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I discovered First Things early on in my college career. I distinctly remember reading Ross Douthat’s endorsement of the magazine on Wikipedia. He wrote that, “Richard John Neuhaus—through his writing, and also through the writers he cultivated—demonstrated . . . that it was possible to be an intellectually fulfilled Christian.” That was certainly what I was looking for, having grown up in a denomination skeptical of the modern intellect and arriving on a college campus drenched in apathy and contempt for the wisdom of tradition. I found out that First Things has a unique way of connecting people. 

It is a rare thing for a magazine to garner the respect of more than one religious tribe, yet whenever I shared an article, I would get engaged replies from my hometown Baptist minister as well as my Muslim professor in college. More than one professor brought me under their wing after I emailed a magazine piece relevant to their scholarship. 

Every person in my generation has a dark story to tell related to the uniquely sick culture we live in. This is not our parents’ culture; young people today are far more easily exposed to violence and pornography, drugs and despair. The cannabis is stronger. Smartphones are ever present with their virtual brothels and ISIS footage cropping up on social media feeds. 

Yet you would be hard-pressed to find these issues talked about at length in our academic institutions. This is partly because they disproportionately affect those who aren’t at universities or think tanks. But it is mostly because of the breakdown of authority. No longer are vices called out for what they are; our “mentors” have forgotten what it means to instruct out of love. This is a grave disservice to young people especially, who know no other existence than the one mediated by the twisted machine.

For over three decades now, First Things has been a light in the growing darkness of a society that has given up on the transcendent and exchanged tradition for fleeting distractions. Since I started working at the magazine, several family members have expressed surprise that such a robust place of discussion on these matters exists at all. The components to combat our cultural crisis, indeed, to re-enchant young people, are here—we just need the resources to reach out.

Jacob Adams is a junior fellow at First Things.

Image by Redpipi licensed via Creative Commons. Image cropped. 

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