If you’ve spent any amount of time online then you have come across a weird genre of online writing that we’re going to call the Quirky Author Bio. You’ll find them at the end of blog posts all over the internet. It goes like this: “So-and-so is a writer from (city, state) whose hobbies include cooking, reading, and poking badgers with spoons. He has a pet porcupine named Mr. Prickles and loves making home-brewed kombucha. His favorite word is ‘onomatopoeia.'” (NOTE: If the subject of said biography is a Christian male, the odds of the bio also including awkward or creepy references to the man’s wife and her physical attractiveness are ~60% with that figure rising to ~85% if the man in question is reformed.)
Hey all, here are a few brief housekeeping things I wanted to draw to your attention.
First, if you at the URL bar, you’ll see a padlock next to the URL for the website.
This is a sign that Mere O now has an SSL certificate, which is another way of saying the site is now secure. This has some benefit for us with ranking in Google, but the larger reason for that is so that we are able to receive online donations to help with our costs. Continue reading
Hey all, so I’m still sorting through some of the things I want to do with Mere O as the lead writer. One thing I’ve been thinking about, and reading this book has pushed me further along in this thinking, is the role that Mere O Notes will play on the site. When Matt and I launched that part of the site the vision was to have a kind of Daily Dish-style curation hub that we used to share interesting essays and articles we came across online.
Since that time, a few things have happened: Continue reading
If the conventional blog wasn’t dead before The Dish’s demise, the shuttering of Andrew Sullivan’s iconic internet publishing venture surely signaled the end of traditional blogging. Once an intriguing new publishing form that shunned the norms of traditional journalism for a more personal and—wretched word—”edgy” tone, the blog has now basically died with only a few odd examples that are holding on. These days many classic traits we associate with blogs are simply normal parts of more conventional online publishing. Continue reading
Let me get this out of the way, so no one else has to say it: “Farewell, Matthew Lee Anderson.” Effective immediately, I am stepping down as Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy and handing full control of the site over to Jake Meador. He will assume responsibility for all aspects of the site. If he makes me “Emeritus Writer,” well, I won’t turn him down. I am also indefinitely departing from Twitter, though I will be carrying on with Mere Fidelity. Whenever we get off our summer holiday, that is (which should be next week).
Eleven years ago, a friend and advisor told me that I should begin a ‘blog,’ a new medium that was democratizing discourse and opening up career paths for people who knew nothing about the traditional means of rising the ranks in publishing. I gathered a few close friends, took my inspiration from C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton, and Mere Orthodoxy was born. It’s impossible for me to sum up everything this site has meant to my life since that day: we have never been famous or had a large audience. But our small size was one of our greatest strengths, especially in those early years. I was so young, and a barely adequate writer and thinker then, but somehow a small and extremely intelligent community formed and we argued and argued and argued together. Those years were crucial for my formation as a writer and as a person. And now that I am a decade older and still a barely adequate but much more verbose writer, I still don’t have the skills to say how much this ‘place’ means to me. Deciding to step down was the single most difficult decision I have made in a long time. Continue reading
That’s the subject of my latest essay over at The Gospel Coalition. Here’s my concluding paragraphs:
Yet the more interesting cases come closer to us. Consider the interrelationship between caffeine and marijuana. On the one hand, many of us rely on caffeine to fuel our work obsessions. Caffeine abuses reveal an overworked, exhausted culture that refuses to rest. A cup of tea is a wonderful gift. Five cups a day may signify unhealthy dependency.
On the other hand, recreational marijuana use seems can engender something resembling sloth. Proper relaxation is a sort of satisfaction—”a job well done”—not a form of escape. Cannabis use may undercut this rest, or at least short-circuit it.
Sloth and overwork are symptoms of the same diseased understanding of how we labor. Some people will strap themselves to and die on the wheel of performance, while others escape their troubles by medicating themselves. In that sense, drugs are (ab)used to therapeutically fill a gap that is felt without being articulated.
Drug use of various kinds highlights our culture’s fundamental commitments and raises questions about how we interact with those commitments as Christians. Just how far does the therapeutic mentality infiltrate our churches? The fastest-growing segment of drug use seems to be painkillers and prescription medicines. Such “white collar” abuses reveal the same sort of escapist mentality that marijuana may foster in different social contexts.
Expanding the framework for evaluating marijuana implicates us all. But the gospel of Jesus Christ creates churches where we carry one another’s burdens. We admonish one another by observing the ways we have failed in our discipleship because we idolize performance and success. Then we begin the process of repenting for our own sins and ensuring that a gospel-centered judgment about whether to use marijuana will actually sound like good news.
