Some years ago, Rusty Reno invited me to a seminar on the subject of transhumanism and its political and cultural implications. My response was, “Well, if you’re going down fighting, count me in!” To which he replied, “Oh, I intend to fight. But I do not intend to go down.”
There are good grounds for pessimism. The transformation of social mores is taking place at a startling speed. Old political certainties are disappearing, replaced with a state of flux. As the Left carries all before it culturally, we shudder at the consequences of the collapse of the family, the flood of porn washing over even young children’s heads, and the breakdown of civility in civil discourse.
But as Brexit and Trump have shown, the arc of the universe does not necessarily bend toward the Manhattan cocktail-party set. Brexit and Trump also show, however, that there is a distinction between winning elections and winning the argument. For all the talk on the Right of “political correctness,” there is on both sides a great deal of thin skin, emotivism, and outrage over anything that challenges cherished convictions. The emotivism that dominates political discourse is hard to overcome. But we need to make the effort, whether we are suburbanites engaging our neighbors on the back porch or high-powered attorneys presenting before the Supreme Court.
This is where First Things comes in. The magazine’s print edition, its online edition, and its various sponsored lectures, retreats, and events all seek to find and promote arguments that are both true in themselves and plausible to the wider world. Without compromising truth, First Things pitches it to a society that one might have thought was unreachable.
That’s one of the reasons I am honored to write for First Things. And it’s one of the reasons First Things is worth supporting financially. The spring fundraising drive is underway, so there’s no time like the present to show your appreciation.
Carl R. Trueman is William E. Simon Visiting Fellow in Religion and Public Life at the James Madison Program at Princeton University.