Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 3 days 9 hours ago
In 1990, my father and pregnant mother packed up their life in suburban Illinois, bundled their four young children (including me) onto a plane, and landed in Romania to teach on a grant at the University of Bucharest. The country was in the throes of revolution following the execution of ousted dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu, and the transfer of power was by no means tidy or complete. The Securitate — one of the most brutal secret police forces in the world — proved difficult to shut down. All our neighbors operated under the assumption that their every move continued to be watched (one friend had taken apart his typewriter by hand and hid it so he could answer honestly that he did not keep a typewriter in the house). Being American, my parents were told to expect our apartment to be bugged.Freedom had come, but the systems of omnipresent control proved psychologically hard to shake.The specter of surveillance is an insidious tool. In the 1790s, British philosoper Jeremy Bentham developed a centralized prison model called the panopticon, in which every occupant is visible to a single guard. Most models, since adapted by prisons and schools around the world, leave open the possibility that there is no supervisor watching after all. Whether there is isn't the point — the mere promise of one is enough to coerce significant behavior change. Being constantly observable is the trap. These days, Americans don’t need a formative year spent in post-soviet Romania to feel uneasy about omnipresent surveillance. Edward Snowden’s revelations of massive secret surveillance programs operating under the NSA, with enormous access to private data from citizens not suspected of terrorism or criminal wrongdoing, rocked our understandings of data privacy and civil liberty. Now, as then, it’s reasonable to worry that we’re being watched.And if it’s not the state watching us, it’s corporations after our money. Uber tracks our movements and fires drivers for sharing links to bad reviews on their personal media, unless it doesn’t. Facebook uses emotional manipulation to collect behavioral data, but insists it’s no big deal. Google compiles secret profiles through wiretapping but swears it would never.So are we being watched or aren’t we? And do we care?
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss, Julie Polter, Tripp Hudgins 2 weeks 1 day ago
Sufjan Stevens’ newest album, Carrie & Lowell (out now), is a heartbreaking meditation on personal grief. It’s also joyful, baffling, and delicately mundane. In the spirit of a listening party, a few of us sat down to play through the album, sharing liner notes and meditations on the songs that grabbed each of us. Conclusion: it's really, really good. Stream Carrie & Lowell here, and listen along with us below. “Death With Dignity” — Tripp Hudgins, ethnomusicologist, Sojourners contributor, blogger at AnglobaptistTripp: I love the first song of an album. I think of it as the introduction to a possible new friend. “Where The Streets Have No Name” on U2’s Joshua Tree or “Signs of Life” on Pink Floyd’s Momentary Lapse of Reason, that first track can be the thesis statement to a sonic essay.So, when I get a new album — even in this day of digital albums or collections of singles — a first track can make or break an album for me. I sat down and listened attentively to “Death With Dignity.” It does not disappoint. With it Stevens introduces the subject of the album — his grief around troubled relationship with his mother and her death — as well as the sonic palate he will use throughout the album.Simple guitar work, layered voicing, and a little synth, the album is musically sparse. The tempo reminds me of movies from the nineteen sixties or seventies where the action takes place over a long road trip.Catherine Woodiwiss: I was thinking road trip, too. There’s real motion musically, which, given a claustrophobic theme and circular lyrics, is a thankful point of release. It’s a generous act, or maybe an avoidant one — he could have made us sit tight and watch, and he doesn’t quite do it.Julie Polter: This isn’t a road movie, but the reference to that era of films just made me think of Cat Stevens’ soundtrack for Harold and Maude, especially “Trouble.” (This album is one-by-one bringing back to me other gentle songs of death and duress and all the songs I listen to when I want to cry).
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 3 weeks 1 day ago
When it comes to consensual sexual ethics among millennials, all behaviors are on the table … if the time is right. For the same generation in which no single religious group claims more than about one in 10, there is also little clear generational consensus on sex and reproductive health, a new report finds.“Across seven behaviors related to sexuality [including: using contraception, sex between minors, unmarried cohabitation], there were no issues for which a majority pronounced them morally wrong in general,” the report, authored by Robert P. Jones and Daniel Cox at the Public Religion Research Institute, states.Millennials prove a regular source of fascination for commentators and other millennials alike. This is the generation that launched a thousand think pieces, and understandably so — in study after study, millennials consistently defy both traditional categories and expected reactive categories alike. (We’re an obstinate bunch.)When it comes to sex, PRRI’s new release highlights what its authors call “situationalist ethics” — a flexible set of acceptable behaviors. Far from displaying a lack of moral code, the report suggests millennials embracing nebulous but durable moral through-lines that eschew the “whats” of behavior for the “hows” and “whens.” For example, in the case of sex between two adults who have no intention of establishing a relationship, millennials are evenly divided for and against (37 percent), with a significant number saying it depends on the situation (21 percent).When it comes to abortion, most say it depends on the situation (39 percent), though more say it’s morally wrong than morally acceptable. Using artificial forms of birth control is by far the clearest point of agreement, with a full 71 percent saying it’s morally acceptable and another 14 percent depending on the situation — only 9 percent rejecting the use.The report examines how our generation’s religious, racial, and political diversity is shaping attitudes, but it’s worth nothing how educational attainment is shaping moral frameworks, too. Much of the report’s findings reflect similar attitudes on broad categories across racial and religious lines, while noting some stark differences when broken down by educational attainment. (Not discussed in the report, but well-documented elsewhere — the crucial question of poverty and economic mobility when it comes to sexual norms.)
