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New & Noteworthy: Ancestral History, ‘The Secrets of Hillsong,’ and More
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?
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
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.
Taking On the Money Changers
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
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
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
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.
Pop Culture Can Shape Our Reality
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, sojo.net 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
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’
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
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
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
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
New & Noteworthy: Black Psalms, Spiritual Timekeeping, and More
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
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
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 justice. Hulu/FX
Incarnating the Cotton Patch Gospel
“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
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
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.