Senior Associate Culture Editor

Jenna Barnett is senior associate culture editor at Sojourners

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.

Jenna has written for McSweeney's, the Belladonna, and New York Magazine's Grubstreet. You can follow her on Twitter @jennacbarnett and see what she’s creating at jennabarnett.com.

Posts By This Author

An Ode to the God Beat

by Jenna Barnett 07-08-2022

Photo by Kashish Lamba on Unsplash

Compiling Weekly Wrap is sort of like going on a literary scavenger hunt for meaningful faith angles. And folks, there’s always a faith angle.

Psalms: Revised and Updated (NSFW)

by Jenna Barnett 06-29-2022
Steer their karts into a banana peel, causing them to swirl off the edge of Rainbow Road.
Illustration of a video-game avatar in a kart sliding on a banana peel off Rainbow Road

Illustration by Melanie Lambrick

IN HER RECENT article “Praying the Imprecatory Psalms Is an Act of Nonviolence,” Liz Cooledge Jenkins explains that the imprecatory psalms of the Hebrew Bible “demand that God exact judgment against evildoers.” These psalms are particularly ... colorful. Take Psalm 35, for example:

Let ruin come on them unawares.
And let the net that they hid ensnare them;
                let them fall in it—to their ruin.

In comparison to other imprecatory psalms, the above is fairly sanitized. Often in these verses, the psalmist calls for teeth-breaking, infant murder, and widow-making. To be honest, I’ve struggled to read them. My privileged life has left me with few enemies worth cursing and scant violence to avenge. But I realize that many people of faith—especially those living under oppression’s boot—may find a certain catharsis in these psalms as they imagine God judging the truly hurtful people and powers of the world. “In praying these psalms,” writes Cooledge Jenkins, “we process our rage and give our violent impulses over to God.” One problem, though: The curses in the imprecatory psalms are a bit dated and unrelatable. I’ve gone to the trouble of updating them for modernity. For your consideration:

Psalm 1
O Lord, may the iPhone of the slumlord in Crown Heights fall into a toilet of his own urine. May a single AirPod follow quickly behind.

Footprints in the Sand (Unedited)

by Jenna Barnett 05-09-2022
When I needed you most, why were you snacking on Flamin' Hot Cheetos?
Illustration of a brown foot in Birkenstocks and a white foot in pink Crocs walking along a Cheeto-strewn beach

Illustration by Melanie Lambrick

ONCE I HAD a dream that I was walking along the beach with my Lord. I felt self-conscious about wearing a two-piece swimsuit, but I didn’t know the Lord was going to be at Rehoboth Beach during spring break.

God said, Don’t worry about it, Jenna. Purity culture is so 2008.

Suddenly, scenes of my life flashed before me along the shoreline. I looked back at the footprints in the sand. In most scenes, there were two sets of footprints: Mine and God’s. God is a size 8.5 and has high arches, in case you were wondering. But then I noticed something troubling. At many of the hard times in my life, there was only one set of footprints.

When I needed you the most, why did you leave me? I asked God, with more sass than I’d like to admit. God whispered something in return, but I couldn’t hear the words. It’s really loud at the beach, and there was a sand volleyball game nearby. So then God yelled, I never left you! When you saw only one set of footprints, that was when I carried you.

I was so relieved. Sorry for the mix-up, I said to God. I also wear size 8.5, so I was confused.

But then I noticed something even more troubling.

Christianity Today and the Sacred Work of Documentation

by Jenna Barnett 03-18-2022

Photo by Maksym Kaharlytskyi on Unsplash

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

by Jenna Barnett 03-15-2022

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

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?

by Jenna Barnett 03-07-2022

 Allison Bailey via Reuters Connect

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

by Jenna Barnett 03-01-2022
Is an enormous warehouse full of good-enough furniture really equipped to explain a sensitive theological process? (Spoiler alert: No). 
Illustration of blond child leaning his body through an Ikea bag to grip an Ichthys

Illustration by Melanie Lambrick

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

by Jenna Barnett 01-25-2022

Photo by Matt Hardy on Unsplash

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

by Jenna Barnett 01-21-2022

Photo by Hester Qiang on Unsplash

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

by Jenna Barnett 12-29-2021
"I had to retake the Enneagram test" and other reasons for taking a day off.
Illustration of a guilty-looking dog covered in paper shreds with a collar that says "Mags"

Illustration by Melanie Lambrick

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

by Jenna Barnett 12-09-2021

Graphic by Candace Sanders

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

by Jenna Barnett 12-08-2021

Kristen Stewart as Princess Diana in Spencer.

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

by Jenna Barnett 12-03-2021

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

by Jenna Barnett 11-24-2021

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

by Jenna Barnett 11-16-2021

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)

by Jenna Barnett 11-16-2021

Photo by Andrew Johnson on Unsplash

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

by Jenna Barnett 11-05-2021

Happy birthday, darling. So sorry this post comes 11 days after your actual birthday.

Better Than Tinder

by Jenna Barnett 10-20-2021
I kissed dating goodbye and started washing people's feet with my hair.
Illustration of water dripping off of brown legs to pool around the feet

Illustration by Melanie Lambrick

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

by Jenna Barnett 10-08-2021

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

by Jenna Barnett 10-01-2021

What our editors are reading.