Assistant News Editor, sojo.net

Mitchell Atencio is the assistant news editor at Sojourners. He first served as a contract reporter for Sojourners in 2020.

Mitchell believes his role as a journalist is to ask compelling questions of the right people, and to tell stories that impact the actions of readers. He loves writing stories of the radical or unique — especially within faith. Before joining Sojourners, Mitchell was a reporter in Kirkland, Wash. At Arizona State University he was a passionate and dedicated member of the award-winning, independent, student-newspaper The State Press. He also graduated with a degree in journalism and mass communications, but he doesn’t care as much about that part.

Although he didn’t stay long enough, Mitchell is proud to have been born in Atlanta and dreams of returning soon.

In journalism and elsewhere, Mitchell advocates for the physical medium. He is a vinyl record collector; a film photographer who shoots, develops, and scans his own film; a magazine subscriber; and a fan of writing letters on the family typewriter. In his spare time, he reads liberation theology, practices Zen, watches a lot of football, and makes coffee with a variety of methods. Mitchell is discalced out of religious commitment; he concedes it probably makes him a hippie.

Posts By This Author

All 3 Men Found Guilty in Murder of Ahmaud Arbery

by Madison Muller, by Mitchell Atencio 11-24-2021

A woman reacts outside the Glynn County Courthouse after the jury reached a guilty verdict in the trial of William "Roddie" Bryan, Travis McMichael, and Gregory McMichael, charged with the February 2020 murder of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery, in Brunswick, Ga., November 24, 2021. REUTERS/Marco Bello

A jury in Brunswick, Ga., found all three defendants guilty of murder Wednesday for chasing and killing Ahmaud Arbery while he was out on a run in February 2020. Faith leaders across the country showed gratitude for the verdict while noting the grief for Arbery’s family and the work of justice still to be done.

Nothing New Under the Sun: What Our Editors Are Reading

by Mitchell Atencio 11-19-2021

By Jason Blackeye via unsplash.com. 

Even with the mass upheaval of our societal patterns and expectations brought by the pandemic, and the spread of global protests against racism and police brutality, our material conditions are not changing at the pace of our rhetoric.

‘God Is Weeping’: Faith Leaders React to Rittenhouse Verdict

by Mitchell Atencio, by Betsy Shirley 11-19-2021

Judge Bruce Schroeder listens during Kyle Rittenhouse's trial at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Nov. 19, 2021. Sean Krajacic/Pool via Reuters.

Kyle Rittenhouse was found not guilty of homicide, attempted homicide, and reckless endangerment by a Wisconsin jury on Nov. 19, following a trial that lasted nearly two weeks.

Rittenhouse, then 17, shot and killed two people and injured a third in Kenosha, Wis., during August 2020 protests against police brutality and racism after a Kenosha police officer shot Jacob Blake in the back in the presence of three of his children, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down.

The defense team argued that Rittenhouse, now 18, traveled to the protests to provide medical aid and defend a used-car dealership from property damage; they argued that Rittenhouse only fired his weapon in self-defense.

“Kyle was a 17-year-old kid out there trying to help this community,” Mike Richards, Rittenhouse’s defense attorney, said in his closing statements.

The prosecuting attorney, Thomas Binger, told the jury, “This is a case in which a 17-year-old teenager killed two unarmed men and severely wounded a third person with an AR-15,” saying that Rittenhouse was not defending his home or family, and that Rittenhouse had stayed out past Kenosha’s citywide curfew.

Rittenhouse’s case elevated national conversations over self-defense, vigilantism, and gun access.

The Unorthodox Love of Venus and Serena’s Father

by Mitchell Atencio 11-17-2021

Demi Singleton as Serena Williams, Will Smith as Richard Williams, and Saniyya Sidney as Venus Williams in Warner Bros. Pictures’ ‘King Richard.’ Photo credit: Chiabella James, courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures.

The film opens when Venus and Serena are already near teenhood and tennis stardom. We don’t suffer through scenes of the two first learning to swing a racket, and this allows the movie to focus on the true challenge the sisters faced: the classism and racism of rich, white, tennis institutions that had little time for two Black girls from Compton, Calif. — an issue that has improved but still exists in U.S. tennis.

(Don’t) Know It All: What Our Editors Are Reading

by Mitchell Atencio 11-12-2021

By Gabriella Clare Marino via unsplash.com.

I know enough to know what I don’t know.

What We Left on the Moon

by Mitchell Atencio 10-19-2021

A photo of the type of Hasselblad cameras used on the moon, in the “NASA - A Human Adventure” exhibition at the ArtScience Museum in Singapore. By superjoseph, via shutterstock. 

