On the Demise of Grantland

The news that those of us who love good writing had been dreading finally came last Friday: Grantland is dead. No one can be particularly surprised at the move given ESPN’s acrimonious split with site founder and editor-in-chief Bill Simmons earlier this year. Indeed, the Atlantic predicted how all this would play out four years ago:

But Simmons will lose this battle — the rebellious teenager still relies too heavily on its parents for support — and ESPN will drive this site into the ground. It’s only a matter of time before he leaves. “I don’t know, I think I have one more big sellout of my career,” Simmons told Mahler. Well, at least ESPN didn’t name the site The SimmonsPost; naming it Grantland will make it easier to extract Simmons from the venture when the time comes.

READ MORE: Don’t miss our roundup of other things to read about Grantland over on Mere O Notes.

After the announcement a number of different people took to Twitter to discuss the story. Nicole Cliff of The Toast perhaps made some of the most important observations: Continue reading

What Narrative Can’t Say: The Limits of Narrative Theology

I’m pleased to run a second post today from new guest writer Berny Belvedere. You can follow him on Twitter here or catch up on all his online writing here.

From a very young age we learn the difference between narrative and expository writing: A narrative tells a story, whereas an expository text explains using information and facts. The heavy presence of both within Scripture speaks to the ability of each genre to convey transformative ideas. Clearly, though, they’re not communicatively identical—while narrative is the preferred method for gripping the heart, exposition is often chosen in order to inform the mind. Yet as far as identifying who God is, does one do it better than the other?

Continue reading

Mere Fidelity: Big Questions

Matt takes up the hosting role yet again, as Derek is still missing (don’t worry, we’re assured he’s alright, and his Twitter account still seems to be functioning). He’s joined by Alastair and Andrew, as per usual, to talk about questions. Yes, Matt’s written about this. Yes, he might resent me for linking to that, since I believe they managed to go the entire episode without mentioning it.

If you enjoyed the show (AND ONLY IF), leave us a review at iTunes.  If you didn’t enjoy the show, let us know and we’ll work to make it better.  Or we’ll ignore you.  And if you want to subscribe by RSS, you can do that here.

Finally, as always, follow Alastair and Andrew for more tweet-sized brilliance.  And thanks to Timothy Motte for his sound editing work.

The Blinkered Benedict Option

Rod Dreher was very kind to put more thought into his response to my joke post at First Things at the Benedict Option. I did have a point—which he gets, and has written about before (although I think Jake summed it up much more succinctly). At the risk of killing the joke, we all agree that the Benedict Option is about the church being the church in a faithful ways that realistically deals with the challenges of modernity and passes on our faith to the next generation—thus, it is about ecclesiology and missiology in the West in our current cultural moment and the decades to come. Continue reading

Mere Fidelity: 50th Episode (Ask Us Anything)

Last week, we gave you the opportunity to ask the crew some questions. You did so. And now, to fulfill the promise made, here they are, answering some of them.

If you enjoyed the show (AND ONLY IF), leave us a review at iTunes.  If you didn’t enjoy the show, let us know and we’ll work to make it better.  Or we’ll ignore you.  And if you want to subscribe by RSS, you can do that here.

Finally, as always, follow DerekAlastair, and Andrew for more tweet-sized brilliance.  And thanks to Timothy Motte for his sound editing work.

Benedict, Patrick, Jeremiah, and Other Nouns as Well

One of the persistent challenges to the ongoing discussion of the Benedict Option is the claim that the BenOp is primarily a retreat from public life and is, therefore, wrong-headed. Though they are presented under separate names, this seems to be the essential critique of both the “Jeremiah Option” and the “Patrick Option” as best I can tell. (In the mean time, can I propose a moratorium on all other “(Name) Option” formulations? And if a writer does insist on inventing a new option, can we at least have a bit of fun with it? I saw “Benedict Cumberbatch Option” on Twitter and like it enormously. And yes, the title of this post is an Eddie Izzard reference. Incidentally, hopefully the fact that I’ve referenced Benedict Cumberbatch and Eddie Izzard in back-to-back sentences should establish that one can be aware of popular culture and think the BenOp is a move in the right direction.)

