First Things 2021 Annual Report

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2021 Annual Report

“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”

– Ephesians 4:11–16

Table of


Founding Editor

Richard John Neuhaus Editorial Office 9 East 40th Street 10th Floor New York, NY 10016 212-627-1985 Advertising Office

129 Phelps Avenue Suite 312 Rockford, IL 61108 815-398-8569 Publishing Service Publishing Management Associates

Letter from the Editor


A Word from Our Editors


Featured Article


Journal Redesign



The 2021 Erasmus Lecture


FIRST THINGS Poetry Reading


Evangelicals and Catholics Together


Intellectual Retreat on “Solidarity”


Junior Fellows


FIRST THINGS Editor’s Circle


Richard John Neuhaus Society


Board of Directors


Year in Review


Letter from the


Dear FIRST THINGS Readers,


t’s often easy to see what we oppose. We’re against woke tyranny. We reject the culture of death. We parry the unmerited claims that strong religious voices in public life run counter to liberal principles and America’s constitutional traditions. We are against tiresome claims about “the arc of history” and their threadbare second cousin, the outdated theological program of “relevance.”

I could go on. There’s a great deal of ruin in the contemporary West, and we’re right to oppose bad ideas and destructive trends. But if we define ourselves only by what we oppose, we risk losing sight of what we are for. The salt of the gospel gains its savor from what it affirms, not what it opposes. The same holds for the salt of natural truths, which ask us to say “yes” in addition to “no.” Opposition

to abortion arises from an affirmation of the sanctity of life. Rejection of same-sex marriage is rooted in our “yes” to the biblical vision of the natural and spiritual fruitfulness of the union of a man and a woman. In 2021, the FIRST THINGS editorial staff met on a number of occasions to talk about what we affirm—and how to bring those affirmations to life in our pages. Here’s a snapshot. We affirm beauty in art, intelligence in literature, and wisdom in tradition, publishing essays and reviews that bring before readers images, books, and activities worthy of their admiration: Gary Saul Morson on The Brothers Karamazov, Algis Valiunas on Charles Dickens,

FIRST THINGS is published so that we can assume our roles as leaders, an imperative if we’re to bring sanity (and perhaps a smidgen of sanctity) to our confused, disordered, and increasingly tense and anxious societies.



R.R. Reno

joined FIRST THINGS as editor in April 2011. He has been published in many academic journals, and his essays and opinion pieces on religion, public life, contemporary culture, and current events have appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Commentary, and the Washington Post, among other popular outlets. His recent books include Sanctified Vision: An Introduction to Early Christian Interpretation of the Bible; Fighting the Noonday Devil; and Resurrecting the Idea of a Christian Society. His latest book, Return of the Strong Gods, was published in Fall 2019.

Bruno Chaouat on the sweet nostalgia of Chateaubriand, and Elizabeth Corey on Kim’s Diner and books for children. Our gaze is not uncritical, but our aim is to refine our love with critical judgment, not to dampen its yessaying ardor. We affirm moral truths. It is not sufficient to condemn abortion, euthanasia, and other grievous evils. We need a vision of human law guided by natural law and legislation that aims to promote the common good. These are contested notions, and rightly so. When we publish John Finnis or Hadley Arkes, we know that their arguments invite counter-arguments. But if we are to move beyond what we are against, then a substantive vision needs to be ventured, a “yes” needs to be proposed. We affirm the tranquility of order, especially between the sexes. This is especially difficult

to translate into a concrete proposal for society, given that so much has been disrupted by the sexual revolution. All the more reason, therefore, to applaud Scott Yenor and Mary Harrington, whose articles last year (“Sexual CounterRevolution” and “Reactionary Feminism”) may not be the last word on what kind of culture we want to build for our children and grandchildren, but they are at least a first word. And we affirm God’s benevolent and life-giving power. It’s not just that we believe modern conceits of autonomy are misguided and often destructive. When those conceits about autonomy infect theology, they impede our obedience to God, which is the royal road to true freedom. Whether Patricia Snow’s memoirs of conversion or Carl R. Trueman’s theological trumpet blasts, FIRST THINGS exists to champion the

triumphant “yes” of God’s love, which evokes from us the “yes” of faith. “Againstism.” That’s what I call the no-saying temptation that is satisfied with opposition. This temptation shirks responsibility for leadership. I pledge to you that I will resist this temptation. FIRST THINGS is published so that we can assume our roles as leaders, an imperative if we’re to bring sanity (and perhaps a smidgen of sanctity) to our confused, disordered, and increasingly tense and anxious societies. And to be leaders, we must build upon the very best of our inheritance— artistic, political, moral, and theological—to venture a vision for a better future. Sincerely,

R. R. Reno Annual Report 2021


A Word from Our

Editors Dan Hitchens


oung people are meant to be aggressively idealistic, bursting with ideas for how the world can be made a better place. But talking to the current crop of students, or to their teachers, one notices the opposite: a fatalism about the future. I can’t help but think this says less about them than about the institutions around them: an education



embarrassed about the high points of our culture, media sources that (to quote Burke) know nothing of politics but the passions they excite, and a public sphere from which faith has been rigorously excluded. Needless to say, the Neuhaus tradition has always stood against all that, and I’m delighted to have joined the team here in its indispensable task. In recent months I have commissioned pieces on—

among other things—the nature of reason, post-communist Europe, contemporary music and fiction, the governance of San Francisco, and the theology of deification. The range is characteristic of the magazine; so, too, is the goal—to lay hold on the permanent things that are a foundation for hope.


hanks to the generosity of our readers, FIRST THINGS was able to bolster its editorial staff in 2021, promoting Ramona Tausz to deputy editor and Veronica Clarke and James Wood to associate editors. We plan to leverage this additional capacity to publish more web exclusives on, a growing vehicle for attracting new readers. With the departure of long-time senior editor Matthew Schmitz, FIRST THINGS welcomes Dan Hitchens, formerly editor of the Catholic Herald, as senior editor.

