When we launched our year-end campaign, I noted our accomplishments to date in 2017. Today, I can announce that we’re on our way to adding one more to the list. We’ve raised $482,369 so far in our campaign, and are just $17,631 away from our $500,000 goal as we head into the final weekend. Our success is a testimony to your devotion and generosity. There’s still time to give. We’re only as strong as our base of support. Even a small donation adds to our momentum, allowing us to carry our work forward with even greater vigor.
Here’s part of the job we need to do in 2018:
For all the talk about multiculturalism and diversity, as well as the rise of China, the West remains pivotal. We are exporting secular materialism and flooding the web with pornography. Our nihilism, often masked as the great moral project of inclusion, infects other civilizations. I dare say the perversions of our atheistic postmodern culture pose a greater threat to the future of humanity than does radical Islam. The way in which those perversions have morally disarmed many Western European countries suggests as much.
Yet, at the same time, the greatest achievements of the West are also being extended. Science has become a global project. Human rights, however perverted by Western progressivism, serves as a baseline of human decency. Liberal democracy provides an attractive political ideal for many peoples throughout the world. We are the greatest threat to humanity—and we remain humanity’s greatest hope. A Kenyan patriot regards the Chinese as cold business partners to be kept at arm’s length. He looks to Europe and the United States with horror, dread, envy, and respect.
This equipoise of damaging perversion and noble achievement reflects a spiritual conflict. St. Augustine put it precisely. It is the conflict between love of self, even to the point of hatred of God—and love of God, even to the point of hatred of self. I have a similar way of framing the great question of the West: Will we live as if the authority of the sacred posed the greatest threat to human freedom—or as if God’s Word provided the soundest, most trustworthy basis for freedom?
There can be no doubt about how First Things answers this question. It’s the answer upon which the future of the West depends. Not everyone need believe, and certainly no one should be compelled to believe. A liberal democratic culture is capacious. But it is precisely freedom of conscience and our culture of tolerance that the perversions of our post-Christian culture now throw in doubt, as the goings-on at universities and in the public square indicate. The West need not return to religion en masse, but it needs to allow religion to return to the center of its public life. Every culture needs a spiritual anchor—and a spiritual leaven.
We have a lot to do in 2018. We need to continue to defend the sanctity of life and work to renew marriage. Populism has rocked the political culture of the West, overthrowing old truisms. We need to find our way forward, taking our bearings from first principles rather than increasingly decadent political catechisms. We need to figure out what it means to be a nation in a properly globalized world. We need to think about how political and economic freedoms can be renewed and directed toward the common good. There are literary treasures to be enjoyed and timeless wisdom to be contemplated anew. The splendor of truth must inform, undergird, and enliven our struggles. But the spiritual commitment goes deeper still: to allow the Lord God to inscribe his commandments upon our hearts. If we do this, we will be able to write the words of truth upon the doorposts of our homes—and on the gates of the city, a city we share with others, some of different faith, and others of no faith at all.
For a long time it has felt as though the currents of history were always running against us. But the world is turning. We all feel it. I’m looking forward to 2018. Donate in these final days and we’ll enter the coming year with a full head of steam.
R. R. Reno is editor of First Things.