A Conversation with R. R. Reno

R. R. Reno is the editor of First Things, a leading intellectual journal founded in 1990 by Richard John Neuhaus to ecumenically confront the ideology of secularism and insist on a place for faith in “the public square.” He also serves as executive director of the Institute on Religion and Public Life, which publishes First Things. After having been a regular contributor to the journal for many years, Reno became its editor in 2011. He had been a professor of theology at Creighton University.

Under Reno’s leadership, First Things is at the center of vigorous and rigorous discussion and debate about the very definition, or the redefinition, of conservatism. The role certainly seems to be relished, by both him personally and the journal institutionally.

Recently, at an American Enterprise Institute event to commemorate the 10th anniversary of National Affairs magazine, Reno provocatively floated the idea of a lifetime cap of one billion dollars on charitable contributions, which certainly caught our attention here at The Giving Review.

His new book Return of the Strong Gods: Nationalism, Populism, and the Future of the West argues that the postwar consensus in America and Europe is breaking down. The populism and nationalism upending global politics, he believes, represent a return of the “strong gods”—the powerful loyalties that bind us together. These “strong gods” may supplant the supposedly liberating “weak gods” pushed by liberals and progressives. Their ideal “open society” is an economically prosperous one, expertly and masterfully managed, devoid of any distracting dogmas.

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