“God loves a cheerful giver,” St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians. Over almost twenty years, the readers of First Things have demonstrated that they are generous givers, and I would like to think that you are cheerful givers as well.
To be sure, this year is not like all the others. Fears about the economy are very real. Some of you may have already experienced a reduction in what is called disposable income. When it comes to the costs in producing First Things, however, this year is like all the others. In fact, we are facing increased costs in postage, paper, and other expenses.
Each year, we make only one general appeal to all our readers. This year, as every year, I urge you to give as you are able. In return, I promise that we will give as we are able in providing you with what continues to be recognized asindeed is increasingly recognized asthe world’s premier magazine of religion, culture, and public life.
It is not only on the economic front that we are facing hard times. The moral, cultural, and political life of our country needs the persistent, reasoned, and persuasive voice of First Things. And First Things needs your support in being that voice.
Long-time readers may remember what we said in the very first issue, dated March 1990:
First Things means, first, that the first thing to be said about public life is that public life is not the first thing. First Things means, second, that there are first things, in the sense of first principles, for the right ordering of public life.
The first meaning of First Things is that, for the sake of both religion and public life, religion must be given priority. While religion informs, enriches, and provides a moral foundation for public life, the chief purpose of religion is not to serve public life. Here we discover a necessary paradox. Religion that is captive to public life is of little public use. Indeed, such captivity produces politicized religion and religionized politics, and the result, as we know from bitter historical experience, is tragedy for both religion and public life.
Religion best serves public life by relativizing the importance of public life, especially of public life understood as politics. Authentic religion keeps the political enterprise humble by reminding it that it is not the first thing. By directing us to the ultimate, religion defines the limits of the penultimate. By illumining our highest purpose all lesser purposes are brought under transcendent judgment.
I believe, and I hope you will agree, that First Things has been faithful to that vision and the mission it entails. First Things continues to bring its readers each month the most insightful and lively information and commentary on religion, books, politics, science, cultural trends, and the great moral questions of our time. That is what we believe we are called to do, and that is what we need your help in doing.
First Things is a very lean operation. For every dollar there is a careful accounting. As the readership and influence of the magazine are up, so also are the costs of producing the magazine. The simple fact of life is that there is always a shortfall between income and expenses. That would be fatal, were it not for the legendary generosity of First Things readers in responding to this annual appeal.
I well know that some of our readers have very limited means. Even a small gift is a real sacrifice. Others, however, have been blessed with very considerable means. To all I say: Please give as you are able.
Your gift will be as gratefully received as it is urgently needed. You do your part and I promise we will do our part in bringing you articles, reviews, reports, and commentaries of the quality that you have come to expect of First Things.
One more thing: Please do not put off responding to this appeal. Why not respond today?
Joseph Bottum and I, along with the entire staff of First Things, are waiting to hear from you. As we also join in the prayer that the approaching holy days will be filled with grace and glory for you and yours.
(The Rev.) Richard John Neuhaus
Editor in Chief
P.S. To make sure that your gift is tax deductible to the full extent of the law, please make your check payable to the Institute on Religion and Public Life. For those wishing to give stocks or bonds, please know they will be gratefully accepted.
P.P.S. Oh yes, about that book offer. The Donations page on our website lists a number of recent books that will be of particular interest to readers of First Things. For your gift of $75 we will send you any book of your choice free of charge. For $120, any two books. For $200, four books. And a gift of $500 or more will entitle you to all the books of your choice. I know that getting books is not your reason for supporting First Things, but it is another way in which we can show our appreciation.