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New & Noteworthy: Ancestral History, ‘The Secrets of Hillsong,’ and More

by The Editors 08-02-2023
Three culture recommendations from our editors.
A painting in the style of a saint depicting former Hillsong pastor Carl Lentz with an aura of light behind his head. He's crossing the fingers of his raised right hand and wearing a black leather jacket and gold necklace.

From The Secrets of Hillsong

Beyond the Scandal

The Secrets of Hillsong draws on the reporting that exposed misconduct at the Hillsong megachurch. The docuseries goes beyond the headline scandals to explore patterns of abuse engrained in Hillsong’s history and asks what rebuilding looks like in the aftermath of scandal.

Can Churches Be Healers of Church-Rooted Trauma?

by The Editors 07-26-2023
Religious communities have a role to play — and a responsibility — in the journey of healing.
An illustration of Vietnamese climate activist Hoang Thi Minh Hong. She has blue and purple-dyed hair. In the background, a small earth and grassy field at sunrise is to the left, a forest river and waterfall above her, and fish in the sea to the right.

Hoang Hong, a Vietnamese climate activist, was arrested June 1, 2023, the fifth high-profile climate activist in two years to be charged with tax evasion in Vietnam. She remains in jail as of this writing. / Illustration by Hoan Phan

FOR MATTHIAS ROBERTS, and many others, growing up in the church was a traumatic experience. His childhood churches, he writes in our cover feature, were “filled with people who weren’t afraid to tell me I needed to become straight for God to save me from hell.” The effect of such “adverse religious experiences,” as Roberts explains, goes far beyond the immediate harm done to individuals in these settings and can linger deep into their adult lives. That trauma can be triggered by any church experience, even in a supposedly safe and affirming context — another reminder that what happens in any branch of the body of Christ affects the integrity and witness of the whole of the church.

Journalist Gabriel Pietrorazio writes about another kind of church-related trauma, that stemming from what Pope Francis called the “cultural destruction and forced assimilation” of residential schools, often church-run, that many Indigenous people in the U.S. and Canada were made to attend. While there isn’t a clear or easy map to healing for the survivors of religious trauma, one necessary component is the presence of a loving, compassionate community — it’s not a journey to be undertaken alone.

New & Noteworthy: ‘BlackBerry,’ Overlooked Christians, and More

by The Editors 07-10-2023
Three culture recommendations from our editors.
A photo from the docufilm ‘Blackberry.’ Actor Jay Baruchel is Mike Lazaridis, co-CEO of Blackberry. He has short gray hair, glasses, and wears a white dress shirt. He glares down at a phone with wires plugged into it. People behind him are cheering.

From BlackBerry

Capitalist Cautionary Tale

BlackBerry highlights the role of greed in capitalism through the story of the rise of the BlackBerry smartphone. The film, which transports us to a time when smartphones weren’t omnipresent fixtures in our lives, shows the danger of valuing innovation more than ethics.
Elevation Pictures

Taking On the Money Changers

by The Editors 07-10-2023
Christian discipleship is inherently about choosing sides.
A vibrant illustration of pinks, blues, and oranges of soccer player Midge Purce leaping in the air, poised to kick the ball in front of her. Colored lines and curves surround her to emphasis her dynamic movement with a quote from her on the lower left.

Midge Purce plays forward for NJ/NY Gotham FC and the U.S. Women’s National Team and co-founded the Black Women’s Player Collective. Her soccer career has roots at Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic High School in Maryland. / Illustration by Arūnas Kačinskas

CHRISTIAN DISCIPLESHIP is inherently about choosing sides. Yes, some might harbor a temptation to take the supposedly safer path of remaining “neutral,” but that's a delusion: Such alleged neutrality always favors the status quo. To paraphrase Edmund Burke, if good people don't choose sides, the “side” with power and wealth will always win. Or as Lutheran pastor Korla Masters puts it in this issue, “Jesus invites ... us to whole lives of asking ourselves which side we are on and whole lives of answering that our entire selves belong to the kingdom of heaven.”

New & Noteworthy: Sinéad O’Connor, ‘Tell Her Story,’ and More

by The Editors 06-02-2023
Three culture recommendations from our editors.
A black-and-white photograph of Sinéad O’Connor in ‘Nothing Compares.' Her head is shaved and she is wearing a long-sleeve shirt. She is resting her head in both of her palms with her fingers clasped over both cheeks.

From Nothing Compares

The Sinéad Effect

Nothing Compares documents the tumultuous career of Irish musician Sinéad O’Connor. On live TV in 1992, O’Connor protested child abuse in the Catholic Church, nearly a decade before papal acknowledgment. Her actions jeopardized her career, but she clung to music as a form of healing.