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 6 weeks 5 days ago
It is a great and terrible irony that our country’s correctional system does not often allow for or take much pride in perpetrators’ self-correction.Yet to the degree that transformation within the system is possible, such appears to have happened for Kelly Gissendaner. The 46-year-old woman was sentenced to death for the 1998 murder of her then-husband, Doug. It is well-documented that her accomplice and then-boyfriend committed the act — he is sentenced to life, with a chance at parol.Gissendaner faces excecution tonight at 7 p.m. EST.If carried through, it will be the first time since 1976 that the state of Georgia will execute an individual who was not the person physically using violence in the crime.Gissendaner’s case — that of a person guilty of murder whose profound internal transformation while in prison has led to a contemplative life of studying theology, mentoring at-risk youth, offering pastoral care to fellow inmates, and expressing full and sincere remorse for her actions — calls into stark question whether our criminal justice system, and specifically the state's use of the death penalty, honestly allows for the possibility for redemption.
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 8 weeks 2 days ago
Sojourners: What’s your hope for the ECC broadly? I’m not sure whether you can even speak to this yet, but are you hoping to stay within the denomination? What’s your hope for where this conversation leads the church?Phillips: Well, I just, I deeply love the Covenant Church. I keep using “we” language instead of “us” and “them” language, because it really hasn’t sunk in yet. And there’s some confusion around, how do I operate as an ordained minister in a former Covenant church plant. For me, this all comes back to our Covenant pietistic roots about relationship, new life in Christ, and reading the bible together.I’ve just met dozens and dozens and dozens of gay Covenanters in recent weeks that have said, hey, thanks for speaking up, and they’ve told me their stories of exclusion or being ostracized in some cases. These are good Christian people — people that grew up in the Covenant, working at Bible camps, going to Covenant schools. And some of these folks have experienced depression; some have experienced suicidal thoughts. And that’s the kind of thing that I hope that my friends in the Covenant, no matter where they stand on this matter, can work together to at least find some way for hospitality and inclusion to take place.You know, I never thought that the Covenant needed to change its policies to become an open and affirming church. I was simply hoping that we could hold in tension this kind of historic covenant agreement to disagree on matters that weren’t what some would call “essential matters” — like resurrection, like new life, like the presence of the Holy Spirit. I have dear friends in the covenant that wouldn’t hold my position, and they’re doing amazing work in ministry — alongside the gay community, even — so you know, I hope that we can find some way forward that can get beyond this moment of confusion. Sojourners: Many churches and Christian organizations in the U.S. right now are afraid to take a stand on LGBTQ rights precisely for this reason — whether it’s a hesitancy to break with denominational tradition or, maybe more pragmatically, a fear of getting defunded. For someone newly in this chaos, do you have any wisdom from having this happen to you?Phillips: I think it’s imperative that we lean into what the Holy Spirit is doing. I think the Holy Spirit is guiding us on this conversation — and there’s so much grace. Even though there’s so much pain and fear. I think in the end, grace wins out.I’ve found that in the midst of all this, amazing friends emerge, and new friendships are forged. And you know, God’s doing something really cool right now. And it seems chaotic, and it seems scary, because so many of the old models are outdated. But God’s truth is not changed whatsoever, and God’s news is still good. So I just encourage people to keep leaning into God’s promises and friends along the way that can walk with us as we figure it out as we go.
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 10 weeks 1 day ago
Religion writers get a lot of curious mail in their inbox. Our favorite this week was from Instapray, a social praying app.Instapray does exactly what you'd think it would — matches communal prayer with the real-time get-it-anywhere nature of social media by allowing users to add, share, comment on, and update prayers. Like similar apps before it, there’s a spiritual motivation, too — users can mark that a prayer has been answered, or “repray” with others in solidarity of situation or spirit.Most social prayer apps to date are some variation on Instapray, if less catchy/hokey in name — the Prayer Network, Ora, Intercede, Fellowshipper. Their thesis is clear — we often forget or don’t make time to pray; we don’t know who and what to pray for; we want to know our deep questions or petitions are being heard. (One also has to wonder whether the psychological pitfalls of digital social tools apply doubly when faith is involved — “What about all my prayers left publically unanswered? Why doesn’t anyone else share my prayer?".)There’s a growing sense of partnership potential between Silicon Valley and faith communities, but the market for Christian social media to date remains largely untapped. It seems developers and faith leaders have yet to discover their collaborative sweet spot, where often-private religious inquiry best meets digital social tools. Instapray is one newer attempt at finding that nexus — success TBD.In the meantime, here are 5 other Christian apps tooled to provide a closer walk with … well, each other.
