Transgenderism bad. Woke revolution bad. Cancel culture bad. We know what we’re against. But what are we for? It’s an urgent question, for the power of “yes” is greater than that of “no.”
As 2021 draws to a close, I’ve conferred with my fellow editors, writers, and friends. What do we hope to affirm in the coming year? Here are some notes from those conversations.
God’s authority is a blessing. From our founding, First Things has defended orthodoxy in doctrine, dignity in liturgy, and depth in piety. We do so with the utmost confidence that walking in the way of the Lord brings supreme happiness. We are not a community of editors, writers, and readers who grit our teeth and steel ourselves to obey God’s Word. Ours is a joyful faith.
In 2022, we will continue to bear witness to the Good News. As Protestants, Catholics, Orthodox, and Jews, we’re sometimes divided. But running through our disagreements is a shared conviction that the secular conceit of man’s self-sufficiency demoralizes and dehumanizes us. To harken to God’s call prepares us to enter into the fulfillment of his plan for us.
Truth and beauty are to be enjoyed. We live in an intensely political age in which partisan hysteria threatens to swallow everything. Universities have allowed political activism to commandeer the humanities, social sciences, and in some cases even the natural sciences. Everything must be thrown into the supposedly great cause of social justice.
This mentality rejects contemplation, which requires us to relish and enjoy what we learn and study rather than slot it into a political agenda. First Things resists this tendency. Whether it’s Tolstoy or Pascal, Dante or Plato, we seek to take the measure of the great touchstones of our culture—and to be measured by them. A great deal is at stake in today’s cultural and political struggles, yes, but we refuse their absolute claims. We seek to taste the infinite in great works of art, literature, history, and philosophy.
A conservative outlook, broadly understood, is what is needed in the twenty-first-century West. Since the end of World War II, the liberal outlook has held sway. Perhaps it was fitting for a time. But in the twenty-first century, our most pressing social and political problems stem from the disintegration and dissolution of once solid forms of life: marriage, family, local community, integral Christian life, and even the nation. Today, things are falling apart.
Conservatism honors, preserves, and renews the natural and sacred sources of authority that hold things together. We can and should debate these sources, how to mediate them, and what role individual freedom plays. But our community knows that in 2022, we need to buttress marriage, encourage families, rebuild local communities, restore the sway of biblical morality, and renew our national covenant. Doing so means speaking of natural law and the orders of creation. It means using an unapologetically biblical vocabulary. It means treading on the toes of the politically correct—not with glee, but certainly with the confidence that comes from the knowledge that our political witness harkens to something higher.
More can be said about what we’re for—and we’ll be saying more, much more, in 2022. Please consider a donation to our year-end campaign. 2021 is ending. It’s time for us to marshal our forces. We need you to join us in standing up for what we’re for.
R. R. Reno is editor of First Things.
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