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

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.

‘Not Everything That You Want Is Righteous for You to Buy’

by Mitchell Atencio 05-11-2021

Ben Kirby poses for a photo. Original photo credit: Grant Daniels. 

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

by Mitchell Atencio 05-05-2021

A banner asking to fight for first nation rights during the 9th Annual Strawberry Ceremony to remember the missing and Murdered Indigenous Women February 14 ,2014 in Toronto,Canada. Shutterstock/arindambanerjee

“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

by Mitchell Atencio 05-03-2021

Cover image courtesy of Dona Park

“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

by Mitchell Atencio 04-28-2021

Nathan Cartagena. Images via Nathan Cartagena / Shutterstock. Design by Candace Sanders.

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

by Mitchell Atencio 04-20-2021

People react after the verdict in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, found guilty of the death of George Floyd, at George Floyd Square in Minneapolis, Minn. on April 20, 2021. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

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.”