I'm pleased to announce that the 2022 First Things annual report is now available. The following is my letter to our readers and supporters:
It was the best of times,” writes Charles Dickens to open A Tale of Two Cities, “it was the worst of times.” Our times are quite different, but the chiaroscuro, the startling contrast between light and darkness, applies to us as well.
The reasons for gloom are evident. Transgender ideology continues to wage war on God’s creation. As I write this, the Minnesota legislature is ratifying an extreme abortion bill that makes a mockery of the West’s humanistic tradition of honoring human dignity. Accusations of racism and fascism are hurled at anyone who deviates from progressive dogmas.
The sour results of the progressive crusade are plain to see. Rates of loneliness and suicide are up. Whole swaths of our society are given over to self-destructive behavior that manifests itself most visibly in homeless encampments and overdose deaths. One rightly mourns that it is the worst of times.
Yet the darkness, paradoxically, has a clarifying effect for many people, especially the young. In this third decade of the third millennium, we can see what is at stake. And so it’s the best of times. In the Gospels, Jesus asks, “Who do you say that I am?” His presence among us creates a crisis, which in ancient Greek means a judgment, a decision. Are we with him, or against him?
The primary purpose of First Things is not evangelical or apologetic in nature. Yet we would be remiss to downplay the role that thoughtful, religiously informed consideration of our contemporary anomie and its antidote can play in religious revival. Journalists harp on the rise of religious non-affiliation in the younger generation, the “nones.” That’s true. But what we also see is a rise in the intensity of religious commitment in the same generation. Light in the darkness will attract those who seek truth. It already is.
As I travel, I see evidence that our tribe is growing. In the Catholic Church, those who have no basis for nostalgia are attracted to the Traditional Latin Mass. Traditional religious orders overflow with new vocations. Protestant churches that cleave to the Word of God win converts. The most rigorous forms of Judaism are flourishing. In an age of light and dark, there is little benefit to pitching one’s tent in an area of gray.
It is no surprise, then, that First Things is growing in influence and readership.
Subscriptions are on the rise. Articles by writers like Carl Trueman, Gary Saul Morson, and Kevin DeYoung are widely shared, spreading our influence to readers who may not be sure what they believe, but who sense that they need to make a decision. This is a good time to stand for something solid, noble, and true. And what could be more reliable, ennobling, and true than God’s revelation?
In the worst of times, First Things writers, readers, and supporters are blessed with the best of times. Thank you for making this vital project possible through your generous support.
R. R. Reno is editor of First Things.
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