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.
Posts By This Author
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.
Take, Eat; This Is My Waffle: What Our Editors Are Reading
Christianity leaves a lot to interpretation — both biblically and apparently, culinarily.
Zillow-ing in the Dark: What Our Editors Are Reading
The absurd hope found in Zillow-ing during the pandemic.
Snorting Nutmeg at Vacation Bible School with Lucy Dacus
Home Video is not a Christian album, but I didn’t really want it to be. There are songs for VBS, but these are songs about VBS. We need both.
Before Blasting Off, Bezos Checks in With Wendell Berry
AMAZON FOUNDER JEFF BEZOS arrived at writer Wendell Berry’s home in Kentucky the same way he arrives anywhere on earth: by drone, covered in cardboard. When he stepped out of the large box, the two men shook hands and exchanged gifts. Bezos gave Berry a single octopus tentacle wrapped in burlap. Berry offered Bezos a gooseberry coated in local honey. Both quietly hoped the exchange was a step forward for modern masculinity. It wasn’t.
Bezos: This is a fabulous berry, Wendell. Do you live off the food you farm? Or book sales?
Berry: Well, tax-evading corporate conglomerates have made it harder for authors to earn a sustainable living, but I’m happy with my lifestyle.
Bezos: So, you have other investments?
Berry: I invest in sequoias and in the two inches of humus that will build under the trees every thousand years.
Bezos: I LOVE hummus. But I’m not familiar with Sequoia. Has their stock gone public?
Berry: They are trees. Very old trees.
When God Is Groovy
Theology isn’t the only place we overlook the feminine.
So a Diver, Krill, and God Walk Into a Whale: What Our Editors Are Reading
Sometimes religion is funny.
God Is Like a Blanket Fort
The God presentented in the new children’s book What Is God Like? is a shapeshifter. Matthew Paul Turner and the late Rachel Held Evans, with the help of Ying Hui Tan’s vibrant illustrations, depict God as a woman, a shepherd, a gardener, and even as a blanket fort.
Skimming News With James Baldwin: What Our Editors Are Reading
I read a lot of news this week, and Baldwin had something to say about all of it.
Pass Me Anything But the Peace
ON A RECENT Sunday, my pastors asked the congregation to show up for Zoom church with “something to consume during communion.” And let me tell you, if you’ve never had a tortilla chip as the bread and chipotle salsa as the wine then you might be experiencing a lower tier of consecration. Even my dog—who not only considers the lilies, but also pees upon them—ate from the crumbs of my Tostitos and knew something beautiful and mysterious had transpired.
In other words, Zoom church, even with its lag time and pixilation, has had its perks—but one perk, specifically, above all other perks: While the absence of commutes and underwire bras has been noteworthy, the absence of churchy small talk has been paramount.
My trifles with the Passing of the Peace predate and rival my newer fears of the Passing of the Germs. At the age of 8, I had what my therapist called “separation anxiety” and what my older sister called “OHMYGOD Loosen Your Grip on My Forearm, JENNA.” I did not know what to say if the kind, adult Presbyterians asked me, “How’s school?” or the even more terrifyingly open-ended: “How’ve you been?”
Our Father in the Skies: What Our Editors Are Reading
Waiting for the "baptizer to appear in the wasteland."
Inconsistent Miracles: What Our Editors Are Reading
Reimagining policing alongside poetry.
The Math of Grief: What Our Editors Are Reading
Numbers like 500,000, hard as they are to grasp, are necessary for grieving.
Homesick For a Frozen State: What Our Editors Are Reading
It’s hard to be far away when tragedy hits close to home. (Well, maybe not for Ted Cruz.)
Questions Worth Cursing About: What Our Editors Are Reading
For instance: "What does it mean to look at oneself through the gaze of one's own history?"