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It's clear what we’re against. I included a partial list in our 2021 Annual Report. We’re against woke tyranny. We reject the culture of death. We parry the unmerited claims that strong religious voices in public life run counter to liberal principles and America’s constitutional traditions. We are against tiresome claims about “the arc of history” and their threadbare second cousin, the outdated theological program of “relevance.” I don’t want to be mistaken. We’re doing the right thing when we oppose bad ideas and destructive trends. Somebody needs to stand up and say “stop!” when the car is careening. But of this I am convinced: If we fixate on what we’re against, we can lose sight of what we are for.

I can’t overstate the importance of rooting our witness in affirmations. We must emphasize our “yes,” even as we continue to voice our “no.” We’re not merely against abortion; we’re for the sanctity of life and wish to build a culture of life. Yes, we oppose the LGBT agenda, but that’s because we want to renew marriage and champion the good of children. We have a vision of a better future, and we need to share it. First Things leads this effort.

It’s not just about public affairs. At First Things we affirm beauty, intelligence, and wisdom in art and literature. We publish essays and reviews that champion worthy ideas. In all things, First Things seeks to venture a “yes.” In this time of woke revolution, censorship, and cancellation, perhaps our most important affirmation is our upholding of genuine freedom, which is rooted in unbowed commitment. 

In his famous sonnet “Batter my heart, three-person’d God,” John Donne sighs, “Yet dearly I love you, and would be lov’d fain, / But am betroth’d unto your enemy.” He petitions, “Divorce me, untie or break that knot again, / Take me to you, imprison me, for I, / Except you enthrall me, never shall be free.” First Things champions the triumphant “yes” of God’s love. We respond to God's “yes” with the undaunted and indomitable “yes” of a deep and abiding faith. That “yes” is the foundation of our freedom to stand against the pernicious lies of our time—and to imagine a better future.

Let’s not fall victim to “Againstism.” That’s what I call the position that is satisfied with outrage and protest. I can confidently say that First Things is against Againstism. We must take our roles as leaders in these disordered and confused times. And to be leaders worthy of the task, let’s build upon the very best of our inheritance.

First Things may not have the last word on what kind of culture we should build for our children and grandchildren, but we have at least a first word—a word that needs to be spoken with a bold and unashamed confidence.

As First Things launches our spring fundraising campaign, I invite you to man the ramparts with us. Please join us in speaking that first word, the one that will shape the future. Donate now.

R. R. Reno is editor of First Things

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