In any case, the counsel of many people is that this is not a time for any sort of withdrawal from public life, but rather committing ourselves to a new level of “engagement,” although engagement, very like retreat, is a generally nebulous term in these conversations. Continue reading

The Strength of the Hills Is Not Ours–Our Modern Identity Crisis

Tolkien once remarked to me that the feeling about home must have been quite different in the days when the family had fed on the produce of the same few miles of country for six generations, and that perhaps this was why they saw nymphs in the fountains and dryads in the wood – they were not mistaken for there was in a sense a real (not metaphorical) connection between them and the countryside. What had been earth and air & later corn, and later still bread, really was in them. We of course who live on a standardised international diet (you may have had Canadian flour, English meat, Scotch oatmeal, African oranges, & Australian wine to day) are really artificial beings and have no connection (save in sentiment) with any place on earth. We are synthetic men, uprooted. The strength of the hills is not ours.
~CS Lewis

Wesley Morris has a fine essay on our obsession with identity over at the New York Times. Morris ties together a number of major news stories from the past year to highlight how they all relate in one way or another to a widely shared obsession with identity: What makes a person who they are? How much control does a person have over their own identity? How fluid can an identity be? And why is race, in contrast to gender, so much harder to redefine or shift?

In a piece that ranges from Anne Hathaway’s new movie to Barack Obama to Mr. Robot to Amazon’s popular show “Transparent,” Morris attempts to answer those questions. Continue reading

Mere Fidelity: Ask Us Anything (No, Really, Ask Us Here So We Can Answer Them)

We’re approaching our 50th episode of Mere Fidelity, which is a little hard to believe.  We’re so grateful for all your support and attention.  To celebrate, we want to do another “Ask Us Anything” edition.

Mere Fidelity

So, um, ask us anything.  And then vote below in the comments on which questions you like best.  We’ll discuss as many of the most popular questions as we can in the time allotted, and all the rest will be thrown into the abyss.  Or we’ll take them up in a future episode.  We’re not a democracy, so don’t let this bit of power go to your head.

Fire away, then.  And if you’re on Twitter and want to pass the word around, feel free to use the #merefi hashtag.  Questions asked there will be unofficially considered, but if you want official recognition you need to come to these here comments and do your thing.

This whole voting thing will go on until THIS TUESDAY at midnight. Thanks again for your kindness and support.

The Benedict Option and the Pace of Middle Class Life

NOTE: If you are a reader in the DC area interested in further discussion about the BenOp, consider attending an event this Saturday at Georgetown University featuring Rod Dreher and Ken Myers of Mars Hill Audio. You can learn more about the event here. It begins at 10am.

Brian Gumm has a new post up at his blog that is hitting on something that I suspect many of us will relate to:

After a year and a half of making small, episodic attempts at doing “church planting stuff,” sometime this summer it just clicked: This. Is. Not. Working.

Maybe it was that I have multiple jobs, including a small business startup, and my wife works her tail off as a mental health professional in our struggling rural community. Maybe it’s because we have a teenage daughter that we’re trying to raise into the great woman that she’s already becoming. Maybe it’s because the friends we were connecting with for church stuff were just as busy or busier than us, working our tails off just to get by. Maybe it’s because other than mailings from denominational offices that I couldn’t use (we don’t have a church bulletin board, or mailboxes, or a treasurer, OR a pastor!!), I got nothin’. I missed our denomination’s semi-annual church planting conference last year, maybe that hindered the work, but I doubt it; I had plenty of big ideas in my head already and that tends to be what conferences traffic in.

The problem Gumm is getting at is a sort of awful cycle that many middle-class Christians will likely understand: We feel the absence of a spiritual rootedness in our lives that exists not only in our hearts and minds, but in the stuff of daily life. We feel a sense of aimlessness or purposelessness in our work; we feel frustrated by the lack of intimate relationships in our church; we feel isolated in our attempts to raise and educate our children. Thus we conclude that we need to attempt something new to address the problem. Continue reading

A Note on Mere O Notes

Hey all, so I’m still sorting through some of the things I want to do with Mere O as the lead writer. One thing I’ve been thinking about, and reading this book has pushed me further along in this thinking, is the role that Mere O Notes will play on the site. When Matt and I launched that part of the site the vision was to have a kind of Daily Dish-style curation hub that we used to share interesting essays and articles we came across online.

Since that time, a few things have happened: Continue reading