Jenna Barnett is an associate culture editor for sojo.net.
Jenna was born in San Antonio, Texas, and has found home in California, Georgia, South Carolina, and Washington, D.C. She has a B.A. in sociology and religion from Furman University and an M.F.A in Literary Reportage from New York University.
Before joining the Sojourners team, Jenna managed the International Rescue Committee’s large urban gardens in San Diego, and worked as a Peace Writer for the Women PeaceMakers Program at the Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice, where she used creative nonfiction, interviews, and conflict analysis to tell the life story of Pauline Dempers, a human rights activist and torture survivor from Namibia. It's a life goal of Jenna's to continue uplifting the stories of women who are cooler than she is.
Posts By This Author
Christianity Today and the Sacred Work of Documentation
As a journalist in the religion and social justice realm, two stories dominated my newsfeed this week: Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine and sexual harassment at Christianity Today. Both reinforced to me the power of documentation.
Six Unintentionally Perfect Songs for Lent
Lent is the angstiest season of the liturgical calendar: Jesus in the desert with the devil; us sitting with our sin and mortality. So below you’ll find six songs to accompany you this brooding, contemplative season. Soon, Easter will roll around and bring with it upbeat resurrection bops, but for now, the tunes are appropriately emo — at least lyrically.
How Do You Memorialize One Million U.S. Pandemic Deaths?
Last year, Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg, a social practice artist, created In America: Remember — a vast field of flags on the national mall, one for each American who died from COVID-19. Visitors, both in-person and digitally, had the opportunity to dedicate a flag by writing a message on the while poly film. When the installation began in mid-September of 2021, there were 666,624 deaths. When the installation closed in early October, there were 701,133 deaths. As of this week, nearly 1 million people have died of COVID-19 in the United States, 6 million globally. As we try to grapple with the weight of these fatalities, we’re revisiting an interview from late October 2021 between Firstenberg and Sojourners associate culture editor Jenna Barnett, in which they discuss what it looks like to honor grief and memorialize an ongoing pandemic.
Ikea Explains Religious Deconstruction
ALLOW ME TO introduce myself: I’m IKEA, an expert in DIY construction and deconstruction, here to explain a recent religious phenomenon. According to a 2021 Relevant magazine article, Christianity is in “the age of deconstruction.” “Through deconstruction,” explains writer Kurtis Vanderpool, “we are able to find the good and the helpful parts of our faith upbringing, while reshaping or throwing out the unhelpful.” But there is a problem! While the exvangelicals on Twitter are obsessed with deconstruction, “most people you will find in church are uncomfortable with deconstruction,” says Vanderpool.
You may be thinking, “Is an enormous warehouse full of good-enough furniture really equipped to explain a sensitive theological process? No offense, IKEA, but did you even go to seminary?” No, I didn’t. But nondenominational churches often pay me thousands of dollars to host massive lock-ins and I overhear A LOT of really bad theology as youth pastors, groggy chaperones, and sugar-faced youth groups play hide-and-seek in my showrooms. (I’m pretty sure I didn’t dream this.)
Priests We Arrest, Priests We Don't
As part of the Catonsville Nine, the rebel priest Daniel Berrigan joined eight other Catholic activists in setting fire to hundreds of draft files with homemade napalm. It was 1968 and he was protesting the Vietnam War. The way he evaded prison was perhaps as memorable as the crime he committed.
Man Plans, Cats Laugh: What Our Editors Are Reading
On New Year’s Eve, exactly five cats cuddled on Starlink user Aaron Taylor’s dish, slowing down his movie-streaming experience. “Starlink works great until the cats find out that the dish gives off a little heat on cold days,” he wrote in a now viral tweet.
The 8 Best Progressive Christian Excuses for Skipping Work
A SOJOURNERS COLLEAGUE actually used one of these excuses for taking a day off work. If you correctly guess which one, you get to take a day off, no questions asked, at least by me.
1. I volunteered to run the Taizé service at my church and that is not the kinda service you can just barge into with clickity-clackity heels on.
2. After coming to terms with how my childhood atonement theology shaped my attachment style, I had to retake the Enneagram test.
3. I had to throw blood at a nuclear warhead in protest of the war machine.
4. Alternate: I became lightheaded after collecting too much of my own blood to throw at a nuke. In retrospect, I should have just used grape juice.
Sojourners’ 2021 Film and TV Roundup
In season two of Ted Lasso, our favorite stubbornly positive coach struggles with anxiety. Unfortunately, the king of talking-it-out doesn’t initially trust talk therapy. In an uncharacteristic display of disrespect, Ted — who doesn’t want to dig up his past traumas — calls the work of the team’s sports psychologist, Dr. Sharon Fieldstone, “bullshit.” Somehow, Fieldstone keeps her cool. “I can’t be your mentor without occasionally being your tormentor,” she tells Ted.
