Catherine Woodiwiss

Deputy Web Editor

I'm deputy web editor for Sojourners, where I report on culture, tech, and religion, and look for voices to contribute to conversations on faith, spirituality, justice, innovation, and daily life. A collection of my reporting on sexual abuse and Christian communities, "I Believe You: Sexual Violence and the Church," was published in 2014 (avail on Amazon).

Beyond the religion beat, I also write on business, tech, community innovation, nostalgia, loss, collective memory, and war, with work appearing in the Atlantic, Pacific Standard, the Washington Post, Think Progress, and Books & Culture. In 2014, I spoke on collaborative solutions and "Do It Together" design models at SXSW in Austin, Texas.

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. 

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

Posts By This Author

Faith Leaders to Trump Administration: Support and Protect LGBTQ Rights

by Catherine Woodiwiss 12-09-2016

Image via Cjames Fotografia/Flickr

“As a black lesbian growing up in the South, being in a room filled with Christians excited and ready to engage with the powers that be at all levels of government is something I could only have dreamed would exist,” Victoria Kirby York, National Campaigns Director for the National LGBTQ Task Force, said.

“We must love our neighbor as ourself. And it is radical, and it is broad, and it is all-encompassing.”

Reporters Have to Get Better at Listening. This New Docuseries Shows How.

by Catherine Woodiwiss 11-16-2016

Image via "The Messy Truth."

We’re part of a community of people who are using cameras and pens and microphones to explore our differences — and I think that’s what keeps our differences from being explored by knives and bombs and all these other forms of destruction. What you’re doing with a publication, what we're doing with film, it’s all part of the same effort.

That’s where you see democracy at work, and that’s really what we’re rededicating ourselves to.

Pretty Much Everyone Thinks Contraception Use Is Fine, Survey Confirms

by Catherine Woodiwiss 09-29-2016

Image via /Shutterstock.com

The survey, released by the Pew Research Center on Sept. 28, polled more than 4,500 adults on the use of contraception and other recent “values” controversies in an effort to put data to the often-public communications breakdowns between America’s understanding of religious liberty and nondiscrimination. Other hot button issues in the survey included whether businesses should be required to provide wedding services to same-sex couples, and whether transgender people should be able to use the restrooms of the gender with which they identify — both of which revealed national opinion to be nearly evenly split.

George Saunders on Trump, Mystery, and Why He Rejects Social Media

by Catherine Woodiwiss 08-30-2016

Image via Fort Greene Focus/Flickr

Saunders’ spirit of generosity, cloaked in the dark humor and melancholy of his stories, has made him something of a guru to younger writers. A practicing Buddhist, with a childhood in the Catholic Church, Saunders approaches his essays in particular with a spiritual frankness — comfortable with his own limits, unabashedly willing to admit what confounds him, and ready to tell the truth as faithfully as he can. 

In July, he published his months-long attempt to understand Trump supporters and how they came to invest so much in a highly divisive, unconventional candidate. He seems both a natural and a jarringly wrong fit to capture this election season — perhaps the writer best ready to chronicle the already-absurd, and the one most willing to take it seriously. And at this moment in 2016, Saunders may be a kinder national narrator than we deserve.

The Myth of the Midlife Crisis — And What That Can Mean About Faith

by Catherine Woodiwiss 08-02-2016
A Q+A with journalist Barbara Bradley Hagerty

Image via /Shutterstock.com

It's my experience, observationally and personally, that people of faith go through the same kind of U curve, the same ennui that you experience psychologically. …. this malaise, this sense that you're praying and no one's listening, that the honeymoon is over. Those really rich feelings during prayer or everyday life — that God is here and present in this moment, “I feel the palpable presence of the Holy Spirit” — for most people, I think that ebbs. I think that's part of the plan.

… I talked to a group of nuns who are in their 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s, because I figured they had a dog in this fight — if they lost their faith it actually would matter. What do you do when stuff gets boring or dull or hard? To a nun, their answer was the same — sometimes you don't feel God, and you just keep going. It's a relationship.

#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.

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