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New & Noteworthy: September/October 2020
By This We Know
The Chicago-based rap duo Verbal Kwest explore the Bible’s commandments of love in their latest release, Lovkwest. On seven tracks, pastor-rappers J.Kwest (Julian DeShazier) and BreevEazie (Anthony Lowery) unleash words of wisdom and passion over intricate beats, speaking of God’s great embrace in a year of immense loss. Verbal Kwest.
“The history of Christianity is one of cultural appropriation,” Phuc Luu says in his debut Jesus of the East: Reclaiming the Gospel for the Wounded. Drawing on traditions of the Eastern church, Luu dislodges the West’s dominance over much of Christianity, highlighting how the faith doesn’t belong solely to Europeans. Herald Press.
New & Noteworthy: ‘Floodlines,’ Valarie Kaur, and More
Force of Nature
The podcast Floodlines tells the stories of four New Orleanians who stayed in the city as Hurricane Katrina hit, 15 years ago this August. Through eight episodes based on a year of reporting, the extensive traumas caused by the storm and a botched federal response are examined. The Atlantic.
New & Noteworthy: Environmental Racism, Closing Churches, and More
When petrochemical plants overtook a historically black community in Louisiana, its residents were forced to leave one by one. But Stacey Ryan refused to go. Mossville: When Great Trees Fall is a documentary about Ryan’s commitment and resistance to environmental racism. Passion River Films.
New & Noteworthy: ‘Crip Camp,’ Prophets, and More
Lanyards and Legislation
Camp Jened, a former summer program for teens with disabilities, is the focus of the new documentary Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution. Co-directed by an attendee of the camp, with an overview of the relationships and activism that began there, Crip Camp is immensely prophetic and empowering. Netflix.
New & Noteworthy: Migration Literature, Kaitlin Curtice’s ‘Native,’ and More
Departures and Arrivals
The Penguin Book of Migration Literature, edited by St. John’s University professor Dohra Ahmad, with a foreword by the Haitian American writer Edwidge Danticat, includes fiction, poetry, and memoir from the 18th century onward. From abolitionist Olaudah Equiano to Zadie Smith, this anthology honors the lives of migrants. Penguin Classics.
New & Noteworthy: April 2020
Words of Life
More than 50 songwriters, musicians, pastors, and theologians collaborated to create Neighbor Songs. This second project from The Porter’s Gate brings people from different backgrounds and traditions together to explore themes of justice, doubt, and lament through musical worship. Integrity Music.
New & Noteworthy: March 2020
'Our Help Is In the Name'
Canada-based The Forest Archive drops a worship album celebrating the Songs of Ascents in Psalms 120 to 134. Mixing strings and percussion with energy and earthiness, A Garden Green is folk music that invites listeners to a deeper story of unfettered joy and resistance to injustice. theforestarchive.bandcamp.com.
New & Noteworthy: February 2020
Let My People Go
Mary Lambert, the Christian, queer, Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter featured in Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ “Same Love,” sings of trauma and triumph in her latest album, Grief Creature. Abuse, rape, shame, depression: Lambert faces them all. “Sometimes I call it drowning,” she says. “Sometimes I call it Moses.” Tender Heart Records.
New & Noteworthy: January 2020
The 10-part podcast City of Refuge tells the little-known story of a French village that resisted the Nazis during World War II and saved 5,000 refugees. A model for collective strength, City of Refuge shows what happens when ordinary people act in extraordinary ways. Waging Nonviolence.
Girl, Woman, Other , the Booker Prize winner by Bernardine Evaristo, explores the U.K.’s deep roots of racism and how 12 black people in Britain—11 women and a gender nonbinary person—navigate their multifaceted identities. Black Cat.
New & Noteworthy: December 2019
Blessed Are the Merciful
In Clemency, Emmy winner and Oscar nominee Alfre Woodard plays Bernadine Williams, a prison warden preparing to oversee her 12th execution. Viewers enter Williams’ mind as she grapples with executing another prisoner. A film with emotional weight and pertinent themes, Clemency raises important questions.
