I published my first First Things article in December 1990. At that early date, I don’t think even Fr. Richard John Neuhaus was brash enough to bill his newborn magazine as “America’s Most Influential Journal of Religion and Public Life.” But he could have. There wasn’t anything like it. There still isn’t.
No other magazine offers analysis with such sophistication and depth. No other magazine publishes such a variety of leading religious thinkers, scholars, poets, critics, and pundits. No other magazine so regularly traces the problems of public life to fundamental questions about our origin and destiny in God.
What most distinguishes the magazine is its courage. Fr. Neuhaus wasn’t one to duck controversy or hedge bets. He denounced the culture of death, but because he put first things first, he was never despondent. In the decade since his death, First Things has continued to speak with prophetic courage and clarity, prescience and hope.
Courage is infectious. Courage encourages. It always seemed to me that Fr. Neuhaus viewed First Things as an extension of his role as America’s pastor, a way to sustain the faithful in the darkness. Rusty Reno and his editorial staff have taken up the shepherd’s staff. With Reno at the helm, First Things is more indispensable than ever as a guide through the shadows of our current disruptions and discontents.
Peter J. Leithart is President of Theopolis Institute.
Photo by Justin Brendel.