I approached the piece as something of an exercise in moral reasoning. It’s underdeveloped in a lot of ways, but I am attempting to expand some of my earlier thoughts on the body into new areas. Make of all of it what you will.
Trevin thinks that when it comes down to it, the curiosity of the blogger makes the blog:
The best blogs are a combination of the two. The blogger has a curious nature, and this curiosity manifests itself naturally in his or her writing interesting material that grabs the attention of readers. Cultivating a sense of curiosity, a sense of wonder and awe at the world we live in, is vitally important for delivering interesting content day after day.
I have found that interesting blogs are written by interesting people. What makes an interesting person? The ability to be continually fascinated by ideas.
I think Trevin is almost right, and is one of the best exemplars of the principle. Both of his regular blogging and his daily links demonstrate a wide range of interests.
But there’s a corollary that he doesn’t much develop, that I think he is an even better representative of.
Curiosity can only be sustained if it’s constantly going deeper, searching for that elusive bedrock that is the heart of the matter. It is a nearly irresistible impulse to probe beneath the surfaces, to look for something that has not yet been discovered or has not yet been articulated. And when you find it, the gold rush is on and the people will follow. Because people who go into the depths will not be boring long.
If I may take the application broader, one pervasive myth of evangelical preaching (in practice, if not in theory) is that the way to keep people engaged is to keep the content on the bottom shelf. The paradox, of course, is that the exact opposite is true–at least if you want people to hang around longer than the sermon goes. To capture people’s hearts, you must at some point capture their minds, and to keep their hands busy working they must at some point be fed with meat. Yes, you might lose some. But not nearly as many as you might think.
Here are the top 10 posts from the past two months at Mere-O:
- I unpacked the music of Terence Malick’s beautiful Tree of Life and how it should affect our understanding of it.
- I examined parents who allow their children to have sex with others provided it’s in their own homes generated a number of comments. Check out “The Soft Bigotry of Low Sexual Expectations.”
- Nathan Hitchen submitted a guest review of Tree of Life which took a very different approach than mine.
- In light of the release of the final Harry Potter installment, Cate offered an appreciation of the series.
- Cate also penned a lovely two part meditation on what it means to forgive someone when you can’t forget their offense. See part one and part two.
- I took on religious liberties in light of the decision by New York to permit gay marriage.
- I highlighted and reflected on a long essay on consumerism and Christian music.
- I highlighted five books on the body for evangelicals that are not his own.
- Luke Timothy Johnson claims the mantle of “experience” for approving of homosexuality within the church. And I linked to him.
- Finally, we discussed whether postmodernism can be, or not be. Which isn’t the only question, but it’s an interesting one.
Thanks for your continued support and willingness to engage us here at Mere-O. You’re feedback and comments are a huge part of what makes writing worthwhile and makes Mere-O so special. (Check out here for other ways to connect with our content.)
So maybe we can think of blogs—at least the good ones, and maybe even ones like these—as letters, if not to friends, to everyone, to the future: here is who we are, as it unfolded in real time; here is what we were thinking, even when it turned out to be wrong; here is how we thought about each other and about ourselves; here is what we made of our world. Sometimes it won’t be worth saving, and often it won’t be thoughtful. Some day, when they edit our lifelong blogs and put them in a volume (like, say, we do now with the letters of a famous thinker), they’ll edit out the useless pieces, fix our grammar, add clarifying footnotes about confusing allusions. It won’t be a complete, accurate, well-thought-out view of life, but it will be a pretty good picture of what it was to be us.
That’s a helpful way of thinking about it. The best blogs have always managed to combine a fierce dedication to exploration, an unswerving devotion to intellectual integrity, and a belligerent refusal to be boring. The “typical” stuff of great writing, those.
But add in the transitory nature of the medium and the possibility that the thought might be fleeting and forgotten and blogging can become downright exciting. Lower the stakes and sometimes let an idea out that you might have been storing up for a cocktail party (as a manner of speaking). The thought might just need a group of people to hack away at the dross to determine whether there’s anything left keeping around.
Of course, all that depends on not taking blogging quite as seriously as we might a book or some other medium (and, I would note, a resolute willingness to occasionally utter “I was wrong”). Treating the exercise as letters to our future might help deflate some of the self-pretentious seriousness that always creeps in, particularly if we remember that at the end of it all, there will for most of us not be an editor waiting to collect and collate our correspondence.