Real Progress Requires a Prophetic Perception

by The Editors 05-30-2023
Your eyes can deceive you. Don't trust them as the only way to perceive the path ahead.
An illustration of Renee N. Salas, a professor and physician at Harvard Medical School. She is wearing light blue scrubs and has long brown hair and blue eyes. An iceberg enveloped in a hot pink flame is behind her.

Renee N. Salas is a professor and physician at Harvard Medical School and a senior author of the Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change Policy Brief for the U.S. / Illustration by Adriana Bellet

MANY SCRIPTURAL METAPHORS for transformation involve variations on the “open my eyes that I may see” plea of Psalm 119; the writer of Ephesians 1, for instance, prays for the enlightenment of the “eyes of your heart” so that “you may know the hope to which he has called you.” Various authors in this issue wrestle with similar images. For example, our Prelude, which draws on the writings of French Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, refers to the “worst failing of our minds” as the inability “to see the really big problems” that “are right under our eyes.”

Much of our culture, Zachary Lee explains in his cover feature on Hollywood “spectacle,” serves to distract us from those “really big problems” and makes it difficult for us to see in different, more hopeful ways. Bible savant Walter Brueggemann, who knows a thing or two about alternative ways of perceiving, said that prophets “are able to imagine the world other than the way that is in front of them.” But that task, that “prophetic imagination” of seeing with enlightened eyes, isn’t reserved just for prophets: It’s really an invitation to all of us who seek a better world.

New & Noteworthy: Superhero Theology, ‘Extrapolations,’ and More

by The Editors 04-26-2023
Three culture recommendations from our editors.
Rebecca Shearer (actress Sienna Miller) wears a red shirt and brown shorts with a bandana around her neck while leaning against a tree in a forest and looking up to the sky in the 'Extrapolations' Apple TV series.

From Extrapolations

New Earth?

The TV show Extrapolations, featuring Meryl Streep and Forest Whitaker, offers eight terrifying visions of how climate-changed humanity’s unchecked consumption will harm Earth. The interwoven stories aim to inspire climate action, even as they disturb.
Apple TV+

Pop Culture Can Shape Our Reality

by The Editors 04-21-2023
Our stories can profoundly influence how we see the world — and make it a more just place.
Illustration of Pamela R. Lightsey, a black lesbian Methodist elder. She has a shaved head and is smiling with red lipstick. She wears a black shirt, red earrings, and red bangles with black stripes. She is framed by a rainbow circle and yellow lilies.

Pamela R. Lightsey, the first out Black lesbian elder ordained in the United Methodist Church, is a scholar, speaker, and author of Our Lives Matter: A Womanist Queer Theology. / Illustration by Kim Thompson

POPULAR CULTURE PLAYS an important role in shaping our view of the possible. Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of Between the World and Me, for years wrote Marvel’s Black Panther and Captain America comics. “I think we don’t always realize the extent to which the culture actually interacts with politics,” Coates said on Ezra Klein’s podcast. “I could advocate for all of the policies in the world ... but it really, really occurred to me that there’s a generation that is being formed right now that’s deciding what they will allow to be possible, what they will be capable of imagining. And the root of that isn’t necessarily the kind of journalism that I love that I was doing, the root of that is the stories we tell.”

In this issue, associate news editor Mitchell Atencio looks at some of those stories — in particular, superhero comics — and explores what is not being told, and how pop culture often avoids grappling with the way our country approaches issues such as policing and incarceration. That failure has consequences far beyond the DC and Marvel universes.

New & Noteworthy: ‘Saint Omer,’ Christian Climate Care, and More

by The Editors 03-20-2023
Three culture recommendations from our editors.
Kayije Kagame plays as Rama in the film ‘Saint Omer.’ She is a Black woman with box braids wearing a creased linen olive-green v-neck dress. She sits in the pews of a court with a crowd of people blurred in the background.

From Saint Omer

Humanizing the Harrowing

The French film Saint Omer follows the trial of a Senegalese woman accused of murdering her child. The docudrama is a condemnation of the criminal legal system, and a reminder that no one is the totality of the worst thing they’ve done.
Les Films du Losange

‘It May Not Look Like It, but Love's In Charge’

by The Editors 03-16-2023
Despite the seemingly insurmountable reality of racial injustice, we must remember that God is love.
An illustration of Rev. James M. Lawson Jr. with a quote above his head that reads, "We must earn to work and struggle, not for simply what we see in front of us. We must work that we might be citizens of a country that has not yet appeared."

