Juliet Vedral

Juliet Vedral

Juliet is a DC-based writer and self-described "professional church lady." She is a third-generation New Yorker, but has fallen in love with Washington, DC—despite the lack of a really good bagel and schmear.

Juliet holds a BA in media studies from Queens College (CUNY) and an MPA from the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) at Columbia University. She held jobs at the New York Times Syndicate, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, and Sojourners before taking a job with a local church in Columbia Heights. She is the editor of a literary blog called The Wheelhouse Review and in addition to writing for Sojourners, she contributes to The Body Politic and the Shalem Institute's Living Contemplatively blog. You can sometimes find her on Twitter. 

Posts By This Author

Celebrating the Vote

by Juliet Vedral 08-26-2015
Image via Everett Historical/Shutterstock

I've done it in booths at a New York City public school, and the 92nd Street Y. I've done it on a small, enclosed counter in DC. But you never forget the first time you voted.

My first time at the polls was not particularly spectacular — it was an off-year for elections, so I voted on a referendum. Since then I have voted every year except twice. Once was on another off-year — I was in grad school for public administration and had to finish a statistics assignment. And for the other, I’d just become a DC resident, too late to vote in the special election that year.

In case it’s not obvious, voting is important to me, and I’m kind of a dork about it. And when I consider the hard fight for women’s suffrage, I feel that the best way to honor the women who fought hard for that right is to responsibly exercise it.

So it’s disheartening to hear women say that they don’t really pay attention to politics or take the time to vote. And as a DC resident whose interests are determined by the legislators of other states, it’s hard to watch anyone take for granted their right to vote.

In Defense of Marriage

by Juliet Vedral 07-20-2015
Image via  isak55/Shutterstock

Image via  /Shutterstock

A few weeks ago, the single person’s lament was eloquently stated in The New York Times opinion pages, with a piece called "The Supreme Court’s Lonely Hearts’ Club" by Michael Cobb. Cobb articulated some of the pause that many of us singles have felt as the conversation has gone on about marriage, in particular how Justice Kennedy captured the spirit of the age by extolling the matrimony as the highest institution in the land.

I don’t disagree about the importance of marriage, but I have a lot of concern about how it has been talked about and in many ways idolized in this country. Much of the church has led the way on this idolatry — on the policy end, claiming the need to defend marriage; on the spiritual side, treating marriage as a pseudo-salvation, as though being married means that in some way you’ve "arrived" spiritually.

A few weeks ago, the single person’s lament was eloquently stated in The New York Times opinion pages, with a piece called "The Supreme Court’s Lonely Hearts’ Club" by Michael Cobb. Cobb articulated some of the pause that many of us singles have felt as the conversation has gone on about marriage, in particular how Justice Kennedy captured the spirit of the age by extolling the matrimony as the highest institution in the land.

I don’t disagree about the importance of marriage, but I have a lot of concern about how it has been talked about and in many ways idolized in this country. Much of the church has led the way on this idolatry — on the policy end, claiming the need to defend marriage; on the spiritual side, treating marriage as a pseudo-salvation, as though being married means that in some way you’ve "arrived" spiritually.

A few weeks ago, the single person’s lament was eloquently stated in The New York Times opinion pages, with a piece called "The Supreme Court’s Lonely Hearts’ Club" by Michael Cobb. Cobb articulated some of the pause that many of us singles have felt as the conversation has gone on about marriage, in particular how Justice Kennedy captured the spirit of the age by extolling the matrimony as the highest institution in the land.

I don’t disagree about the importance of marriage, but I have a lot of concern about how it has been talked about and in many ways idolized in this country. Much of the church has led the way on this idolatry — on the policy end, claiming the need to defend marriage; on the spiritual side, treating marriage as a pseudo-salvation, as though being married means that in some way you’ve "arrived" spiritually.

