I’m excited to report that we exceeded our end-of-year campaign goal, raising $651,305. This is a wonderful testament to the generosity of the First Things readership.
We are a community of editors, writers, poets, disputants, controversialists, and readers, and we need many kinds of contributions to our common cause: literary, intellectual, spiritual, and financial. In these early days of 2019, I want to thank all those who put their shoulders to First Things. We’re blessed to have a devoted, hard-working staff, and our writers, spread around the world, are first-rate.
I also want to thank the storied First Things readers! No other magazine has reading circles (ROFTERs) spread across the map. Nearly 30,000 strong, our subscribers provide the base on which we can build our vital website and regular programs. If you're not yet a subscriber, please join the team.
A special thanks goes to our financial supporters. As a friend used to say about the indispensable role of donors for non-profits, “If you ain’t putting in gas, the car don’t run.” We would not be the leading voice for religion in the public square without your support.
Let’s look back on 2018 and forward to 2019. Last year's singular theme was dissolution and disillusionment. In my estimation, that’s likely to continue. We entered 2017 knowing that populism was reshaping politics, especially the American right. Questioning NATO, saber rattling about border defense, threatening tariffs—Trump has unsettled a great deal. In 2018 we got a peek at the disruptions on the American left. Self-proclaimed socialists elected to Congress in November are calling for 70 percent tax rates and pushing the multiculturalism that destroyed academia onto the country as a whole.
Without doubt, the old center-right and center-left consensus that has held sway since the Reagan era is dissolving. This depresses many. We are right to fear losing the important achievements of the last generation. But as T. S. Eliot observed, we cannot march to an antique drum. Our society has changed a great deal in the last generation, and that’s affecting our political culture, as it must.
First Things is at the forefront of new thinking about what it means to be a social conservative in the twenty-first-century West. I’m not disillusioned. We need a rebalancing in our society, which means rethinking our political politics as well as our cultural politics. This is an exciting time.
2018 saw demoralizing revelations in the Catholic Church, summed up with one name: McCarrick. It was also a year of agonizing conflicts among Evangelical leaders about how to bear witness in today’s populist, Trumpian climate. Our churches are wobbling, unsteady, and uncertain.
Polls show an upsurge in Nones, those with no religious affiliation, especially among the younger generation. The Nones are ideologically consolidated on the multicultural left, and are often crusaders for progressive causes that target religious believers as “haters.” This foretells a dangerous politicization of religion in America; the non-religious line up on one side of the partisan divide and the religious increasingly on the other.
In this moment we need to return to the sources of our faith. We must return to first things so that we can navigate in accord with our affirmations—new life in Christ, the vocation of the Church, the sanctity of life, the dignity of marriage, and more. Otherwise, we’ll fall back on our negations, which means allowing the world to set our agenda.
I’m encouraged. Your generosity gives us a solid basis on which to confront the challenges of 2019. And our traditions, supernatural and natural, provide us the resources to guide our fellow believers and fellow citizens forward in these difficult times. I look forward to the coming year, confident in your loyalty to our shared cause—and confident in the faith that will not fail us.
R. R. Reno is editor of First Things.