If there was any plus side to living through a global pandemic, it was finding the time to write. Whenever an idea for an article starts swirling around in my head, it drives me crazy until I find the time to pour it out onto a page. Writing has become my creative outlet. It’s a means for me to communicate my discoveries and experiences with others, and to provoke thought and generate dialogue. I decided to put together some of my writings from this past year, organized thematically. Thanks to all who have provided me with encouragement and help with editing.
Among the pieces that I enjoyed writing most were my response to the NYTimes article on “Weird Christianity,” a reflection on my love affair with Reggaeton, a review of Andrea Long Chu’s Females, a commentary on Pope Benedict’s “camp sensibility,” and my interview with Gloria Purvis on race, life issues, and American politics.
Another grace of being quarantined for so long was getting to check off a significant chunk of my (never-ending) book list. In my End of Year Book List for Catholic World Report, I cite a number of those books that kept me company during these trying times.
Politics and Social Justice
The combination of the pandemic, efforts at achieving greater racial equality, and the election made me think more deeply about what constitutes a just society. I found myself increasingly drawn to Distributist theory. Taking Catholic Social Teaching as its point of departure, it integrates elements of socialism and capitalism, subjecting them to the primacy of the dignity of the person. Made known by vocal proponents like Dorothy Day and GK Chesterton, it’s currently making a foray into the American political scene through the American Solidarity Party.
I had the chance to interview the ASP’s 2020 Vice Presidential candidate about the party’s platform, and a member of their National Committee about the ASP’s vision of racial justice. I also highlighted the principles of distributism in my reviews of books by DL Mayfield, Obianuju Ekeocha, and Jason Blakely, and of a documentary made by J. Cole. I also conducted research on the history of Third Parties in the US and their status among Catholic voters. Witnesses of people like Mayfield, Ekeocha, and J. Cole, as well as artists like Erin McAtee (who I interviewed here and here) provide us a vision of a path forward beyond the divisiveness of the 2020 election season.
Some readers may have attended the exhibit on James Baldwin at the 2020 New York Encounter (just weeks before the quarantine began), which I had the privilege of curating with several friend. Spending several months getting to know Baldwin inspired me to incorporate his ideas into several of my writings: reflections on healing racial wounds, the documentary I Am Not Your Negro, the conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque, a pilgrimage for racial equality I went on with friends in Manhattan, and a forthcoming reflection on Baldwin and the quarantine in iO Literary Journal.
I finally got around to reading James H. Cone’s The Cross and the Lynching Tree, and was inspired to write a reflection highlighting the parallels between Cone’s theology and J. Cole’s new song “Javari.”
Being a supreme pop culture junkie, I had to review some of the music, movies, and TV shows I consumed over the last year, including: Terrence Malick’s A Hidden Life, Beyoncé’s Black is King, Greta Gerwig’s LadyBird, Bad Bunny’s YHLQMDLG, Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma, Ramy Youssef’s Ramy; and reflections on the music of Romeo Santos and the poetry of John of the Cross, on finding God in pop music, and on my journey through musical genres, an interview with Heroes of the Fourth Turning director Will Arbery, and a Theology of the Body Playlist.
Gender and Sexuality
Continuing developments on the frontier of gender identity continue to open up questions about embodiment and sexual differentiation.
I attempted to offer some clarity in my responses to Pope Francis’ comments on women’s ordination in Querida Amazonia, the five year anniversary of Marriage Equality, the Vatican document on Gender Theory and education, and the metaphysical implications of the backlash against JK Rowling’s comments on transgenderism.
I further engaged these topics in reviews of books like Mark Yarhouse and Julia Sadusky’s Emerging Gender Identities, and Sue Ellen Browder’s Sex and the Catholic Feminist; TV shows like FX’s Pose and Hulu’s Love, Victor; and movies like Hallmark’s The Christmas House.
These reflections are more spiritual in content, most of them touching on my experience of the pandemic.
On attempting to make sense of millennial career crises, on loss and peace in my neighborhood in Newark, on getting creative while teaching virtually, on Camus’ The Plague and Pope Francis, an in memoriam of my friend Aris Aroutiounian, on my friends Brs. Asiel and Simon’s solemn vows as Benedictines and Asiel’s ordination to the diaconate, an interview with Paddy Gilger SJ while quarantined in Milan, on the loss of several faculty members at my school, and on the overly used slogan “Keep Christ in Christmas.”
Lastly, here are some other projects that I had the chance I work on beyond writing: an interview with my school’s headmaster about education during the pandemic, a reflection on the importance of Spanish language evangelization in the US, an interview I had the chance to prepare and be present for with Cornel West and Robert P. George, a panel on the Benedict Option in Newark, and a year-long collaborative seminar between my school and an Orthodox Jewish school on racism and anti-Semitism (at which Senator Booker spoke at one of our meetings).