James M. Lawson Jr., a proponent of Gandhian nonviolence and a leader of the civil rights movement, is a retired United Methodist minister in Los Angeles. / Illustration by Kayneisha Holloway

WHEN VILLANOVA PROFESSOR Vincent W. Lloyd reflects on the theology of the phrase “Black Lives Matter,” he begins with the “death-dealing forces of white supremacy” and the tragic “ vulnerability to premature death” experienced by Black people. But Lloyd doesn’t stop there. To affirm the value of Black lives, Lloyd writes, requires life that is rich, creative, and flourishing.

Lloyd doesn’t think such flourishing is possible without faith. Specifically, he argues that to hold on to “a hope against hope” in the face of these noxious, murderous systems and practices requires belief in the possibility of life after death: “For Black life to matter,” Lloyd writes, “we must believe in resurrection.” As Carmen Acevedo Butcher puts it in her interview with Betsy Shirley, “It may not look like it,” but “Love’s in charge.” That’s an important reminder for all of us, in this Easter season and always.

On a lighter note: We’re pleased to have a guest appearance by our former art director (and humor columnist) Ed Spivey Jr., who came out of retirement to offer his pearls of wisdom on artificial and other kinds of intelligence.

New & Noteworthy: God's Gender, ‘Women Talking,’ and More

by The Editors 02-24-2023
Three culture recommendations from our editors.
A group of Mennonite women are standing and sitting in a barn filled with crates and hay bales in the film 'Women Talking.'

From Women Talking

Do We Stay or Do We Go?

Women Talking centers on Mennonite women wrestling with how to respond to serial sexual assault by men from their colony. The film explores the complexity of forgiveness and touchingly reminds viewers that leaving one’s community can be an act of faith.
United Artists Releasing

On Earth as It Is in Heaven

by The Editors 02-16-2023
Scripture's view of a God-centered economy is at odds with the competitive system of acquisition and consumption known as capitalism.
An illustration of a woman named Sofika Zielyk. She has short blonde hair with sideswept bangs is wearing a white dress that has intricate red patterning and loose sleeves. A yellow circle is behind her with red flowers around the circumference.

Ethnographer and artist Sofika Zielyk curates “The Pysanka: A Symbol of Hope,” an evolving exhibit with more than 500 Easter eggs from people around the world. / Illustration by Angelina Grabil

IN THIS ISSUE, ethicist Larry Rasmussen explains that human economic activity has transformed not only our relationship to the world, but the world itself — we are now in an era where “everything turns upon humanity,” as Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it in a different context. While this new “totalizing” reality of what people are doing to the planet has become virtually undeniable, the human tendency toward unceasing growth, as Jim Rice points out in his column, is still defended by economists, headline writers, and the rest of the “more is more” crowd.

New & Noteworthy: Harriet Tubman's Mysticism, Riotsvilles, and More

by The Editors 12-27-2022
Three culture recommendations from our editors.
A son embraces his mother from behind, who lift up their hands together to clap.

From God's Creatures

Communal Sin

The psychological thriller God’s Creatures follows a mother who chooses to hide her son’s secret, a decision that has damaging ripple effects in her remote fishing village. The film explores how a community’s complacency in covering up sin can systematize and amplify evil.

The Balance of Power

by The Editors 12-26-2022
Abusive power is not new. But it also does not have the final word.
An illustration of Janes Evans and a German Shepherd over his shoulder, accompanied with a quote: "I want people to think of pet ownership as being as diverse and complex as pets themselves. There is a pet out there for everyone."

James Evans is founder and CEO of Companions and Animals for Reform and Equity (CARE), which strives to make animal welfare and rescue more equitable. / Illustration by Tiarra Lucas

ALL THREE FEATURE articles in this issue revolve around issues of power. Jenna Barnett looks at the power wielded by charismatic leaders such as Jean Vanier, one of the founders of the L’Arche communities, and how his power — and a lack of accountability — became a fountainhead of abuse. Mae Elise Cannon, executive director of Churches for Middle East Peace, explores the May 2022 killing of Palestinian Christian Shireen Abu Akleh by the Israeli military, a consequence of the massive power imbalance between the State of Israel and the Occupied Territories of Palestine. And Sojourners’ Moya Harris, an itinerant elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, looks at the spiritual power of Lauryn Hill and other female rappers who address questions of “sexual power, sexism, embodiment, racism, and economic issues” in their lives and music.

As Christians enter the season of Lent, we reflect on human brokenness and who we are before the cross. Abusive power is not new. But it also does not have the final word, as the people in these stories show.

