Jenna Barnett is an Associate Web Editor for Sojourners who loves writing and editing on culture, religion, and gender.
Jenna was born in San Antonio, Texas, and has found home in California, Georgia, South Carolina, and Washington, D.C. Jenna has a B.A. in sociology and religion from Furman University, and will study Literary Reportage at New York University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in the fall.
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. The narrative, Tell Them Our Names, is available online. 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
Cardinal McCarrick Removed from Ministry After Sex Abuse Allegations
The Vatican has decided to remove Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick from ministry after finding allegations that he sexually abused a minor to be “credible and substantiated.” Cardinal McCarrick is one of the most prominent Catholic leaders to ever face such accusations. He is the former Archbishop of Washington, but the abuse in question occurred during his time as a priest in New York 47 years ago.
Thousands of Women Could Die Because of Sessions' Latest Immigration Decision
Yesterday Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a legal decision that has fatal implications for our neighbors fleeing abuse around the world. Sessions has decided to deny asylum to everyone coming to the U.S. to escape domestic violence, overturning a precedent set by the Obama administration in 2009.
This Mother's Day, Give the Gift of Civic Engagement
Even though Congress has not voted on the Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act, states have begun using it as a model for state-level legislation. We must keep the momentum rolling. This Mother’s Day, give the gift of civic engagement.
10 Pieces You Need to Read About Sexual Assault and the Church
How Churches Can Stand for Survivors, Not the Accused
Churches must not be scared of what an independent investigation will uncover. Instead, they should fear what an investigation that prioritizes the accused won’t uncover. We cannot truly preach the Good News until we are ready to reveal the bad news of the harassment and violence at work in many of our churches and homes.
2018’s 10 Christian Women to Watch
Every International Women’s Day, we compile a roundup of Christian women who are making and shaping history right now. From advocating for immigration reform, to battling racism and abuse in the church and through the church, women are leading the way. Below, the women we are honoring this year share with us their hopes, heroes, and blessings for 2018.
The Golden Globes Held a Funeral. Now Let's Hold One in Church
I hope we stop spreading the dangerous myth that abuse and harassment doesn’t happen among Christians.
Have You Ever Heard a Sermon on Domestic Violence?
Faith communities can play a powerful role in preventing violence and supporting survivors, but collectively we’re falling short. Two-thirds (65 percent) of pastors say they speak once a year or less about sexual and domestic violence, with 1 in 10 never addressing it at all. This failure has a deep and lasting impact.
'Get "Them" Off the Streets'
In recent years, the Department of Justice had begun to veer away from the harsh sentencing guidelines that were implemented in the 1980s and ’90s, especially those used to lock up low-level, nonviolent drug offenders. But Trump-appointed Attorney General Jeff Sessions is on course to stop those changes.
In a new set of guidelines issued in May 2017, Sessions instructed prosecutors to pursue charges for the most serious offense possible, including charges that carried harsh sentences and mandatory minimums. Sessions described these guidelines as “moral and just” and praised them for producing “consistency.”
But humans are not uniform and consistent, and neither are their crimes. U.S. District Court Judge John Coughenour believes mandatory minimums and sentencing guidelines make sentencing far too easy. “I considered sentencing to be an art and not a science,” Coughenour told The Atlantic in 2016. “And it’s not a science. It’s a human being dealing with other human beings.”
Neither Angels Nor Demons
I CAN THINK OF MANY MISTAKES I made before turning 18, including a couple that could have landed me in juvenile detention: fireworks in the suburbs, running from the cops, lying to the cops about running from the cops, and one or two others I’ll keep to myself because everyone I interviewed for this story insists on this: Nobody is the worst thing they have ever done.
If those words are true, Sara Kruzan will not always be the 16-year-old who shot her sex trafficker in the head right after he took her to another hotel room.
And that means Krys Shelley is not just the 17-year-old who used an unloaded gun to rob someone.
But back when Shelley stood trial as a teen, the judge only saw a criminal. Shelley still remembers what the judge said before delivering the 12-year sentence: “Good luck.” He studied Shelley closely. “You’ll do just fine in there.”
Shelley believes that the judge felt like Shelley fit the bill of a juvenile delinquent—black, tall, and masculine. At the time, Shelley identified as a tomboy (today, Shelley is gender nonconforming). From an early age, Shelley could grow a full facial beard because of an inborn hormone imbalance—a common symptom of polycystic ovarian syndrome.
But it’s less about what the courts saw in Shelley, and more about what they didn’t see: an honor-roll student with a steady job whose pastor came to the courtroom to offer support.