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A Faithful Second Voice: Announcing Mere O’s 2022 End of Year Campaign

December 19th, 2022 | 5 min read

By Jake Meador

To the readers, friends, and supporters of Mere Orthodoxy

The Peace of Christ be with You,

“Most of the people that show up at our church now want a therapist. I’m not a therapist.”

That’s what a pastor said to me recently as we talked about the challenges of ministry in the current context—post COVID, post Trump… post trust. There’s just not much left that we share as a people that we can count on when we enter into relationships with new people. All of that affects pastors and churches in a huge way, particularly as new people come into their churches in the aftermath of COVID era reshuffling.

He continued, “I’m a pastor. I offer spiritual care, but I’m not a therapist. And that isn’t what people want. So right now as I try to figure out how to help them want better things, I often end up settling for being the third voice.” Here he paused and I asked, “What do you mean by ‘the third voice?”

“Well,” he said, “the person I’m sitting with is the first voice. The video they saw on Instagram or TikTok that they’re been thinking about too much is the second voice. I’m the third voice that tries to think with them about whatever that voice is saying and tries to help them make sense of it as a Christian.”

This pastor is in a younger church in a fairly progressive college town. So the second voices he’s “conversing” with most often are therapeutic social media influencers. But this problem isn’t unique to churches like his. If you’re in an older, redder church you still have the third voice problem. You just have pundits for your second voice instead of therapists.

In both cases, it’s an uphill battle for a pastor because rather than being expected to shepherd and offer spiritual care, they’re instead expected to offer confirmation of whatever that second voice is saying to their parishioners. Red churches want pastors to confirm what they’re hearing from pundits about politics. Blue churches want pastors who will supplement what they’re getting in therapy and encourage them that they’re OK.

This is what made the next thing that pastor said so encouraging. “What I appreciate with Mere O is that if you guys are the second voice in the conversation, I’m confident that I can build on what you guys said instead of having to gently critique whatever it is the person is reading or listening to.” When Mere O is the second voice, he gets to build on what the second voice is saying instead of having to argue with it or discourage it. That comment explains the relevance of projects like Mere O in terms of spiritual formation and discipleship.

In a digital world, one of the primary, if not the primary influencer of personal and moral formation is content—the stuff you watch on cable news, the short videos you watch on your phone, the podcast you’re listening to, that influencer video on TikTok, and so on. For a variety of reasons, a lot of the popular content out there right now is very bad. Much of the content that spreads virally (note the word) in our culture today is content built around producing or capitalizing on negative feelings—fear, hatred, anxiety, resentment. When the voices behind that content are the primary voices living in our heads day in and day out, we see the truth of the warning so many of us heard from our moms as children: garbage in, garbage out. When our digital lives are dominated by voices of rage or resentment, paranoia or anxiety, the imperial self or the infantile self, we shouldn’t be surprised that more and more of us are being shaped toward a variety of unhealthy traits and desires.

This is where outlets like Mere O come in. We are principally opposed to click baiting, shock jock rhetoric, vain talk, and the many habits of mind that reenforce the neuroses of our day. Instead, we choose the hard road—patient reflection, thorough interrogation of an idea, careful argumentation. We do this because we really do believe that we think, write, reason, argue, and read before the face of God and someday will give an answer to God for how we went about these tasks.

Did we go about our work in order to glorify God through it and to love our neighbor? Or were we merely attempting to build a platform, stoke our ego, and, ultimately, try to fill that bottomless pit of ambition that resides in so many of us? Thinking about an idea is an opportunity to love your neighbor. That idea, more than any other, is at the bedrock of what we do and is what makes us unique relative to many other media projects today.

And here’s the good news: God made the world for mutuality and neighbor love. He placed a desire for love and relationship within each of us. And so this moment of ours, defined by ideology and noise and anxiety, is, as Tolkien said long ago, a passing thing. And the real deep down things, the things you and I need and desire and crave, are only found through delightful encounters with your neighbors and, ultimately, an astonished encounter with God. Through our model, as much as through the actual claims we make, we hope to remind people of these things. When we call people to conviviality and neighborliness instead of isolation and rage we are simply calling them back to their true nature.

Maybe that’s why we’re growing: For the second year in a row, we are going to clear one million pageviews. We managed it with a $100,000 annual budget. Our model works because, though you wouldn’t know it from most media outlets, people actually want to read and listen to content that is serious, honest, and reflective. They want to be challenged. They want to think deeply. And we help them do it.

That said, we can’t do what we do without your help. Here’s where you come in: Subscriptions do not cover the full cost of even our extremely lean organization. We need donations from our merry band of friends and readers and listeners. The joy is that since our budgetary needs are fairly limited and our readership is quite large, we don’t actually need to set crazy goals.

So in the remainder of the month of December, we are hoping to raise $120,000. This would guarantee our continued operations for the next 12 months and set us on our way to hopefully bringing in another part time employee and hosting our first large event. Thanks to generous donors, we are securing half of that amount through small private donations. We’re asking our broader readership to cover the remaining $60,000.

If that sounds like a lot, let’s put it this way: If 5% of our annual readers on the website gave $10, we would actually double our total revenue goal. To put it in more specific terms, we are looking for donors able to give tax-deductible one-time gifts of $1000, $500, $250, $100, and $50.

As a Mere O reader you’re part of a not-so-little band of enthusiasts for work that is careful, probing, and done as if we really do live our lives before the face of God. Supporting this work is a way to further partner with us and to insure that the work you value can continue to be produced.

If you wish to give to our campaign, you can do so by giving a tax-deductible gift through our New Horizons Portal. If you have a donor-advised fund and need information about how to send a check, reach out to me at jake@mereorthodoxy.com.

In Christ,

~Jake Meador

Editor-in-Chief Mere Orthodoxy

Jake Meador

Jake Meador is the editor-in-chief of Mere Orthodoxy. He is a 2010 graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where he studied English and History. He lives in Lincoln, NE with his wife Joie, their daughter Davy Joy, and sons Wendell, Austin, and Ambrose. Jake's writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Commonweal, Christianity Today, Fare Forward, the University Bookman, Books & Culture, First Things, National Review, Front Porch Republic, and The Run of Play and he has written or contributed to several books, including "In Search of the Common Good," "What Are Christians For?" (both with InterVarsity Press), "A Protestant Christendom?" (with Davenant Press), and "Telling the Stories Right" (with the Front Porch Republic Press).

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