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
What We Left on the Moon
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.’
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
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
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
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
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?
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
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
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
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
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
“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
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
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
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.
‘Not Everything That You Want Is Righteous for You to Buy’
In his book PreachersNSneakers: Authenticity in an Age of For-Profit Faith and (Wannabe) Celebrities, published last month, Ben Kirby does more than throw stones at ultra-wealthy pastors; he asks readers to self-audit and consider where they’re spending, lest they throw that stone and shatter their glass houses.
Biden Honors Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Awareness Day
“On Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Awareness Day, we remember the Indigenous people who we have lost to murder and those who remain missing and commit to working with Tribal Nations to ensure any instance of a missing or murdered person is met with swift and effective action,” the proclamation reads.
Mennonite Church Introduces Curriculum on Police Abolition
“Defund The Police? An Abolition Curriculum,” written by Melissa Florer-Bixler, Chantelle Todman, Ben Tapper, Kris Henderson, and Isaac Villegas, is a 10-week course on how churches can engage police abolition.
Why Nathan Cartagena Teaches Critical Race Theory to Evangelicals
For Nathan Cartagena, a critical race theorist and assistant professor of philosophy at Wheaton college, conservative Christians’ growing belief that CRT is a threat to the gospel poses a pedagogical challenge: How do you teach students to understand an idea that they’ve been told is fundamentally anti-Christian?
‘The Struggle Continues’: Faith Leaders on Chauvin's Conviction
Brenda Blackhawk, a congregational organizer for racial justice with the Minneapolis Area Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, said her initial reaction to the verdict was one of relief.
“That’s what the community really needed to see and hear, especially in the midst of another young Black man [Daunte Wright] being murdered,” Blackhawk told Sojourners. “This is just holding one person accountable — and that’s important, that’s a good piece of justice, but there is so much work left to be done to change the system as a whole.”