Redefining Family

by Juliet Vedral 04-30-2015
Icon design / Shutterstock.com

Icon design / Shutterstock.com

This extravagant love poured out on my behalf felt like an offer of grace from God, a reminder that though the man I had dated couldn’t love me as I should be loved, God would make up for the rest. It was a convicting moment — I have often viewed this type of love and friendship as a consolation prize for not having a significant other. What a small way to live and love when you only expect love from spouse and children and see the love of friends and family as lesser. How could such a small group of people really show all the wonder and magnitude of God’s unfailing love toward us?

 

'Did God Kill Jesus?' Author Talks Suffering, Reconciliation, and the Cross

by Juliet Vedral 04-16-2015

It was the means of agonizing humiliation and execution and has adorned the banners of armies through which some of the most brutal violence was perpetrated in history. It is a symbol worn by the faithful and sometimes the fashionable. It has famously been described as a stumbling block and foolishness. The cross is central to the Christian faith — but what does it mean? And how could this symbol of weakness also be a source of strength for followers of Christ?

As Christians ponder the mystery and meaning of the cross and Christ’s resurrection in this Easter season, I read Tony Jones’ new book, Did God Kill Jesus? which explores and analyzes various atonement theories through history and culture and considers whether the most famous — penal substitutionary atonement — is really the most accurate. Although Tony and I do not necessarily share the same views, I realized that our perspectives are not as far off as I had thought. I recently had the opportunity to interview him about the book and how his study and meditation of the cross has shaped his understanding of the crucifixion and what that can mean for the faithful.

(This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)

JV: You touch a bit on this in the book (but for those who might not read it), what do you believe are the theological and social implications of holding to a belief in penal substitutionary atonement? Could you elaborate on what you think those implications are? And do you think there can be anything redemptive or beautiful in Christians holding to a substitutionary atonement theory of the crucifixion?

'No, Jesus Isn't My Boyfriend' and Other Lessons from Single Christians on Valentine's Day

by Juliet Vedral 02-13-2015
Valentine's Day image, nito / Shutterstock.com

Valentine's Day image, nito / Shutterstock.com

So it’s almost Valentine’s Day. Seemingly everywhere you look is a celebration of love and romance. There’s so much sweetness in the air (and on store shelves), it has almost the opposite effect.

Especially if you’re single. Valentine’s Day is often one of the most uncomfortable days of the year. It’s that one special day a year in which single people are painfully reminded that we may very well die alone and childless. Unfortunately, in our romance and sex-saturated culture, every day kind of reminds you of that.

The church hasn’t offered much by way of alternatives. In the evangelical church, there’s far too much “Jesus is my boyfriend” or “I’m dating Jesus”-type songs and teaching that it trivializes the kind of intimacy that can exist between God and humanity. And it silences the deeper pain of loneliness and disappointment that single adults — both gay and straight — can feel. Humans were made for relationship with God, but we were also made for relationships with each other.

There are a couple of issues at work here. On one hand, we’re fed so much junk about sex and romance and relationships from our culture that it becomes difficult to think any differently about love. When the highest, most celebrated form of love in our culture is erotic love and romance, the concept of spiritual intimacy with God seems unsatisfying and — let’s be real — also kind of icky. It feels like a consolation prize, something you say to make yourself feel better about being alone.

On the other hand, in the church, marriage almost becomes an idol. Christina Cleveland writes all kinds of amazing things about singleness in this essay, (so many I want to quote!) but this stands out:

“After interacting with the church, many singles start to wonder: Is there something wrong with me? Is God working in my life? Am I as valuable (to God, to the church) as married people? Does God love me as much as he loves married people? Does God have good things in store for me as a single person?”

Confessions of a Church Snob

by Juliet Vedral 01-30-2015
Blend Images / Shutterstock.com

Blend Images / Shutterstock.com

Being “right” is exhausting.

You know what I mean. A controversy blows up over social media and the faith must be defended. A conversation about church practices becomes a nitpicky theological debate. A news story catches our eye and we are filled with outrage and take to our laptops to be the first to comment.

