Columnists > Voices

Salt, not sugar

WORLD's goal is to be tough-minded but warmhearted

Issue: "WORLD's 20th Anniversary," March 18, 2006

Twenty years! This magazine grew out of the vision of Joel Belz, who had the vision and raised money to start WORLD in 1986. I'm a relative latecomer, joining this enterprise only in 1990 and becoming editor in 1994, so everything we've accomplished we owe to God's grace and the foundation that Joel laid.

In 1995 and 2000 I wrote columns trying to lay out our journalistic philosophy in a pithy way. The update we recently put on our website begins by explaining that "we like to report good news but we don't make it sticky-sweet. We also report bad news because Christ's grace becomes most meaningful when we're aware of sin. We want to be tough-minded but warmhearted."

What else should readers know about this 20-year-old? First, that we are dependent on God and independent of any political faction or interest group. We don't let advertisers influence news content. We don't print glorified press releases. We like George W. Bush but often criticize his administration. We criticize corruption, even when (sometimes especially when) it erupts among Christians. We avoid sourcery, where unnamed sources spin the news their way.

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Second, concerning our style: We look for provocative and evocative news stories that come out of pavement-pounding rather than thumb-sucking. We don't want anyone to read WORLD out of a sense of duty. We like family feuds over who gets to read a new issue first. We want our readers to enjoy the world God has made, full as it is of nooks and crannies and weirdness.

Third, concerning our journalistic philosophy: We stand for factual accuracy and biblical objectivity, trying to see the world as best we can the way the Bible depicts it. Journalistic humility for us means trying to give God's perspective. We distinguish between issues on which the Bible is clear and those on which it isn't. We also distinguish between journalism and propaganda: We're not willing to lie because someone thinks it will help God's cause.

Fourth, concerning our purpose: We believe it is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever-and forever begins right now. We like sex, within marriage. We're not amoral hedonists, but we're not stoic moralists either. We like the vines and fig trees God gives us. We read novels, go to movies, and listen to classical music but also jazz. We prefer ice cream to cotton candy. We cover movies, yoga, artists, and travel; we aren't Christians with rules against anything that's fun-because God made fun, too.

Last, concerning our reporting: We try to look at all aspects of the news-national, international, and cultural; politics and business; medicine, science, technology, and sports. We're always on the lookout for feisty young Christians who write well, because we want to expand our coverage. What matters the most is this: We believe in a God who tells the truth and wants us to do the same.

This is nothing new: Christian editors 200 years ago, when most American newspapers and magazines displayed explicitly Christian views, had that same faith. They were willing to cover the sinfulness of man that we read about in the Bible, sing about in hymns, and see around us. That kind of biblical realism has fallen out of style-and yet, how can we show that God saves sinners if we refuse to show the breadth and depth of sin in the world?

One of my favorite movie lines is from The Right Stuff (1984), when Alan Shepard is told that becoming an astronaut is "dangerous. Very dangerous." His instant response: "Count me in." At WORLD, we mess up at times and apologize, but our goal over the next 20 years is to persist in coverage that sometimes makes people mad.

We try to follow the apostle Paul's recommendation in Philippians 4:8 to think of noble, pure, lovely, right, and admirable things-but Paul could not have meant that we are to think exclusively about those things, or he could not have done the missionary work he did among towns reeking of idols and perversion. Did he have to encounter evil? Yes. Was his work dangerous? Yes, very dangerous-and he always said, "Count me in."

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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