Small memories remind us of big injustices
A very 2020 retrospective.
Hello, to subscribers old and new. Thank you for signing up for The Post-Evangelical Post! I am truly grateful.
This is a newsletter about white evangelicalism in America, and its social impact. But in a year like 2020, things get fuzzy. And I’m in a retrospective mood at the moment, spurred on by a global marketing campaign, of all things.
I’m talking about #SpotifyWrapped, of course.
My first impulse when the feature hit my account late last night was to make a dad joke, naturally:
It’s true—my account is dominated by lullabies. Our daughter is comforted by music, and this year has required a lot of comfort.
That isn’t the whole picture, though. My list is also populated by the albums I shared with my family, dancing our dances, singing our songs. We love music. So there’s a lot of Vulfpeck, and the Wrapped lists for the account my daughter usually uses is filled to the brim with Hamilton songs and other show tunes.
But it was one stray song in my Top Songs 2020 playlist compiled by Spotify’s algorithmic panopticon that jostled loose memories that feel a lifetime away.
Memories from February. Of 2020.
If you’re Extremely Online (and who isn’t in 2020) you’ve probably seen a version of this meme, which already feels outdated:
It was in one of those Extremely Online moments tonight, perusing a playlist an algorithm constructed for me, that I was struck by how much things have changed so quickly.
It was a song my daughter and her classmates would sing as we carpooled to school together. The song drove me a bit batty—the original version and the Kidz Bop version, which is hard to pull off—but just seeing the title of the song transported me back to those cold mornings at the beginning of this year, when life was so different.
I won’t lie and pretend things were “normal” then, or easy. There were burdens in life, griefs that pre-dated this pandemic. But society itself had not yet been upended.
Since then, we’ve moved. My daughter does not need to carpool and I do not need to commute, because she attends class from home, as do millions of other children and we are fortunate to be able to work from home. Life has continued to change under our feet, as we work to maintain a sense of stability for ourselves, even though none of this is right.
With each passing day I remain the same mix of angry, sad, grateful, frustrated, hopeful, helpless, and heartbroken as the day before. People—the vague sense of “people” beyond my immediate circle that we are all constrained to if we are to ever contain this virus—remain the same mix of inspiring and enraging.
If your life or the life of someone you love has not been touched directly by this virus— it will.
And it will be the small things that remind you of the big injustices: the lives lost, the livelihoods diminished, the childhoods sidelined, the dreams deferred and transmuted into something that wasn’t imagined before.
This newsletter began in February 2020. It’s proceeded in fits and starts, in no small part because of the erratic, all-consuming effect of adapting our entire lives to the pandemic.
Much has changed in that time: in my personal life, my podcasting output, and my professional life beyond this public work (my support via Patreon & Substack is not financially sustainable yet, though each of you that has purchased a paid subscription helps me get that much closer to that goal). This week I wrapped the first season of my new show, Powers & Principalities, and I am immensely proud of it.
If you read primers on “How To Start a Successful Newsletter,” many key lessons boil down to “be yourself,” and “be honest with the reader,” and “offer a perspective others can’t.” Perhaps being me, and the work I’ve done through my podcasting led you here, but you also deserve that honesty as well. This particular edition is an honest account of why 2020 hasn’t been the easiest year to launch new endeavors, but why I still soldier on, working to publish writing through the uncertainty.
This newsletter is still finding its legs, but it is not staying still. I am beginning to develop plans for it through the end of this year. Moving forward, the content will be a mix of:
original essays and reviews,
background on research for the upcoming season of Powers & Principalities, and
further community development for both free and paid readers.
Not all content will be available to the free tier (that’s just how paid newsletters work, after all), but it’s that last part that I would love some feedback on. I am not sure how to envision that, but it could range from Zoom group calls to something totally different. I am very online, and already participate a lot in both Twitter publicly and the private Exvangelical facebook group, but am open to other ideas. Please comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with thoughts you might have.
Thank you for reading and supporting my work. This work means so much to me, and I am grateful and fortunate to do it. Even in such a difficult year.
Thank you for reading. I’ll see you again (on the internet) real soon.