Ours is a society of orphans, of people who don’t belong to anyone. Americans report skyrocketing rates of loneliness and mental illness; marriage and fertility rates are plummeting. Our politicians have lost our trust. Churches are feared more than revered, having become, understandably, objects of disdain rather than places of refuge and shelter.
These problems will not be easily solved or quickly repaired; they run deep. The rising generation faces looming threats posed by soft totalitarianism on the left, increased paranoia on the American right, climate change, a resurgent Communism in China, burdensome debt, and conditions of social decay. It can seem as if we are teetering on the brink of a cliff, looking at a long and hard fall.
Unfortunately, the American church finds herself powerless to address these problems, not least because all too often she has been complicit in their creation. When presented with the chance to sacrifice, to pursue holiness, humility, and peace, we have too frequently trod the easier path, aspiring to respectability, affluence, and comfort.
The tragic outcome of this is that we are radically unprepared for this moment, even as we now find ourselves in a season of great opportunity, a time to build and take risks. We have made ourselves unfit for these times.
Yet it does not have to be that way.
The Opportunity Before Us
If we are passing through fire, we will be left with ash—and open land for building. A church that could repent of her sins and return to her first love, to her roots in the centuries-old traditions of reflection and piety bequeathed to her by her ancestors would be a church prepared to shepherd her children through a season so pregnant with possibilities.
Before our time can be anything else, it must be an opportunity to say true things. This sounds simple, but it seldom is. Truth is often elusive, particularly in a day as captive to soundbites and performative intellectualism as ours. To aspire to say true things in an environment besotted with outrage and simplification and captive to social media is a great challenge. And yet that is what we mean to do.
It is not all we mean to do.
Mere Orthodoxy’s Goals
We want to re-articulate the truths of the faith once handed down for an audience that has largely forgotten them. Sadly, such work is needed for both our Christian and non-Christian readers. The historic Christian faith is a drama and a romance, a story so surprising and compelling that for millennia it has succored the poor, forged empires, and toppled tyrants.
Yet for too many today, this is not their experience of the faith. Christians, young Christians especially, often feel a sense of embarrassment at their co-religionists, if only because of their association with public figures known more for transgressiveness and reactivity than Christian discipleship. Likewise, most non-Christians are remarkably ignorant of what the Christian faith actually is.
We aim to address both of these problems.
We hope to do this through continuing the work we have always done: Producing words that are serious, delightful, challenging, and faithful to the historic teachings of Christianity. In particular, we aspire to do this with both ecumenical charity and a center of gravity in magisterial Protestantism, a wealthy and comprehensive tradition of thought that encompasses the Reformed, Lutherans, and Anglicans, and which has been largely silent in the American context for nearly a century.
Is such a vision sufficient for the challenges before us? Can thinking, writing, and contending for ideas actually help to revitalize a church and culture that have lost their way? We believe they can. And we believe this because Christians have always believed that they can, provided these things are done with the support of the Holy Spirit. Throughout the history of the church, and indeed from the moment the church decided to express her faith and life creedally, much of the work that God has given the church to do has been intellectual, reflective, and creative, organized around the work of writing, thinking, and conversing.
Christians have always taken up their pens during times of trial and testing. Augustine wrote the City of God as Rome burned. Calvin’s Institutes were crafted on the run, after his exile from Paris, when he was uncertain where he would spend the rest of his days. Throughout history, from the time of Athanasius to Martin Luther to today, theology has been written beneath a sword. And yet the presence of the sword does not eliminate the need for sharp pens and clear thinking, grounded in Scripture and reason and faithful to God. The sword is, rather, precisely what necessitates such work.
We need the kind of thinkers that T. S. Eliot once called for:
There should always be a few writers preoccupied in penetrating to the core of the matter, in trying to arrive at the truth and to set it forth, without too much hope, without ambition to alter the immediate course of affairs, and without being downcast or defeated when nothing appears to ensue.
Mere Orthodoxy aims to cultivate and shelter those thinkers and writers.
Who We Are
Our masthead consists of editor-in-chief Jake Meador, associate editors Susannah Black and Onsi A. Kamel, and contributing editors Grace Olmstead and Matthew Loftus as well as founding editor Matthew Lee Anderson, who first launched Mere O 15 years ago alongside a group of college friends who wanted to have a place for thoughtful conversation, reflection, and debate online.
Though we have grown a lot in those 15 years, that is still the goal. We have been committed to cold takes. We like long word counts and believe in nuance, and we do not apologize for it.
Based on our track record, we have a readership that appreciates these values. We have reached over 350,000 unique readers every year for the past four years. In the first three months of the COVID-19 pandemic alone, we reached 120,000 readers.
Many of our contributors have published notable books with a variety of publishers including InterVarsity Press, Baker, Moody, Eerdmans, Ignatius, Penguin Random House, and more.
Indeed, Mere Orthodoxy has a long track record of identifying promising young intellects and giving them a platform to grow and mature first as thinkers and then as writers.
We have done all of this without ever having an annual budget larger than $6000 (really). But now, as we stare into a post-Trump world, a world after COVID, and a world of continued decadence and alienation, we want to do more. We want to be one of the primary outlets shaping the conversation about the public witness of the Christian church in our day.
First, we want to launch a bimonthly print edition of Mere Orthodoxy. Print helps online movements take on a more substantial, real-world form and it provides an institutional anchor for networks of friends and writers who mean to work together and desire for that work to outlast them.
Second, we want to expand our podcast offerings to five regular podcasts, complete with paid sponsorships to make our work sustainable.
Third, we want to have full-time staff dedicated exclusively to producing Mere Orthodoxy so that the print publication, podcasts, and website can be the highest possible quality.
What We Need
To help us accomplish all of this, we are attempting to raise $35,000 via KickStarter. Relative to the size of Mere O’s audience, $35,000 is, in our view, a manageable sum: In the second quarter of 2020 alone, Mere O reached around 120,000 readers. If a third of the people who read us over three months gave $1, we would reach our goal.
There has never been a time when the world didn’t need Christians with steel spines, perceptive eyes, and soft hearts. Yet it may be the case that societies experiencing as much fragmentation and uncertainty as ours have a unique need of such Christians. Our hope is that Mere Orthodoxy will become a home for such people as well as an intellectual resource for us all.
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).