Mere Orthodoxy was founded in 2005 as a blog run by several recent graduates from the Torrey Honors Institute at Biola University in Los Angeles. It was a space where these friends, which included our founding editor Matthew Lee Anderson, hoped to continue the reading and the conversations they had enjoyed for four years at Biola under the guidance of teachers like Fred Sanders and John Mark Reynolds. These friends were devoted to asking good questions, pursuing truth, and doing all of that within a community. These goals still animate our work at Mere O to this day. Nearly 17 years later we are still trying to say true things about God and his works in a loud, divided, and ideological age.
2021 has been a particularly momentous year for Mere O. Late last year we successfully raised over $35,000 on Kickstarter to assist with the creation of a print edition, which launched this fall. Additionally, we launched season one of “Passages,” a new scripted, narrative podcast that told the story of the Council of Nicea and of the Nicene Creed. So far the show has nearly 25,000 unique downloads and has reached listeners in over 50 countries. Finally, earlier this year we also published Michael Graham’s piece on the six-way fracturing of evangelicalism. The essay has been read by nearly 120,000 people so far and was cited by former Bethlehem Baptist Church pastor Jason Meyer in his resignation letter earlier this year as an essential account of the divisions within evangelicalism today.
That said, what makes the work most satisfying to me are the stories I get to hear from readers and listeners that confirm for me that we are still staying true to the founding vision of the magazine.
One Kickstarter supporter told a contributor of ours that he isn’t even a Christian, but he is trying to decide what he thinks about Christianity and Mere O has helped him in his thinking. Even though he wasn’t a Christian, he believed that Mere O is the sort of media project that ought to exist and so he gave.
A “Passages” listener, meanwhile, wrote to say that he had grown up in a fundamentalistic church before going to college and discovering the writings of Bart Ehrman, which had caused him to begin to doubt the reliability of Scripture and, as a consequence, the truth of Christianity. He wrote, “I have come across guys like yourself who know the relevant information and still find the Bible trustworthy. Can you help me out with this?”
Another supporter, in response to what he’s read at Mere O, has decided to put down roots in his wife’s midwestern home town and commit their family to small, faithful, local ministry in their church rather than seeking to climb a professional ladder that would likely mean regular moves from one place to another and would have limited his time to be with his family and serve in his church. While the podcast download, print subscription, and web traffic numbers are all satisfying in as much as they confirm for us that our work is reaching people, this sort of personal feedback is far more satisfying to me and to the rest of our crew at Mere O.
Indeed, it’s not just that this sort of personal feedback from readers is more satisfying, I think it is probably a better indicator of how we’re doing. There are a million ways to drive traffic, after all, and many of them are bad. We’re trying, instead, to be a faithful magazine calling people to the still better way of Jesus as revealed in Scripture and, secondarily, as taught throughout history by the church catholic. The vision comes first. We trust God to provide the audience because there is no audience large enough, in our view, to justify abandoning these core commitments.
This is a moment of fracture in much of the western world and especially the United States. It’s also a time of decline in the church. Too many of our supposed leaders care more about politics than they do preaching the Gospel and about their own comfort more than they do about Christian fidelity. They have been willing to trade principles for power and reach. And the results for the nation and the church have been dire.
This isn’t how it ought to be, of course. But it is. We live in a moment when too many of our church members do not know the basics of the faith, when our neighbors outside the church associate our faith more with corruption and conservative politics than the Gospel, and when so many both in and outside the church have given up on things like persuasion and neighborliness. And yet during this time of testing, when we desperately need adults in the room to guide our churches and institutions, too often our leaders are clueless as to the real problems before us because of their fears of marginalization and their fixation on politics, which is a function of that fear.
What is needed now is simple: We need courageous Christian people who know the doctrines of our faith, who are committed to humble, patient faithfulness wherever God has called them, and who care about fidelity to Christ more than they do power, politics, or audience size.
Much of this work can only be done in churches. They preach the Gospel. They administer the sacraments. They assist their members in the practices of Christian discipline. And yet Christians of all vocations can play a role in helping with this great task. The role we play at Mere O is simply this: We try to read deeply in the catholic tradition, think deeply together as a community about the shape of Christian fidelity in our time, and offer the fruit of the work to our readers in the form of essays, reviews, and podcasts. Our hope is to call others to this same delighted contemplation of God and his works so that we can all be better equipped for service in our homes, churches, and communities during these perilous days.
If this is work you value and, in particular, if you have appreciated Mere O’s witness during these times, we would be pleased to receive your support on this Giving Tuesday. This is our first year of attempting to raise funds in this way. If all goes well, 2022 will be a bigger year for us than 2021 as it will see the first full year of the print journal, the launch of at least one new podcast, and the launch of a new MereOrthodoxy.com, which is being redesigned to better serve the needs of a mixed-media project, which Mere O has become through our print work and podcasts.
Your gift will help us to continue producing the print magazine, to launch new podcasts (and continue old ones), and to continue growing our audience so that hopefully more people can have the same sort of experience as the readers and listeners already mentioned. If you wish to give to our work, you can give a tax-deductible gift to Mere Orthodoxy using this link.
We also will be offering a special in the month of December on the print magazine: If you buy one subscription, you’ll receive a second one for free. So if you’ve not subscribed yet, you could do it now and then give another subscription as a Christmas gift. Or, if you’ve already subscribed, you can get two gift subscriptions to give away for the price of one.
These are exciting times for us. We’re grateful for the support we’ve received that has made it possible for us to come this far. We’d like to continue in this work for years to come. If you would like that as well, please consider giving to us today!