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
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.”
Will Those Released From Prison Due to COVID Have to Return?
The U.S. Bureau of Prisons has no immediate plans to send thousands of inmates released during the COVID-19 pandemic back to prison, but to prevent that from happening in the future, Congress needs to change the law, its head said Thursday.
"We're going to use good judgment and common sense and work within the law," said BOP Director Michael Carvajal in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, noting the agency has no desire to "arbitrarily" disrupt peoples' lives by forcing them to return to prison.
Do You Like Paying for War? These Christians Refuse
War tax resisters, sometimes known as war tax refusers, are conscientious objectors who resist federal income taxes through a variety of methods. Many of these war tax resisters are inspired by the historic resistance found in Anabaptist, Quaker, or Catholic traditions.
Rapper DMX, Who Shared His ‘Boldly Unique’ Faith, Dies at 50
"[DMX] taught us how to channel our anger, our passion, our aggression but showed us all we were still human in it all," Steve Patton said.
Surprise, Surprise, Surprise: What Our Editors Are Reading
The fun of April Fools' Day certainly lost its shine amid the COVID-19 pandemic — as have surprises in general — but I hope they won’t be ruined forever.
Asian Women Lead Charge Against Bigotry in Christian Rallies Across U.S.
“It was clear that those on the ground had a desire to respond to the shooting in Atlanta,” Raymond Chang, president of AACC, told Sojourners the Friday before the rallies.
Stories of Passion: What Our Editors Are Reading
Ten stories of passion, and how to channel it toward the liberation of all.
Does Progressive Christian Financial Advice Exist?
For Christians who reject Dave Ramsey’s financial advice and the theology that supports it, it’s not always clear where to find alternatives.
Dismantling ‘The Last Plantation’
For the last decade, Black Lives Matter organizers and other activists have cultivated a renewed energy toward addressing racism in America. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) hopes to channel that energy through legislation that would overhaul the U.S. Department of Agriculture, known colloquially as “the last plantation.”
We Treat Kids Like Criminals. We Don't Have To
IN 1974, TWO teenagers went on a vandalism spree in the quiet community of Elmira, Ontario. They slashed car tires, broke store windows, and destroyed a garden gazebo, racking up about $3,000 worth of damage. The pair faced jail time for malicious vandalism. Instead, their parole officer, Mark Yanzi, who was also part of Mennonite Central Committee in Canada, asked the presiding judge if the youths could meet their victims face to face. This, they said, would allow the offenders to apologize directly and pay for damages. The judge agreed—setting legal precedent in Canada.
Though Indigenous and First Nations communities have a long history of similar conflict resolution practices, the Elmira case is seen as a moment when formalized restorative justice models, known at the time as victim-offender reconciliation programs (VORP), entered the Canadian criminal legal system. And Mennonite Christians were integral from the beginning.
In a 1989 handbook, VORP Organizing: A foundation in the church, Ron Claassen, Howard Zehr, and Duane Ruth-Heffelbower further developed the concept of VORP as a program that could work in cooperation with the judicial system but embodied “different assumptions about crime and punishment.”
“True justice requires that things be made right between the one offended and the one who has done the offending. It embodies a concept of restoration—of victim as well as offender. This also implies personal accountability on the part of the offender, who is encouraged to acknowledge his or her responsibility for the harm, participate in deciding what needs to be done, and to take steps to make amends,” they wrote.