Julia Yost


y role at FIRST THINGS is to edit the opinion section and polish prose for the print edition. In this capacity, I strive to deliver to our readers felicitous and insightful writing on relevant topics. These topics are and should be highly varied. A survey of memorable opinion essays from 2021 will show the broadness of our concern. Last year in our pages, the sociologist Christian Smith shared the results of his research into children of religious households who grow up to practice their faith and


R. R. Reno Senior Editors:

Dan Hitchens Julia Yost Managing Editor:

Lauren Wilson Geist Deputy Editor:

Ramona Tausz Associate Editors:

Veronica Clarke James Wood

offered practical guidance for parents; Mary Harrington outlined her reactionary feminist politics, appreciating the urgent need to restore sanity to the relations between the sexes; and Daniel Lipinski, longtime pro-life Democrat from Illinois, argued that the GOP can become what the Democrats once were, the party of family and the little guy. I was also proud to publish Joshua Katz’s “confessions,” for it is not often that the target of a #MeToo mob frames his side of the story with reference to St. Augustine—but it is not often that his side of the story is also a religious conversion narrative.

Junior Fellows:

Hunter V. McClure Elizabeth Bachmann Contributing Editors:

Mark Bauerlein Shalom Carmy Carl R. Trueman Poetry Editor:

Micah Mattix Editor at Large:

James Nuechterlein

The mission of FIRST THINGS touches on all of these matters. We owe our readers a conversation as broad as their experience, though informed by the truths agreed upon by the many religious traditions represented in our pages.

Annual Report 2021


The Cross and the Machine

Excerpt from an essay by Paul Kingsnorth in the June/July 2021 issue.

Yet one night, I dreamed of Jesus. The image and the message reminded me of something strange that had happened a few months before: My wife and I were out to dinner when suddenly she said to me, “You’re going to become a Christian.”


ne day, walking in the mountains, philosopher John Moriarty had a mystical vision that broke his world apart. For years, he had been engaged in “a genuine search for the truth, not merely a speakable truth, but a truth I would surrender to.” With a terrible inevitability, he realized that there was only one story that could hold what he had seen, only “one prayer that was big enough.” Moriarty’s story shook me. I had been searching for years for a truth like that. “The story of Christianity,” wrote Moriarty, “is the story of humanity’s rebellion against God.” Having spent years as an environmental activist, I realized that the rebellion against God manifested itself in a rebellion against creation, against all nature. We would remake Earth, down to the last nanoparticle, to suit our desires, which we now called “needs.” We were building a machine



to replace God. I realized that a crisis of limits is a crisis of culture, and a crisis of culture is a crisis of spirit. Every culture that lasts understands that living within limits—limits set by natural law, by cultural tradition, by ecological boundaries—is a cultural necessity and a spiritual imperative. There seems to be only one culture in history that has held none of this to be true, and it happens to be the one we’re living in. On my fortieth birthday I treated myself to a weeklong Zen retreat in the mountains. The effect of seven days of disciplined meditation with no electricity was astonishing. Something in me flipped open. And yet, as the years went on, Zen was not enough. It lacked something vital: I wanted to worship. Something was calling me. So, I ended up a priest of the witch gods, a Wiccan. Yet one night, I dreamed of Jesus. The image and the message reminded me

of something strange that had happened a few months before: My wife and I were out to dinner when suddenly she said to me, “You’re going to become a Christian.” Suddenly, I started meeting Christians everywhere: strangers emailing me out of the blue, priests coming to me for help with their writing, friends I’d never known were Christian who suddenly seemed to want to talk about it. One evening, I was sitting outside our coven’s temple, waiting to conduct an important ritual. As we got up, I felt violently ill. I had an overpowering feeling that I should not go in, and I felt I was being physically prevented from doing it. Someone had staged an intervention. After that, there was no escape. Like C. S. Lewis, I could not ignore “the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet.” I was at a concert, and as I was walking to my chair I was overcome entirely. Suddenly, I could see how everyone in the room was

connected to everyone else, and I could see what was going on inside them and inside myself. I was overcome with a huge and inexplicable love for everyone and everything. It kept coming until I had to stagger out of the room and sit down. I had just become a Christian. None of this is rationally explicable, and there is no point in arguing with me about it. This is not to say that my faith is irrational. In fact, the more I learned, the more Christianity’s story about the world and human nature chimed better with my experience than did the shaky claims of secular materialism. In the end, though, I didn’t become a Christian because I could argue myself into it. I became a Christian because I knew, suddenly, that it was true. This January, I was baptized into the Romanian Orthodox Church. Out in the world, the rebellion against God has become a rebellion against everything: roots, culture, community, families, biology

itself. Machine progress—the triumph of the Nietzschean will—dissolves the glue that once held us. In the Kingdom of Man, the seas are ribboned with plastic, the forests are burning, the cities bulge with billionaires and tented camps, and still we kneel before the idol of the great god Economy. What if this ancient faith is not an obstacle after all, but a way through? As we see the consequences of eating the forbidden fruit, of choosing power over humility, separation over communion, the stakes become clearer each day. Surrender or rebellion; sacrifice or conquest; death of the self or triumph of the will; the Cross or the machine. We have always been offered the same choice. The gate is strait and the way is narrow and maybe we will always fail to walk it. But is there any other road that leads home?

Paul Kingsnorth is a novelist, essayist, and poet living in Ireland.

