Jasper Vaughn is the former Editorial Assistant for Sojourners.

Posts By This Author

How Some American Evangelicals are Challenging Views About Palestine

by Jasper Vaughn 09-13-2018

Image via Grigoris Siamidis/ Shutterstock.com 

A movement is building among justice-minded evangelicals. To them, the suffering of Palestinian civilians, including many siblings in Christ and those from diverse theological and faith traditions, demands accountability regarding the Israeli occupation and government. And this movement has gathered traction in recent years among young evangelical Christians who say figures like Hagee and Jeffress do not speak for them.

Lessons in Vulnerable Love

by Jasper Vaughn 04-25-2018
Love, Henri: Letters of the Spiritual Life, by Henri J.M. Nouwen; edited by Gabrielle Earnshaw. Convergent Books.

“A SUGGESTION: Speak much about Jesus.” Henri Nouwen’s recommendation to a friend, captured in Love, Henri—a new collection of his personal correspondence—encapsulates the priest and author’s private and public ministry. More than almost any other modern figure, Nouwen bridged Catholic/Protestant doctrinal divides with his writing to bring spiritual healing and comfort, even as he wrestled with what he termed his inner “demons.”

Edited by Gabrielle Earnshaw and released in conjunction with the 20th anniversary of Nouwen’s death, Love, Henri highlights the priest’s struggle for inner peace and his extensive web of deep friendships. While the collection does not present any shocking revelations, and contains fewer transcendent moments of raw emotion than other collections of Nouwen’s writing, it works well as a meditation on what it means to love selflessly and extend oneself over a lifetime.

In the collection, Henri is both protagonist and antagonist, healing and wounding those in his life. While Nouwen himself acknowledges “a kind of enthusiasm” in his own writing that “seems a little bit too easy,” the gift is watching him participate in these seeker/giver relationships. In early letters, he is often overly attached: “Maybe your distance simply means that I force myself upon you and there is not a mutuality that makes friendship possible.” Later, though, we see him “speak about [his] inner struggles as a source of self-understanding” and solidarity, rather than a way “to avoid difficult positions and responsibility and evoke some sympathy.”

Combating Off-Field Violence

by Jasper Vaughn 04-25-2018
Sexual assault casts a long shadow over athletics—even at Christian colleges.
Editorial credit: Richard Paul Kane / Shutterstock.com

Editorial credit: Richard Paul Kane / Shutterstock.com

I GREW UP dazzled by NBA champion Kobe Bryant taking over games and redefining precision—I could never look away when he was on the court. But the sexual assault accusations brought against him in 2003 are as much a part of Bryant’s legacy as the night he dropped 81 points on the Toronto Raptors.

Domestic violence and sexual assault cast a long shadow over athletics, as much in Christian colleges as in secular universities or professional sports. Christian colleges should be held to a higher standard, however, because they have a gospel mission to shape disciples and protect the vulnerable, not just trade in talent.

That’s why I was dismayed in November when Liberty University (“Training Champions for Christ since 1971”) hired Ian McCaw as its new athletic director. McCaw resigned from Baylor University last year after he was sanctioned and placed on probation for his role in a widespread sexual assault scandal. The investigation into McCaw’s negligence led an independent law firm to release “scathing findings” of an “overall perception that football was above the rules,” and a complete lack of a “culture of accountability for misconduct.”

Liberty President Jerry Falwell Jr.’s response? McCaw’s tenure at Baylor “fits perfectly with where we see our sports programs going.”

Professional sports are notorious for an institutional failure to hold sports figures accountable and to believe, respect, and protect victims of physical and sexual violence by those same figures. The NFL famously prioritizes player talent over women’s safety and imposes punishment to offenders unevenly—an inconsistency that often has a racialized narrative.

Real or Fake? 5 Things to Know When Reading Stories Online

by Jasper Vaughn, by Cara Evanson 03-10-2017

Every time you open Facebook, the website’s closely-guarded secret algorithm scans everything posted by friends, groups, and “liked” pages in the past week. Then it determines how likely you are to find each post worthwhile.

We All Lose When We Ban Refugees

by Jasper Vaughn 02-06-2017

While the ban remains inactive after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied the U.S. government’s request to resume travel restrictions, legal challenges by Trump’s administration will continue. Christians must join in solidarity with our refugee brothers and sisters and continue to denounce both the ideology and methodology of the ban. 


Eric Metaxas and the False Equivalency

by Jasper Vaughn 10-25-2016

Image via /Shutterstock.com

Metaxas attempts to whip up the same fear that Trump does when the candidate loudly claims that the country is being taken away from “real” Americans, or that a “rigged” election will deny agency to his supporters. Ultimately, there’s little difference between Trump’s not-so-veiled threats of force against Clinton and Metaxas’ connection between this election and the Bonhoeffer assassination plot: “For our kids and grandkids, are we not obliged to take our best shot at this?