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 14 weeks 3 days ago
Kathleen calls Ed’s lifework — which also includes authoring the 1979 D.C. statehood constitutional convention initiative and acting as Pax Christi USA’s first General Secretary beginning in 1972 — "a tiny seed that really sparked a lot of transformational education."Kathleen mentions several former volunteers who went on to start their own hospitality houses, federations for organic farmers, prison rehabilitation initiatives, and food and poverty programs worldwide.And the impact of Guinan’s work lives on in the city today. In 2008, Ed and Kathleen received the WETA Hometown Hero Award for residents working for "positive change for underprivileged people." The CCNV’s medical clinic has since grown into one of D.C.’s most recognizable service groups, Bread for the City. And according to the Washington Post, the CCNV’s Federal City Shelter still houses 1,350 beds — the country’s largest shelter for the homeless.
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 19 weeks 4 days ago
Elsewhere, Courtney describes the effect as recognizing the blood of your enemies physically pumping in your veins. It is a striking example of interdependence — physically and metaphysically.Perhaps what’s spiritual is what’s biological. In the midst of the ongoing violence, Preemptive Love Coalition performed its 1,000th heart surgery last month.
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 20 weeks 5 days ago
Late November is Vitamin D season. The dregs of the year threaten to swamp the spirit, clinging to each rough edge of the soul, and frequent shots of sunshine and warm coziness are needed just to keep the deep at bay. Each shadow left in the wake of autumn’s receding glory whispers, “Not yet.” And, “Not anymore.”Next week the liturgical church celebrates Advent — the crown jewel of liminal spirituality. Advent is the thinnest place of Christian ritual, where material Today touches fingertips with spiritual Tomorrow. It looks forward while standing still, gently holding the embers of our souls, watching with hope for divine light and grace to set them aflame. Advent is gospel, singing, “The real story is yet to come.” Advent is the Now and the Not Yet.But this week is for the Not Anymore. Today is for the blues.
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 21 weeks 4 days ago
Eugene Cho is overrated.At least that’s what he’ll tell you in his new book, Overrated: Are We More in Love with the Idea of Changing the World Than Actually Changing the World?Cho, pastor at Quest Church in Seattleand founder of One Day’s Wages and Q Café, is an outspoken Christian voice for social justice. His first book is a self-professed confession of the risks of personal platform in the work of justice — and a call to humble self-awareness for Christians in an age of social change-idealism. When justice and changemaking are buzzwords, how do we embrace the long challenge of bettering the world while remaining humble about our place in it?Watch the interview below.
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 25 weeks 2 days ago
Lonely Planet just ranked Washington, D.C., as the #1 Best Place to Travel in the world(!). Coming on the heels of Forbes crowning D.C. the coolest city in America in August, the admittedly unexpected parade of accolades appears to just be starting for the place Sojourners has called home for the past few decades.Of course, “coolness” is elusive by nature — if it was measurable, it wouldn’t be cool — and the metrics used by both outlets are questionably desirable, if technically true for a portion of the city. Lonely Planet points to a city “whose official religion is national politics,” while Forbes lists “higher influxes of new people” and “most college degrees per capita.”This shows a problematic tendency to weight Washington the industry over D.C. the city (this post from DCis toutlines that nicely). It also largely misses what’s actually great about this place. I’ve found D.C. to be far beyond the House of Cards-meets-Cherry Blossom Festival sketch beloved by press and many residents alike. In my daily experience, D.C. is collaborative, generous, and deserving of accolades in ways that continually surprise. Based on my very unscientific metrics of personal observation and emotional investment, here are a few things that are uniquely great about D.C.
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 28 weeks 1 day ago
Editor’s Note: ‘Left Behind’ starring Nicolas Cage hits theaters nationwide on Friday, Oct. 3. The film is based on the wildly popular book series and movies of the same title, in which God raptures believers and leaves unbelievers behind to learn follow Jesus and defeat the Antichrist. So how’s the film reboot?Sojourners Web editors called up a group of religion writers in D.C. to watch and review the movie together. We left with more questions than answers. Here’s our takeaway on all things ‘Left Behind’ — and a little Nic Cage.Catherine Woodiwiss, Associate Web Editor, Sojourners: So first things first — why Left Behind again?When the books were published [starting in 1995], there was a debate happening in Christianity over whether Hell was a real, physical place. And the original movies were produced in the context of 9/11 and the Iraq war. So you can look and say, okay, this was a time of questioning what some saw as fundamental beliefs, of war and terrorism. So the popularity of an end-times series makes some sense.But why now? Why today?
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 31 weeks 4 days ago
This week, the Baltimore Ravens terminated the contract of star runningback Ray Rice after video of Rice beating his then-fiancée Janay emerged online. Rice had previously been suspended for two games for the assault. With the release of the video, media scrutiny swiftly turned to his now-wife, speculating over why she would marry her abuser.Beverly Gooden, a human resources manager and blogger, had a different response. Herself a survivor of domestic abuse, Gooden began tweeting of her own experiences, each one a vulnerable explanation: #WhyIStayed.Gooden wrote, “I can't speak for Janay Rice, but I can speak for Beverly Gooden. Why did I stay? … Leaving was a process, not an event. And sometimes it takes awhile to navigate through the process. ...I hope those tweeting using #WhyIStayed find a voice, find love, find compassion, and find hope.” We would all do well to listen. Some of the most powerful tweets below.