Surrender or rebellion; sacrifice or conquest; death of the self or triumph of the will; the Cross or the machine. We have always been offered the same choice. Annual Report 2021


december 2021 $5.95


ROE MUST FALL: A SYMPOSIUM robert p. george, michael stokes paulsen, darel e. paul, yuval levin, mary eberstadt

first things

first things

october 2021 $5.95


patricia snow

Food for Two Meals

carl r. trueman

Journal Generation Against Generation shalom carmy


Literature of the Word patricia snow

Tolstoy’s Wisdom & gary saul morson

philip pilkington

The Historical Adam william lane craig

Sexual Counter-Rev

It’s Not All in Your Head

scott yenor

sam kriss

“It is my hope that the updated design conveys our Also in this issue:

Joshua T. Katz

Ephraim Radner

Francis Young

David Middleton

R. R. Reno

Mark Regnerus

Daniel Lipinski

J. J. Kimche

Gladden Pappin

Liel Leibovitz

number 318

Robert Louis Wilken

R. R. Reno

today, andLielforever—and to do soPeter with the confidence of Radner Tonguette Gerard V. Bradley Ephraim Leibovitz Theodore Dalrymple

Philip Jeffery

men and women who are contending for the future of Brendan W. Case Nathan Pinkoski Sam Kriss Daniel Jabe

the West.”


ou may have noticed some changes to the FIRST THINGS aesthetic last fall. In conservative fashion, we made prudent and measured adjustments. The new covers are a touch bolder. The artwork adds a dash more color and personality to our pages. And our new font, drawn from the same Garamond family whose origins date to the Renaissance, is a bit crisper.


number 317

ambition to speak truths that are the same yesterday, •

Also in this issue:


november 2021

julia yost

december 2021

By Our Wounds We Are Healed

november 2021 $

The Necessity of Na nathan pinkoski

Also in this issue: Elizabeth C. Corey

Nathan S. Chapman


Joseph E. Davis

Gregory Wolfe


Alexander Riley

Gilbert Meilaender


Liel Leibovitz

Bronwen McShea

– R. R. Reno These changes aim to bring our aesthetic into a more complementary relationship with the mission of FIRST THINGS—for our form to follow our function more closely, if you will. It is a bit bolder, as we proclaim Truth, Goodness, and Beauty more boldly in the public square. With a bit more character, as we voice truth seriously but with collegiality. And with deep respect for the past, as we draw upon a

rich tradition developed over millennia. Fittingly, we ushered in this aesthetic refresh with our October 2021 issue, which featured the Roe Must Go symposium, with contributions from Robert P. George, Michael Stokes Paulsen, Darel Paul, Yuval Levin, and Mary Eberstadt. Here’s to many more!

first t hings



& Folly



R. R. Reno

Ephraim Radner


M a rc h 2021


Kevin L. Flannery

David P. Goldman



Algis Valiunas

Catesby Leigh





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The Claims of The 2021 Erasmus Lecture

Memory The Claims Of Memory 34TH ANNUAL ERASMUS Delivered LECTUREby WILFRED M. MCCLAY

The following is an excerpt from Wilfred McClay’s Erasmus Lecture.

For more than thirty years, the Erasmus Lecture has brought world-renowned speakers to New York City to address an audience of FIRST THINGS friends and subscribers. The 34th annual Erasmus Lecture was delivered by Wilfred M. McClay, the Victor Davis Hanson Chair in Classical History and Western Civilization at Hillsdale College.




working memory is indispensable in the flourishing of the human person and of human culture. It is also maddeningly imperfect. Memory can be a reservoir of joy, a treasury in times of woe, and also a source of woe, of remorse and regret that will not go away. Memory maintains a shifty relationship to the truth, yet we cannot do without it. Alzheimer’s may be the most dreaded affliction of our time. By robbing its victims of their memories, it robs them of their sense of who and what they are. Can we discuss larger collectives in similar terms? What memory is for individuals, history is for civilizations; and without the reference points provided by a broadly shared historical consciousness, we soon forget

who we are, and we perish. Yet there are crucial differences. No one can be blamed for contracting Alzheimer’s, but the American people can be blamed for abandoning the requirement to know our own past. Though we “know” more about this past, thanks to the labors of professional historians, we know less, because we fail to grasp the overarching meaning of our history, a meaning that would impart coherence to the way we live together. So how to begin repairing the damage done by the neglect of our history? First, we must face up to the depth of the problem, which goes far beyond bad schooling and an unhealthy popular culture. The agenda of late modernity has turned into a steady assault on the claims of memory, grounded

in the conviction that the past has nothing to teach the present, and that wherever the past is inharmonious with the desiderata of the present moment, it must undergo an erasure and reconstruction. This ethos is epitomized in the burgeoning academic study of “memory.” It is not hard to see that the systematic problematizing of memory is likely to produce impassable obstacles to the effective commemoration of the past. Historians have always engaged in the debunking of popular misrenderings of the past, and such debunking is often warranted. But “memory studies” tends to carry the matter much further, treating collective memory as a construction of reality rather than a more or less accurate reflection of it. Memory, wrote historian John Gillis, has “no existence beyond our politics, our social relations, and our histories.” He added: “We have no alternative but to construct new memories as well as new identities better suited to the complexities of a post-national era.”

