Meet Our Editors
Who are the editors behind First Things? Beyond the formal titles and brief bios displayed on the Masthead, First Things has not always offered much by way of an answer to this question. To remedy this, select editors and junior fellows have written short reflections below about their roles and what they have observed in their time with First Things. Some of these reflections were published first in the 2022 First Things Annual Report, which can be found in PDF form here and flip-book form here.
To support these editors and junior fellows in their work at First Things, make a tax-deductible donation today.
Dan Hitchens, Senior Editor
f all the books published in a year—275,232 is the most recent figure for the U.S.—how do you decide which ones to cover? That is one question keeping this Reviews section editor up at night. But there are a few principles which can help narrow it down.
The main principle, of course, is to put the most important subjects first. Rowan Williams’ review of Fr. Thomas Joseph White’s The Trinity gave readers an overview of the current state of theological discussion; Alastair Roberts, responding to a book on the Old Testament, offered a helpful study of some of the more difficult passages in Scripture. I hope that articles like these can help readers better understand the realities at the center of our lives, which are so little spoken of in the public square.
At the same time, First Things does address the questions which agitate our time. It’s no accident that two of our most-read reviews over the last twelve months have been of widely-read books which each present a distinctive vision of the contemporary world. Amia Srinivasan’s The Right to Sex tried to construct a non-conservative sexual ethic; Audrey Pollnow’s review unpacked the book’s reasoning and defended a traditional view of the subject (“What Sex Really Is,” June 2022). Meanwhile, Theodore Dalrymple engaged with Michel Houellebecq’s bleak satire of the modern West (“Houellebecq’s Omelette,” May 2022).
Finally, I like the Reviews section to cover a variety of subjects—and so we have published pieces not only on religion, politics and history, but also on wolves, Shakespeare, dinosaurs and alcohol. I hope to keep the range broad without losing the magazine’s essential focus. As always, please let us know if we’re succeeding!
Justin Lee, Associate Editor
A literary and artistic renaissance is brewing on the American right. New talent is emerging and networking. New institutions are being built. There’s a growing sense that the country’s imagination can be restored through fresh storytelling. One of my goals as an editor is to position First Things as a shepherd to this nascent movement, directing its unruly energy towards the true, the good, and the beautiful. To that end, I’m holding regular film screenings at our New York office which draw in young writers and filmmakers and prompt them to analyze films in the journal’s nuanced idiom.
Since joining First Things, one of my primary tasks has been to increase our footprint among evangelical readers. I’ve been commissioning pieces aimed at doing just that, including work on the ongoing identity crisis of America’s Christian colleges and universities; the theological purblindness of feminist hermeneutics; the facile, fear-mongering critics of “Christian nationalism”; and reviews of books by prominent evangelical authors. Being myself an evangelical, I know how much my tradition needs the intellectual leaven First Things can provide, and I’m honored to facilitate that leavening.
Francis X. Maier, Consulting Editor
I knew and admired Richard Neuhaus, and I’ve followed First Things since its founding; first as a religious news editor, then as senior aide to an archbishop, and now as an EPPC scholar. It’s simply the best publication on the intersection of religion and public life available anywhere. Nothing compares to it in my career. So my work with First Things—providing counsel and general assistance to the editor and deputy editor—is not really “work.” It’s the pleasure of being reminded again and again of so many reasons for hope.
The world is a complicated, conflictive place. But it has no shortage of faithful, articulate, and intellectually robust religious believers; many of them, happily, younger than I am. First Things gives them a platform for their talent, and the means to move the needle of our culture in a healthier, saner direction. In doing that so well, First Things provides a service that cannot be replicated.
To support our editors as they publish America’s most influential journal of religion and public life, make a tax-deductible donation today.
Claire Giuntini, Junior Fellow
Graduation from college felt a little more like exile than accomplishment. Though, one cannot remain an undergraduate forever! So, when I received a positive response to a querulous email sent to First Things, it seemed too good to be true. I discovered the magazine while in college, and it had thereafter been labeled “friend.” Here were people who likewise cared about the future of Western civilization.
Six months later, I have come to appreciate more than the intellectual companionship this community has to offer. First Things challenges its readers, and does so in a dignified way. Where else can you find such thorough, thoughtful contributions to societal questions? Where else do faith and reason work together so contentedly?
I also have been awed at the range of people who read and write for First Things, and meeting several of them in person has been a marvelous privilege. In short, I think that First Things serves as a model for the sort of conversations that can be happening all over the public square, and it is my great pleasure that as a junior fellow I get to assist in this endeavor.
Elizabeth Bachmann, Assistant Editor
“It’s a magazine of religion and public life.” I was trying to explain my new fellowship at First Things to a secular family member. “Your faith, the basic way that you understand the world, ought to inform your politics, right?” Wrong. I was met with wary eyes and a discomfited “Hmm.” Faith is simply no longer welcome in the public square—not in the form of prayer nor as the spine of thought.
But religion does belong in the public square because it belongs in the human heart. As First Things founder Richard John Neuhaus once wrote, “Christian truth, if it is true, is public truth. It impinges upon public space.” In other words, it is the first principle, whether one likes it or not—and it must be gotten right before other things, personal or political, can flourish. I knew this when I joined First Things as a junior fellow in 2021, but my time here has deepened that understanding. In my various roles—copy editing, fact-checking, compiling our letters section for the print issue, and assigning and editing Briefly Noted reviews—I have encountered some of the great Christian minds of our time: men and women who trace Christianity’s history, catalog the progression of its theology, reflect on its influence in art and literature, and grapple with its current altercations in the public square.
I have admired this magazine since I discovered a copy on a table in my college’s library. Working here, I have come to understand that First Things is truly unique in its honesty, intellectual seriousness, joyful faith, and inconvenient rejoinders to a modern world poised to forget: “You were built by faith of your fathers and forefathers. Remember that!” As my fellowship comes to a close, I can only be grateful for the mentorship I have received from the great thinkers (living and dead) and the chance to spend my days contemplating the “first things.” I will certainly leave better equipped to explain why they are “first.”
To support Elizabeth and Claire as they collaborate with our editors to publish America’s most influential journal of religion and public life, make a tax-deductible donation today.