INFOGRAPHIC: The New Indentured Servitude

While President Obama's "Student Aid Bill of Rights" is a prudent and necessary step towards aiding college students, his announcement comes late for the seven million borrowers already indentured to their education debt. In "Forgive Us Our Debts" (Sojourners, April 2015), Virginia Gilbert investigates the cause-and-effect battle of education debt and the way it is hindering a generation of college students. How big is the student debt burden? See below for the poor report card reveal. 

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The Changing Spirituality of Women

Nadia Bulkin. Photo via Sait Serkan Gurbuz / RNS

Nadia Bulkin. Photo via Sait Serkan Gurbuz / RNS

Nadia Bulkin, 27, the daughter of a Muslim father and a Christian mother, spends “zero time” thinking about God.

And she finds that among her friends — both guys and gals — many are just as spiritually disconnected.

Surveys have long shown women lead more active lives of faith than men, and that millennials are less interested than earlier generations. One in three now claim no religious identity.

What may be new is that more women, generation by generation, are moving in the direction of men — away from faith, religious commitment, even away from vaguely spiritual views like “a deep sense of wonder about the universe,” according to some surveys.

Michaela Bruzzese, 46, is a Mass-every-week Catholic, just like her mother, but she sees few of her Gen X peers in the pews.

People Get Ready

JEN BAILEY PAYS attention. She recognized the paucity of healthy food choices in Nashville’s “food desert” areas and designed an interfaith toolkit to enhance the skills of food- justice organizers tackling that issue. Jen—now Rev. Bailey of the African Methodist Episcopal Church—listened to the recurring theme in her own lived experience: Faith communities can be a catalyzing source for good and are even more powerful when they work together. Bailey hasn’t yet hit 30.

Millennials have gotten serious press this year from Pew, NPR, The Huffington Post, The Atlantic, and the like. Amid their diversity, these roughly 80 million people appear to share several common traits. They are global citizens who want to act and impact locally, who crave meaning, seek entrepreneurialism, prioritize people and networks over institutions, and often profess different parameters of and pathways to success than previous generations. If Bailey is emblematic of her generation in any way, we have a lot to be hopeful about.

This year, Bailey started the Faith Matters Network (FMN), a “multi-faith alliance dedicated to building the power of people of faith to transform our social and economic systems.” The group focuses on the South and Midwest because both areas are significantly impacted by economic inequality and are highly religious. That is, there is a lot of work to be done and lots of people (theoretically) committed to doing it.

In addition to connecting folks with resources and partner organizations, FMN has two main programs: faith “collaboratories” and transformational storytelling. The first is a new form of gathering “communities of praxis” to work together to tackle local challenges. The second recognizes the power of story to connect us, one to another, and to get people to pay attention.

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Weekly Wrap 10.17.14: The 10 Best Stories You Missed This Week

1. Race and America’s Gun Culture
"Whites walking down Main Street with an AK-47 are defenders of American values; a black man doing the same thing is Public Enemy No. 1."

2. Keeping the Faith: How Childhood Influences Churchgoing
From college education to birth order, this article offers all the latest stats on American religiosity.

3. WATCH: British Nurse Who Survived Ebola Will Return to Africa Because ‘There’s Still A Lot of Work to Do’
William Pooley is a volunteer nurse who contracted the disease in Sierra Leone. He plans to return.

4. Dear White People: Art Imitating Life’s Racism
"Simien told The Root he’s not trying to embarrass but instead is trying to open a dialogue through his humor. He wants white filmgoers to know, ‘It’s not an hour-and-a-half indictment of your people.’ Instead it could be taken as a 108-minute indictment of all people."

Weekly Wrap 9.5.14: The 10 Best Stories You Missed This Week

1. Almost Like the Blues

Canadian folk bard Leonard Cohen reads lyrics from one of his latest songs — a gentle, melancholy reflection on life and hope.

2. How Back-to-School Shopping Reinforces Gender Norms — and How to Fight Back

For those of us with children heading to, or back to, school — one parent attempts to buck the gendered school-accessories market. 

3. The Osteen Predicament — Mere Happiness Cannot Bear the Weight of the Gospel

"If our message cannot be preached with credibility in Mosul, it should not be preached in Houston." 'Nuff said.

4. Steven Sotloff Hid His Jewish Faith from ISIS Captors

"The secrets that couldn’t be known about beheaded journalist Steven Sotloff during his captivity were revealed in detail Wednesday: The 31-year-old was Jewish, had dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship and apparently maintained his Jewish ritual life while being held by ISIS."

