I am delighted to report that our readers once again surpassed our expectations. Our spring campaign brought in $569,731.
I’d like to thank everyone who contributed. Your support has always been crucial for our success at First Things. We have been able to remain a strong voice for orthodoxy, moral truth, and public sanity because of the loyalty of our readers. Jesus reminds us, “Where your treasure is, there is your heart also.” I’m gratified to know that so many hearts are inclined toward our shared mission.
That mission is more important than ever. We are living in a time of increased polarization. This is a response to a failing center, a failing establishment.
Recent abortion legislation illustrates this. In Alabama, Georgia, and elsewhere, laws have been passed that rigorously limit abortion. But in Illinois, New York, and other states, legislators are setting the stage for an unlimited right to abortion. Both sides sense, rightly, that the Roe consensus, which was always conceptually, morally, and legally misbegotten, is coming to an end.
The same can be said for economic policy, whether in the area of trade, anti-trust law, taxes, or regulation. The neoliberal consensus is crumbling. This means what was once unthinkable (socialism!) now seems possible or even necessary, according to some. The civil rights consensus against social engineering—such as school busing—is also losing its grip. In Europe, the E.U. establishment is eroding, and there, too, political movements once thought fringe are entering the mainstream.
We can see something similar in our churches and synagogues. Postwar theological openness to the modern world was loyal to tradition, at least in part. Conservative Judaism was an exemplary instance. In Protestantism it went by the name of neo-orthodoxy, articulated by figures such as Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Tillich. Among Catholics, John Paul II and Benedict XVI urged an interpretation of Vatican II in continuity with what came before.
In every instance, centrism is wobbling, if it has not already fallen, and the most energetic forces in religious life tend to be on the extremes. Traditional forms of Judaism thrive—and once staid liberal congregations have embraced the latest cause of sexual liberation. Theological students gravitate toward rigorous orthodoxies—or pursue “contextual theology” that runs in the grooves of political correctness.
An established consensus brings stability to our common endeavors. Its disintegration means a great deal is up in the air. This raises the stakes—and raises the rhetorical temperature as polemics proliferate.
As the old consensus in politics, culture, and religious life loses its power, we all need to do some deep thinking. What are the most important problems we face, politically, morally, and spiritually? How should we respond? Who are our true allies? When are sharp words and strong stances necessary? When are conciliation and compromise the best paths forward?
Thanks to your support, First Things can help you answer these questions. We are sure to go wrong in some instances. When the path forward is obscure, it’s easy to lose your way. But I pledge that we will not shrink from the hard, important questions. Together, we can find our way.
R. R. Reno is editor of First Things.