Well, well, well. The June/July issue of First Things has arrived, and in the annals of human endeavor it ranks somewhere aroundum, I don't actually know. The publication of Emile Zola's J'Accuse! maybe? Or the printing of Civilian Personnel Law Manual: Title 2, Leave, 1996 (4th edition, in looseleaf form, on the legal entitlements of federal employees regarding leave, incorporating all GAO decisions through September 30, 1994)?
Hmmm. A hard choice, but, personally, I'd push the issue up toward Zola. Of course, that's just me. We at First Things never impose; we merely propose. And what we're proposing this issue is that you read Benedict Groeschel on "The Life and Death of Religious Life," an account of how the great American religious communities died and how they might be reborn.
Along the way, you should take a look at Sally Thomas' "Grooving on Jesus." Sally is the poet who wrote for us in April about how she homeschools her children. In the current issue, she adds a tale, both witty and serious, of the Jesus Movement and the end result of all that the hippies tried to achieve.
And then there's "Death & Politics," the lead article in this month's issue and the free article available online even to non-subscribers. As you might expect with that title, it's long. And dense. And depressing. I would have demanded that we reject the article, but I wrote it and so we were stuck with it. Anyway, it's a demand for a complete revaluation of political theory to account for the roles played by death and the knowledge of death. "The living give us crowds," the essay insists. "The dead give us communities."
Meanwhile, there's "God of the Philosophers," an article sent to us from Germany by Wolfhart Pannenberg, certainly among the most distinguished Protestant theologians in the world. Beginning with Benedict XVI's remarks on relativism and the decline of reason in the Western world, Pannenberg carefully explores the God that reason discovers and the theological implications of philosophy. And Michael Novak chips in a related essay, "Remembering the Secular Age," in which he examines the flood of new books on atheism and discerns a frantic fear in those who recognize that the great tide of secularism is ebbing away from them.
Richard John Neuhaus contributes The Public Square, his monthly commentary on events and books and people and ideaseverything that touches our mission of religion, culture, and public life. In this month's edition of First Things' most popular feature, Fr. Neuhaus discusses the Supreme Court's decision on partial-birth abortion, and Pope Benedict's view on reform, and lots more: from Tony Judt to Cynthia Ozick to the new General Social Survey.
In books this month we have a first-class lineup:
• Benjamin Balint on Jesus in the Talmud by Peter Schäfer;
• Michael Uhlmann on Dispelling the Myths of Abortion History by Joseph W. Dellapenna;
• The poet David Anthony on Betjeman: A Life by A.N. Wilson; and
• John Rose, one of our assistant editors, on Shutting Out the Sun by Michael Zielenziger.
There's morean overflowing horn-of-plenty, an endless cavalcade: that's our view of the magazine, and we've added two new additions to Rhina Espaillat's superb translations of the poetry of John of the Cross, plus new poems by Amit Majmudar and Catherine Chandler. We've got more books, Briefly Noted, and we've got correspondence on physicist Stephen Barr and the implications of quantum theory, and we've got . . . oh, just go subscribe to the magazine. Now.