My first subscription was to Breakaway, Focus on the Family’s lifestyle magazine for teenage boys. Breakaway ran dating advice columns that advised against dating (à la Joshua Harris), alongside coverage of the godly bands beloved of our assistant youth minister, a suspicious figure who gelled his hair and wore a shark-tooth necklace. My parents hoped that Breakaway would prepare me for adolescence, but I still preferred Adventures in Odyssey, Focus on the Family’s wonderful children’s program.
Not until I was eighteen did I find a magazine that could rival Whit’s End. First Things connected me to a community of like-minded people—including the head youth pastor, a wry, generous man who loaned me his imposing red-and-black set of Gibbon. Not long after I had discovered First Things, I found myself meeting Richard John Neuhaus as he came to campus . . . then going to dinner at his apartment . . . then meeting a man improbably named Rusty Reno. At the center of it all was a conversation, ongoing, deepening, full of delight. Even as people came and went, the commitments remained the same: the protection of each life from a culture of death and the hope that each might live with God in eternity.
Regrettably, this program has not become obsolete. Sixty million Americans have been aborted since 1973, going largely unmourned. Real average hourly wages have not increased for fifty years. A national increase in deaths from suicide, alcohol, and drug abuse has caused overall life expectancy to decline for the first time since the AIDS epidemic. We are facing a war on the weak, and no magazine battles it in its various guises as consistently as does First Things.
This work is important, but it is not immediately profitable. When I first stumbled across First Things, I did not consider that the product I held in my hands was produced at a loss, or that the authors who inspired me needed to be paid. Subscriptions are up, but in order to advance our work we need the support of readers like you. Please join us in this great cause for life.
Matthew Schmitz is senior editor of First Things and a Robert Novak Journalism Fellow.