The most incredible part of landing on the moon is not the making it there, but the safely making it back. NASA’s missions to the moon and back were feats of engineering, math, and creativity. The stories are oft retold from a variety of angles and perspectives, and I will never tire of it.

Some people may not know that when we went to the moon, we left a lot of junk there. Lighter space crafts can escape gravity easier, so anything that didn’t need to come home didn’t. Included on the list of things that didn’t need to come back from Apollo 11 through Apollo 17: Twelve Hasselblad camera bodies and lenses. (Another fun fact: Until recently, one of the cameras that was supposed to return had been missing for nearly 50 years.)

‘That Doesn’t Sound Like a Seminary.’

by Mitchell Atencio 10-06-2021

Campus photo of Hartford Seminary. Photo courtesy of Hartford Seminary.

Joel Lohr, the president of soon-to-not-be “Hartford Seminary” sat with Sojourners’ assistant news editor Mitchell Atencio in late September to explain why the school is changing its name and what that change says about the future of theological education — and the church — in the United States.

I Got Nothing: What Our Editors Are Reading

by Mitchell Atencio 09-24-2021

By Max Shilov via unsplash.com.

Last week, I told my colleagues that I never struggle to write these introductions. As you can predict, that meant this week’s introduction became extremely hard to write — as I deserve. The job of this introduction is to briefly whet your appetite, give you some connecting thread for our recommended stories, and maybe say something profound. I'm learning, however, that not every story needs a moral. 

‘For All Mankind' Believes Travel To The Moon Will Solve Racism. It's Not That Simple

by Mitchell Atencio 09-22-2021
Apple TV+'s series takes some small steps ... but not for all "mankind."
A row of people in astronaut suits

Image from For All Mankind

ONE DOES NOT need to look hard to find a new myth forming about the great beyond. The narrative is that space travel will solve our woes—specifically the woes of racial capitalism. And this myth is appearing everywhere, in reality and fiction.

Take, for example, billionaire Richard Branson’s comments before Virgin Galactic’s suborbital mission in early July.

“Imagine a world where people of all ages, all backgrounds from anywhere, of any gender, or any ethnicity have equal access to space,” Branson told the press. “And they will in turn, I think, inspire us back here on Earth.”

Branson and fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos are in a 21st century space race, trying to justify their extreme spending to commercialize the cosmos with the idea that space travel can dissolve a litany of struggles.

The new space race is not so different from the first—the winner advances their power and reach. Between the 1950s and 1970s, the United States and the Soviet Union raced to space, then to the moon, largely for the same reason. The U.S., it might be said, won the space race by being the first to the moon (and we are still the only nation to have ever put people on the moon).

But what if things were different? This is the question explored by For All Mankind (Apple TV+), which released its second season in April. It is an exploration of a world in which the Soviets win the race to the moon, thereby extending the space race in perpetuity. The first season takes place in the ’70s, the second jumps to 1983, and the decade-jump trend will continue for all seven seasons, according to the creators.

Despite Senate Parliamentarian, Advocates Keep Pushing for Immigration Reform

by Mitchell Atencio 09-21-2021

Immigrants and allies marched to the U.S. Capitol on Sept. 21 to urge lawmakers to ensure a pathway for citizenship. Photo: Sandy Ovalle / Sojourners.

Democrats had hoped to include a provision in President Joe Biden’s proposed $3.5 trillion budget that would have given citizenship to millions, including Dreamer immigrants, brought to the United States as children, who are protected from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. But on Sept. 19, Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough — a nonpartisan, unelected staff member who advises lawmakers about what is acceptable under the chamber's rules and precedents — advised against adding a provision for citizenship in the budget reconciliation process.

Holy Heists: What Our Editors Are Reading

by Mitchell Atencio 09-17-2021

Art handlers adjust 'In the Omnibus' by the French artist Honore Daumier (1808 - 1879) at Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane as the gallery together with Criminal Assets Bureau announce it's return following it's theft from the gallery. Brian Lawless via Reuters.

I have always been fascinated by heists. Maybe it was a youthful desire to sneak out and trick my parents (a desire that led me to failure every single time). Maybe is was the bravado and beauty of Neal Caffrey (played by Matt Bomer) on White Collar. Whatever it was, it was a fascination I put to rest as I matured to value integrity and simplicity. 

Could the U.S. Government Take Nonviolence Seriously?

by Mitchell Atencio 09-02-2021

A soldier stands guard at Kandahar Air Base in Afghanistan on December 8, 2013. REUTERS/Mark Wilson/Pool.

After 20 years of war and violence under four different presidents — and the deaths of more than 172,000 people — the United States withdrew its last troops from Afghanistan on Monday.

