We’re living in a paradoxical time. Bad trends seem to get worse. Media bias is rampant. Woke commissars dominate our universities. The Rainbow Reich demands loyalty oaths. And yet good things are happening. Roe was overturned. Arizona instituted universal school choice. Christian classical schools are flourishing.
I experience the same chiaroscuro in my daily routines. As I walk to church, the sidewalks of New York reek of marijuana. Homeless men and women abound. Then I enter. Clerical leaders are confident. Attendance is strong. One senses a hunger for dignified worship and orthodox teaching.
First Things opposes the bad trends. We’re not afraid of controversy. When it comes to the sexual revolution, nobody can accuse us of pulling our punches. And we propose solutions to our society’s problems. Teresa Manning’s recent call for the repeal of Title IX is but one example.
But we don’t think our age is pure darkness. The light of truth—and beauty—shines in all times and yet in ever-new ways in every age, including our own. There are literary masterpieces to be relished and theological truths to ponder. Yes, I want every issue of the magazine to equip us for the battles we face. And I want every issue to bring joy and delight.
As readers, you have signaled your support for First Things and our combination of spirited opposition to our wayward world with cheerful celebration of truth’s many triumphs. Our year-end campaign has exceeded our ambitious expectation. Supporters like you have donated $914,656.
Let it not be said that religious believers are in retreat. We’re realistic. It’s 2023, not 1953, true, but realism also means recognizing the good that can be done, the victories that can be won.
Some victories are won on the field of political battle. I’m not shy about fighting for those kinds of triumphs. Other, far more important victories are won in spiritual battles. One must be fought in our own hearts. It is my fondest hope that reading First Things will strengthen your faith.
A strong faith can protect us from a despairing fatalism. Yes, there is evil abroad. It’s shocking to learn that more than ten thousand people each year in Canada are now receiving the “benefit” of medical assistance in dying, a euphemism for doctor-assisted suicide. Yet I know that Jesus is Lord, and he has won the victory of life over death. This knowledge does not excuse me (or any of us) from my duty to resist bad laws and wicked policies; it gives me a quiet confidence, even in the face of setbacks. And it reminds me that God’s omnipotent love is behind whatever First Things can achieve.
We are living in tumultuous times. A great deal is up for grabs, which is why our politics is so super-charged with partisan passion. There is peril in this turmoil. But there is also opportunity. Young people believe that climate change will wipe out civilization. This is not a sign of secular confidence. Perhaps our times are uniquely open to a supernatural message of hope. Let’s be the ones to proclaim it!
Thank you for your support in 2022. You have helped First Things remain the strong, undaunted voice for religion in the public square.
R. R. Reno is editor of First Things.
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Image by Justin Brendel. Image cropped.