As a journalist in the religion and social justice realm, two stories dominated my newsfeed this week: Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine and sexual harassment at Christianity Today. Both reinforced to me the power of documentation.
Guidepost Solutions — the same investigative firm retained by the Southern Baptist Convention’s task force on sexual abuse — conducted an independent survey of the Christianity Today staff to “gather employees’ opinions on how CT handles issues relating to harassment and abuse.” Eighty-six percent of the staff participated (58 out of the 67 current employees). And nearly a quarter of the staff (24.14 percent / 14 employees) reported that they had experienced harassment or abuse. Separate reporting by CT news editor Daniel Silliman confirmed the survey’s results. Silliman interviewed over two dozen past and current employees, learning about 12 accounts of sexual harassment in the process. Silliman’s reporting focused on the harassment carried out by former editor in chief Mark Galli and former advertising director Olatokunbo Olawoye.
Notably, of all the people who reported being harassed in the Guidepost survey, no one submitted their accusations in writing. This is no fault of their own; the process for reporting harassment was unclear at CT — something HR could have fixed by documenting the harassment on their end and creating avenues for anonymous allegations.
During an interview with Silliman, Sonal Shah, assistant director of employment law services at HR Source, explained that without formal documentation of wrongdoing, it can be hard for legal counsel to justify in court the termination of an employee. In other words, it’s not enough to just #believewomen, we must also write down their stories — or even better, give them a platform to write their own stories. Words can bring comfort and healing; documentation can provide proof and codify histories — the good and the ugly.
In Ukraine, archivists are using scanners around the clock to preserve their history from Russian shelling and propaganda. Daria Mattingly, a historian in Ukraine, told the Guardian that she fears “archivocide.” Essentially, Russian forces “might destroy everything that doesn’t fit into their narrative … That would be catastrophic; it would be the erasing of Ukrainian identity.”
Sometimes — because history is often written by the oppressors — there are no documents to scan. You have to write new ones. In “The Sacred Work of Remembering Lynching Victims,” Carol Kuruvilla reports on the Community Remembrance Project, which has worked with communities to install more than 65 historical markers as a way to honor lynching victims and ensure such racist violence never happens again. But some community members — both Black and white — resisted the construction of the historical markers because “the subject was too hurtful to be remembered.”
“Resurrecting a memory is excruciating, but necessary,” writes Olivia Bardo in “Counting the Minutes With Tears.” “When we write with our memories in tow, we construct a reality and give it a history that would not have existed had we not had the courage to remember. We must tell our stories and remember dangerously.”
I can’t stop thinking about the thinness of Mark Galli’s personnel file — devoid of official HR complaints and reprimands for his sexual harassment of women at CT. Because the organization didn’t write down history as it was unfolding, he was able to construct a new reality, one that allowed him to write a widely circulated op-ed about the sexism of then-President Donald Trump even as he created a work culture that was inhospitable to women. At first, when I saw that CT published a news story about the sexism within its own organization, I thought it strange and suspect. Were they trying to control the narrative? Then I read it. Their organization has suffered from a severe lack of documentation, so perhaps they’re making up for lost time. May they continue to document their history as it unfolds.
Here are 10 of my favorite documents from the week:
1. Sexist Pockets and Sackcloth: How Do We Clothe Ourselves in Glory?
Our clothes are deeply intertwined with issues of gender, capitalism, climate change, labor rights, and faith. By Paola Fuentes Gleghorn via sojo.net.
2. Ukrainian Heritage Is Under Threat – And So Is the Truth About Soviet-Era Russia
Shelling is destroying buildings and art, while archivists scan documents around the clock for fear of Russian “archivocide.” By Anna Reid via The Guardian.
3. 30 Bible Verses About Rest for When You Feel Overwhelmed
If the son of God needed to take a break every now and then, so do we. By Olivia Bardo via sojo.net.
4. “Better Than Our Most Optimistic Prediction” – First Images From James Webb Exceed All Expectations
Images of a non-descript star within our own galaxy reveal the James Webb telescope’s deep-field capabilities. By Jamie Priest via cosmosmagazine.com.
5. Six Unintentionally Perfect Songs for Lent
An existentially emo playlist for the most angsty season of the lectionary. By Jenna Barnett via sojo.net.
6. Counting the Minutes With Tears
When we write with our memories in tow, we construct a reality and give it a history that would not have existed had we not had the courage to remember. By Olivia Bardo via Clerestory.
7. Why We’re Renaming Princeton Theological Seminary’s Chapel
Digging into history can surface painful realities, but it can also be an engine of creativity for today. By Heath W. Carter via Sojourners.
8. Three Decades Ago, a Black Drag Queen Ran for Mayor of Chicago
Terence Alan Smith moved to Chicago in 1975, where he ran for mayor and then president under the drag persona Joan Jett Blakk. By Cheyanne M. Daniels via the Chicago Sun Times.
9. The Sacred Work of Remembering Lynching Victims
People of faith are resurrecting their stories—one plaque at a time. By Carol Kuruvilla via Sojourners.
10. Can We Fix Daylight Savings Time for Good?
The twice-a-year clock change wreaks havoc on office workers, judges, and even koalas. But a solution could be in sight. By Alan Burdick via The New Yorker.