This agenda is nothing less than the Jacobin one: to take control of the public memory and serve as judge of its moral acceptability. And yet it is hard to regard the self-conscious creation of such “new memories” as very plausible. The programmatic skepticism that is unleashed is hard to keep contained, and it tends to infect even one’s preferred normative myths. We can say without hesitation that this outlook makes the creation of new monuments and commemorations much more difficult than it ever has been before. When the past is a prisoner of the present, the present is a prisoner to itself. The phenomenon we call “wokeness” is a monomaniacal preoccupation with the detection and punishment of moral fault, past and present, which does not permit forgiving or forgetting. It wishes to forbid the simple human act of remembrance—remembrance not in order to moralize, judge, or dissect, but remembrance in joy, sadness, amusement, anger, or disappointment. And yet we are rendering ourselves unable

to enjoy such things, unless some moral criterion is first met. The rest of us should recognize this tyranny for what it is. The power of memorization lies in the fact that the poem, or prayer, or speech that is committed to memory becomes one’s own, alive in mind and spirit. When shared by heart by many, they begin to form the soul of a people. This is why we need to pay more attention to what we are putting into our memories, and those of our children. Rather than disparaging memory, let us conclude with Augustine, who described coming into the field and spacious palaces of my memory . . . Even when I dwell in darkness and silence, I bring forth colors in my memory . . . These acts I perform within myself in the vast court of my memory. Within it are present to me sky, earth, and sea, together with all things that I could perceive in them . . . There, too, I encounter myself and recall myself. And so might we.



Poetry Reading


he FIRST THINGS Annual Poetry

Reading, which was initiated in 2015, provides an opportunity for editors and readers of the magazine to come together for a pleasant evening of poetry and conversation. The 2021 Poetry Reading featured Paul Mariani and was held at the FIRST THINGS offices. Mariani has published several poetry collections, as well as numerous books of prose. After more than a year of cancelled events and uncertainty, this evening was a wonderful reminder that there can never be too much poetry in one’s life, for it refreshes timeless truths and brings even the seemingly mundane to vibrant life.



Snow Moon Over Singer Island Black velvet darkness, tufts of clouds heading slowly up the beach, the February snow moon like the host the priest raises shining now along the solemn coast, transfiguring the Atlantic waters down below. I sat there transfixed, as if for once at peace with what I had the sense this time around to see, the things that all my life have ground me down at last drifting off to the east northeast. But what words can net what one feels in these too-brief moments? Grasshopper transcendence, the poet called it, those translucent wings whirring up into the Sunday light before the shouts of strangers force their entry like some thief. Show us a sign, we say, show us what we think we want to see. Though do we even know what such a sign would be? Or is the blessèd thing already there before us, you and me, and all we really need to see it are the eyes to see? — Paul Mariani

Evangelicals and Catholics



wenty-eight years ago, Richard John Neuhaus and Chuck Colson gathered a group of Protestant and Roman Catholic scholars to form Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT). Their founding statement, “Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium,” was adopted on


rom time immemorial, the laws of men have sought to recognize and promote the pre-existing moral order, which is encoded into creation, as well as to honor that order’s eternal Source. Today, our political institutions usurp the role of the divine Author, asserting their authority over the most fundamental human realities, redefining and reordering them. Secularism encourages this idolatry. It removes religious authority from public life and, in so doing, claims to secure neutrality in civic affairs. We are told that this newly won neutrality brings religious

March 29, 1994. Analysis of the statement persists even to this day, as people of faith continue to grapple with the centrality of truth, desire for unity, and demands of faith. Since 1994, Evangelical and Catholic scholars have produced ten more statements, a booklength retrospective titled

freedom and allows for a social contract based on needs and interests shared by everyone, without regard to theological convictions. Yet, secularism’s promise has shown itself to be hollow. It is a metaphysical project with political consequences. Secularism claims that all goods worth pursuing are found in this life, and thus it sponsors a regime that requires us to conform to its purely immanent and this-worldly projects and ambitions. . . . Our political inheritance is noble. The best of our constitutional and civic traditions draw

Evangelicals and Catholics Together at Twenty: Vital Statements on Contested Topics (2015), and shorter statements on critical cultural issues, including “A Statement on Public Officials and Public Office” (2020) and “Statement on the New York State Abortion Law of 2019.” In 2021, FIRST THINGS and the Colson Center reconvened ECT to deliberate about the responsibility of Christian citizenship in the twentyfirst century. After a series of discussions, the group began to draft a public statement, “Fear God, Honor the Emperor,” to be published this spring. We are pleased to share an excerpt below.

upon Christian sources. But secularism has spent down the Christian inheritance of the West. It is urgent, therefore, to recover a biblical understanding of God’s authority in its two manifestations in the time between Christ’s ascension and his return in glory. The Christian tradition refers to “two swords,” two sources for the right ordering of the affairs of men. The temporal sword is used to ensure peace and tranquility in the civic realm, and the spiritual sword guides and governs souls toward the end of their salvation in Christ. The two swords are distinct, but both are required. Annual Report 2021


“Solidarity” a FIRST THINGS

Intellectual Retreat

New York City | August 13–14, 2021

What the participants were saying:

“FIRST THINGS kindly gives its readers and supporters room to live as they are each called by their Creator—it issues no marching orders to minions and trusts that the Spirit is moving as it will.” “The retreat was a great experience and the discussions were so wonderful.”


IRST THINGS held its

first-ever Intellectual Retreat in August of 2015 on “The Paradox of Freedom.” Six years and one pandemic later, good spirits abounded as FIRST THINGS convened ninety-five readers and scholars for an Intellectual Retreat to discuss various questions on the topic of solidarity. Participants stepped away from their daily lives for two days of intensive thought and discussion derived from two millennia of insights into this rich concept—from Cicero and St. Paul to Dostoevsky and Roger Scruton—all under the studied guidance of tutors from Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts. The retreat began on Friday evening with a cocktail reception, dinner, and a rousing lecture from Dr.

