Set a watch before my mouth, O Lord; and guard the door of my lips. Let not my heart incline to any evil thing.” Provided I’m not stuck late at the office, I pray this psalm every evening with the other residents of the Community of Christ house in New York City. My housemates also happen to be my co-workers here at First Things.
The housing situation is unusual, but it’s a gift—one of the ways in which First Things strives to be a “beacon of light,” as Mark Bauerlein put it last week. Every evening we come together in prayer and every Saturday we join in a meal. As the wine flows, so does the conversation, and occasionally this group of introverts enters into an exchange of ideas. That’s why I moved to New York City last July in the midst of the coronavirus. I was thirsty for interlocutors, and I knew First Things had already profoundly shaped my thinking, had already served as a guard at the door of my lips.
One of the first essays I remember reading in First Things was “Sex and Danger at UVA” (May 2015), by Vigen Guroian and William Wilson. My theology teacher found occasion during my senior year of high school to pass out this essay, in which the authors discuss the perils of sexually permissive university cultures and the associated problems in Greek life. My teacher started a class discussion: What did we think, as newly-accepted-college-freshmen-to-be? Were the authors fearmongering or did we have one more reason to be nervous about next year?
One classmate, already looking to pledge a sorority, was convinced these people were exaggerating the situation on campus. But it was hard for me to argue with the personal emails the authors had received from students who were lamenting the situation they found themselves mired in: This wasn’t just one generation blaming another. The students were unhappy too. I was glad I had settled on a college whose Greek life was limited to reading Homer and Plato.
Since then, First Things has persuaded me many times of truths it’s increasingly difficult to hear amidst all the shouting in the public square. When I’m exhausted by the competing narratives I encounter at the Daily Wire and the New York Times and want a thoughtful essay to help me understand the truth of things, I know I can find respite at First Things.
Please consider making a donation in gratitude for the many times First Things has persuaded you.
Jacquelyn Lee is a Junior Fellow at First Things.