Start your year off right with First Things. Yes, subscribe now to receive it at home; that way, you’ll receive every issue without delay, hot off the presses. Issues such as the January 2010 issue—full of articles both weighty and light-hearted.
Serious, such as Ari L. Goldman’s stern review of Mitch Albom’s latest bestseller, Have a Little Faith:
I would be very surprised if Mitch Albom still sleeps with a teddy bear or saves his money in a piggy bank or believes that the stork delivers babies or does math on his fingers. But of this I am sure: If he exhibited any of these childish behaviors, he wouldn’t write a book about it. He has, however, written Have a Little Faith, a book about religion that is founded on childish ideas, naivete, religious stereotyping, and downright ignorance.
And delightful, such as the article in which homeschooling mother and poet Sally Thomas confesses to buying war toys for her children—not nuclear missiles, of course, just the normal assortment of blasters and cork shooters and swords of various kinds, including “an actual antique Indian scimitar in a moth-eaten velvet scabbard, which was the one thing our eleven-year-old wanted for his birthday.” In the end, she decides, “what I think I have come to understand about boys is that a desire to commit violence is not the same thing as a desire to commit evil.”
And then there are serious, necessary articles such as those by David P. Goldman—this time with his assessment of the recent British high-court crisis that “labeled ‘racist’ a founding premise of Judaism: the election of Abraham and his descendants and the determination of Jewish status by matrilineal descent.”
There’s also the latest writing from First Things board member Mary Ann Glendon, where she describes her idea of a real statesman: Cicero.
Following Aristotle, who taught that, in the realm of human affairs, one can know only partially, and, for the most part, Cicero says he belongs to the school of thought that requires one to seek the highest possible degree of probability, recognizing that the limitations inherent in political life make certainty impossible. The statesman, unlike the philosopher, must act, and he must act within the range of what is possible, aiming for the best while realizing that he must often settle for less.
Also in this issue, economist Reuven Brenner pinpoints the current paradox of U.S. immigration policy—hospitality and xenophobia side by side. And Lauren Weiner reminisces about the folk-music craze, when coffeehouses and Communists shaped our musical tastes.
David B. Hart surprises himself by praising Richard Dawkins for a job well done in his latest book, The Greatest Show on Earth. And several serious reviews follow, such as Russell Hittinger’s look at Matthew J. Levering’s new Biblical Natural Law, Wayne Cristaudo’s commentary on Franz Rosenzweig and the Systematic Task of Philosophy, and Bruce D. Marshall’s lovely essay on Gary A. Anderson’s latest book, Sin: A History.
Also, Paul J. Griffiths reads A Very Brief History of Eternity and finds the author Carlos Eire belongs “to that increasing company of our contemporaries and recent ancestors for whom the thought of death as extinction . . . is both the only thought available and an idea terrifyingly unendurable.” And Stephen M. Barr reviews Neuroscience, Psychology, and Religion: Illusions, Delusions, and Realities about Human Nature, finding:
there was a time when people worried whether God existed. Now, strangely enough, they are beginning to worry whether they exist—whether beneath the flux of their experience there can be found any enduring “self” or “soul” or autonomous person. Not according to some of the prophets of science, and especially of neuroscience, for whom such ideas are mere romantic fictions.
Don’t let yourself take that dismal path. It’s a new year. A chance to start fresh with a healthy diet of the light but intellectually serious content First Things continues to deliver. Someone once said, “whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honorable, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” In other words, subscribe now to First Things.