For many, ending the war in Afghanistan seems like a step toward a more peaceful future. But even in the process of ending a war, the United States has relied on violence to enforce its will.

House Passes John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act

by Mitchell Atencio 08-25-2021

Dr. Deborah Turner of the League of Women Voters (LWV), Rabbi Jonah Pesner of Religious Action Network, Virginia Kase Solomón of LWV, Rev. Melvin Wilson of Saint Matthew AME Church, and Ben Jealous of People for the American Way lead a civil disobedience action during a voting rights rally at the White House. LWV, People for the American Way, Black Voters Matter, and many other organizations hosted the rally to pressure Congress and President Biden to protect voting rights after many states passed laws to make voting more difficult for minorities. Photo by Allison Bailey/NurPhoto via Reuters.

The House of Representatives passed HR 4, known as the John Lewis Voting Rights Advacement Act, 219-212, which faith leaders and other voting rights advocates believe is a crucial step in voter protection.

“Tireless hours by members of Congress and civil rights leaders have brought the issue of federally mandated voter suppression to the forefront of conversations around American democracy,” Rev. Al Sharpton said in a news release through March On For Voting Rights. “This is only the start of the fight to move farther and farther away from the Jim Crow Era.”

Change Is Gonna Come: What Our Editors Are Reading

by Mitchell Atencio 07-30-2021

By Madrolly via shutterstock.

Change happens constantly, mostly without a second thought: The moon changes its phase ever gradually. We change from sleeping to waking. I changed this introduction after receiving edits from my colleagues.

But when change — good or bad — does catch our individual or collective attention, it often presents challenges.

The Power and the Story: What Our Editors Are Reading

by Mitchell Atencio 07-23-2021

Billionaire businessman Jeff Bezos and pioneering female aviator Wally Funk emerge from their capsule after their flight aboard Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket on the world's first unpiloted suborbital flight near Van Horn, Texas, July 20, 2021 in a still image from video. Blue Origin/Handout via REUTERS.

There’s more than one way to tell a story. As journalists, we know this well. As readers, you know this well. The news this week gave us ample opportunities to remember that stories can be told with different — sometimes even contradictory — purposes.

Christian Hip-Hop’s First Openly Gay Rapper Is Done Evangelizing

by Mitchell Atencio 06-30-2021

Graphic by Mitchell Atencio and Candace Sanders. Original photo by Christian Padron, courtesy Jeremiah Givens.

Jeremiah Givens — better known as the rapper JGivens — suggests that you think of him as “your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper.” He makes the suggestion with a smile, in some jest, but he still means it.

Givens, now a veteran emcee, has been a premier rapper in the niche genre of Christian hip-hop (CHH) for the last decade. Musically, Givens is known for his smooth and sporadic delivery, his lyrical wordplay, and his willingness to share his life transparently on the microphone. But during the beginning of his career, there were parts of his life he had to keep hidden.

Jane Coaston Wants To Have Better Arguments

by Mitchell Atencio 06-21-2021

Graphic by Mitchell Atencio and Candace Sanders. Original photo courtesy Jane Coaston.

“I think there are aspects of people attempting to discuss politics in Christian terms, or people interpreting their politics through a Christian lens, that’s always going to lead to terrible arguments,” she said. God cares about politics, Coaston said, but not in such a literal way that God has an opinion on something like Medicaid expansion. To those using God-talk to drum up votes, Coaston asks: “Why would you want God to be that small?”

Game, Set, Match: What Our Editors Are Reading

by Mitchell Atencio 05-28-2021

Professional tennis player Naomi Osaka in action during her 2018 US Open semi-final match at Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York City on September 6, 2018. Leonard Zhukovsky / Shutterstock.

I am no stranger to the ways that sports is often derided in faith and justice circles. But I contend that sports and competition offer valuable insights into what it means to be human.

How Journalism Obscures State Violence

by Mitchell Atencio 05-28-2021

On May 25, 2021, Palestinians sit near candles in a makeshift tent amid the rubble of their houses Israeli air strikes destroyed during the recent fighting between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

My professors in journalism school taught me to avoid passive voice as often as possible. They taught me that passive voice gets in the way of giving readers a clear view of who did what. Passive voice may be innocuously overlooked in many instances (for example, in this sentence, I didn’t tell you who was doing the overlooking), but more often using it risks confusion and obscurity — and these aren’t exactly journalistic values.

Dissidents and Power: What Our Editors Are Reading

by Mitchell Atencio 05-21-2021

Historically, people love to opine on power. Whether it’s John Dalberg-Acton’s “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” or Kanye West’s “No one man should have all that power,” the concept of concentrated power is taught as something to fear.