Faith and Family at Public Discourse: A Note from the Editor

Faith and family: for many of us, these are not only the most important parts of the Christmas season. They’re also the things that make life most worth living.

Dear Public Discourse Readers,

As I write this note to you, I’m speeding across the Ohio countryside. My husband, two young daughters, and I are en route from New Jersey to Missouri to visit family for the holidays.

It’s admittedly a cliché to reflect on the importance of family at this time of year. But, of course, clichés gain traction for a reason. The inherited traditions of Christmastime stir the hearts of even that growing contingent of Americans who no longer claim any religious affiliation. Although the holidays can become more stressful and even painful as we age, the twinkle of Christmas lights, the sound of familiar carols, and the smell of Christmas cookies still have the power to transport us to another time and place.

For those of us who continue to practice the Christian faith handed down to us by our parents, the supernatural significance of the Incarnation of Christ mingles with sacred religious rituals and deeply ingrained childhood memories. When I was a child, my parents would let us stay up late for midnight Mass. Afterward, we each got to choose one present to open before bedtime. This year, I felt a thrill of joy to see my daughters, aged two and three, each excitedly present to the gifts each had picked out for the other to be opened after Christmas Eve mass. (I was admittedly less joyful about the resulting sugar rush that delayed bedtime even further, since both girls got each other candy.) Such traditions take on extra significance for me now as a parent, as I take responsibility for transmitting the importance of faith and family to my children through the rituals I received and now, in turn, pass on to them.

Faith and family: for many of us, these are not only the most important parts of the Christmas season. They’re also the things that make life most worth living.


As editor of Public Discourse, I am profoundly thankful that I have the opportunity to combine my professional work with my most deeply held beliefs. Most obviously, this takes place at an intellectual level, as I consider submissions, edit prose, and manage the publication and promotion of essays. The content we publish often centers around questions about human dignity, which resonate deeply with my own experiences as a wife and mother. After having welcomed children into my own body, I find the violence of abortion even more viscerally painful and tragic to contemplate. Yet I have also gained more of an understanding of the fear a woman facing an unplanned pregnancy can feel. Similarly, the defense of marriage and sexual complementarity and the fight against a deeply confused sexual ideology have taken on even more significance as I seek to form my children in such a way that they can withstand the harmful influences they will encounter as they mature.

Even topics that may initially seem abstract or esoteric ultimately come to bear on the family, which is the essential building block of any society. Education clearly has to do with the formation of children, but public policy and economics do too. Right now, for example, the conservative movement is reconsidering economic questions, trying to assess which kinds of economic regulations and government programs undermine human flourishing and healthy family formation, and which support them. At Public Discourse, we draw out the ethical implications and the unstated assumptions that underlie these contemporary debates. Our authors base their arguments on both a philosophical understanding of unchanging, universal human nature and on a historical understanding of our particular American culture.

But my work centers around family in less obvious ways, too. Public Discourse is the online journal of the Witherspoon Institute, and Witherspoon is an incredibly family-friendly employer. Many non-profits, even mission-driven ones that focus on family issues, are not able to accommodate working parents who want to put family first. Witherspoon is different. Thanks to our generous donors and thrifty financial managers, Witherspoon is able to put its principles into practice, offering benefits like maternity leave and flexible working arrangements for mothers with young children. We even have an entire program, CanaVox, which is dedicated to harnessing the too often untapped potential of intelligent, insightful, and passionate moms.


As the year draws to a close and you make your final charitable gifts of 2019, please consider supporting the work of Public Discourse. If you give now, your gift will be doubled. And, if you make a one-time contribution of $250 or commit to monthly gifts of $20 or more, you’ll also be invited to an exclusive conference call with Ryan T. Anderson and Mark Regnerus about the treatment of gender dysphoria in children.

Most importantly, by giving to Public Discourse, you’ll be joining our efforts to build a culture that values and supports families.

As always, I’m thankful for your readership.


Serena Sigillito

Editor, Public Discourse

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