Is Social Justice 'Sexy'?

IT WAS AN average afternoon in the college town of Northampton, Mass. I was sitting at a local coffee shop sipping a latte when I overheard the conversation between two students comparing laptop decals.

“I’m really into the whole child soldier thing. This sticker is about that,” explained one young woman. The other pointed to an emblem on her laptop, remarking, “I’m more interested in the issue of sex trafficking, but I guess everyone is.”

“Yeah,” the other girl responded, “It’s kind of the sexy social justice issue.”

An intense interest in social justice has been a hallmark of the Millennial generation thus far. Within the church, there has been a clear departure from the traditional emphasis on evangelism alone to a broadening conversation about the necessity of addressing physical needs and human rights. Millennials have made great strides in engaging some of the world’s most pressing issues, but is the popularity of social justice a completely good phenomenon?

The Good
As a result of globalization, my generation is more aware than ever about the plight of those Jesus refers to as our “neighbors.” This awareness has heightened funding for NGOs, mobilized willing volunteers, and built pressure for better public policy. We have more knowledge regarding the injustices that people face all across the globe, and we’re often not content to simply cross to the other side of the road. It’s trendy to know and talk about justice issues, and this popularity has often led to action.

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Young Evangelicals and the 'Nones'

The Pew Forum recently released a new study, “Nones on the Rise.” This was not about my friends called the “Nuns On The Bus,” who just did a tour around the country focusing on social justice. Rather, It details the concerning trend of those in our country who have given up on religion altogether. 

Social scientists tell us that adults, especially young adults, are increasingly disconnected from our established religious traditions. “Nones,” the Pew forum calls them, have grown from 15 percent of U.S. adults to 20 percent in only five years. One-in-three adults under 30 check the religious affiliation box, “None of the above” or “Unaffiliated.” Despite the fact that 68 percent of nones believe in God, only 5 percent of them attend church once or more a week, and 22 percent attend monthly/yearly. (Learn more about this group in our blog series Meet the Nones.)

But the focus on the next generation is not all bad news. On Tuesday, I had the pleasure of moderating a diverse panel of seven young evangelicals. Each had unique experiences and backgrounds. Some self-identified as liberal, while others self-identified as conservative. But those political ideologies could not separate their core evangelical principles. 

Lessons from Caine’s Arcade: The Vital Joy of Making Things

Caine's Arcade in his dad's auto parts store

Caine's Arcade in his dad's auto parts store

In case you missed it, the viral video of the week is a delightful short film called Caine's Arcade. In the video, a 9 year old from East L.A. constructs an elaborate cardboard arcade in his dad’s used car parts store and dons a custom-made shirt on days the arcade is open for business.

But because of their location and changes in the parts market that have moved his dad’s business mostly online, Caine gets no customers until a filmmaker named Nirvan walks in one day.

At long last, Caine gets to present the ticket options (a handmade fun pass costs $2 for 500 turns) When Nirvan wins a game, Caine crawls inside the box to manually dispense Nirvan’s winnings from a the roll of tickets.

Watching the film for the first time this week, I was filled with a joy so overwhelming it eventually brought tears.

Young Evangelicals: Unaffiliated Does Not Always Mean UnChristian

"Meet the Millennials," photo by TheeErin/Wylio (

"Meet the Millennials," photo by TheeErin/Wylio (

There has been a lot of talk lately — both in the public sphere and most definitely here at the Sojo offices—about young people leaving the church.

I would argue that--while some of my fellow millenials are jumping ship on Christiainity--many are not so much leaving the big-C “Church,” (see my post on the definition of the word), as they are leaving established churches. The surveys show a migration from a particular denomination to “no religion.” To me, that doesn’t say atheist/agnostic; it just says that this generation of Christians doesn’t want to be labeled.

If you look at the numbers, millenials are quitting the church, not quitting Jesus. Unaffiliated does not necessarily mean unChristian.

My generation doesn’t want the “Southern Baptist,” “Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod,” “Roman Catholic” affiliations thrust upon us. Not only do we disagree with some of the tenants of said denominations, but each title carries all sorts of baggage left at our feet.

We’ve seen post after post listing possible catalysts to twenty-somethings turning away from the religion of our fathers in droves. Presidential hopeful Rick Santorum blames college. The reasons listed here on God’s Politics, in books and by church leaders themselves each probably factor in to some degree.

But I do want to dismiss some of them.