We’ll be back with our usual year-end Eliot Awards next week. For now I wanted to spotlight the work we’ve done this year at Mere Orthodoxy.
I’ve said it before, but I’m gonna keep saying it: This has been the best year in Mere O‘s history. It’ll go down as our best traffic year, but what’s more interesting to me is that while our 2021 numbers are only slightly behind 2022, the 2021 numbers were boosted by two pieces that went fairly viral and accounted for about 20% of the total traffic for the year. This year, our top two new pieces are only going to account for about 8% of the annual traffic. In other words, everything was read more on average this year than any previous year.
In total, we have cleared one million pageviews and reached 450,000 readers. We’ve run nearly 200 pieces on our site and published 117 writers this year. We’ve done this on an annual budget of $100,000 and with one FT staff. So to our subscribers and supporters, thank you for making this possible. And now without further delay, the year that was at Mere O:
There’s something of the Vanauken’s in this essay in which Benjamin recounts his relationship to great literature and how that relationship was transformed through his conversion.
Andrew and Rasool took a very bad book very seriously in this barnburner of a review.
Sometimes people write books about the Puritans and theonomy without really understanding the Puritans or theonomy. Ian lays out the many errors in Joseph Boot’s The Mission of God in this careful, meticulous review.
Noah makes the case here that the standard way of ordering the Old Testament is not the best way of ordering them and even that the standard ordering can actually hinder our reading of the Hebrew Bible.
Rory considered what the COVID-era “Great Resignation” suggest to us about the American worker and proposes the household economy as a better way of thinking about and structuring one’s economic life.
Sometimes the most important essays aren’t the ones trying to contend for one point of view on one specific question, but instead try to define better parameters and foundations for an entire discourse. That’s the kind of work Flynn attempts here—it’s hard to do well, but I think he pulled it off in this impressive piece.
One of the greatest needs of our moment is to wean evangelicalism off of the seductive brew that the business class, human resources, and consultants have been serving us for decades. Josh does a great job here of explaining the problems this creates and calls on churches to imagine their life together in other terms.
For a long time, the assumption within many evangelical churches has been that you could never really go too far if you were going to the political right. And while you could go left and remain faithful, it was just a lot more dangerous. Bill’s essay explains why all of that is wrong and how there are exit ramps out of Christianity on both political wings.
Chase uses the idea of “enmeshment” in this piece to explain how our era isn’t necessarily marked by robust individualism, but by something fuzzier and more alarming, which is the lack of boundaries, especially when boundaries are actually essential for health in all sorts of ways. Indeed, there is a sense in which ours would be a healthier nation if we were more individualistic because then we would likely have a strong sense of the importance of boundaries and borders.
If social media is so terrible, why do so many people continue to use it? Tim proposes several answers to that question in this probing piece.
One of the most basic needs shared by all people is the need for friendship—which is precisely why the dearth of close friendships in our society, particularly close male friendships, is so dehumanizing and painful.
This theological meditation on disability is a rich example of how Christian thought helps us to better understand, love, and honor human persons.
Cort’s reflection on the birth of his and his wife’s second child, whose due date was on Holy Saturday, draws together the church’s reflection on that strange day in the church year with the hope and anticipation that comes with every new life.
Malcolm’s essay, which is an exploration of how the church can and should learn from the Black Nationalist movement, is a moving reflection on injustice and the hope that is offered to all people who respond in faith to the Gospel.
One of our most read pieces this year, Roberts’s essay explores the overlap between obsessive compulsive disorder and spiritual scrupulosity. It’s marked by her characteristic humor and wit, and is deeply moving at many points as she considers the ways in which Christ meets us in our most hopeless moments.
I asked Michael to write an essay about Italian food. He did that, but this piece is about so much more than food—it’s about memory, the passing on of gifts across generations, and about the ways in which a shared table can remind people of who they are.
The whole discourse surrounding “nationalism” hits a little differently when the country you were born in no longer exists, the people in the place you were born regard you as an outsider, you’ve never lived in your family’s traditional home nation, and then you became an immigrant. Vika’s essay was a surprising and challenging reflection on what it means to belong to a “nation” in the 21st century.
The next time someone makes some comment about Tolkien being racist, just give them this essay. More seriously, Ordway’s close reading of Tolkien will help you get a greater appreciation for his genius and will show you things you almost certainly missed last time you read The Lord of the Rings.
Liberty is both one of the most regularly cited concerns in American politics and also one of the least understood. Shearer’s essay, which offers a close reading of how the Reformed tradition has thought about “liberty” will help you think more clearly and faithfully about this oft debated political concept.