Nathan Pinkoski, director of programs at the Zephyr Institute, on “Solidarity in Twenty-First Century America.” In it, Dr. Pinkoski traced the origins of modern conceptions of solidarity while weighing the potential for a genuine solidarity in our contemporary cultural moment. Equipped with this roadmap, participants reconvened Saturday morning for breakfast and smallgroup seminars on “Universal Solidarity” and “Solidarity and Civic Life.” After adjourning for lunch, attendees tackled “Christian Solidarity and Political Responsibility” and “Solidarity and Contemporary Society” before the retreat concluded with dinner and a panel discussion featuring Dr. Pinkoski, editor R. R. Reno, and Magdalen College president Ryan Messmore.


Hunter V. McClure


he time has flown by since I arrived in late July—it is hard to believe that I’ve been here for more than six months already. Although I cannot say I’ve developed any affinity for New York City, or urban life in general (I will always at heart be a Southerner first and an American second), I have deeply appreciated my time at FIRST THINGS and am eager to see the work that we still have

Fellows left to do. FIRST THINGS is at its best when it rises above the news cycle, calling readers to contemplate what remains true, good, and timelessly beautiful, avoiding that which appeals to our lowest, most fleeting drives. In an internet-addled age of outrage and paranoia, this is no easy task. As the new year begins, I look forward to maintaining the primacy of the speculative in our pages.

Elizabeth Bachmann


n my college years, I looked up to FIRST THINGS as a pantheon of perfection in tone, topic, and mission. It was the one publication I consistently read—even when my paper assignments began to pile up. Having now been a Junior Fellow for six months, I see beyond the magazine’s glossy cover to the small group of quiet, dedicated people who care intensely that FIRST THINGS continue to pursue truth in the public square through faith in the eternal God. Our founder, Richard John Neuhaus, said that the trick of religion and public life

“is making the right connection between the two.” To do what FIRST THINGS does—publish daily about politics, art, and current affairs while keeping religion center view—requires astute discernment and love of the true. This discernment and love, common to all the FIRST THINGS staff, writers, and especially the readers I have met at our New York events, both elevated and humbled the magazine in my mind. FIRST THINGS is not simply its external face: an outstanding magazine of religion and public life. It is the fruit of the continuous mental and spiritual

labor of its editors, straining doggedly to keep their eyes on the first things and to bring them before our readers’ eyes. My time at FIRST THINGS has filled me with gratitude for the people who care enough to work hard to produce something truly beautiful. Annual Report 2021



($25,000 & Higher)


Editor’s Circle


he FIRST THINGS Editor’s Circle celebrates readers who have contributed in meaningful ways to advance the mission of FIRST THINGS. Membership in the Editor’s Circle begins with an annual giving level of $1,000 and confers a number of benefits, all of which aim to invite members to participate more intimately in the FIRST THINGS intellectual community of editors, writers, and scholars. The Editor’s Circle has grown substantially since its establishment in 2011. We are pleased to report that this growth accelerated in 2021, with membership exceeding four hundred donors. We look forward to inviting even more FIRST THINGS readers into the Editor’s Circle in 2022.

Mr. and Mrs. Frederic H. Clark Mr. and Mrs. Robert Cummins Mr. and Mrs. William S. and Nadine C. Haines, Jr. Mr. Thomas D. Klingenstein Mr. John F. Lang Mr. Robert L. Luddy Mr. and Mrs. Noel Moore Mr. Colin Moran Mr. and Mrs. Tony de Nicola Ms. Mary Osborne Mr. and Mrs. James N. Perry, Jr. Mr. and Mrs. Larry and Victoria Smith Mr. Thomas Tarzian Dr. Henry Vander Goot

Foundations Catholic Association Foundation Carson-Myre Charitable Foundation Considine Family Foundation Louise M. Davies Foundation Plainsight Foundation Sarah Scaife Foundation William E. Simon Foundation


($10,000 – $24,999) Anonymous (3) Mr and Mrs. C. Larry Bradford Mr. William J. Burke III Mr. Brian Clingen Mr. and Mrs. David Colquitt The Geraldine L. Connolly Foundation Corbalis Family Foundation Ms. Leslie Graves Mr. Kazimierz Herchold Roger and Susan Hertog Ms. Cynthia Kase Mr. Richard Kreitzberg


($5,000 – $9,999) Mr. Robert N. Allen, Jr. Anonymous (3) Mr. and Mrs. Joseph and Kelly Armes Mr. Jay Betz Mr. J. Robert Brame Dr. and Mrs. Bill and Anne Burleigh Mr. John Cannon Mr. and Mrs. William R. and Karen M. Carlson Ms. Alietia Caughron Mr. Don Chakerian Mr. William W. Chip Mrs. Johanna Cinader Drs. Daniel and Mary Cruser Mr. and Mrs. Denis Coleman Mr. and Mrs. Stuart Dykstra Mr. and Mrs. Daniel F. Feeney Mr. Mark Green Mrs. Christa R. Klein Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Lehrman

Mr. and Mrs. B. Alexander and Camille Kress Mr. and Mrs. Vincenzo La Ruffa Mr. and Mrs. David Lumpkins Mr. Grayson Murphy Mr. J. Mark Mutz Dr. Thomas Noell Mr. Edward Nowak Mr. and Mrs. James and Paige Price Mr. Ken Rose Mr. and Mrs. Bruce R. Shaw Dr. Rein Staal Dr. Jason M. Thomas Mr. and Mrs. A. Penn Hill Wyrough

Mrs. Kathleen McCann Mr. and Mrs. Patrick and Maureen Molloy Mr. Doug Monroe Mark Murray Mr. and Mrs. William and Margaret Nugent Mr. and Mrs. Frank and Anne Palopoli Dr. Stanley G. Payne Mr. Russ Reinsel Mrs. Martha Rochelle Mr. and Mrs. William H. Rooney Mr. and Mr. Kevin Roshak Tim and Judy Rudderow Foundation Mr. and Mrs. Byron and Beth Smith Mr. and Mrs. Phil and Julie Smith Dr. Richard Spady Mr. Joseph Starshak Mr. and Mrs. Tito Tiberti Mr. and Mrs. Paul Verderese Mr. Frank E. Witt


