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A few weeks ago, I had lunch with a student of one of our more august public universities (though not mine). He had reached out after reading my recent First Things article “Holy Fear.” Although the student is a committed evangelical and a former president of his school’s chapter of the campus ministry InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, he has struggled to find satisfying intellectual community. He came to faith at a private secondary school that took seriously Christ’s command to “Love the Lord your God with all your mind,” and was disappointed to learn that this was something of an exception in the evangelical world, which too often privileges emotional experience over integrative worship. But the intellectual fellowship he lacked in everyday life, he found in the pages of First Things.
My experience, at the major university where I teach, has been similar. Secular humanistic inquiry is dead, but the colleges and universities that murdered it keep bits of the corpse around as mementos—something akin to heads spitted on medieval battlements. But even this meager afterlife might soon vanish. The refrain “this is a new university” has become commonplace among my department’s leaders. Under the new dispensation, there is even talk of limiting what MFA students may write in their fiction and poetry according to woke prescriptions. In this context, First Things, in whose pages the humanities still draw breath, has been life-giving.
It has also been life-changing. Since I began subscribing to, and then writing for, the magazine, my sense of purpose—as a thinker, a writer, a teacher, and, most important, as a follower of Christ—has crystallized. More than that, the friendships I’ve developed with other readers and writers have helped to beat back the profound loneliness that attends public rejection of ruling-class dogmas. Being a committed reader of First Things is a social, intellectual, and spiritual discipline that bears tremendous fruit.
That fruit includes a real effect on the temporal order for the common good. First Things nourishes and platforms many of the sharpest, most energetic minds currently shaping the future of American conservatism. It thus functions as a laboratory for experiments in the restoration of religion to public life.
The survival of any lab, of course, depends upon the generosity of individuals and institutions committed to its mission. First Things is no different. The magazine exists because readers like you support its mission by subscribing and donating. If you value its experiments, or if, like me, you’ve grown in your faith or come to feel less alone in a hostile world because of First Things, please give generously to the spring campaign. And buy a friend a gift subscription—share the fruits you’ve enjoyed with others.
Justin Lee teaches undergraduate writing at the University of California, Irvine.
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