Why do I read First Things? I suppose, in a sense, there’s no place else to go. Its quality is compelling and distinctive. There’s really nothing like it. I’ve spent most of my career in Church-related service, and there was a time, entire decades, when I read religious publications voraciously, both as a duty and a pleasure. They were interesting. They had energy. They had confidence. Times have obviously changed.
Too much—not all, but too much—of religiously grounded publishing and media today drifts toward the stale, the shrill, a niche denominational experience, or a harbor for the defeated. Worse, many religious voices have simply defected to the surrounding culture. They chaplain, or try to chaplain from the margins, a world of utility and acquisitiveness that presents itself as progressive while dismantling human dignity on issues ranging from abortion and physician-assisted suicide to sexual ethics and human identity.
In his inaugural 1954 lecture at Cambridge University, De Descriptione Temporum, C. S. Lewis argued that the West’s emerging postwar culture could not and should not be dignified with the label “pagan.” Pagans and Christians, he said, shared a sense of the divine, the supernatural, and the sacredness of creation. Modern secular culture is often blind to all three. It lacks the vocabulary to even imagine the transcendent and immaterial. Thus today’s culture, for all of its achievements and promises, is more accurately described as sub-pagan. Biblical faith unlocks the meaning of the world; it ensures that life is more than merely politics and measurable data. A disenchanted world is a dead world, an irradiated world, an inhuman world.
I read First Things because it brings articulate, committed believers together across confessional divides. I read First Things because its writers are simply terrific: Carl Trueman, David Goldman, Mary Eberstadt, Richard Rex, Angela Franks, Patricia Snow, Meir Soloveichik, Darel Paul, Gerry Bradley, George Weigel, and so many others. I treasure First Things because it nourishes the intellect, feeds the soul, and engages the world—its beauty, its conflicts, its issues and contradictions—through the lens of a profound and liberating confidence in the God of Israel, the God of biblical faith.
So I’ll say it again: Its quality is compelling and distinctive. There’s really nothing like it. And this is why First Things deserves, and certainly needs, your financial support. If you can help, now’s the time to step forward.
Francis X. Maier is a senior fellow in Catholic studies at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and senior research associate in Constitutional studies at the University of Notre Dame.