Is it really five years and over 200 issues since managing editor Nick Eicher and I began working together on World, wondering whether there was any appetite out there for hard-hitting biblical journalism?
It's fun but also sobering for us to scan the week-in-week-out reporting of the news over the years, with so much on the agenda then still on the agenda now. In 1993 and 1994, for example, we had cover stories with headlines like "Reforming the welfare system" and "Emancipation: Black political leaders cast off liberal ideology." We regularly fought against the manifestations of reverse racism, by backing "the power to choose a better future for our children" through school choice, and highlighting "the battle against racial bias in adoption."
We also took occasional looks at problems within Christendom. In 1993 we examined the dishonesty of evangelical ghostwriting, the silliness of Christian psychobabble, and the troubles of radio talk show host Bob Larson. Our all-type Larson cover included these words: "It's easy to be critical of people outside our own family. We do that often at World.... But what happens when that same reporting leads us to negative information about someone known as an evangelical?" What happened, frankly, was not much. We were small enough to ignore.
Some other cover stories from those years spotlighted people who had run-ins with Bill Clinton: "Who's marching for Paula Jones?" and "There goes her White House press pass: Mother Teresa shuns protocol at the National Prayer Breakfast." Our 1994 political coverage climaxed with a story before the November election, "Double-barreled discontent," that pointed to the Republicans taking over Congress with very high hopes. How long ago that seems!
Over the past three years, it seems that we've regularly been standing up for little guys who stand up to big government. Internationally, we've spotlighted Golden Venture immigrants in the past and Christians in China now. Sometimes, as with evangelism, it's hard to know how effective coverage is. Yet, when we showed in 1995 how some Texas officials were trying to shut down Teen Challenge of South Texas, an effective anti-alcoholism and anti-addiction program, the cards and letters flooded Gov. George Bush's office, and he called off his dogs.
I'm particularly grateful for the strongly pro-life cover stories we've had over the years. "Silence of the shepherds" in 1995 showed how many pastors were unwilling to speak out about abortion. More recently we have had stories on adoption, children with Down syndrome, and other crucial matters.
We still look to cover the news each week, with particular attention paid to major blowups such as the recent budget battles. We have tried over the past couple of years to attract attention to some major public policy challenges and opportunities, with cover stories on medical savings accounts, the strategic defense initiative, the future of social security, and school choice. We have continued to pay attention to the development of inner-city schools, black conservatism, and roadblocks such as "ebonics."
We have interviewed and had on our covers a variety of interesting people: J.C. Watts, Jesse Helms, Charlie Daniels, Rabbi Daniel Lapin, Sheriff Victor Trevino, Donna Rice Hughes.... We interviewed and profiled the top seven Republican presidential candidates, and plan to do so next time around as well. We've had some lighter stories as well: traveling with a poor cab driver to the private schools attended by Clinton and Gore children, or visiting some bureaucratic offices and asking a question from Richard Scarry's children's books: What do people do all day?
But the chief actor in our continuing drama is one who will never be pictured on our cover or in our news pages: God himself. He is sovereign over all the news and over the way to report it. He has given us truth in every word of the Bible and a model of how to show love, which should never be separated from truth. That's why our greatest joy, as well as our greatest challenge, during the past five years has been this year's Battle for the Bible. We take heart in the words of Psalm 30:5-6: "Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words; or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar."
Thanks to all the people who have sent encouraging letters. We have been able to print only a small sample of them in Mailbag, but we read them all and they hearten us. We ask for your prayers.