Skip to main content

Mere Orthodoxy exists to create media for Christian renewal. Support this mission today.

2023 Eliot Awards

December 18th, 2023 | 6 min read

By Jake Meador

As is our custom, we are marking another December with our Eliot Awards, which is an honor we give to the year's outstanding work in periodical writing covering essays, reviews, reported features, and columns.

I also wanted to highlight two media projects that have been most essential to me this year:

First, The New Atlantis. You'll find them several times on this list. As a magazine of technology and social criticism, I have found The New Atlantis to be indispensable. They're measured, willing to ask hard questions, and they write with their eyes open. If you're only going to subscribe to one magazine next year, make it The New Atlantis. (But, really, don't limit yourself to one. There are so many good small magazines going right now...)

Second, the Rebuilders podcast. I try to remember to thank God for the intellectual friends I have found on the other side of the evangelical fracturing. Much has been lost during this time, but much has also been gained. And there are few gains I am more thankful for than this podcast. This recent episode will give you a decent feel for the podcast—it's a more personal episode and is lighter on cultural analysis than their usual fare, but the maturity of the people behind it shines through, as does their humble, simple faith in God, and their desire to serve and equip their listeners. If you listen to one podcast regularly next year, make it Rebuilders.

On that note, on to this year's Eliot Awards:

Eliot Award Winners (Essays)

The Ones We Sent Away by Jennifer Senior published in The Atlantic: An extraordinary reflection on disability, family, and what makes a life worth living. The issue of disability is likely to be one of the most pressing and challenging facing us in the years to come. For that reason and many others besides, you should read this remarkable essay. I don't think I've read anything else this year that lingered with me as this did.

What Was the Fact? by Jon Askonas published in The New Atlantis: Screen-mediated reality and digital technology are changing our experience of being human in foundational ways. Askonas is one of the best people you could be reading to understand what is happening and what it might mean going forward.

In Search of Authority by Brad Littlejohn published in National Affairs: I think Littlejohn has persuaded me of the centrality of the "authority" problem in our moment. What makes his assessment so refreshing and helpful is that he recognizes how the crisis of authority is a right wing problem as much as it is a progressive problem.

Selling Friends by Clare Coffey published in Plough: What happens in a society when tech dissolves tradition, as Askonas explained, and organic forms of authority that help us relate to one another have dissolved, as Littlejohn has argued? Coffey's essay answers that question: The only terms we have left for relating are commercial.

A Wild Christianity by Paul Kingsnorth published in First Things: This could be read as a sequel to Kingsnorth's conversion essay previously published at First Things. Kingsnorth's concept of "the machine" is I think one of the best heuristics we have so far for understanding the challenges this moment poses to Christian belief and piety.

Eliot Award Winners (Columns and Reviews)

Saving Friends by Brewer Eberly published in Plough: I think if more doctors saw those under their care in the way Eberly does we would likely have a healthier medical system.

On Recognition by Tara Isabella Burton published in Substack: This essay exemplifies the virtue it calls us to: How do you attend to a subject carefully and how does that slow attentiveness shape you?

Against the Eugenicons by Michael Lind published in Compact: Lind's column is a deeply researched argument against a eugenics friendly conservatism of the sort explicitly endorsed by figures like Richard Hanania but that also seems to have some alarming resonances with the Christian nationalist movement.

Men Are Lost. Here's a Map Out of the Wilderness by Christine Emba published in The Washington Post: Emba's observations about the crisis facing men are accurate and helpful for starting better conversations about what can be done to support men.

Honorable Mention

Clicks of Desire by Tara Isabella Burton published in The New Atlantis

I Never Called Her Momma by Janisha Watts published in The Atlantic

A Great Historian's Inner History by Jeff Reimer published in The Bulwark

Do Non-Profits Drive Social Change? by Tyler Cowen published in Comment

It Appears That Quasi-Mystical Self-Empowerment Culture Will Just Keep On Getting More and More Deranged by Freddie deBoer published in Substack

On Killing Charles Dickens by Zadie Smith published in The New Yorker

Loving the Despised by Bethel McGrew published in World

The Medium Is the Mania: Anxiety as a Feature, Not a Bug, of Digital Media by Caleb Wait published in Modern Reformation 

To Be a Woman is to be Called to Motherhood by Tessa Carman published in Plough

Deleting Delusions by Melody Moezzi published in American Scholar

A Black Professor Trapped in Anti-Racist Hell by Vincent Lloyd published in Compact

Mutually Assured Engagement by Ian Leslie published in Substack

Honey, I Sold the Kids by Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore published in Aeon

Is There Life After Influencing? by Mattie Kahn published in The New York Times

The Neon God by Paul Kingsnorth published in Substack

My Descent Into TikTok News Hell by Derek Robertson published in Politico

Is There Anything Left to Conserve? by Paul Kingsnorth published in Unherd

Amor Eterno by Skip Hollandsworth published in Texas Monthly

Requiem for the Realignment by Gladden Pappin published in American Affairs

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).