The call came yesterday. We all get them. On the other end of the line was the cheerful voice of an undergraduate. She was calling on behalf of my alma mater, Haverford College. I steeled myself to resist. As William Deresiewicz recently wrote, “Selective private colleges have become religious schools. The religion in question is not Methodism or Catholicism but an extreme version of the belief system of the liberal elite.” Why should I put money into the collection plate of the secular progressive church?
But I did. Alma mater pulled at my heartstrings. After I had hung up, I consoled myself with the knowledge that I had made only a small, token donation. I had been unable to overcome my sense of filial obligation. But at least I had disciplined those feelings with reason.
Reason #1: The time is long past when fancy colleges like my alma mater actually need money. Yes, yes, they always need more to keep up with the Joneses. Bigger and more luxurious athletic centers, more lavish dorms, more sabbaticals for faculty, and on and on. But for their core educational mission? Hardly.
Reason #2: Higher education is an implacable adversary of most of what we believe in. Only a fool endows an institution that would prohibit him from speaking his mind. Or donates large sums of money to a university that champions an ideology antithetical to his convictions.
Reason #3: There are far more worthy endeavors that need our support.
Which brings me to the topic of our spring campaign, which ends today. First Things is not a house of worship. We are not an institution of sacred importance. But we traffic in ideas, arguments, and reflection on first things, sacred things.
I’m sure there are good classes at my alma mater, as well as yours. There are moments when teachers really teach, and students really learn. There are important conversations and arresting experiences. I don’t advocate zeroing out your donations to the schools that have done so much to form you. Your money won’t be entirely wasted.
But at First Things I can guarantee it will be well used. We run a lean operation. Haverford College spends nearly $100,000,000 per year to educate slightly more than 1,000 students. First Things spends slightly less than $3,000,000 per year to educate nearly 28,000 subscribers, and millions more who read us online.
And the intellectual content we serve is healthy. When you contribute to First Things, you can be assured that your resources are being used to develop, deepen, and promote your convictions. We don’t kowtow. First Things can challenge and provoke. But we do so out of a shared commitment to the authority of God’s revelation, the sanctity of life, and moral truth.
The response from readers has been fantastic. The spring campaign has gone very well. First Things is stronger today than at any point since Fr. Richard John Neuhaus’s death in 2009.
If you have already donated, please accept my sincere thanks for your generosity and commitment to our shared mission. If you have not donated, please consider joining the team. All donations, large and small, make a difference. When we come together and pitch in, our endeavors flourish all the more.
Thanks for being loyal readers, and thanks for your support.
R. R. Reno is editor of First Things.