Associate News Editor, sojo.net

Mitchell Atencio is the associate 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.

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 tennis, rants about the evils of pickleball, 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

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.”

Will Those Released From Prison Due to COVID Have to Return?

A New York City Police car is parked outside the Brooklyn Metropolitan Detention Center, which is operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, in New York, February 4, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

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

by Mitchell Atencio 04-12-2021

A sign marks the U.S. Treasury Department in Washington, D.C. on Aug. 6, 2018. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

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

by Mitchell Atencio 04-09-2021

Earl Simmons, better known as rap musician DMX, performs on the main stage at the Woodstock music and arts festival in Rome, New York, U.S. July 23, 1999. REUTERS/Joe Traver

"[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

by Mitchell Atencio 04-01-2021

meunierd / Shutterstock.com

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.

by Mitchell Atencio 03-29-2021

Soojin Park leads attendees in prayer in Korean, at Chinatown Park in Washington, D.C., on March 28, 2021. Mitchell Atencio/Sojourners

“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

by Mitchell Atencio 03-26-2021

Ten stories of passion, and how to channel it toward the liberation of all.

Does Progressive Christian Financial Advice Exist?

by Mitchell Atencio 03-11-2021

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’

by Mitchell Atencio 03-08-2021

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) speaks with reporters as he arrives for a vote in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Feb. 8, 2021. REUTERS/Al Drago

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

by Mitchell Atencio 02-26-2021
The Phoenix Restorative Justice Center helps schools and communities find healthy ways to resolve conflict.
A child sits at a desk with a notebook.

Photo by Mitchell Atencio

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.

Grace Semler Baldridge Is Bringing Queer Stories to Christian Music

by Mitchell Atencio 02-22-2021

Semler's EP, Preacher's Kid (unholy demos), topped iTunes Christian charts after its release in February. Photo by Molly Adams, courtesy of Semler.

The contemporary Christian music industry has been adamantly opposed to affirming LGBTQ+ people. But Semler's EP Preacher's dares to include songs about queer sexuality, lesbian weddings, and Christian faith.

Supreme Court Rules Pastor Must Be Allowed In Execution Chamber

by Mitchell Atencio 02-12-2021

The U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., on May 8, 2020. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

“The law guarantees Smith the right to practice his faith free from unnecessary interference, including at the moment the State puts him to death,” wrote Justice Elena Kagan.

Court Rules Alabama Must Allow Pastor in Execution Chamber

by Mitchell Atencio 02-11-2021

On Wednesday night, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit reversed a district court’s decision and ruled that the state of Alabama must allow Willie B. Smith III’s pastor to be in the execution chamber during Smith’s execution.

He Wants His Pastor With Him At His Execution. Alabama Won't Allow It

by Mitchell Atencio 02-05-2021

Willie B. Smith III.

On Feb. 11, the state of Alabama intends to execute Willie B. Smith III without his pastor by his side — which Smith alleges is a violation of his religious freedom.

‘Safely Open the Doors of Our Sanctuary Churches,’ Members of Congress Urge Biden

by Mitchell Atencio 01-26-2021

A banner welcoming immigrants and refugees on the Catholic Shrine of the Immaculate Conception Church in Atlanta, Ga., on Jan. 22, 2019.  Cari Rubin Photography / Shutterstock.com

Members of Congress, led by Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Tex.), wrote President Joe Biden a letter asking him to ensure those taking sanctuary in houses of worship would be protected from deportation. They also asked the Biden-Harris administration to lift the deportation orders against all people living in sanctuary.

‘My Whole Soul Is in This': Biden's Religion-Infused Inauguration

by Mitchell Atencio 01-20-2021

Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th president of the United States as Jill Biden holds the Bible during the 59th Presidential Inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021. Andrew Harnik/Pool via REUTERS

“Saint Augustine, a saint of my church, wrote that a people was ‘a multitude defined by the common objects of their love,’” Biden said. “What are the common objects we, as Americans, love, that define us as Americans? I think we know: opportunity, security, liberty, respect, honor, and, yes, the truth.”

How Religiously Diverse Is Biden's Cabinet?

by Mitchell Atencio 01-19-2021

Some of the leaders Joe Biden has selected for his incoming Cabinet. Upper row, left to right: Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Janet Yellen, Isabel Guzman, Pete Buttigieg, Lloyd Austin. Lower row, left to right: Xavier Becerra, Marcia Fudge, Neera Tanden, Deb Haaland, and Michael Regan. Photos via Wikimedia Commons and courtesy images. Graphic by Jayne Marie Smith / Sojourners.

President-elect Joe Biden has promised to have the “most diverse Cabinet” in U.S. history, but is the Cabinet religiously diverse? The answer, experts explain, must go beyond tracking the identities of various appointees; a diverse administration must have the power to impact policy for the communities they represent.