2012 was a great year for us here at Mere-O.
We added a number of new voices to the roster of regular and semi-regular writers, which has been a matter of great relief and joy for me. They were often the most popular and interesting contributions, which helped make Mere-O a lively place for dialogue. We got ourselves into a few intellectual tussles and, I hope, acquitted ourselves respectably before the burdens of the truth. And while I was met by the sad news that my first book would be going out of print, I was cheered by the fact that 2013 would mean the coming of a second.
In all, though, I am mostly grateful for all the readers we have. While my life circumstances haven’t allowed me to be as active a participant in the comments as I have wished, it’s amazingly gratifying to have so many people take what we have to say seriously enough to spend a few minutes reading it.
Rather than go on, blubbering and all that, I thought I’d recap some of the major moments of 2012 around here. We’ll be mostly quiet the rest of this week as well (as we’re all off running about leading semi-normal lives engaging in offline activities) but hopefully pick up again with more regularity next Monday.
We started off the year thinking a lot about people’s two favorite subjects: sex and politics!
First, Mark Driscoll wrote a book on sex and marriage that I reviewed and then I wrote about it at the Washington Post. Not long after, we spent a good deal of time haggling over whether evangelicals should support Newt Gingrich. His candidacy tanked shortly after. I leave any determinations about our role in that to you.
More politics: we went through religious liberty and the “contraception mandate” pretty carefully, exploring it from a variety of dimensions.
March was dominated by Kony 2012 (yes, that was this year). And when we weren’t talking about that, we spent a good deal of time thinking through economics.
April wasn’t the cruelest month for us. Not by a long shot. Easter meant taking on the annual essay about Christianity in Newsweek, this time penned by Andrew Sullivan. And we returned to the question of contraception, only this time examining it from the standpoint of the church in light of the Q Conference attendees willingness to endorse contraception for single people.
We were a bit scattered in May. Chris Marlink turned up and examined what homemakers are really worth. And I went into a new round of examining evangelicalism’s relationship to the “culture wars” (also here) and to “post-partisanship,” landing on my first attempt at describing what a non-culture war conservatism might need to do.
Questions about navigating the “culture war” and the generational changes around evangelicalism continued to dominate through June (and beyond, as we’ll see). We talked with Jon Shields about his important book on evangelicals and prolife politics, I got ahead of the curve on whether Christians should continue supporting traditional marriage, and then I raised worries about the “team mentality” behind our public discourse. Good think Kevin White was around to mix things up by talking about theology and history.
July marked the first month with a number of new voices around these parts. Brett McCracken offered some beautiful reflections on place and patriotism, Hannah offered the definitive take-down of a spurious C.S. Lewis quote, Chris Krycho explored Gungor and aesthetics, and Brian Auten reviewed Peter Leithart’s book on America and Empire. Oh, and we got ourselves myixed up in the Chick-Fil-A/gay marriage dustup (yes, that was this year too!).
The Chick-Fil-A scrum carried over, as I tried arguing that chicken sandwiches don’t have to be political statements (bold, I know). But there was other stuff going on, too: John Dyer celebrated the end of the Olympics by reflecting about bodies, Tom Ward reviewed a new book on C.S. Lewis and the church, and Tyler Braun dropped by to talk about holiness and millennials.
Jeremy Mann kicked things off by examining the erosion of the evangelical pastorate. But the end of the month it was back to the culture war: I put together four theses for what social conservatives need to do, which may be my most comprehensive prescription for the movement to date.
With the election bearing down on us in the States, Brett McCracken provided five reasons why he was going to vote for Mitt Romney. I offered an idiosyncratic way to reduce abortions and argued that yes, liberal young evangelicals do exist. But Stephen Carradini and Matthew Miller spent some time thinking hard about rights, digital content, and how all that affects creativity in an exchange that is well worth reading.
A lot went on in November. First and foremost, the American elections happened. I offered my take on what went on (hint: not a disaster), and Alastair Roberts introduced himself to Mere-O readers by offering an examination of American politics from the standpoint of a British Christian. Matthew Tuininga made an appearance, examining whether the 1960s were when everything went wrong. I explored “intellectual empathy” and suggested we should get ourselves some, and then we all spent a lot of time talking about the meaning of “biblical” and Rachel Held Evans’ book and the complementarian response to it.
The Christmas season came upon us, and we went away for most of it. But before that, Brad Littlejohn explored how we should respond to the Church of England’s decision to not approve women bishops, and Brett McCracken read Sufjian’s live performance. Cate MacDonald summed up what Christmas bells might be in light of the Newton tragedy, and Keith Miller struck a nerve by questioning whether the “metro-evangelicals” are right. And other good stuff happened, too.
Summing it Up
I’d like to keep expanding the range of issues that come up on a regular basis, and move closer toward looking at more literature, art, film, music and the like. (And if there are things you’d like to hear more of, well, I’d love to hear from you. I didn’t do a formal reader’s survey this year, but I’m open to feedback.)
But with all the new voices around these parts, Mere-O is stronger than it’s ever been. It’s been an honor to have had so many sharp figures agree to chime in and carry some of the load. My focus is increasingly on simply saying the truth well and letting everything else fall out as it may, and having others come along toward that with me has been humbling and encouraging.
Congrats on the great year. Thanks for all that you write.
I am definitely in favor of more arts!
I would also really like to see some more discussion of how us artsy-fartsy hip white post-metro-retro-organo-oregano-evangelical folks can avoid our own little hip holy huddles and stay engaged with the voices of the nonwhite, nonmiddletoupper class folks.
Excellent job this year, Matt. Keep up the good work!
I’ll be doing my best to keep up some of the art discussion this year. I actually should have some writing time in the months ahead! (Matt has heard this refrain before, though…)