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 31 weeks 5 days ago
We love the latest Facebook “book challenge" going around. It reads something like this: "List 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don't over-think this — they don't have to be the 'right' books or great works of literature. Just books that have impacted you in some way." We at Sojourners are a book-loving bunch, from religion and spirituality to politics; social justice to science; cultural history to historical fiction. Below are 10 favorite or most formative books from several staff here at Sojourners (in addition to books of the Bible, which could take several spots themselves).See any of your favorites here? Which books do you most love? Share in the comments!
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 37 weeks 3 days ago
In a perfect world, women can choose to be whomever they want. But there is not yet a country on earth in which that is actually true. That is why we need feminism.That there’s disagreement over how we talk about women’s empowerment in the U.S. isn’t surprising — feminism is a collection of unique people with unique visions of a good life, trying to figure out how to preserve past and present good, correct past and present wrongs, and forge a new way ahead together.But it is tragically, perennially clear why speaking up against male-controlled narratives in church or school or novels or movies or business or government, against generations of excused behavior for men and oppression for women, against ongoing systemic injustice is still so crucially necessary.From reading what these “anti-modern-feminists” have written, I don’t believe any of them would take umbrage with that. It’s a pity, then, they are rejecting the term feminism — their challenges would be great additions to the dialogue. More education and conversation about what feminism is, and how we do it, and where it can go, is clearly needed. Without it, I’m not at all sure how much farther forward we’ll be able to go.
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 48 weeks 2 days ago
When introducing people to hacking, Ali Llewellyn often brings up Apollo 13. “Remember that scene where they dump everything on the table and say, ‘We have to find a solution, with only these materials?’ And there’s, you know, duct tape? That’s all it is! Hacking is building a way to go from here to there.”She should know. After studying church planting and social mobilization, Llewellyn went on to spearhead community engagement for NASA’s Open Innovation Program and is now a Senior Program Manager for SecondMuse, equipping hackers and non-hackers alike for the upcoming National Day of Civic Hacking.Llewellyn’s dappled journey — from biblical scholarship to tech-minded collaboration — reveals a potent lens that Christians across denominations are using to repurpose, mobilize, and reform the church. In hacking, they see a model for the future of Christianity.The term “hacking” has undergone a recent transformation in the popular lexicon, back to its amorally general origins as a method of discovery and recombination. For every Heartbleed-like scare today, there are innumerable cheery Buzzfeed tips to hack your life; and while the digital bandits of Anonymous capture our imagination, “hackathons” — community-oriented workshops to solve urban challenges — have popped up in many major cities.With this broadened interpretation, Christian interest in hacking finds context. Just as faith systems give parameters to our spiritual imagination, so technology directs our inquiry into the universe and, increasingly, our connectedness to each other. Early Christianity spearheaded technological innovations with global ramifications, most notably in the invention of the codex. Today’s faithful hackers, armed with code, workshops, and participatory-minded theology, hope to do the same.
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 1 year 3 weeks ago
Thought experiment: You are single. You’re eager for a sociable night out on the town. You step into a bar full of attractive people. You:— See a hot someone across the room and think, I want to be all over him/her.— See a hot someone across the room and think, I want him/her to think I am so appealing that they just want to be all over me.Which one is lust?The lust I heard about in church only ever dwelt on the first train of thought. This lust was an overwhelming desire for someone else, to the point of obsession, objectification, or infidelity. It was dirty, aggressive, mulled over in accountability groups and discussed in sermons of marriage and singleness. ... I didn’t relate to it at all.In conversation with other close Christian women, I learned they didn’t really relate to it, either. We didn’t treat men or other women as objects of desire. We had hormones, sure, but they were … different. Sometimes we saw men as actively desirable, but not necessarily. We usually just wanted men to want us.Sometimes we wanted them to want us really, really badly.Sometimes we needed them to want us. Sometimes that was the only thing we could think about. Sometimes we’d fall into a prolonged pout if men who OBVIOUSLY SHOULD WANT US because we were HOT AND AWESOME, in fact, didn’t.... Oh. Hmmm.*Lightbulb*Is it possible that lust works in multiple ways? Is it possible that the all-consuming desire to be desired is just as lustful as the all-consuming desire to have?
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 1 year 3 weeks ago
The first sign I had a problem was when I came across Candy Chang’s “Confessions” project in 2012. It was an interactive art installment on the Las Vegas strip that invited people to come in and confess their deepest secrets anonymously. Those secrets would then be added to a visual art display. It was engaging, unexpected, relevant, discussion-provoking. It was fun.I hated it.More correctly, I loved it; and hated myself for not actively doing something similar. I wondered how to implement a version of this idea among colleagues and in office hallways of my organization at the time; I considered “art-bombing” the streets of my city with thought-provoking questions; I spent several moments over the next several weeks seriously questioning whether I should drop everything to focus on Chang-style installations, because I could, and I liked it, and it would work, so I should be doing it. Nothing else I was currently doing mattered. Not without this one thing more.Welcome to an exhaustive (and exhausting) self-talk: the fixation on never doing enough. Until very recently, I thought this way almost all the time. Somehow — accidentally, almost imperceptibly — years of nurturing my professional and creative pursuits was nurturing something else, as well. It became nearly impossible for me to see work that I admired and appreciated and to not simultaneously think, “I should be doing that, too.”Which is, simply put, raging covetousness.