‘Spencer’ Is the Ultimate I-Won't-Be-Home-for-Christmas Film
Spencer is the ultimate I-won’t-be-home-for-Christmas film. It is Black Swan meets Jackie meets (to a far lesser degree) the The Family Stone. Which feels poignant in 2021, a year in which many of us are afraid to go home. The omicron variant will undoubtedly keep some of us away from our families. But others who can travel home for Christmas may feel anxious about the prospect of returning to houses divided by politics, theology, misinformation, or all three.
Politically Polarized Family Attempts White Elephant Gift Exchange
The Parkers wanted to limit small talk at their annual family Christmas party, fearful that conversation would veer into politics, or religion, or whether Pete Davidson is unconventionally attractive. So they organized a harmless white elephant gift exchange. By night’s end, they would be full of carbs and regret, vowing to play charades next year.
Mashed Potatoes and Nuclear Sludge: What Our Editors Are Reading
My favorite part of Thanksgiving is the leftovers. If we’re being honest, most of the food tastes better the day after the feast. Cranberry sauce becomes a sandwich spread, ham goes into a breakfast taco, bones go into a pot to make enough broth for several weeks of soup. Some happenings are so big that there’s always much leftover.
But not all leftovers are good. Trauma, for instance, can linger for months or years after the initial act of violence.
Mary Oliver in the Metaverse
In the metaverse, you don’t just curate your surroundings — you also curate your own avatar. One of Zuckerberg’s poker pals, for instance, arrived at the virtual party as a robot wearing a baseball cap.
Genesis 3 (Taylor’s Version) (10-Minute Version)
Loving him is like
floating the Euphrates toward a dead-end stream:
faster than the wind, passionate as sin,
winding so serpently.
Husband, Dad, Christ Follower Writes Instagram Tribute to Wife
Happy birthday, darling. So sorry this post comes 11 days after your actual birthday.
Better Than Tinder
AS I WRITE this, it has been 16 months since my last haircut—the last time I felt safe being partially restrained by a front-facing cape while a stranger hovered near my face with scissors. Needless to say, my hair is unruly and prematurely greying, but fear not, it is doing wonders for my love life. I have kissed dating goodbye and started washing people’s feet with my hair. Because why walk a mile in someone’s shoes when you could just take a good hard look at their calluses? If you can feel the tug of your hair between your partner’s toes and not turn away in shame (or accidentally tickle them), what can’t you accomplish together?
This method is not only pandemic-safe-ish, it’s biblical. And it is much wiser to take intimacy advice from Mary of Bethany than Joshua Harris of Dayton, Ohio. In the gospel of John, Mary pours an expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet and wipes his feet with her hair. In the gospels of Mark and Matthew, Jesus himself calls being anointed, “A BEAUTIFUL THING” (the original Greek did not use all caps, but it should have).
My Beef with Abracadabra: What Our Editors Are Reading
Ah, the sweet escapism of sci-fi and fantasy. From The Hunger Games to The Force Awakens, women and people of color are presidents, space commanders, and leaders of the resistance without protest or fanfare from those around them. Dystopian America and a Galaxy Far Far Away know no racism or sexism, it seems. But that’s not necessarily a good thing for those of us in the audience. As Atencio wrote of For All Kind, “The willingness to embrace fictional diversity … but an unwillingness to deal with the tensions that would follow, is maybe the farthest stretch on the show.”
Welcome to the Compound: What Our Editors Are Reading
What our editors are reading.
Brandi Carlile’s Radical Gospel of Gentleness
Carlile believes that we each have our own definition of the word forgiveness. But for her, forgiveness is “a willingness to look foolish to those who don't understand. It looks like naivety. It looks like being a doormat. It looks like being walked on, but it's so much more radical than that.”
How To Catch a Goat
While living on a farm in Georgia, I signed up to take care of the goats. It was the only farm chore that allowed me to sleep in. The duties were odd and specific: I had to check their butts for signs of dysentery and their eyes — which, like sheep, can see in every direction at the same time — for infection. For weeks, I fed one goat a whole head of molasses-soaked garlic every day to cure her of mastitis. But mainly, I just counted them. Which is harder to do than you might imagine.
‘Beloved Community’ Sounds Nice. But What Does it Mean?
Interestingly, when I revisited a lot of Dr. King’s speeches and civil rights history, [I noticed that he] would often mention Beloved Community, but there wasn't like a singular speech where he completely unpacked what the Beloved Community means. And so in one sense, it was almost like it was assumed that a lot of people understood what the concept meant, or maybe he was hoping that people would kind of fill in [the gaps] with their own values and priorities. And so I feel there is a need to recast the vision for the Beloved Community in more contemporary terms.