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This article is part of our 2023 year-end campaign series, featuring reflections from prominent authors on why First Things matters. To make your year-end campaign gift now, visit

I was climbing with a young friend, a priest, recently ordained. The early autumn sun gently warmed the night-chilled rock. Esoteric rock-climbing banter filled the day, but on the drive home we turned to what really matters: God and his Church.

“You’re lucky to be young and just starting out,” I said. My friend was perplexed. “Oh, don’t get me wrong,” I continued, “the Church is an institution with lots of problems. But the winds of change are blowing. People—I’m not saying most, but more than in recent decades—are growing hungry for spiritual substance. They want what you’re dedicating your life to providing.”

I often feel the shifting breeze. In the political realm it’s called populism, the vote of no confidence in the status quo. A rising tide of opinion doesn’t want current trends—globalization, the rainbow flag, preferred pronouns—to define the future. That mentality has a spiritual analogue, one that rejects religious mediocrity and compromise with the secular age.

Here’s another way of putting our present situation. We hear a great deal about polarization, and rightly so. The complacent middle ground is eroding. The Baby Boomer consensus is losing authority. As a result, the hard left waxes and woke revolutionaries are on the march. But the hard right grows as well. Politically, the extremes must be moderated; passions must be channeled constructively toward virtuous ends. 

But mark this truth: One cannot be too “extreme,” too committed, in one’s love of God. Polarization dramatizes the stakes, not just in political affairs, but in our souls. A growing cohort wants to discern the will of God—and obey it. First Things has no interest in moderating that desire. Our vocation is to encourage, guide, and refine the desire for transcendence.

Like my young priest friend, we’re lucky to be a publication that stands for moral truth and orthodox faith. Yes, many in seats of power and with positions of prestige shun religious faith. To a degree I could not have imagined when I was a young student, today’s university culture is hostile to biblical religion. But our choices have become clearer as the lingering dew of Christendom evaporates. What we publish is now more urgent than ever, more needed—and more appreciated.

Readers often tell me that First Things is a lifeline, a voice of sanity in a world gone mad. I’m committed to combating the debilitating lies of the Rainbow Reich, lies that seek to overturn nature’s authority, to say nothing of God’s. We’ll stand against theological compromise and capitulation. But the most well-argued “no” lacks the power and consequence of a well-articulated “yes.” First Things will not be defined by what we are against. Our work serves our affirmations and celebrations, not our repudiations, however necessary, nor our criticisms, however timely.

A deeper obedience to God’s will makes life richer, fuller, and more fruitful. It’s a simple truth that our age has forgotten. We have not. Join our community of happy warriors. Please make a donation to our year-end campaign. 

R. R. Reno is editor of First Things. 

Image by AlbertHerring licensed via Creative Commons. Image cropped. 

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