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 "make DC weird." Hold me to it.

Posts By This Author

...Can You Not?

by Catherine Woodiwiss 05-04-2016

Image via /

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

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 /

“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 /

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.




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.

The Era of White Anxiety Is Just Beginning

by Catherine Woodiwiss 03-08-2016

Image via michaelgoodin/

Some commentators say this season is anxiety-inducing but temporary, the moment when white Americans are realizing their way of life is over. But Dr. Jennifer Richeson's findings, with Northwestern colleague Maureen A. Craig, say something else: Unaffiliated white Americans, including those with progressive, moderate, and conservative leanings, express more racial bias when confronted with news of a majority-minority future — and, in a further study, demonstrate a tendency to shift right on race-related policies.

In 5 Lyrics, Here's Why Aaron Burr From ‘Hamilton’ As a Lady Would Be Amazing

by Catherine Woodiwiss 03-04-2016

Actor currently playing Burr. Very talented, not a lady. Image via Twitter.

Broadway juggernaut and feel-good American history rap opera sensation of the year Hamilton broke the internet yet again this week, this time with rumors that casting calls in Philadelphia were open to women auditioning for the roles of President George Washington and political ne’er-do-well Aaron Burr. Casting directors have since come out and said “nope” to the idea, but it’s too late — the idea of a madame president as founding mother has already been planted. But it’s the role of Aaron Burr as a woman that would be truly stellar. Burr-as-woman changes the power dynamics of nearly every scene — but in truly fascinating ways. Ways that are so good we’re almost tempted to think Miranda secretly wants it to happen. Could he be that much of a genius?

Here are five amazing ways the story of Hamilton and Burr would change if Burr were played by a woman.

Emotional Goodbye from Wheaton Professor Larycia Hawkins, As Some Vow to Continue On in 'Embodied Solidarity'

by Catherine Woodiwiss 02-10-2016

Image via Twitter/@AriseChicago

“Justice looks like a change in leadership,” Wyatt Harms, recent graduate and founding editor of the student online publication Wheaton Tide, wrote.

“Justice at Wheaton looks like a recognition of its discrimination and a concrete plan to address its systemic deficiencies. Justice looks like the hiring and retaining of women faculty and faculty of color. Justice looks like an independent review of this controversy free from the biased hands of the administration and the board of trustees. Justice looks like public apologies from Dr. Jones and Dr. Ryken, in which they admit their prejudices. Justice looks like this situation never happening again.”

Timeline of a Controversy: Wheaton College and Larycia Hawkins

by Catherine Woodiwiss 02-10-2016

Image from Sojourners' timeline of the Wheaton-Hawkins controversy.

How did Wheaton get here? Here are the highlights (and more than one little-publicized anecdote) into one timeline.