What the heck is The Lamp? The Lamp is, or rather will be, a bi-monthly (that is, published every other month) lay-edited journal of Catholic letters. We seek with in-depth reporting, incisive commentary, and coverage of books and the arts to bring readers a perspective that is not offered by any other generally circulated magazine in the English-speaking world—namely, that of consistent, undiluted Catholic orthodoxy.
Okay, but why?
At present there are a handful of journals whose editors are comfortable dissenting from the immutable magisterium and many others that cover, more or less ably, the horse-race of ecclesiastical politics. By contrast The Lamp will be a magazine in the old-fashioned sense, witty, urbane, not pompous or shrill, full of serious reporting, insightful opinions, squibs, oblique parodies, bagatelles, and arts coverage that draws attention to those things that are true, good, and beautiful whether they belong formally to the Church or not, not a throwaway click-driven venture in chasing worthless trends or drumming up outrage. We reject the throwaway culture of endless pandemoniac noise decried so artfully by Robert Cardinal Sarah in The Power of Silence. The antidote to these ills is not another website but a retreat from the ceaseless tumult of the 24/7 news cycle and a return to the leisurely pace of print journalism, with weekly email newsletters for subscribers (think the Harper's "Weekly Review," but Catholic).
So whose side are you on?
Is the Church a "side"? At The Lamp we will take marching orders from neither the discredited ideologies of the progressive left or the libertarian-conservative right nor from the neoliberal consensus of atomization, spoliation, rootlessness, and mindless entertainment into which both are rapidly being subsumed, but rather from the immutable teaching of the Church. We are not nostalgists harkening after a mythical “moment before” when it was supposedly possible to reconcile the Church to the world. (We aren't wacky neo-medievalists dreaming of the Shire either!) Nor, finally, are calling for a "retreat" from politics, an idea we consider incoherent. We are concerned with the world as it exists now and with the future that lies before us. We are attempting something at once radical and blinkeringly, even painfully, obvious: to approach questions of public import as if what the Church has consistently taught were actually true. We do not pretend to know what an authentically Catholic response to the crises of postmodern liberalism would look like. But we do know the following:
• Catholics are no longer faced, as we were during the Cold War, with a choice in world affairs between a liberal democratic capitalism that tolerates the exercise of faith and an authoritarian atheistic communism.
• Faith in the Cold War-era Western liberal consensus and its global post-1989 neoliberal successor is crumbling around the world.
• The post-war conservative movement in the United States has not turned back the clock a single minute and has succeeded only in gradually lowering marginal tax rates as same-sex marriage became law in all 50 states.
• Proceduralist arguments about freedom of expression and originalist gambits related to the Founding Fathers and the nature of the Constitution have been of no avail to social conservatives faced with a progressive opposition playing by a different set of rules.
• Major corporations have aided and abetted the decline of morals and the rise of obscenity and irreligion at every turn. This is not incidental or accidental but integral to the operation of globalized capitalism, which is oriented toward an endless cycle of innovation, disruption, destruction, and replacement.
• Neither major political party in the United States even attempts to speak to the full range of Catholic teaching on issues ranging from the just wage and the harmonious cooperation of classes to the right of the unborn and the evil of contraception.
That all sounds terrible.
We agree. Faced with these realities and with the Church's own half-century-long internal crisis, how should orthodox Catholics respond? Naturally there will be disagreements about a great many important issues. We wish to host many of these conversations in our pages and will strive to be, so far as we are able without compromising the faith, a big tent: we hope to welcome writers associated with both the supposed right and left of the political spectrum, and indeed some with no settled political convictions. We consider all such distinctions meaningless when set beside the teaching of the popes on the pathologies of the modern world, from Mirari vos to Laudato si’, and the Light of the World Himself, whose manifold rays we hope, however meagerly, to reflect. Hence our slightly whimsical choice of name. Like Aladdin, who, upon descending into the Cave of Wonders, found that he had “never beheld things like these during his born days,” we have discovered in the Church, jewels of “every color, green and white, yellow, red, and other such brilliant hues, and the radiance flashing from these gems paled the rays of the sun in forenoon sheen.”
Unfortunately, the oil that would allow such lights to shine forth is not cheaply gotten. Magazines cost money to print; good writers deserve to be paid honorable sums for their work; serious in-depth reporting brings with it significant expenses. Creating a nonprofit organization requires legal work that does not come gratis. That is why we are seeking the following:
• $5,000 for legal fees associated with incorporating and and obtaining tax-exempt status for the Three Societies Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization to fund The Lamp magazine, occasional conferences for subscribers, and other events.
• $5,000 for initial design work for the print magazine and the website. (Here is one of the designers we are considering.)
• $10,000 for printing the first issue and securing contributions, including funding the reporting of a cover profile of a Pennsylvania man unjustly sentenced to decades in prison.
If our goal is reached the weekly Lamp newsletter will begin publishing immediately. The appearance of the first issue is further down the road. How soon it arrives—later this year, sometime in 2020, a day or two before the Second Coming—depends upon how quickly the project is able to generate interest from additional donors and subscribers once we get our web and newsletter operation up and running.
I like what I'm hearing here, but I have to wonder—why you guys?
"Because we're here, lad," Sgt. Bourne says in Zulu. "There's nobody else." If anyone else was interested in creating something like The Lamp it would have existed already. (In point of fact, something like it did exist in the late ’60s and early ’70s: Brent Bozell's Triumph, almost certainly the only publication in which one could have read things like the traditionalist Catholic case for Black Panther militancy.)
And who are you again?
One of us is a national correspondent for theweek.com, the website of one of the widest circulated general-interest magazines in the English-speaking world. (His work has also appeared in The Catholic Herald, First Things, The Spectator (London), National Review, The Weekly Standard, Prospect, The Daily Beast, The Millions, and all sorts of odd places.) He was previously an editor at The Washington Free Beacon, an online newspaper once described more or less accurately as "neocon Gawker," and at The American Spectator. The other is a former consultant who now works in insurance. (Guess which one is the brains of the operation.)
What if I like the idea but can't afford to donate?
Not a problem at all. If we were made of money ourselves we wouldn't be asking for help! You can help us by subscribing to our free newsletter here, by taking our prospective reader survey, and by sharing this page. Prayers are of course appreciated more than anything—and reciprocated.
Yours in Christ,
Matthew Walther, Editor William Borman, Publisher
GoFundMe required notice to donors: as we are currently still in the process of getting approval for our articles of incorporation, obtaining an EIN, and setting up a nonprofit bank account, the funds raised in this campaign are currently routed to Matthew's personal bank account. There they will remain untouched except to pay for incorporation processing fees, web domain fees, and fees to set up a post office box. As soon as our operation is up and running, we will transfer them to our nonprofit account.