Surprised by stories

What I did on my summer vacation

Issue: "UK: Two faiths collide," July 22, 2000

Here's a confession within a riddle: WORLD covers the world but not the world.

The name of our magazine is accurate in one sense: Our primary mission is not to report church news but to tell what happens among the majority of our neighbors who do not follow Christ. That's the sense of "world" in chapter 15 of John: "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first." That reference and many others aren't to people who live thousands of miles away, but to those with whom we are in everyday contact.

And yet, Christians are also called to pray for people around the globe. In that sense, WORLD has not been an accurate name, because we have rarely had more than three pages of international coverage in our issues. We hope to change that. As increased circulation and advertising gives WORLD more revenue for travel expenses, and as WORLD's broadening reputation garners interesting invitations, we hope to help our readers learn more about battles in other cultures.

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We're more likely to apprehend cultural differences when a different language is spoken-yet I learned during a 10-day trip to England last month how different British and American cultures are. I thought I was going for a quiet Christian conference and meetings, first arranged last fall, with Conservative Party leader William Hague and his advisors. But rampant Christophobia-the fear of submitting to a God far wiser than us who offers love but also demands holiness-turned my visit into a media circus and a political battleground.

The thought of a conservative Christian proposing biblical ideas about poverty fighting discombobulated The (London) Times-politically comparable to our New York Times-which reported shockingly that "A Presbyterian elder who once roamed Washington disguised as a beggar is to advise William Hague and the Shadow Cabinet on welfare policies." The Times reported how the Labour Party, now in power, attacked "Hague's decision to turn to a controversial American Christian guru for policy advice on welfare issues as 'truly frightening.'"

Be afraid, be very afraid! Press reports were aghast that I was part of "the swamp of creationism" and that "Professor Olasky has also called for strict abortion laws." The idea that Christ turns lives around, as he did mine a quarter-century ago, seemed incredible: "The Jewish-born Olasky was an atheist and a Communist party member before turning to fundamental Christianity and conservative politics." Over the first several days of my visit, coverage became sillier and sillier: Olasky "is the ideologue behind Bush's compassionate conservatism. He's got a beard. He's called Marvin. What more need be said?"

This is what Christians often face during attempts to bring biblical principles to bear on policy questions, particularly when appeals to revealed truth have been ruled illegitimate by cultural arbiters in media and academia. But the failure of governments generally to solve social problems is undeniable, and biblical truth shines so brightly amid the morass that even bewildered souls like me can do some good by standing on biblical ground and proposing alternatives.

After a week, even London press coverage partly turned around. Government drug rehabilitation programs generally have failed in Britain as in the United States, so The Independent did not scoff at ideas to expand faith-based anti-addiction programs. Some reporters are alarmed that the percentage of British babies born to unmarried women has reached 40 percent, so The Times gave favorable coverage to abstinence programs being developed in Texas and other states. Since the London press does not pretend to ban opinion from news stories as do many American newspapers, a reporter from The Telegraph understood and described accurately WORLD's "biblically directed" philosophy: "try to see the applications of the Bible to all aspects of life, then try to write accordingly."

Strikingly, after blasting attempts to "bring religion into politics," the Labour Party announced that Tony Blair, for the first time since he became prime minister three years ago, would give a speech at a church gathering. As The Sunday Telegraph put it, that address "is certain to mark the start of an increasingly acrimonious fight for the moral high ground between the party leaders in the run-up to the next election." Interesting: Even journalists and politicians in a society that proclaims all values are created equal realize that there is a moral high ground.

This should be no surprise, because no one in the entire world is truly an atheist: We all know deep down that God exists, and we then either recognize Him or deny that truth. One of our goals at WORLD will be to improve our coverage of the world, in both senses of the word, and then show readers the consequences of recognition and denial. And, as we delve into political matters abroad, our loyalty (as at home) will be not to any particular prince, but to biblical principles.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.


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