yeah, it’s gotta be me.’”

“We challenge brogressives and others to reject any notion that they are uniquely qualified or positioned to seek political office in districts that don’t need them. As well-represented white dudes, we feel it is our obligation to know when to shut up and Not,” says their statement at canyounot.org.

But the Can You Not PAC — started “by white men, for white men” — is fully serious.

Making Room for Delight

by Catherine Woodiwiss 05-02-2016
Is joy not a betrayal, I wondered, of everyone who remains wounded?
Artur Bogacki / Shutterstock

Artur Bogacki / Shutterstock

I RECENTLY MADE the mistake of taking an extended trip to my favorite city. Istanbul is a rambunctious sprawl of cultures and histories—catnip for a writer, as I am, and for a college student, as I was on my first visit nine years ago.

Chief among Istanbul’s delights is the Hagia Sophia, first basilica, then mosque, then museum—part architectural wonder, part historical jigsaw puzzle. Above the ochre-domed great hall is the famous juxtaposition: a gilded mosaic of Mary and the Christ Child flanked by two enormous placards in Arabic script—the names Allah and Muhammad. The effect is somehow both solemn and conspiratorial, as if some divine negotiation has happened behind the scenes.

Hagia Sophia means “holy wisdom,” and to enter into its hushed halls, a thin winter light stretching its way across 1,500-year-old pillars to twinkle through heavy chandeliers, is to enter a palpable mystery. It is constitutionally impossible to behold the Hagia Sophia for the first time and not feel a stirring in the soul.

But this was my second time. After eight years of living in Washington, D.C., and working for social justice, I was carrying with me a very different posture toward the world—a suspicion of appearances, a stubbornness to accept grand narrative. I have learned much more about the world and the many ways it fails us since my first glimpse of a shimmering Istanbul. I’ve written about systems that rely on marginalization and the politically convenient, and I’ve felt, deeply and insistently, all the ways the world has grown more threatening for the most vulnerable.

Do Evangelicals Worship the Same God?

by Catherine Woodiwiss 04-26-2016
Filmmaker Linda Midgett isn't so sure. And for her, the project is personal.

Image via /Shutterstock.com

“One of the things I really see happening is as Christians in America, evangelicals are losing their cultural dominance, and I see a lot of fear associated with that. I see a lot of anger. I guess that’s almost like a god of dominance,” Midgett said. “And that’s in contrast to the god of suffering, the god who comes as a servant to die for us. Those two things are really two completely different paradigms.”

The Toast's Mallory Ortberg on Death, Faith, and Why It's So Easy to Make Fun of Christians

by Catherine Woodiwiss 04-19-2016

"I love the desert fathers. They are so neat. Especially because my life is all about maximizing comfort — like, my house is cozy, my dog and I have little spots on the couch that’s just shaped like our butts cause we just love being on the couch. And these guys are like, 'Well, I spend a lot of time not eating, and weaving baskets until my fingers bleed, but could I spend more time not weaving baskets until my fingers bleed?'"

Union Theological Seminary's Controversial Plan to Survive

by Catherine Woodiwiss 04-12-2016
The school wants to build luxury condos to pay the bills. Students say this plan contradicts their values.

Image via /Shutterstock.com

Developing real estate is not new to justice-minded groups — religious organizations from New York City to East Africa are weighing the symbolic meaning invested in their land against practical survival plans for the mission. What makes Union’s plans particularly upsetting to campus protesters is its location. When Union announced it was in talks with a developer to build condominiums on campus, the move was met with outcry from some students, alumni, and faculty. But President Jones said this move is nothing new for the school — only now, perhaps, it’s more public.

 

 

PLAYING GO(d)

by Catherine Woodiwiss 03-10-2016
AI Just Outmatched the Human Brain — 10 Years Ahead of Schedule

Image via JP Keenan/Sojourners

The ongoing five-game series, played in Seoul and livestreamed nightly on YouTube, is a surprisingly high-publicity contest for a computer system that wasn’t supposed to even be possible for another 10 years. Sedol and the founders of DeepMind were front page news in South Korea on game day. More than 90,000 people worldwide watched the livestream during its first match on March 9 — and at least that many saw AlphaGo win.

If it goes on to win the whole series, AlphaGo will do what many have long considered impossible: beat humans at their own best game.

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