Updated: Dec 12, 2020
I want to provide you with an update concerning where I’ve been over the last two months. Ever since my last post on Black Lives Matter back in August, I have gone dark. This is not for lack of having things to say or even wanting to write about certain topics. Indeed, I had a couple of different topics I was anticipating writing articles about during September and October. I’ll let you in on what they were supposed to be.
A few months ago I was reading an article about the sharp uptick in the number of people who accept conspiracy theories as factual. The article described how there is a common set of social and mental conditions associated with people who tend to believe conspiracy theories. As I read about these conditions, they struck me as remarkably similar to the mindset and parameters required of evangelical Christians when reading the Bible. I thought it might be interesting to tease out the similarities and what they tell us about the Christian belief system.
Another area of interest is reviewing the German Netflix series Dark. I’m not usually one to spend time talking about a television show, but this particular series blew me away. Not only is it one of the best shows I’ve ever seen, but as it unfolds, I came to realize that it is one of the best modern interpretations of the Genesis creation narrative I have ever come across.
I will warn you that the show is complicated. If you don’t like being forced to think while you watch your entertainment, this show is not for you. You need to have a sharp memory to keep track of all the details. However, if you enjoy complex, nuanced and challenging material with brilliant acting, then I would highly recommend watching it. Unlike American dramas that go on far beyond their expiration date, this show is quick and to the point—three seasons totaling 26 episodes.
I will be writing about both of these topics in the near future, which leads to why they were delayed. If you follow the blog, you may be aware that I also produce a podcast for this website. Last year, when the website launched, I put out the Restorative Faith book, blog and podcast all at the same time. The first season of the podcast, which is six episodes, took me a year to create. So even though it all appeared at the same time, there was a ton work ahead of time to get it ready for launch.
The reason I started the podcast is because there were topics in the book that I felt were important to address, but could only discuss tangentially or, in some cases, not at all. Indeed, as I began creating episodes for the podcast, it quickly became clear that the podcast was a better medium to explore many of these issues. The reason why is because of the way I craft the podcast episodes.
If you’ve ever taken the time to listen to the podcast, you know that it is more than just me talking about some topic that I think is interesting. Each episode is a combination of human interest stories, scholars and experts. Sounds simple enough, but the truth is that the way I approach my podcasts is extremely laborious and time consuming.
Whereas most podcasters sit in front of a microphone and talk off the cuff for hours or they interview someone (which can be very entertaining and informative), I am aiming for something completely different. My goal is to craft a complex story that tackles an issue from a myriad of different angles. If you don’t mind, let me briefly take you through the process of how one episode comes to life.
First, it’s important to know that the entire season is completely preplanned. I work with my producer, Rebekah Anderson, and my reporter, Laura Savage, to plot out the season. Every season is themed and every episode confronts a separate issue associated with the theme. The core of each episode is the human interest story. This is the key to all the episodes. We are seeking someone whose life experience can illuminate the issue we plan to explore.
These stories can be very difficult for us to find. For example, the current season we are cutting together is about sexuality. We’re looking into all the various ways that the church’s approach to sexuality has been harmful to Christians and our society at large. One of our episodes examines the effect of Christian marriage on relationships in Western culture. We determined that we wanted two stories for this episode. The first story we were searching for was of a person who was caught in a bad marriage and faced stigma from their Christian community as a result of divorce. This was not particularly difficult to find as, sadly, these situations come up all the time.
The second story was more problematic. We wanted to interview someone who was in a relationship that is often overlooked or judged as morally inappropriate by society. We had it in mind to interview someone in a polyamorous relationship or an open marriage. This was extremely difficult because the people who participate in these relationships tend to be very secretive. Understandably, they fear judgment from their community. Every time we would get close to interviewing someone, they would back out. The idea of sitting down for a recorded interview was too risky.
We went through every person we could think of who was in any way connected to these types of relationships. I was on the verge of giving up when we finally struck gold on Reddit of all places. I randomly reached out to someone who had posted on one of the forums discussing open marriage. I was quite surprised when they agreed to be interviewed and, honestly, I was blown away by what they had to say. Their relationship is truly remarkable. Personally, I learned a great deal from what they had to say. I’m excited for you hear their story of why they decided to open their marriage and how they make it work.
Another issue we ran into was finding scholars for this season. For example, in this same episode, we wanted to talk to an anthropologist about the history of human relationships and how they evolved over time. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, you have to remember that this podcast is religious in nature. Many academics don’t want their name associated with anything religious, even if that podcast is promoting their work. We contacted nearly 20 anthropologists. Most of them never responded to our communications and almost everyone who did said they had no interest in commenting on the topic.
Again, after six months, we were about ready to give up. Then, Laura and Rebekah locked down interviews on the same day. We found not one, but two amazing anthropologists for this episode. Of course, we couldn’t interview them in-person because of the pandemic, so we had to do interviews over the internet, where the audio recordings can range from studio quality to being on par with two tin cans and string.
Once I have all the components, I then have to start editing them down. Most of our interviews are anywhere from an hour to two hours in length. The first step is to cut the interview up into segments. I listen to the interview and create markers that tell me what the section is about. This process usually takes about 3-4 hours per interview.
Once they are all split apart, then I begin the process of creating story sections where I’m combining segments of the interview together. It’s during this time that I remove all of the dead space and filler words like “um” or “right” or “you know” from the interview to make it sound seamless. This process takes anywhere from 10-20 hours depending on how well spoken the subject was. I also might have to rearrange the parts that were told out of chronological order and get them in synchronous with the rest of the story.
The next step is writing the episode. This is where I spend the time composing my portions of narration that will connect the various pieces together. This usually takes about 10 hours to write the episode. If this was my primary job, it wouldn’t be so bad. But since I have to work full time, I will usually do all of these things in the evening from 11pm-2am. I can only do this every couple of days because one night of staying up late usually wrecks me for several days.
Finally, I have to record my segments, level all of the audio and insert the music. This takes another 10-15 hours. In all, this one hour episode you are hearing is usually the consequence of 50-70 hours of work. So every season, which is only comprised of six episodes, represents 300-400 hours of time. On top of this, the podcast does not produce any revenue. For me and everyone else associated with Restorative Faith, the podcast is a labor of love that we feel is worth all of the time and effort we put into it.
I was hoping to have Season 2 live by the end of August, but the pandemic brought everything to a screeching halt. We finally got all the interviews we needed to complete the season in late September, so I have been working furiously to finish the remaining episodes. This is why I have gone dark. Sadly, I don’t have the time to write articles and edit for hours on end all at the same time. That said, I want you to know that our goal is to have Season 2 out before Christmas.
My next blog post will come out when Season 2 is live and will delve into the details of the podcast. I’m going to tell you about some of our interviews, what we learned and how the creation of this season has changed my perspective on the connection between Christianity and sexuality. Stay tuned and thank you for your continued support of our work!