Thy will be done

"Thy will be done" Continued...

Issue: "2009 Daniel of the Year," Dec. 19, 2009

People often get sleepy in reading rooms, but one other advantage of wandering the closed stacks was that Trappist-type rules of library silence did not apply there. The population of the stacks was largely boombox-carrying, book-retrieving staffers, so it was strange but delightful to read sober late-19th-century reports to the accompaniment of rap and rock. During those months, hoping to differentiate top-down programs favored by Marxists and liberals from decentralized approaches that view everyone as made in God's image and able to contribute in some way, I began talking about compassionate conservatism.

Washington life had additional benefits. We began meeting regularly with national pro-life leaders willing to put aside turf wars and work together. As part of that process we talked about the state of the pro-life movement and wondered whether it was prepared to help more women if the Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade: Some pro-lifers thought that would happen soon. Susan and I co-wrote a book showing that pro-lifers were not adequately promoting adoption. In the course of our research we decided to adopt, a process that proved harder than we expected-but it finally happened while we were living in Maryland.

In March 1990 I took a firsthand look at liberal compassion by putting on two dirty sweaters and shuffling through inner-city Washington with the appearance of a middle-aged homeless man. Kind folks over the next two days offered ample food, clothing, medicine, and shelter, but only one, at a massive shelter run by the Center for Creative Non-Violence, asked about my background. With hair uncombed and odor unchecked, I told him I had written speeches for the CEO of the DuPont Company. He must have thought that I was really crazy, but he took it well and offered hope: "Oh, you can write something for us about how rotten the Reagan-Bush policies are."

Except for that offer, no one asked me to do anything-not even to remove my tray after eating. At the Zaccheus Community Kitchen, provider of excellent free breakfasts downtown, a sweet young volunteer kept putting food down in front of me and asking if I wanted more. Finally I mumbled, "Could I have a . . . Bible?" She tried to figure out what I had said: "Do you want a bagel? a bag?" When I responded, "A Bible," she said, politely but firmly, "I'm sorry, we don't have any Bibles."

In July 1990 back in Austin to teach a University of Texas summer school course, I thought my book, to be titled The Tragedy of American Compassion, was done. A major New York house seemed eager to publish it. But I had divided the book's story into 28 segments, and at the last moment realized the story was hard to follow. For five weeks I restructured the book into 13 chapters and revised large parts, all the time sitting in a windowless UT office next to an office where researchers analyzed reactions to an episode of the television show Cheers. To drown out the Cheers music I played the theme music from Rocky III and IV, particularly the "Eye of the Tiger" song: Rocky pushed sleds up Siberian mountains and I pushed computer keys.

"Not my will, but thine." I finished the revision and sent it off, then waited for months until the major publisher decided the book was "too religious" and said no.

At UT, now that I was clearly letting my "religion" affect my "scholarship," some professors regretted the offer of tenure. Iowa State invited me to interview there­-maybe we'd become a farm family-but two senior professors grilled me on my "inappropriate" faith in Christ. One professor who was sympathetic later sent an apologetic letter that noted, "It's terribly bad form (and illegal) to quiz applicants about religious beliefs. . . . I found the lack of subtlety unusual and interesting." Interesting, yes, but not worth a lawsuit.

I also interviewed for an endowed chair at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga. The one conservative professor there later published his account of the proceedings: "Although Professor Olasky was eminently qualified, his interview was a farce, which greatly embarrassed me. Virtually everyone he spoke to wanted to talk about one line and one line only on his vita-the line listing his forthcoming book on the history of abortion in America." The university provost was kind enough to tell me that a pro-life book would leave me unemployable because campus feminists would never allow such a hire.

We returned to Washington in fall 1990 for a second year: I used it to write that history of abortion in America. Susan wasn't happy about returning to Texas in 1991, in part because we were attending in Maryland a good church that combined sound doctrine with heart-convicting preaching. Upon our return to Austin we started to work with three other families to start a new PCA church there, a process that ended with the creation of Redeemer Presbyterian Church; I learned how much work a church takes and how much satisfaction it gives. A decade later we were able to start a Christian school that was similarly high-challenge, high-satisfaction.


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