June 2021 Panel Discussion

Faith in the Story: Hindsight is 2020 Panel Discussion

June 28, 2021

In the United States, 2020 was marked by a mismanaged response to a global pandemic, a nationwide uprising against racist police brutality, and an electoral referendum on Donald Trump and his style of partisan politics. The year's events prompted Americans to tell new stories about who we are in relation to each other and the rest of the world. Yet in American popular imagination, religion continues to play similar roles: “Bad religion” destroys individual freedoms and blocks social progress while “good religion” repairs damage to the social fabric or sustains the struggle. Are we continuing to tell the same old story about religion in American life? If so, whose stories are we ignoring and which stories are we forgetting?

June 2021 marked six full months into the year: six months of a new presidential administration, reckonings for racial injustice, and the unpredictably evolving post-coronavirus reality. Six more months of hindsight with which to clock what had happened the previous year, and also for evaluating how the events of 2020 continued to produce after-effects in both the news cycle and everyday life.

Was faith in the stories we told about 2020, or was it missing? What lessons can we draw from how religion in the United States captured the journalistic imagination over 2020? In this conversation, our speakers reflected on the stories that media coverage got right, the stories it got wrong, the stories that it missed, and the stories that are still happening today.


Cooperman Alan

Alan Cooperman
Religion Research
Pew Research Center



Simran Jeet Singh

Simran Jeet Singh
Columnist, Religion News Service
Host, “Anti-Racism as a Spiritual Practice” podcast
Visiting Professor, Union Theological Seminary




Olivia Wilkinson
Director of Research
Joint Learning Initiative on Faith & Local Communities



Alexander Hsu

Alexander Hsu
Adjunct Assistant Teaching Professor
Ansari Institute for Global Engagement with Religion