First Things

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First Things
Editor R. R. Reno
Categories Religion
Frequency Monthly
First issue March 1990
Company Institute on Religion and Public Life
Country United States
Based in New York City
Language English
ISSN 1047-5141

First Things is an ecumenical, conservative and, in some views, neoconservative[1][2][3][4][5] religious journal aimed at "advanc[ing] a religiously informed public philosophy for the ordering of society".[6] The magazine, which focuses on theology, liturgy, church history, religious history, culture, education, society and politics, is inter-denominational and inter-religious, representing a broad intellectual tradition of Christian and Jewish critique of contemporary society.

Published by the New York-based Institute on Religion and Public Life (IRPL),[7] First Things is published monthly, except for bi-monthly issues covering June/July and August/September. The journal's name is often abbreviated to FT.


First Things was founded in March 1990 by Richard John Neuhaus, a prominent intellectual, writer, activist and Lutheran minister (ordained in the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod and later affiliated to the American Lutheran Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America), who converted to the Catholic Church and entered the priesthood shortly after the journal's founding. Fr. Neuhaus served as the journal's editor-in-chief until his death in January 2009 and wrote a regular column called, "The Public Square." He started the journal after his connection with the Rockford Institute was severed.[8]


With a circulation of approximately 30,000 copies, First Things is considered to be influential in its articulation of a broadly ecumenical and erudite social and political conservatism.

George Weigel, a long-time contributor and IRPL board member, wrote in Newsweek that, after its founding in the early 1990s, First Things "quickly became, under [Neuhaus's] leadership and inspiration, the most important vehicle for exploring the tangled web of religion and society in the English-speaking world."[9]

Ross Douthat wrote that, through First Things, Neuhaus demonstrated "that it was possible to be an intellectually fulfilled Christian".[10]

Editors and contributors[edit]

Neuhaus died in January 2009 and was succeeded as editor-in-chief by Joseph Bottum,[11] who had come to the journal from The Weekly Standard. Bottum served through October 2010, when James Nuechterlein returned from retirement to become interim editor.[12][13] R. R. Reno, a professor of theology at Creighton University who had been involved with the magazine for over a decade, became the magazine's third editor in April 2011.[14][15][16] David Mills and Matthew Schmitz were successively deputy editors.

Contributors represent traditional Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, and Jewish viewpoints. Among the frequent contributors in the magazine's first year (1990) were Harvard Law professor Mary Ann Glendon, Jewish rabbi David Novak, Catholic theologian Michael Novak, historian Robert Louis Wilken, papal biographer George Weigel, and Lutheran ethicist Gilbert Meilaender. Others appearing included Gary Bauer, William Bennett, Peter L. Berger, David Brooks, Robertson Davies, Avery Dulles (later named a cardinal), Jean Bethke Elshtain, Robert P. George, Stanley Hauerwas, David Horowitz, Peter Leithart, Martin E. Marty, Ralph McInerny, Mark Noll, and Michael Wyschogrod.[17]

Frequent contributors in recent years have included many of those writers, as well as Mark Bauerlein, bishop Charles J. Chaput, David Bentley Hart, Mary Eberstadt, Anthony M. Esolen, Timothy George, Wilfred M. McClay, Robert Royal, Roger Scruton, Wesley J. Smith, and Carl Trueman.[18]

The magazine publishes articles every day in the Web Exclusives section of its website.[19]


The journal is run by the board of the Institute on Religion and Public Life, which is chaired by Robert Louis Wilken (who also serves as its president) and whose members include, among others, Mary Ann Glendon, Russell Hittinger, David Novak (vice president), and George Weigel, as of April 2016.[6]

Similarly to Neuhaus, Wilken is a former Lutheran minister converted to the Catholic Church.[20][21]

Former members of the editoral board include neoconservatives Gertrude Himmelfarb and Peter L. Berger, who resigned in November 1996 amid "The End of Democracy?" controversy,[22] and Methodist theologian Stanley Hauerwas, who resigned in February 2002 in protest with the journal's stance on the War on Terror.[23][24] Both Berger, a Lutheran, and Hauerwas continued to publish articles in the journal also after their resignation from the editorial board.

The journal's advisory council is appointed by the editorial board and, as of April 2016, includes, among others, neoconservative writers Michael Novak and Midge Decter; historian Wilfred M. McClay; philosophers Hadley Arkes and Robert P. George; political scientist Timothy Fuller; Christian theologians or biblicists Gary A. Anderson (Methodist), Thomas Sieger Derr (Congregationslist), Timothy George (Baptist), Terryl Givens (Mormon), Chad Hatfield (Eastern Orthodox), Robert Jenson (Lutheran), Peter Leithart (Presbyterian), Cornelius Plantinga (Dutch Reformed), and Ephraim Radner (Anglican); Jewish scholars David G. Dalin and Eric Cohen, founding editor of The New Atlantis; physicist Stephen Barr; and Mark C. Henrie, chief academic officer of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute.[6]

Former members of the council include Jean Bethke Elshtain, Ernest Fortin, Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, Suzanne Garment, Bruce C. Hafen, Carl F. H. Henry, Leonid Kishkovsky, Glenn Loury, George Marsden, Gilbert Meilaender (who still contributes to the journal), and Max Lynn Stackhouse.[25][26]


  1. ^ Peter Steinfels (19 November 2013). The Neoconservatives: The Origins of a Movement: With a New Foreword, From Dissent to Political Power. Simon and Schuster. p. 20. ISBN 978-1-4767-2970-1. 
  2. ^ Gary Dorrien (6 April 2011). Social Ethics in the Making: Interpreting an American Tradition. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 488–. ISBN 978-1-4443-9379-8. 
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  6. ^ a b c "Masthead". First Things. 
  7. ^ "First Things - America’s Most Influential Journal of Religion & Public Life". First Things. 
  8. ^ FIRST THINGS: A Journal of Religion, Culture, and Public Life
  9. ^ "Richard John Neuhaus, 1936–2009", George Weigel, Newsweek, Jan. 10, 2009.
  10. ^ "Richard John Neuhaus, RIP", The Atlantic blog, Ross Douthat, Jan. 8, 2009.
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  18. ^ "Issues Archive". First Things. 
  19. ^ "Web Exclusives". First Things. 
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External links[edit]