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It’s June. The rainbow flag of our new American regime flies outside embassies, on Fortune 500 websites, and in professional baseball stadiums. Its ubiquity is a threat: Be inclusive—or else. 

First Things bears a different flag. Ours does not boast the just-out-of-the-box crispness of these newer totems. Yet each smudge of dirt and sign of wear points to the endurance of our standard: the truth of religious orthodoxy. Please consider bearing this standard with First Things by making a tax-deductible gift to our spring campaign.

It’s striking to read Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage today. The Civil War novel follows Private Henry Fleming, a deserter who returns to the army to atone for his cowardice. Most notably, he takes up his regiment’s flag and charges, unarmed, toward enemy fire, with the goal of capturing their flag. On the one hand, the idea of giving the last full measure of devotion for a standard seems a bit strange today. On the other, flags have undoubtedly retained the symbolism of yesteryear. In 2023, to invert the famous (and probably apocryphal) Freud quote, there is no such thing as a flag that is just a flag. 

There are a few key ways that First Things acts as the standard-bearer for orthodoxy. 

The standard-bearer is courageous. He leads from the front and makes himself a target for opposing forces. Many religious publications have failed to lead in recent years, either by burning a pinch of incense to the new regime or by refusing to take principled stands where religious truth departs from the prevailing elite consensus. First Things remains a staunch defender of orthodox faith. As you well know, this invites many slings and arrows from an increasingly hostile culture. (Consider our multiple recent cancellation attempts.)

The standard-bearer is trustworthy. When you open First Things or, you know you will find a sincere attempt to apply first principles to questions of public life. Of course, you might not agree with a particular article. The issues with which First Things wrestles are challenging and complex. Nevertheless, our common affirmation of first principles offers solid ground for fruitful discussion and, ultimately, for intellectual and spiritual growth. 

The standard-bearer organizes and inspires the troops. First Things is an ecumenical magazine, but our ecumenism does not paper over substantive theological differences. We publish thinkers from distinct religious traditions writing in the fullness of these traditions. First Things offers readers spiritual and practical encouragement, which can be as simple as the reminder that you are not alone in your faith or your questions. 

Standing firm on the ground of orthodoxy does invite negative consequences, but it also rouses solidarity. Whenever I meet fellow First Things readers, whether intentionally or by chance, I leave profoundly encouraged. And it must be noted that most meetings of the latter kind have been prompted by one of us flying the First Things flag proudly (if I may reappropriate this word) with a recent issue in hand or a “Reader of First Things” magnet affixed to his car.

I hope you’ll take up the standard boldly with us by making a contribution to our 2023 spring campaign today.

Carter Skeel is Director of Development at First Things.

Did you know that for every dollar in program revenue, readers like you give $2.50? Your support is urgently needed to champion the truth of orthodoxy amidst a proliferation of false religions. Take your stand by supporting the 2023 First Things spring campaign with a gift today:

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