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:

January

The World Becomes Light Again by Benjamin Woollard

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.

The People Who Divide Us: Reviewing Owen Strachan’s Christianity and Wokeness by Andrew Bertodatti and Rasool Berry

Andrew and Rasool took a very bad book very seriously in this barnburner of a review.

Puritans and Theonomy Reconsidered by Ian Clary

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.

February

The Case for Rearranging the Old Testament Books by Noah Diekemper

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.

Resignations and Reunions: Industrialism’s Broken Promises by Rory Groves

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.

Making Theology Public by Flynn Evans

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.

The Church Will Not Be Consulted by Joshua Heavin

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.

A Second Fundamentalism and the Butterfly of American Christianity by Bill Melone

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.

Borderless by Chase Davis

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.

Why People Don’t Leave Social Media by T. M. Suffield

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.

March

Teach Them Friendship by Bryan Baise

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.

The Mystery of Being Human in a Dehumanizing World by Joshua Heavin

This theological meditation on disability is a rich example of how Christian thought helps us to better understand, love, and honor human persons.

April

Death and New Life on Holy Saturday by Cort Gatliff

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.

May

On Healing: Learning from Separatists by Malcolm Foley

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.

When Belief is Agony by Susannah Black Roberts

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.

Food and the Life of Nations by Michael Wear

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.

Imperial Migrations by Vika Pechersky

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.

Hobbits and Empire: Geography and the Life of Nations in Tolkien’s Writings by Holly Ordway

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.

Calvinism and Liberty by Graham Shearer

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.

When the Ad Replaced the Icon by Tara Thieke

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.

June

The Masculinity Crisis is an Economic Crisis by Ian Mosley

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.

60 Questions for Pro-Choice Christians by Jamie Wilder

Jamie’s piece raises a number of biblical, theological, and moral challenges for pro-choice Christians to consider.

The Triviality of Pro-Choice Memes by Derek Rishmawy

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.

July

The Uselessness of ‘Christian Nationalism’ by Miles Smith

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.

Karl Barth’s Warning for Evangelical Theology by Vika Pechersky

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.

The Contradiction of Healing Prayer by Rachel Roth Aldhizer

This is one of the best and most personal things I’ve read on the idea of “healing prayer.”

August

Waiting Tables as Soul Craft by Ben Christenson

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.

Teaching Children to See by Kelly Givens

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.

The Danger of Enchanted Enclosures by Katy Carl

We don’t think enough about the spiritual dangers of “enchantment.” Katy’s piece helps to remedy that problem.

Schmemann’s Vision of a Sacramental World and the Reformed Tradition by KJ Drake

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.

September

Kichijiro Was Right by Matthew Loftus

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.

A Ride Worth Leaving: Escaping the Anxiety of the Modern Church by Simon Stokes

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.

The Mega Church Born Again by Matthew Milliner

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.

How to Value Caring Work by Leah Sargeant

Leah’s essay considers the surprisingly complicated question of how to protect and value workers whose essential role is to care for others.

Following Christ in the Machine Age: A Conversation with Paul Kingsnorth, interview by Tessa Carman

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.

A Theology of Money by Brad Littlejohn

Brad’s essay is one of the most balanced, practical, and careful treatments of Christianity and money I’ve ever read.

The Great Unmooring by Chris Krycho

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.

Good Work by Charlie Clark

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.

October

When Permanent Contraception Can Be Licit by Zach Hollifield

Zach’s essay makes the case for a limited acceptance of permanent contraceptive methods in this careful and exploratory essay.

The Search for a Christian Nation by Brad Littlejohn

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.

When the Therapeutic Replaces Sin by Samuel James

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.

The Four Quadrants of Church Life in the Gray Zone by Dave Strunk and Ben Ruyack

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.

November

There Is No Materialist Path to the Promised Land by Ana Siljak

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.

Too Large for One Life by Leah Sargeant

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.

Negative World Arrives in Australia by Simon Kennedy

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.

How Should Christians Speak in Public by Tim Keller

Tim’s piece provides a good model for how to speak with both kindness and conviction in response to attacks against Christian belief.

Can I Get a Witness? by Kirsten Sanders with Matt Shedden

Kirsten and Matt’s essay applies Barthian and Hauerwasian lenses to the negative world discourse.

Small and Afraid and Without Knowledge by Noah Karger

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.

December

Matthew 18 and the Public Square by Jonathan Tomes

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.

Untangling Theology from Digital Technology by Samuel James

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?

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Posted by 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 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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