($1,000 – $4,999) Mr. William Abbott Mr. and Mrs. Stephen and Deborah Abrogast Dr. Philip Adams Mr. and Mrs. Maximillian and Monica Amster Mr. and Mrs. Dana Andersen Anonymous (46) Mr. and Mrs. Jose Arvizu Rev. Mark and Lois Ann Atkinson Mrs. Janet Baker Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Baker Mr. and Mrs. Fred and Elizabeth Balzarini Dr. and Mrs. George R. Barth Ms. Ava Battaglia Dr. and Mrs. Don Beringer Dr. Gordon Bermant Fr. Michael Berner Richard E. Bernstein Dr. Philip Bess Dr. and Mrs. Marion Bickford Mr. Philip Biever Rev. Dr. A. Bryden Black Mr. and Mrs. Jerome Blaine Mr. Carl Bobkoski Mr. David R. Bock Dr. and Mrs. David L. Bodde Mr. Mark Bodett Rev. and Mrs. Francis and Penny Bonadonna Dr. Richard Boyer Dr. Daniel E. Boyle, Jr. Mr. Edward Bridge Mr. Porter Briggs Mr. Kevin Brown Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Brzica Mr. Brian Burch Mr. Christopher Burke Mr. and Mrs. David Burton Mr. Jackson Burwell Annual Report 2021


“In a way, FIRST THINGS has given me a life-line, a harbor where I am in a community of friends.”

William J. “Chip” and Lauren


was warned by my brother in March of 2017 that he had bought me a subscription to a magazine he thought I’d like. Sure enough, two weeks later, issue number two hundred seventy-two (April 2017) arrived at my home. Back then, “The Public Square” was up front, so it was the first “thing’’ I read. “Getting Augustine Wrong” was the header. I was hooked. I had

Burke found fellow travelers, and they asked me to come along!

Other FIRST THINGS supporters have expressed the sentiment, but it bears repeating: Faith and reason reach their greatest heights working together. Currently, venues adopting the principle are rare. There are plenty with faith and plenty with more than their share of reason, but almost never in

fruitful combination. In a way, FIRST THINGS has given me a life-line, a harbor where I am in a community of friends. Were I more intelligent and a better writer, I would offer to man the hazardous and remote post assigned to the magazine’s staff as they wage this great war. That’s out of the question! So I give, to pay it forward and let them know they are not executing their mission alone.

Supporter continued Mr. and Mrs. John and Ann Bushnell Mr. and Mrs. Jack Calcutt Mr. Steven Caldwell Mr. Peter Carey Mr. William Carr Mr. B. G. Carter Mr. and Mrs. Carm and Kathleen Catanese Mr. and Mrs. Matthew Cesarz Ms. Karen Chapman Mr. and Mrs. Brian Cilker Mr. Garry Collins Mr. and Mrs. Henry and Christine Constantine Mr. James Creigh Mr. and Mrs. John Croghan Dr. and Mrs. William Cromie Mr. Howard Dahl Mr. Chris Dahm Dr. and Mrs. Donald and Michele D’Amour Mr. and Mrs. Joe Dapron Mr. John V. Deitchman Dr. and Mrs. Peter DeMarco Mr. William H. Dempsey Mr. Andrew Deskins Mr. and Mrs. Ned Desmond Mr. James W. Diamond Mr. and Mrs. David Dobler Mr. Paul Donohue Mr. Matthew Dorn Rev. Philip Dripps Mrs. Kristin Drumm Mr. Kurt Dudas Mr. Clark Durant Mr. and Mrs. Andrew A. Dymek Mrs. Phyllis K. Eichman Dr. Richard Elphick Mr. and Mrs. Paul Elseth

Mr. John Fairbanks Mrs. Cornelia Farley Mr. Kirk Farney Mr. Henry Fila Mr. and Mrs. Robert F. Finnerty Mr. John Fitzpatrick Dr. Tim Flanigan Mr. and Mrs. Albert and Sallie Forrester Mr. Darrell Forgey Mr. and Mrs. John J. Freeh Dr. Timothy Fuller Dr. and Mrs. F. Earl Fyke Mr. Arthur Gandolfi Profs. Richard and Nicole Garnett Mr. Jay Gaskill Mr. and Mrs. Michael and Linda Gorman Mr. Robert Goyette Dr. H. Stephen Grace, Jr. Mr. Edward D. Greim Mr. and Mrs. John Gschwind Mr. Lawrence D. Haber Mr. Karl Habermeier Mr. John E. Hamersma Mr. William Haney Mr. James Hanson Mr. Rick Harris Mr. Robert B. Hatfield Mr. Michael F. Hayes Mr. and Mrs. Rob and Alicia Hays Mr. and Mrs. Robert Helm Fr. Dave Heney Mr. Aaron Hensley Drs. Samuel and Elizabeth Hensley Mr and Mrs. Michael D. Herman

Mr. and Mrs. Martin and Laurie Hicks Dr. and Mrs. Hal and Margaret Holmes Mr. and Mrs. Robert Holyer Mr. Case Hoogendoorn Jacqueline Studer and Brent Hoots Mr. Stanley House Ms. Elizabeth Howard Bill and Margaret Hurme Mr. Richard Ipri Mr. and Mrs. Bill and Deborah Jordahl Dr. and Mrs. Onsi W. and Stephanie J. Kamel Mr. Richard Katerndahl Mr. Joshua Katz and Ms. Solveig Gold The Keefe Family Mr. Mark Keller Drs. Michael and Katherine Kelly Mr. Michael Kelly Mr. and Mrs. Michael Kelly Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Kenny Mr. Edward W. Kerson Ms. Katherine Kersten Dr. Steven Klein Mr. and Dr. Robert and Jamie Knauss

