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Growing the Merry Band

December 6th, 2023 | 5 min read

By Jake Meador

In the immortal Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan describes a scene in which his two protagonists, Christian and Faithful, have arrived in the town of Vanity Fair. The town is something of a mashup between the temple scene just before Jesus scourges it in the Gospels and a contemporary place like Time Square. Commerce is the language everyone speaks and everyone understands.

“What’ll you buy?” one of the vendors asks.

“Truth,” says Christian.

The vendors are scandalized, Christian and Faithful are arrested, and in the end Faithful dies and Christian only escapes through a supernatural intervention.

That passage has a great deal of relevance to contemporary media discourse. It was just a few months ago, while attending a conference, that an editor with another site came up to me and said, “By the way, thanks for that essay you all ran last month. We’ve been thinking the same thing in our office, but couldn’t really say all of that just because of some institutional issues and relationships.”

I’ve heard some version of that comment from various people in the Christian media and nonprofit world more times than I care to remember. Because much Christian media is produced by large nonprofits with other projects and revenue streams and large coalitions, this often means that truth and candor is sacrificed in the name of preserving relationships.

The institutional reality of much Christian media can inhibit writers from saying things that need to be said. It creates incentives and questions that sometimes cause institutional preservation, even at the expense of that institution's mission and effectiveness, to trump the plain setting forth of what is true.

This is what makes Mere Orthodoxy unique. As its editor, I’m not a child of elite evangelical institutions. I graduated from the state school in my home town. I haven’t worked for other evangelical organizations either. I don’t live in a major evangelical hub or in the Bible belt.

When I evaluate pitches from prospective authors, I don't check their platform size or social media presence or who they work for. We don't care about that here. We care that the author is saying something true and saying it elegantly. And we've been pleased to find that a lot of you care more about truth and the beautiful expression of it than you do the latest click bait trend, viral controversy, or social media feud of the day. 

The reason we can do things this way is simple: We’re independent. And this independence allows us to speak what is true about online swarms as they affect both the left and right, about Christian nationalism, and a host of other issues as well. That independence is also what allows us to publish broadly—pieces against masking during COVID and pieces in favor, for example.

We are not owned by anyone. All we seek? The same as Christian and Faithful: the truth.

Where what is true is clear, we contend for it earnestly. Where the truth is difficult to know and unclear, we debate charitably.

This quote from T. S. Eliot has always been central to our mission:

“I confess, however, that I am not myself very much concerned with the question of influence, or with those publicists who have impressed their names upon the public by catching the morning tide and rowing very fast in the direction in which the current was flowing; but rather that 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.”

We aspire to be the writers Eliot imagined as he wrote those words.

Of course, independent media still has costs—and since we don’t have a larger institution footing the bills or an individual benefactor writing checks, that means the money to cover those costs has to come from elsewhere. We hope it will come from people like you, one of our 35,000 regular monthly readers made up of pastors, academics, non-profit leaders, Christian marketplace leaders, and thoughtful people interested in the life of the mind and the life of the world.

We’re looking for a merry band of supporters who believe in independent Christian media and want to partner with us in our work to renew the church and culture by presenting an intellectually serious public Christianity to our readers.

Our goal for this campaign is the largest goal we’ve ever set for ourselves: $100,000

What we want above all are people who read Pilgrim’s Progress and feel that same hopeful stirring when they see Christian and Faithful’s boldness. If you’re the sort of person who values truth over partisanship, faithfulness over tribalism, then you’re the sort of person we’re looking for to join the merry band. 

You can give to the campaign today with this link.

Will you join us?

Under the Mercy,
Jake Meador
Editor-in-Chief, Mere Orthodoxy

PS If you join up during this campaign, you can also receive one or a small bundle of books from us as a thank you. The full bundle includes: 

People who give $100 can pick one book, $250 can receive 2, $500 will receive 3, and donors giving at $1000 or more will receive all five books.

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).