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 1 year 4 weeks ago
WrathRolling in the Deep — AdeleMama Said Knock You Out — LL Cool JSlothLazy Song — Bruno MarsJe Ne Veux Pas Travailler — Pink MartiniGreedRich Girl — Gwen Stefani ft EveI Want It All — QueenGluttonyEat It — Weird Al YankovichCan’t Stop — Miley CyrusLustI Want You to Want Me — Letters to Cleo/10 Things I Hate About You soundtrackI’m Sexy and I Know It — LMFAOPrideI’m the Best (clean version) — Nicki MinajDevil Went Down To Georgia — Charlie Daniels BandEnvyJessie’s Girl — Rick SpringfieldDancing on My Own — Robyn
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 1 year 4 weeks ago
Editor's Note: Last week, Sojourners’ Associate Web Editor Catherine Woodiwiss caught up with musical collective Gungor at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas. Here’s what Michael Gungor has to say about art, liturgy, and the future of music.This interview has been edited for length and content.Catherine: So what brings you to South by Southwest (SXSW)?Gungor: I guess we thought it was about time to experience the circus.Catherine: A couple of years ago there was talk of SXSW becoming a destination for "Christian techies,” and Donald Miller premiered his popular film, Blue Like Jazz, at the film portion of the festival. Do you consider yourself part of a Christian “witness” here at SXSW?Gungor: We are here to make some music, have a good time, and perhaps make some friends along the way. We certainly aren't here to proselytize or advance some secret religious message or anything.But anywhere we go, we do have a desire to live the sort of life that Jesus invited people to live.
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 1 year 8 weeks ago
I didn’t expect to get hit on during Super Bowl XLVIII.I mean, I was expecting the usual stuff — the testosterone-fueled web hosting pitch, the adorable animals selling beer – but this was shameless. Someone really did their homework, because company after company turned up with things I like to hear: healthy families; cute biracial kids; a nation of immigrants; a thriving main street; victory for the marginalized; solving the world’s most pressing social ills. Check, check-check.Progressive values, you are currently the it-girl for advertisement pickup artists. Enjoy it?I, for one, do not.Don’t get me wrong, commercials that celebrate our society as diverse and affirming are far more appealing than the advertising tropes we’re used to. But they also veil or flat-out misrepresent the structures and practices of the companies telling them. Without a significant shift towards justice on the part of these companies themselves, their social good stories shouldn’t charm us — they probably should leave us with a bad taste in our mouths.
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 1 year 13 weeks ago
I wasn’t really expecting painful things to happen to me.I knew that pain was a part of life, but — thanks in part to a peculiar blend of “God-has-a-plan” Southern roots, a suburban “Midwestern nice” upbringing, and a higher education in New England stoicism — I managed to skate by for quite some time without having to experience it.After a handful of traumas in the last five years, things look different now. Trauma upends everything we took for granted, including things we didn’t know we took for granted. And many of these realities I wish I’d known when I first encountered them. So, while the work of life and healing continues, here are ten things I’ve learned about trauma along the way.
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 1 year 31 weeks ago
Last night, the United States Capitol building overlooked an unusually frolicsome scene: a DJ spinning Rihanna and Calvin Harris, glow sticks bobbing on wrists and ankles, and dozens of young people dancing across the soggy West Lawn.“It’s not the craziest thing we’ve seen at the Capitol,” said a police officer observing the after-sundown boogie. “But I don’t really know what’s going on. I think it’s some kind of Christian dance party.”The event, billed by organizer Two Planks Productions as the “first-ever dance party held on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol”, sought to bring unity to the nation’s divided capital and “put people over politics” through a night of dance music hosted by Washington DJ Stylus Chris. More than one hundred dancers, including some passers-by, joined throughout the night.
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 1 year 33 weeks ago
Yesterday’s “Let Freedom Ring” ceremony in Washington, D.C., honored the nation's substantial advances in racial equality in the fifty years since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his now-iconic “I Have a Dream” speech.But events this year — from the Supreme Court gutting the Voting Rights Act to the House eliminating funding for food stamps to the Trayvon Martin trial — are posing serious challenges to our national progress towards true equality for all.An infographic from the Public Religion Research Institute, "The Dream by the Numbers," highlights systemic inequalities that still work against communities of color today. The statistics are grim: black communities are unemployed at nearly double the rate of white communities. Fewer than 20 percent of black youth will receive a college or graduate degree. Twice as many blacks lack health insurance as whites. And nearly 70 percent of blacks surveyed mentioned “lack of opportunities for young people” as a top concern for their community.
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 1 year 38 weeks ago
More Light Presbyterians, a network of congregations and individuals in the Presbyterian Church (USA) that advocates for LGBT inclusion, today announced Alex McNeill as their new executive director. McNeill is the first openly transgender person to lead a mainline Protestant organization.McNeill, a longtime advocate for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, and queer Christians, has longstanding roots in the church.“[The church] embodies the belief that faith calls us to action. We have a commitment to live out our call to care for the poor, for the hungry, and for the outcast. So we seek to not just teach values, but to equip people with tools for social justice,” he continued.