New & Noteworthy: November 2019
Notes on Compassion
In Kishi Bashi’s fourth studio album, Omoiyari, he examines what history can teach us about America today. The forced relocation and internment of more than 117,000 Japanese Americans during World War II is evoked through poignant lyrics that paint parallels between then and now. Joyful Noise
New & Noteworthy: September/October 2019
Songs of Courage
Grammy winner and civil rights icon Mavis Staples offers a powerful message of faith and justice in her 17th album, We Get By. Backed by funk rhythm and gospel-inspired vocals, Staples’ textured voice implores listeners to “be brave in a scary world” and “pray sometime” to bring about much-needed change. Anti/Epitaph
Art and State
Be Recorder: Poems is a shockingly personal yet sharply political collection. Carmen Giménez Smith’s fluid free verse offers an urgent reckoning of self and nation. Giménez calls Americans to account for their complicity in upholding a power-and-profit-driven model and forges the path toward a redefined America. Graywolf Press
Darren Dochuk’s Anointed with Oil: How Christianity and Crude Made Modern America tells how America’s infatuation with oil gave rise to an American exceptionalism deeply embedded in the Christian faith. Dochuk writes that oil, hailed as a blessing from God, has now become an “imprint on America’s soul.” Basic Books
New & Noteworthy: August 2019
Shelter and Storm
Seeking Shelter: A Story of Place, Faith, and Resistance is a 30-minute documentary on the personal history of the late Christian activists Daniel Berrigan, William Stringfellow, and Anthony Towne. Using firsthand accounts, the film follows their work for civil rights, social justice, nuclear disarmament, and environmental action. Seekingshelterblockisland.org
Response: July 2019
In “Remembrance and Repentance” (May 2019), Kimberly Burge wrote about her church, founded by Methodists who had split from their denomination in 1844 “so that its members could defend slavery while remaining within the church.”
New & Noteworthy: July 2019
Among the Branches
Retro sounds meet recent dangers in the album Things That Grow. Backed by Memphis rock musicians, songwriter Tracy Howe sings of liberation from violence, racism, and environmental destruction. Soul and gospel lift her prayerful words and guide listeners forward on the shared “justice road.” Just Love Music
From the Editors: What is the Worth of a Human Life?
IN 2015, Pope Francis told inmates at Philadelphia’s Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility that the purpose of prison is rehabilitation, “to give you a hand in getting back on the right road, to give you a hand to help you rejoin society.” The pontiff said these words in front of a throne-like walnut chair made for him by prisoners participating in Philacor, a program that, according to news coverage about the pope’s visit, offers job training in carpentry, catering, printing, and textiles to those behind bars.
New & Noteworthy: June 2019
“Black faith still can’t be washed away” Solange sings in her album When I Get Home. The ambient work pays homage to her Houston roots while exploring themes of blackness and spirituality. Synth, syncopated drums, smooth vocals, and experimental time signatures form a liberating fusion of sound. Saint Records/Columbia
From the Archives: Fall 1971
I was hungry and
you blamed it on the communists
I was hungry and you
circled the moon
Letters: June 2019
Lifting the Shadowland of the Devil
After watching news about the New Zealand shootings, I read Jay Wamsted’s article “How Racism Wins” (April 2019) and was struck by how the words of this high school teacher are in the spirit of Father Daniel Berrigan. Then I flipped the page to Rose Marie Berger’s review of The Five Quintets by Micheal O’Siadhail (“Madame Jazz vs. Madame Guillotine”), lifting the shadowland of the devil for a moment with the work of an Irish poet. Thank you, Sojourners.
From the Editors: Changing Our Lenses
MAYBE YOU’VE HEARD a land acknowledgement at a conference, sporting event, or worship service. These brief statements name the Indigenous territory on which an event takes place, a small sign of respect to the people who stewarded this land for millennia and whose deep relationship to the land continues today. For any of us who’ve settled on that land, these statements are intentionally unsettling, a way “to counteract the ideologies operating in the Doctrine of Discovery by naming that the land was not empty when Europeans first arrived,” as one group of Canadian churches put it.
But land acknowledgements become trite—an easy checkmark in the social justice box—if they are not part of ongoing relationships with local Indigenous communities. These relationships must include settlers being quiet and listening to some hard truths from Indigenous people about history, responsibility, and reparations.