Reflections on the year at home and wanting out of those too-familiar walls

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Photo by Alex Bierwagen on Unsplash

We’re creeping toward a strange anniversary, the day in March when our governor was the first in the country to close schools, and I felt my blood pressure swelling to a pound at the back of my skull. I’m a freelance writer, and I’ve been patchworking contracts and gigs since my daughter’s birth nearly eight years ago.

Back when she was two months old, I was ready to end the maternity leave I’d given myself and discovered my planned regular writing assignment had evaporated when my editor was laid off. Once I did start landing new gigs, it felt like…


Pastors tend to the spiritual needs of their congregations. Conspiracy theories have made their jobs a lot harder.

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Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who identifies as Christian, has embraced QAnon conspiracy theories. Photo: Alex Edelman/AFP/Getty Images.

Vicar Derek Kubilus, a United Methodist pastor, has one of those voices — knowing but full of levity. When we attended church camp together as teenagers, I often wondered if he was telling a joke I didn’t quite understand. Today, I hear a matured version of this voice on his podcast, Cross Over Q, which offers healing for QAnon followers and family members from a Christian perspective. …


On YouTube, charismatic prophets are hurrying to reframe their failure for disillusioned followers

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Image: Jeremiah Johnson Ministries/YouTube

After a year mangled by shattering uncertainty, political upheaval, and plague, it sure would be nice to have a safe bet, a window into the future, an omniscient someone pointing the way through.

Over the past year, psychics and tarot card readers saw a boom in business— so did a serious uptick in complaints of fraudulent psychics and spiritual advisors to AARP’s helpline. Astrologers’ grew their $2.2 billion industry, kicked off with a spike in Google searches for “coronavirus astrology” last March. There’s the malarkey of QAnon, set down by their prophet, Q. …


Yes, it could feel performative. But protest during the Trump years provided me with the civic training to undo the damage.

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Demonstrators attend the Women’s March on Washington on January 21, 2017. Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage/Getty Images

Four years ago, I packed a small bag and prepared to captain a charter bus from my home in Ohio to Washington, D.C., for the Women’s March. I don’t knit and didn’t have one of the pink hats that so many women were wearing that day. I felt the hats acknowledged sexual assault but also somehow made light of it in a way I couldn’t quite articulate at the time. I wasn’t one among the many who made their worried hands busy, knot by knot, trying to symbolize the affront to women’s bodies that Trump’s callous words and actions epitomized.


Donald Trump mocked disability. His presidency made us more vulnerable, but I’ll hold onto the strength earned surviving his term.

Curly haired woman viewed from over her shoulder, cupping her face in her hands.
Curly haired woman viewed from over her shoulder, cupping her face in her hands.
Photo Negar Mohamadian

It can be hard to measure how much each of us absorbs due to harmful leadership, but the poison certainly expands as it radiates outward. I was not the reporter with a disability whom Donald Trump mocked, but I received my portion of the scorn he cast at journalists generally. “Enemy of the state” I learned to eye roll. His flapping arm impersonation is burned in my brain.

I’ve lived these past few years in an awkward straddle. My work lives in words, jotting down what strangers tell me about their lives, fact-checking claims, sorting through my own observations, and…


Pastors who preached Christian nationalism and Trump’s promise from God are complicit in this violence

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Supporters of Donald Trump pray outside the U.S. Capitol on January 6. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

It’s not by chance that banners with Jesus’ name flew above this week’s insurrection on Capitol Hill.

On Wednesday, armed domestic terrorists scaled the United States Capitol building against the backdrop of a makeshift scaffold with a dangling noose. Rioters clambered up walls, broke windows, pawed at congressional offices, killed a Capitol Police officer, and planted explosive devices. It was a scene some have likened to the fall of Rome.

Among the Confederate flags and Trump banners, the bare-bellied New Age shaman costumes, and anti-Semitic shirts and hoodies, were signs of Jesus: “Jesus Saves.” “Jesus 2020.” “Make America Godly Again.”


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Illustration: Daniel Zender

The tight-knit, restrictive, and obedient religious groups whose views shaped the country’s newest Supreme Court Justice

In the summer of 1974, John Flaherty, an 18-year-old high school grad, attended a Thursday night prayer meeting at a local Catholic parish in East Liverpool, Ohio. When the group slipped into glossolalia — speaking in tongues — Flaherty was transported. There were angels in the room, he recalled, singing together in harmonies that floated in every direction. That fall, when he enrolled as a student at the College of Steubenville, the young Catholic started attending prayer meetings on campus and was baptized in the Holy Spirit. …


Everything is not fine. But to hear it from the vice president, it’s all going according to plan.

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Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Since President Donald Trump’s diagnosis with Covid-19, decency compelled most people to wish him well despite whatever schadenfreude they might have secretly harbored. Boaters for Trump may have sunk, but Trump himself seemed immune to the consequences of nature or law. Then a cascade of diagnoses stemming from the White House’s Amy Coney Barrett celebrations suggested a superspreader event. Within a week, some people broke down and started tweeting about karma and acts of God.

And perhaps in a cosmic sort of butterfly effect, whatever comeuppance is at work, last night in Utah it landed atop Vice President Mike Pence’s…


Americans are known for their optimism. But how can optimism manifest itself among so much bad news? Try to see your way through this year, and picture what might come of so much strain and tragedy.


Donald Trump invoked faith as a blunt instrument. But faith is what will get us through this year.

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Protesters on the final night of the Republican National Convention. Photo: The Washington Post/Getty Images

President Donald Trump’s acceptance speech topping off the Republican National Convention last night compounded surrealities: on the South Lawn of the White House, with an army of flags behind him and a sea of unmasked people seated together — after millions of Americans have sacrificed togetherness with loved ones for the past six months. It was an abdication of presidential norms, a flouting of the Hatch Act, an upturning of public health guidance, and an insult to those who’ve died in this pandemic. It was a night when God Almighty was invoked. It was a speech full of lies.

It’s…

Sarah Stankorb

Sarah Stankorb is a contributor to GEN. Other works in The Washington Post, Marie Claire, Glamour, O, and The Atlantic. @sarahstankorb www.sarahstankorb.com

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