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 1 year 40 weeks ago
Unfortunately, sexual violence on college campuses is a widespread reality. As many as 20-25 percent of women will face attempted or completed assault over the course of their college tenure. Contrary to popular myths about “stranger-danger,” 9-in-10 of those victims will know their attacker. For Christian college administrators, who take seriously the formation not just of mind but of spirit, the reality of campus-based sexual violence is challenging for many to admit. Yet it has serious implications for how students learn, understand, and develop self-respect and love for their neighbor.In speaking with students, former students, and staff at Christian schools across the country, what’s revealed is that education about the realities and effects of sexual violence among college students remains anemic at best. There’s much to suggest that students are finding their way, but many — particularly at more sexually orthodox campuses — face frightening barriers to knowledge. When it comes to educating mind and spirit on sexual violence, Christian institutes of higher education still have far to go.
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 1 year 42 weeks ago
This week the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to hand down decisions on two significant cases for same-sex marriage: United States v. Windsor (regarding the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA), and Hollingsworth v. Perry (regarding California’s Proposition 8).At the Supreme Court this morning, an expectant crowd gathered hoping to catch the decisions firsthand. Most in attendance were visibly supportive of same-sex marriage, and many were cautiously optimistic that the Court would strike down DOMA, Proposition 8, or both.See our slideshow and interviews with those gathered at the Supreme Court, below.
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss, Brandon Hook 1 year 43 weeks ago
Days before President Barack Obama's high-profile speech on drones and U.S. counterterrorism efforts, Sojourners sat down with investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill to take an inside look at U.S.-led covert wars and the drones that have become an integral part of our global “war on terror.”His thesis?"After years of traveling in these countries, I really believe that we’re creating more enemies than we’re killing.”In some respects, drones are simply a new tool of old empire. Scahill, author of Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield and producer of the documentary of the same name, now in theaters, calls this an "unending war ... being legitimized under a popular Democratic president, who is a constitutional lawyer by trade.”Indeed, within five years, the Bush administration's invasion of Iraq for terrorist attacks the country did not commit has transformed under the Obama administration into pre-emptive assassinations halfway around the world, for crimes citizens have not yet committed. The result, Scahill suggested, is our collective complicity to “unending war.”
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 1 year 44 weeks ago
A movement of lay advocates speaking out against sexual violence is gaining steam in the faith communities. But are similar efforts happening inside church doors?When it comes to leading denominational conversations on sexual violence, clergy across traditions express twin reactions: encouragement over the protocols already in place and the efforts of fellow advocates; and frustration with a culture of silence around sexual violence in the church. Despite strikingly different experiences across denominations — and church by church — the clergy, church staff, and seminarians who spoke with Sojourners are in agreement that addressing this issue in one’s own house is complicated at every level.The result: a loss of potential by the American church to be a leading and vibrant institution of radical vulnerability and transformative healing.
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 1 year 46 weeks ago
Polley’s theater family has kept a rumor for years that Sarah’s dad may not be her biological father. Nagged by persistent jokes about her striking non-resemblance to the rest of the family, and unable to ask her long-since deceased mother, Polley sets out to put the record, and her family’s memories, straight. There’s much to love here, and what immediately distinguishes Stories is the openness — both uncomfortable and endearing — with which Polley invites the audience to see the intimate process of art-making.In short, we see a family — recognizable, ordinary, and still very much in the process of living — grappling with what it means to be suddenly be subjects in an intimate story no longer their own.
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 1 year 46 weeks ago
Though the church remains stuck in a culture of silence on sexual abuse, advocates are steadily building the platforms for individual voices to change the narrative. The depth of reconciliation that plays out upon these platforms can be profound.Rachel Halder, founder of Our Stories Untold — a blog that hosts stories from survivors of sexualized violence within the Mennonite church — has witnessed such moments happen in real time.One of Halder’s first contributors was a woman who was prompted to break her silence after Todd Akin’s comments qualifying “legitimate rape.” By happenstance, the woman’s former dorm-mate, who decades ago witnessed the immediate aftermath of this assault, recognized herself in the survivor’s story.Halder sat in disbelief as this dorm-mate came clean with her own years of shame and regret, expressing sorrow over lessons learned too late.“I just saw this play out on my site, this overwhelming moment of reconciliation and restoration,” Halder said, who later helped the two women reconnect by email. “It was completely unanticipated ... they hadn’t seen each other in 20, 30 years. The healing process in these kinds of stories is really magical.”
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 1 year 48 weeks ago
Most of us are too familiar with this story: an Upper Midwestern Baptist minister claims that “God made Christianity to have a masculine feel [and] ordained for the church a masculine ministry.” Or a Reformed Christian pastor mocks the appointment of the first female head of the Episcopal Church, comparing her to a “fluffy baby bunny rabbit.” Or a Southern Baptist megachurch pastor in California says physical abuse by one’s spouse is not a reason for divorce. Or numerous young evangelical ministers brag about their hot wives in tight leather pants.Fewer of us are familiar with this story: Tamar is raped by her half-brother Amnon. Tamar protests her brother’s advances, citing the social code of Israel, his reputation, and her shame, to no avail. Their brother Absalom commands her to keep quiet, and their father, the great King David, turns a blind eye.What do these contemporary statements above, delivered into cultural megaphones with conviction and certainty, have to do with the Old Testament rape and silencing of Tamar? The difficult answer is, quite a lot. The narrative dominance of these stories rests on power and control, which — whether intentional or not — speaks volumes about whom the church serves and what the church values.
