It is undeniable that religion informs public life, and we need to regain a sense of the ways in which this dynamic operates.” I scribbled these words in my Moleskine. I was not sitting in on a First Things Intellectual Retreat, nor was I listening to one of the many illuminating talks recorded on the First Things website. I was in a crowded lecture hall in the English Department building, on the campus of a major public research institution, listening to a premier literary critic deliver an honorary lecture. And that lecture, much to my surprise, was organized around the above claim. The lecturer was calling for renewed attention to religion and political theology in literary studies. He stressed that Jürgen Habermas had recognized the need for this reevaluation, and that “we” ought to as well. The Q&A revealed just how novel this claim was to many in attendance. The questioners stammered a bit, as if they weren’t used to wrestling with these concepts.
When I had the opportunity to speak with colleagues afterwards, I offered one recommendation: Subscribe to First Things. I told them that the critical conversation about religion and the public sphere they were only beginning to think about was already happening—and had been happening for several decades—in the pages of this unique publication.
What some in the academy are seeking to regain, readers of First Things have never lost. In order to preserve and advance this intellectual legacy, however, First Things needs your financial support. Your generosity will help ensure that the conversation continues.
Jordan Zajac, O.P., is a Dominican brother of the Province of St. Joseph and a summer intern at First Things.