Jenna Barnett (@jennacbarnett) is the senior associate culture editor at Sojourners and the host of the audio limited series Lead Us Not. She was born in San Antonio and lives in San Diego. 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 Sojo team, Jenna managed the International Rescue Committee’s urban gardens in San Diego, and worked as a writer for the Women PeaceMakers Program at the Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice.
She has written for McSweeney’s, Texas Monthly, the Belladonna, and New York Magazine’s Grub Street. You’re likely to find her playing basketball, watching women’s soccer, eating homemade flour tortillas, or taking her time in Scrabble.
Some Sojourners articles by Jenna Barnett:
Brandi Carlile’s Radical Gospel of Gentleness
“What I'm talking about is radical, filthy, trembling, scary, life-changing, beautiful forgiveness,” the Grammy-winner told Sojourners in an interview.
Snorting Nutmeg at Vacation Bible School with Lucy Dacus
Her album Home Video could have just as easily been named “Youth Group” or maybe “Adventures in Suburbia.”
How Do We Recover When Our Leaders Betray Us?
Charismatic leaders like Jean Vanier can inspire our faith — or make it fall apart.
Let There Be Light
When sexual abuse occurred in their church, Rev. Heidi Hankel and her congregation refused to let it stay hidden.
Footprints in the Sand (Unedited)
Lord, when I needed you most, why were you snacking on Flamin' Hot Cheetos?
John the Baptist’s Recipe for Honey-Crisped Locusts
Once the locusts are as hot as a wealthy hypocrite burning in hell (about 200 degrees), add the honey.
Posts By This Author
New & Noteworthy
Truth and Satire
The witty film satire Dear White People is a comic entry point into a serious, much-needed conversation about race relations on college campuses. The storylines of four African-American students at a prestigious university spotlight a culture of racism that is easily and dangerously concealed by academia’s progressive posture. dearwhitepeoplemovie.com
The Most Affirming Sanctuary of My Life (So Far)
Editor's Note: In this new series, we explore the ongoing conversation within the church over LGBT identities, affirmation, and inclusion. As the push for equality expands, how are communities of faith participating and responding — and is it enough? We will be examining this at a deeper level in the January issue of Sojourners magazine, with a cover story from evangelical ethicist David Gushee. Subscribe Now to receive that issue.
During the opening worship service at the Reformation Project’s Washington, D.C., conference, a weekend of events promoting the biblical affirmation of the LGBT community, something seemed amiss. I looked around the church pews to find what fueled my unease. Maybe it was the guitar-charged praise music alongside traditional liturgy. Or maybe it was the older white man listening intently to the younger gay black woman. Evangelical vibrato next to mainline rigidity, old next to young, white next to black, gay next to straight next to bi next to transgendered.
It was a Galatians 3 kind of room — a reminder that in Jesus there is no longer “Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female.” Gay or straight.
“For all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”
It was that sacred “oneness” that surprised me. Nothing was actually amiss — all things were new. There was a colorful rareness and a refreshing affirmation.
Rev. Allyson Robinson gave the opening address of the conference, offering prayer, Scripture, encouragement, and a few warnings for the LGBT-affirming church. The warnings came in the form of analogy in which she likened the temptations of Jesus in the desert to the temptations of the affirming church on the verge of a culture war victory.
STORYMAP: 5 Game-Changing Aid Groups
A map depicting five quality aid groups nationally and abroad
New & Noteworthy
Calling to the Deep
In Radical Spirituality: Repentance, Resistance, Revolution, Jason Storbakken, co-founder with his wife, Vonetta, of the Radical Living Christian community in Brooklyn, N.Y., fluidly weaves scripture work with political critique and his own fascinating history in this call to find deeper life in Christ found on the margins. Orbis
VIDEO: A Dream Deferred in Ferguson
Ryan Herring reads Langston Hughes' "Harlem" as photos of Ferguson are displayed.
5 Pop Culture Jesuses
The Jesus of pop culture is multiethnic and well-traveled, pious and irreverent, singing and silent. A fictional portrayal that is blasphemy to one viewer is sacred to another. The diversity of Jesus’ depictions reflects the diversity of the pop culture audience. Most recently, another fictional Jesus has appeared in Compton, smoking weed and promoting “black-Latin” reconciliation in the new comedy Black Jesus. The sitcom presents a Jesus who uses at times crude language to ultimately promote a consistent gospel message of love. While this Jesus “shares in the pleasures” of his largely poor, African-American community, “he also challenges their prejudices, violence, and self-seeking.” Read more in Danny Duncan Collum’s “The Christ of Compton” (Sojourners, November 2014).
Check out this list to read about five portrayals of Jesus in recent pop culture history.
1. Lion Jesus
In The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis sets up a less than subtle allegory of Jesus in the form of a lion named Aslan. Aslan transforms a void into a world through song. He welcomes children. He dies and comes back to life. But still, he is a lion, fierce and elusive, helping to convey both the intimidating power and the radical love of Jesus.
“‘Safe?’ said Mr. Beaver; ‘don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course [Aslan] isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.’” –The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe (1950)
Make Way for the Female Antihero: TV Takes a Page from the Bible
These days, female television characters can almost do it all. But we, the media consumers and producers, are still deciding if we should let them make mistakes, too.
And I don’t mean just the I-dated-the-wrong-handsome-doctor mistakes, or the I’m-an-overprotective-mother mistakes. I mean the type of mistakes that warrant the label of antihero. Merriam-Webster defines an antihero as “a protagonist or notable figure who is conspicuously lacking in heroic qualities.” Over the past several years, TV has become saturated with male antiheroes. Breaking Bad made a meth dealer Emmy gold, and Dexter garnered a cult following behind a sociopathic vigilante. But hey, boys will be boys.
Girls will be girls, too, if we let them. And girls aren’t always perfect. John Landgraf, president of FX, says it’s much harder to find acceptance for the female antihero: “It's fascinating to me that we just have really different, and I think, a more rigorous set of standards for female characters than we do for male characters in this society.”