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 1 year 49 weeks ago
Who is missing from the slew of headlines this week on kidnappings, gender-based violence, and victims' paths to healing? The perpetrators themselves.Which is why this TEDx video is a must-see.“Gender violence issues have been seen as 'women’s issues' that some good men help out with,” Jackson Katz, PhD, Founder and Director at MVP Strategies, says in the video. “I have a problem with that frame, and I don’t accept it. It gives men an excuse to not pay attention."
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 1 year 50 weeks ago
Several years ago, Amee Paparella was an eager student at a state university in Ohio. A conservative Christian, she quickly signed up to join the campus ministry. What she found in the group surprised her.“It was so misogynistic,” Paparella recalled. “My leaders perpetuated this hyper-masculinized idea of God as physically a man.”Over the years, Paparella wrestled to reconcile this image of God with her own faith, often to the discomfort of her peers. But an incident of sexual abuse within the ministry proved the breaking point. When it was discovered that a young man had been abusing his female partner, also in the group, the campus minister and student leaders responded by encouraging the young woman to stand by her man and to pray with the other students for his healing.
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 1 year 51 weeks ago
One might not expect a blog post from a minister and young father in Houston, Texas to spark widespread outcry over Victoria’s Secret’s spring break-themed ad campaign. But Rev. Evan Dolive's passionate defense of his young daughter’s sense of self-worth went viral on social network sites, landed him on CNN, and wound up being used in high school classrooms in the U.S. and Canada, all in a matter of days. The point: the Victoria’s Secret “Bright Young Things” campaign — depicting young women on Spring Break toto sell underwear with explicitly suggestive messages, with the accompanying verbalized sentiment that young teens dream of being like college girls (i.e., buying from the PINK line)— was objectifying, offensive, and obnoxious.
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 1 year 51 weeks ago
Half of young Christians favor the legalization of marijuana, says a new survey out today from the Public Religion Research Institute. Perhaps predictably, survey results break down by age, with 50 percent of Christian young adults supporting legalization and only 22 percent of Christian seniors (65 and older) in support.
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 1 year 52 weeks ago
Hours after Senate Gang of Eight’s immigration bill dropped early Wednesday, evangelical leaders from across the country gathered at the Capitol to raise their voices for comprehensive immigration reform. In the last two years, evangelicals have been a growing voice in the debate over immigration reform, hoping their votes — traditionally a bastion of conservative politics but recently broadening their engagement to gun violence prevention, poverty, and climate change — hold clout on the Hill when it comes to immigration reform.The Evangelical Immigration Table, a coalition of evangelical leaders from across the political spectrum, gathered hundreds of people from 25 states for a day of action on the Hill. At the morning press conference, the Table representatives did not explicitly endorse or critique the Senate’s new bill. Instead, leaders pledged to "come alongside" any bill that supported their unified set of principals, namely immigration reform that: protects the unity of the immediate family; respects the rule of law; guarantees national security borders; and establishes a path toward legal status and/or citizenship for those who qualify.
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 2 years 5 days ago
Thousands of people flooded the National Mall on Wednesday to call on Congress for commonsense immigration reform that includes a roadmap to earned citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States.Coupled with a day of lobbying on Capitol Hill and sibling rallies across the country, Wednesday’s was one of the biggest immigration rallies to date. Sponsored by the Service Employee International Union, Casa de Maryland, the NAACP, and more, the rally began with an interfaith prayer service and featured the voices of faith leaders, including UMC Bishop of Los Angeles Minerva Carcaño, Director of Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism Rabbi David Saperstein, Director Hispanic Diocese of Arlington Padre Jose Eugenio Hoyos, and Islamic Center of Maryland Imam Jamil Dasti.
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 2 years 1 week ago
Human trafficking is one of the top-grossing industries in the world, and claims another victim nearly every 30 seconds. President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, a group of religious and non-profit leaders including Leith Anderson, Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, and Lynne Hybels, spent nine months mapping the scope and scale of modern-day slavery, considering possible responses, and formulating recommendations for the Administration.“The extraordinary reach of this crime is shocking,” they write. “Our country’s leadership is urgently needed to fight this heinous crime.”
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 2 years 1 week ago
The notion of religious liberty has lately conveyed an impoverished attitude toward the common good among Christians. Namely, “we’ll pay for what we like, and won't pay for what we don’t.”This stubbornness cropped up last week in College Station, Texas, when the student senate at Texas A&M voted for students to have the privilege of diverting tuition payments from services they object to on moral grounds. Named the “Religious Funding Exemption Bill,” the broadened proposal’s original language (“GLBT Funding Opt Out Bill”) specifically targeted funds going to the campus’ GLBT Resource Center.Missing from the media coverage was a real look at the bill’s usage of religious exemption — or more specifically, its misuse. In its bill, the student government at A&M confused religious liberty with religious control, and managed to do a good degree of community damage in the process.