It starts out as a book review, but this review essay from Thieke is ambitious, wide-ranging, and ruthless toward the economic and visual poverty of our day.
Ian’s piece does a great job of exploring the consequences that follow when masculine ideals get defined in ways that are inaccessible to an overwhelming majority of men not due to reasons of character, but due to economics.
Jamie’s piece raises a number of biblical, theological, and moral challenges for pro-choice Christians to consider.
Derek’s piece foregrounds the human person in the debate over abortion, noting how so many pro-choice memes that were being circulated in the aftermath of Dobbs were premised in the total erasure of the human person.
Others are now starting to realize this as well, but Miles was a bit ahead of the curve in July when he made the argument that the term ‘Christian nationalism’ is fairly useless for understanding most current debates concerning Christianity and politics.
Vika’s exploration here of Barth’s critique of liberal theology and its relevance to evangelicalism is striking and, if you’re familiar with evangelical theology, more than a little frightening.
This is one of the best and most personal things I’ve read on the idea of “healing prayer.”
Ben’s piece is about work, how we value a job, and what various lines of work can teach us and how the jobs our culture most values are often spiritually corrosive.
Kelly’s piece is about parenting and humility and teaching children about humility, but it’s also about being astonished at the world and grateful for its many delights.
We don’t think enough about the spiritual dangers of “enchantment.” Katy’s piece helps to remedy that problem.
KJ’s essay places the work of 20th century Russian Orthodox theologian in conversation with the Reformed tradition in ways that highlight surprising truths about both Schmemann’s thought and the breadth of Reformed thought.
This essay is basically Matt’s case for the goodness of cultural Christianity, as explained through the story of Kichijiro, one of the apostates featured in Endo’s Silence.
Simon’s piece argues that for many years now the American church has effectively been in constant motion without ever actually going anywhere. He then considers what can be done to help us get off the treadmill.
Matthew’s piece considers how churches can lose track of the life they’re called to by Jesus and then also how movements of renewal can grow up from the ruins.
Leah’s essay considers the surprisingly complicated question of how to protect and value workers whose essential role is to care for others.
This lengthy and wide-ranging conversation between Tessa and Kingsnorth is quite lengthy, but would make a fun piece to print out and sit down with over the holiday break, if you’ve not read it already.
Brad’s essay is one of the most balanced, practical, and careful treatments of Christianity and money I’ve ever read.
The rise of remote work creates all sorts of interesting questions and problems, given recent trends in how most of us work. Chris’s essay provides additional perspective by pairing one recent book on office culture and remote work with a much older book on the same questions. The result is a sharp, perceptive piece that highlights the goods of remote work as well as some of the questions remote work raises about the entire concept of “work,” and the relationship between employee and employer.
Realizing how sharply a Christian conception of “good work” differs from many contemporary ideas of the same can be depressing and sobering, but also life-giving as it provides us with new imaginative resources for thinking about the work that we do.
Zach’s essay makes the case for a limited acceptance of permanent contraceptive methods in this careful and exploratory essay.
Part of what makes the “Christian nationalism” discourse so frustrating and difficult is that the America imagined by many of the founders is, in many ways, a Christian nation. Brad’s essay explores some of the ways in which Christian thought informed and defined our nation’s founding.
Samuel’s review of a somewhat recent book highlights the ways in which therapeutic rhetoric and concepts can become totalizing in the lives of Christian communities.
How will church community change in the aftermath of the COVID pandemic? Dave and Ben’s essay is a study of how they have seen their own church change in the early days after the end of the pandemic.
Professor Siljak’s essay, inspired by a close reading of Chekhov’s play “The Cherry Orchard,” challenges readers to consider how ideas of the good life and even of paradise itself are transformed in a materialist world.
Leah’s reply to Jon Askonas’s piece on technology and conservatism in Compact is a striking, concise case for the basic goodness of traditions and communities.
Simon’s essay draws out some lessons from an unpleasant recent news story in Australia that made the relatively marginal status of Christianity in Australia unmistakably clear.
Tim’s piece provides a good model for how to speak with both kindness and conviction in response to attacks against Christian belief.
Kirsten and Matt’s essay applies Barthian and Hauerwasian lenses to the negative world discourse.
The communal and intellectual challenges presented by AI will be a defining topic for the church’s thinkers for some time to come. Noah’s essay is a helpful initial foray into the discourse.
What are we doing when we publish ideas online and participate in public debate? How do the rules given to us in Matthew 18 relate to public debate? Jonathan takes up these questions and others in his essay.
Samuel’s piece is a long-form meditation on the question of how to detach our theological work from digital tech once we have first brought them together?