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Today, I’m writing a check to First Things

I still write checks. For baffled readers born after 1990: a check is a slip of paper that you fill out and sign with a pen as a form of payment—like Venmo, but for olds. Archaic, yes, but for me, the check feels more personal than “click here to donate.” It’s my handwriting, my signature, a trace of my DNA lingering on microscopic wood fibers. 

I imagine my scrawled blue check arriving on Ellie’s desk on the tenth floor of 9 East 40th street. She slits open the envelope, holds the slip of paper in her hand, notes the contribution in the ledger. These days, money moves without friction or touch, as electronic blips in computer charts. My bank check, relic of a pre-digital world, insists: It’s me. My person. My body. This is my fancy: that through that paper check, I’m physically connecting to the world of the magazine. 

The physical world matters to me. It’s one of the things I love about First Things: It’s an actual magazine, printed on thick paper, carefully bound and made to last. And more: First Things has created so many meaningful opportunities for me to meet with people “IRL,” face to face. I plan my summer around the First Things intellectual retreat in NYC each August. I don’t want to miss the all-too-rare opportunity to sit down around a table with smart, congenial fellows for conversation and disputation and a good meal. In October, the Erasmus Lecture packs the hall at the Union League Club—and I marvel at the massed body of so many of us together in one place. I’m lucky to live in New York, First Things headquarters, which makes it easier for me to connect in person with a community of readers and writers that orbits around the magazine. But not to worry if you can’t come to First Things. First Things is coming to you, cultivating “Readers of First Things” groups and hosting lectures and intellectual retreats in every region of the country. 

First Things’ digital offerings, like this website and the email newsletter, are excellent resources too—more of a good thing. But unlike many other “content providers,” First Things seems, to my way of thinking, to be committed to the principle of incarnation: ideas and conversations and thinking that happen in the physical world of paper and bodies. Perhaps it’s not surprising. After all, faith in incarnation is one of the “first things” that unites readers and supporters of this magazine, the belief that God is present in this world, filling it with his goodness, and that we are called to participate in his creation. 

Supporting First Things ensures that the magazine will continue to thrive as something present and real and good. Whether you write a check or “click to donate,” you too have an opportunity to connect, to participate, and to be a part of this passionate and committed community of faith and intellectual challenge.

Samira Kawash is professor emerita at Rutgers University.

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