Annual Report 2021


Supporter continued Mr. Robb Koether Walter Kou Mr. Michael Kouyoumdjian Mr. Alex Kruszewski Mr. and Mrs. Dan and Jennifer Lahl Mr. and Mrs. Ray and Beth Lantinga Mr. and Mrs. Michael F. Lawler Mr. and Mrs. Richard and Mary Ann Lawlor Ms. Margaret Leiberton Laura and Ted Leonard Mr. and Mrs. Gregory Leslie Dr. Stephen Lewarne Mr. Tom Lewis Mr. Arthur Long Prof. Daniel H. Lowenstein Mr. and Mrs. David and Elaine Lozier Mr. and Mrs. Francis J. Lutz Mr. David P. Madden Mr. J.M. Mahood Mr. and Mrs. Patrick Martin Mr. David E. Mason Rev. and Mrs. Bo and Carole Matthews Mr. and Mrs. Douglas and Marta Mayer Mr. Brian McAuliffe Shannon and Terry McDaniel Priscilla M. McEnroe Mr. Carl Meade Dr. Robert T. Means, Jr. Mr. and Mrs. Jeffrey S. Meyer Ms. Alexandra Mihalas Ann Miller Mr. and Mrs. Michael Mills Mr. Kenneth B. Miner Mr. Scot Moceri



Mr. Stephen Molnar Mr. B. Lee Moody Mr. and Mrs. Jeffrey and Deanna Moore Mr. David E. Moran Dr. Martin Mulders Mr. Richard L. Muller Mr. Dennis Murphy Mr. Dan Negrea Mr. Robert Neithart Mr. Robert P. Nicholas Dr. and Mrs. Michael Noller Edwin Cardinal O’Brien Dr. Matthew O’Brien Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Oliver Mr. George D. O’Neill, Jr. Mr. Lincoln Ong Mrs. Rita Orr Drs. Gerard & Cathy O’Sullivan Mr. and Mrs. Mark Owen Dr. Ephraim Radner Dr. Richard Paquette Mr. and Mrs. Earl Parrish Dr. and Mrs. David Pauls Mr. and Mrs. Reuben Peterson Mr. and Mrs. Michael and Susan Petrik Mr. Alex Petry Clinton and Kathleen Petty Mr. and Mrs. James Poole Dr. Mary Poplin Mr. Tom Posatko Mr. and Mrs. Michael C. Poulos Mr. Gerard Quinn Dr. and Mrs. Thomas and Benedette Reh Josh and Lauren Reif Mr. and Mrs. Marvin Reitz

Mr. Russell R. Reno, Jr. Mr. Brian Rhame Mr. and Mrs. Ken Ricci Dr. and Mrs. Barry G. Ritchie Mr. Douglas Ritter Mr. Anibal Sabater Mr. and Mrs. John Safranek Mr. and Mrs. Scott Sanderson Mr. and Mrs. Eugene Scalia Mr. and Mrs. Jedadiah Schaller Mr. and Mrs. Bill and Peggy Scheu Mr. and Mrs. Mark E. Schneider Mr. Taylor Schmidt Mr. and Mrs. Barrie and Patricia Sellers The Hon. Jefferson B. Sessions Dr. and Mrs. Shekitka Mr. Robert Sienko Dr. Karen Deighan and Mr. David Skelding Mr. Herman Smith Rev. Kenneth L. Smith Mr. and Mrs. Kyle and Diane Smith Mr. and Mrs. Robert Smith Mr. Robert Solari Mrs. Nancy Burke Solomon Dr. Mel Sorensen Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Spence Mr. and Mrs. Kent Springer Drs. William and Sonja Sray Rev. and Mrs. Paul T. Stallsworth Mr. Peter Stephens Dr. Richard Stevens Mr. Richard Sullivan Mr. Alwyn Swanepoel Mr. David Swanson Dr. Joseph Swanson Dr. Robert Swoboda

Dr. Thomas Tachovsky Mr. and Mrs. Stanley Tallman Mr. Arnold Thackray Mr. Christopher Thomas Mr. and Mrs. Edwin Thomas Dr. Norma Thompson Mr. Ward F. Tierney Mr. John Todd Mr. and Mrs. L. Stanton Towne Dr. Anthony Tramontano Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Triller Mr. and Mrs. Kenny Troutt Maj. Drew Tullson Dr. Noel Valis Mrs. Elizabeth Vandermey Mr. and Mrs. Richard A. Vaughan Mr. Michael Volker Mr. and Mrs. Don Vollum Mr. Thomas Walsh Mr. and Mrs. Michael and Kathleen Watson Dr. Amy L. Wax Mr. Matthew Weaver Mr. and Mrs. Robert C. Weber Mr. Thomas Weidman Mr. George Weigel, St. Florian Foundation J.H.H. Weiler Dr. and Mrs. T. Lisle Whitman Mr. David Wildt Mr. Dale G. Wilkerson Dr. Jon Wolfshohl Mr. and Mrs. John Halsey Wood Mr. David Woodcock Mr. and Mrs. George Woodliff Mr. and Mrs. Mark and Minyoung Wyman Mr. and Mrs. Peter Youtt Mr. Bernard Zablocki Mr. and Mrs. Fares Zaki Annual Report 2021



Richard John

Neuhaus “Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. . . . Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” — Matthew 13:5–8


o the parable reads. The difference between the two plants does not present itself right away; indeed, the seeds on rocky ground immediately sprang up. What these seeds lacked was not immediately apparent. It was below the surface: good soil and deep roots. Richard John Neuhaus cultivated FIRST THINGS in good soil. Many promising organizations spring up, but few survive the scorching sun. Not so with FIRST THINGS. Father Neuhaus bequeathed an inestimable intellectual legacy to FIRST THINGS, a harvest that we continue to reap today. Yet his legacy also lives on through the profoundly generous material bequest he left.