New & Noteworthy: Black Psalms, Spiritual Timekeeping, and More

by The Editors 11-21-2022
Three culture recommendations from our editors.
A Comanche woman stands in a combat-ready pose with a tomahawk against an assailant in the film 'Prey.'

From Prey (2022)

Divine Justice

A Comanche woman eschews gender norms to protect her tribe from fur trappers and alien warriors in the sci-fi horror film Prey. The movie honors Indigenous culture and offers a compelling, brutal picture of divine justice against colonial powers.

Seeking Justice, Not Theocracy

by The Editors 11-21-2022
Public policy has been detrimentally affected — and people harmed — by inhumane, unbiblical interpretations of Christian theology. 
An illustration of Nicole Hockley holding a picture of her deceased son as she stands among orange flowers. A quote from her about taking action in the wake of loss is beside her.

Nicole Hockley’s son Dylan was one of 26 killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. Hockley is co-founder of Sandy Hook Promise, which seeks to prevent violence in schools, homes, and communities. / Illustration by Louisa Cannell

ONE DOESN'T NEED Margaret Atwood’s dystopian fiction to see the frightening potential of theocracy. In this issue, writer René Ostberg tells a chilling story of a malign collusion of church and state — in this case, the Irish Catholic Church and the newly formed Irish state of the 1920s. Together, the two institutions acted as morality police, imprisoning women and girls for the “crime” of becoming pregnant out of wedlock — as Ostberg puts it, “for transgressing Catholic Ireland’s moral and class codes.” More than 10,000 Irish women and girls were incarcerated in so-called Magdalene laundries run by Catholic religious orders with state funding, the last of which wasn’t closed until 1996.

New & Noteworthy: Vigilante Justice, the ‘Unruly Saint,’ and More

by The Editors 10-31-2022
Three culture recommendations from our editors.
Faye Yager holds a child in her arms as she looks off into the distance.

From Children of the Underground

Children of the Underground

After seeing the courts return many children to allegedly abusive fathers, Faye Yager created an underground network that hid hundreds of mothers and children. The five-part docuseries Children of the Underground shows the moral complexity of Yager’s vigilante justiceHulu/FX

Incarnating the Cotton Patch Gospel

by The Editors 10-28-2022
Clarence Jordan lived out the gospel through radical activism in the South during the civil rights movement. His life is a testament to practicing what you preach.
An illustration of teenage Pakistani climate activist Manal Shad, a female with dark hair speaking to an unseen crowd with a fire posed above her right hand. The background reads, "Do not wait for revolution to come; do what you must and light the spark."

Manal Shad is a 14-year-old climate activist from Dir, Pakistan. / Illustration by Samya Arif

“BRINGING HOME THE incarnation was the motivation for Clarence’s writing, his preaching, and his living. He believed that the incarnation was the only method of evangelization, that ‘we haven’t gotten anywhere until we see the word become flesh.’” So wrote associate editor Joyce Hollyday in our December 1979 cover feature on the Southern activist/farmer/writer Clarence Jordan. Our December issue, for many years, was our “incarnation” issue, focused on a contemporary or historical figure who lived out the way of Jesus.

New & Noteworthy: Climate Leaders, "The Viral Underclass," and More

by The Editors 09-29-2022
Three culture recommendations from our editors.
Foreground of image shows Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez hiking in a green forest. She wears a geometric sweater and a blue backpack; her boyfriend is pictured hiking behind her, slightly out of focus

From To the End

The Green New Dealings

To the End follows women of color as they advocate for the Green New Deal and face opposition within their political party. The documentary spotlights Sunrise Movement’s Varshini Prakash, Justice Democrats’ Alexandra Rojas, the Roosevelt Institute’s Rhiana Gunn-Wright, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Jubilee Films

Passing the Torch

by The Editors 09-26-2022
Longtime Sojourner Julie Polter becomes the third editor of the magazine in its 51-year history.
Surreal illustration of an Indigenous woman with dark hair and a purple dress. The bottom and sides of the image are covered by cartoon water in shades of green, blue, and purple, and the top of the image features raised fists in orange, yellow, and red.

Amy Cardinal Christianson, a Métis woman and scientist, co-hosts the Good Fire podcast, which looks at Indigenous fire use around the world. / Illustration by Elyse Martin

JULIE POLTER arrived at Sojourners in 1990 to serve a year as an intern on our editorial staff. Three decades later, Polter steps into the role of editor of Sojourners magazine, the third person to fill that position in our 51-year history. Polter’s predecessor, Jim Rice, who succeeded our founding editor in 2006 and has been on Sojourners’ staff since 1981, will continue as a senior editor. During Rice’s tenure as editor, Sojourners has been consistently honored as “best in class” among its peer religious publications.