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 2 years 2 weeks ago
The Associated Press announced Tuesday it is dropping the term "illegal immigrant" from its Stylebook. Citing concern for “labeling people, instead of behavior,” AP’s Senior Vice President and Executive Editor, Kathleen Carroll, wrote, “The Stylebook no longer sanctions the term 'illegal immigrant' or the use of 'illegal' to describe a person. ...'Illegal' should describe only an action.”This change is a huge win for those working on immigration reform, including the staff at Sojourners. Last fall, Sojourners joined many others in calling on the Associated Press to change the term.“The media’s usage of the word 'illegal' is dehumanizing and distorting," wrote Sojourners Immigration Campaigns Fellow Ivone Guillen in October. "When used by journalists, it introduces a bias into their reporting and risks prejudicing the reader against the needs, concerns, and humanity of immigrant communities, regardless of their documentation status.”
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 2 years 3 weeks ago
The Yale Project on Climate Change Communication has an updated version of its report, Global Warming’s Six Americas, out this month. The report, which identifies and explores six major attitudes towards climate change, shows that the number of Americans alarmed about climate change has risen from 10 to 16 percent of the population over the last two years. At the same time, those dismissive towards the reality of climate change have decreased in size, from 16 percent in 2010 to 8 percent in 2012. The “Six Americas” of the title refers to six predominant postures toward climate change in the United States, grouped by researchers along a spectrum of concern and engagement, from “Alarmed” to “Dismissive.” By focusing on attitude rather than demographics, these groupings represent cohesive yet widely diverse cross-sections of the public.
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 2 years 4 weeks ago
More than six in ten Americans support a pathway to citizenship for immigrants, a survey out today from the Public Religion Research Institute finds.63 percent of Americans support a path to citizenship, including a majority of Republicans, Independents, and Democrats, and majorities among every major religious group.“Proponents of immigration reform are unlikely to find a more favorable moment [in the political climate] than now,” said EJ Dionne, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution and a columnist at the Washington Post, as part of a survey panel this morning.
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 2 years 4 weeks ago
Louisiana faith leaders hand-delivered a letter to Gov. Bobby Jindal this morning, denouncing his proposal to increase sales tax by 47 percent as “unjust” and “regressive.”The state already has one of the most disproportionate tax systems in the country, with low- and middle-income families paying more than twice the rate in taxes as families whose income totals more than $1 million per year. To raise the sales tax even higher, say leaders, would deal a crushing blow to the poor.“[W]e are concerned that your plan proposes to use the increased revenue generated by a heavier burden on poor and moderate income families,” the letter reads, “not to fund any of the important needs and services our State faces, but to decrease the tax burden for those members of our community who are most blessed with wealth and resources. That … is unacceptable.”
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 2 years 5 weeks ago
As cardinals in the Vatican wrapped up the first day of the conclave with no decision on the next pope, a small crowd assembled on the steps of the Cathedral of St Matthew the Apostle here in Washington, D.C., with signs, a guitar, and fervent prayers that the conclave would usher in a new openness to women in Catholic leadership.The chilly March wind rose as volunteers passed around flickering candles. “There’s too much Holy Spirit here tonight,” one organizer joked. “We should tell her to tone it down a bit.”Those assembled were praying for something popes have long opposed: an active recognition of women as decision-makers in the church.
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 2 years 6 weeks ago
This week's viral video is a must-see. The six-minute "Wealth Inequality in America," released Friday, presents the shocking, true size of the wealth gap in the country.In a series of animated infographics, the video lends a visual punch to numbers that are hard to wrap one’s head around. The top 1 percent of Americans hold 50 percent of all investments in stocks and bonds, for example – while 80 percent of Americans share a paltry 7 percent of the nation’s wealth.
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 2 years 6 weeks ago
The day after the Washington Post announced it was moving its top environmental reporter off the green beat to cover politics at the White House, this op-ed went up toeing an uncomfortably familiar line: by speaking out against the Keystone XL pipeline, environmentalists are “missing the climate-endangered forest for the trees.”Leaving aside for a moment the uncomfortable irony of being reprimanded for missing the big fight by an outlet that is reshuffling focus on that very front: the editorial board, respectfully, is wrong. Not that it doesn’t have a point, but that point is concrete and incremental – and misses the entire meaning of the forest of protests over the last 18 months.
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 2 years 6 weeks ago
A new documentary from the producers of Food, Inc. premieres today, serving up the critical problem of rising hunger in the United States with a surprising thesis: we’ve already solved it.… Forty years ago, that is. A Place at the Table, the newest documentary from Participant Media, reveals how political will in the 1960s and 70s ushered in an era of bipartisan-sponsored, government-funded programs that “nearly solved” the problem of hunger. Compare that with today, in which 50 million Americans rely on food assistance programs – and nearly one-in-two children will require food assistance in their lifetimes. The stark disparity between then and now begs the question: what happened?
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 2 years 19 weeks ago
I didn’t expect to leave a Friday night screening of Lincoln thinking about Jesus.And I definitely didn’t expect the link to be an Italian political philosopher named Grigorio Agamben.But of Lincoln’s many triumphs as an Oscar-season contender, its lasting effect is its surprisingly mature meditation on wisdom, freedom, and the necessity of employing the former when granted the latter.Watching Lincoln reason aloud his justification for the Emancipation Proclamation, an act he admits to his advisors was dubiously legal at best, we encounter the film’s driving question: in a time of crisis when the rules no longer apply, what kind of moral vision do we want in leadership?