FIRST THINGS continues to honor the legacy of Father Neuhaus through the Richard John Neuhaus Society, which in turn recognizes those who



Society include FIRST THINGS in their will or estate plans. Estate gifts are a vital component of good organizational soil: They facilitate long-term strategic planning and make possible effective growth and expansion into new program areas. It was Father Neuhaus’s vision that enabled FIRST THINGS to thrive beyond his years; yours can make possible our continued growth and influence for many more. If you have already included FIRST THINGS in your will or estate plans, please notify Carter Skeel, director of development, at or 212627-1985. With your permission, we would be pleased to recognize you as a member of the Richard John Neuhaus Society. If you are considering a bequest or other planned gift to FIRST THINGS, please reach out to Carter to discuss your options, some of which are outlined on the following page.

We are privileged to recognize the following members of the You can use any number of tax-advantaged financial tools to support the Institute on Religion and Public Life and advance its work, while at the same time returning benefits to you and your family:

Donate assets that you no

longer need or want, such as an art collection, a second home, land, or a life insurance policy.

Donate appreciated stock in lieu of cash gifts to the

Institute on Religion and Public Life. These gifts are not only taxdeductible at the stock’s current value level, but they can also enable you to lower your capital gains liabilities.

Make a gift from your IRA. The IRA charitable

rollover provision was made permanent at the end of 2015, so donors 70.5 years and older can give up to $100,000 to charities from their IRAs tax-free.

Realize tax advantages

by selling property to the Institute on Religion and Public Life at a charitable discount or by deeding your home to the Institute while you continue to live there.

Establish a charitable gift annuity that benefits the

Institute on Religion and Public Life. Charitable gift annuities guarantee a fixed income for life for you or up to two annuitants, and they come with several tax advantages.

Make the Institute on Religion and Public Life a beneficiary of your will,

revocable trust, or retirement plan—costing you nothing during your lifetime. Those who remember the Institute in their wills become members of the Richard John Neuhaus Society. It is important to obtain the advice and assistance of your financial adviser and/or attorney. Please consult with a trusted professional to work out the details and to learn about other planned giving vehicles. If you or your adviser have any questions, contact Carter Skeel, director of development, at or 212627-1985.

Richard John

Neuhaus Society n n n n n n n n n n n n n n n n n n n n n n n n n n n n n n

Anonymous (4) Joseph Bennett Anthony Black Charles Burke† John A. and Ann C. Bushnell Mr. John F. Cannon B. G. and Kay† Carter Mr. Arnold J. Conrad Nina Cunningham Charles R. Disque Robert R. Ford Kay Guiles† Harry L. Hogan† James Jereb† Ms. Cynthia Kase Bo and Carole Matthews The Honorable Alonzo L. McDonald† Ann E. C. R. Miko Rosalind Mohnsen Richard John Neuhaus† Elizabeth A. Nolan Mr. Edward Nowak Thomas C. Oden† Maxine E. Poinsatte† Francis and Jennifer Ruffing Keith L. Smith Keith D. Stottlemyer Joseph A. Swanson William Ronald Toth Mr. Karl von Bock† Annual Report 2021




Russell Hittinger

Elizabeth C. Corey

Bruce R. Shaw

James Perry George Weigel

Executive Director, Denny Center for Democratic Capitalism at Georgetown Law

Distinguished Senior Fellow, Ethics and Public Policy Center

Robert Louis Wilken

Frederic H. Clark President, Scholar-Leaders International

Visiting Professor of Law, University of Chicago

Co-founder and Managing Director, Madison Dearborn Partners

Larry A. Smith

J. Richard and Dorothy Shiff Professor of Jewish Studies and Philosophy, University of Toronto

Managing Partner, Abdiel Capital

Associate Professor of Political Science, Honors College at Baylor University

David Novak

Founder, Pacific Equity Management

Colin Moran

Board of Directors

William R. Kenan Professor Emeritus of the History of Christianity, University of Virginia

Year in



he Institute on Religion and Public Life saw substantial revenue growth in 2021 as a result of generous giving and increased circulation. Thanks to the faithful support of readers like you, we enter 2022 in a strong position as we continue to amplify religious voices in the public square through our journal, website, podcasts, and educational programs.

Financial Summary 2021 Actual

2022 Budget

Sales & Program Revenue Individual Contributions Foundation Grants Government Grants

$1,087,938 $2,080,985 $320,000 $290,907

$1,204,650 $2,045,300 $320,000 -

Total Revenue



Magazine Publication Seminars & Events Fundraising Management & General

$2,545,101 $182,415 $580,251 $204,570

$2,581,700 $185,039 $588,596 $207,512

Total Expenses







Net Income

Annual Report 2021


“No mutual rapprochement can be of any value unless it is also a closer approach to Christ the Lord of the Church. We must ask for the grace to say only what the Spirit bids us say and to hear all that he is telling us through the other. Then we may hope that, by accommodating what other communities are trying to tell us, we may be enriched with new and precious gifts. By accepting the full riches of Christ we lose nothing except our errors and defects. What we gain is the greatest gift of all: a deeper share in the truth of Christ, who said of himself, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life.’”

– Avery Cardinal Dulles

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