I feel as though I live in a world in which I’m constantly tempted — and encouraged — to major in details and minutiae and miss the very real and beautiful and incomprehensible presence of God.

Which is why being “right” is exhausting.

I thought of this the other day while visiting a different church from the one in which I am a member. My first — and wrong — reaction was to tense up. It seemed that everything about church that I had tried to escape was on display. I’ve learned to pay attention to those reactions. I have found that whenever something bothers me and makes me speak in absolutes, it’s because there’s a part of my heart I want to hoard for myself instead of allowing God’s light to shine on it. I hate to admit it, but so much of my identity as a Christian is defined by what I’m not.

Enjoy the Silence

by Juliet Vedral 01-13-2015
Morning on the lake. Image courtesy kosmos111/shutterstock.com

Morning on the lake. Image courtesy kosmos111/shutterstock.com

Like many of my peers that weekend, I went into the retreat with some trepidation. Silence for 20 hours? What would we do? I had experienced long periods of informal silence during my 19 months of unemployment and had experienced the richness of God’s presence during that time. But that was different — I could escape the silence any time I went to a yoga class or turned on Spotify. Twenty hours of silence felt daunting.

Even more daunting? Twenty hours alone with just me and God. Sure, God had shown up and been with me during those long months of being alone, but this was different. Would I do it wrong? More importantly, what would happen? What would it be like to be alone with God without any distraction for that length of time?

Well, it felt like gazing into someone’s eyes for hours and hours and not having anything to pull you away. Which is exactly why, after that experience, I now actively seek out opportunities for silence.

Nothing Religious About It

by Juliet Vedral 01-05-2015

Central African Republic faith leaders say war is not perpetrated in God's name. 

The Gift of Hopelessness

by Juliet Vedral 12-10-2014
A figure weeps under a tree. Image courtesy KieferPix/shutterstock.com

A figure weeps under a tree. Image courtesy KieferPix/shutterstock.com

This Advent I am grateful for the gift of hopelessness. Yes, you read that correctly. This past year has been full of heartbreak, suffering, and lament. It follows on the heels of nearly two years of unemployment, financial insecurity, and stress-related health issues. Any hope to which I once clung — any hope outside of God, that is — has been destroyed.

And for that I give thanks.

This summer, as I waited anxiously to hear what was strangely afflicting my father (who had already had several health scares and a heart attack), as I nursed a broken heart and came to grips with personal disappointment, as I watched how a once rosy-outlook turned to a heavy-grey, I learned the true meaning of hope. Everything in this world will break or decay or simply fade away. Nothing here is permanent and even the most seemingly perfect and ideal situation has at least a hairline crack.

This Is Jesus, in His Glory

by Juliet Vedral 12-03-2014
People gather in the Father's Heart Ministries soup kitchen. Image courtesy Fath

People gather in the Father's Heart Ministries soup kitchen. Image courtesy Father's Heart Ministries.

"This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:12

As the people walked into the sanctuary, the worship team behind us started to sing. “This is Jesus, in his glory.” I stood there in my apron, gloves, and hairnet — as I had many times before — and watched our guests sit down at their tables. The first few people who came in were elderly Chinese, more women than men. Then, a middle-aged Latino man came in, followed by a few more elderly Chinese women. For a brief moment, there reflected in their faces, was Jesus in his glory.

This past Saturday morning, I served at my parents’ non-profit’s soup kitchen and food pantry, as I had for half of my life before I moved to Washington, D.C. From 9:30am-11:00am every Saturday morning, unlimited breakfast is served to a range of New Yorkers: young, old, employed, unemployed, white, black, Chinese, Latino, gay, straight — you name it, we’ve got it. Our guests are seated and given all they can eat and a bag of groceries, as well as access to legal aid, GED and ESL classes, and prayer. As much as it pains me to admit it — because, well, it’s my parents’ work — it’s kind of the real deal. The sanctuary-turned-cafeteria turns back into a sanctuary as Jesus — as seen in each of these men and women and children—is seen, in his glory.

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