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Thy will be done

"Thy will be done" Continued...

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

In 1992 The Tragedy of American Compassion finally found a publisher, then-small Regnery. With no marketing oomph behind it, the book seemed to vanish, which was disappointing. "Not my will, but Thine." God brought other opportunities, particularly WORLD. Joel Belz had asked me to join the board in 1990, and in 1992 the magazine was still running such a deficit that the board discussed shutting it down. I passionately declared that WORLD was the most important development in Christian journalism in 150 years, so we had to keep it going. Needing to walk the talk, I became involved in the editing.

So I taught on at UT. One of my colleagues announced at a faculty meeting, "Teaching is a form of radical politics, my way of helping to reshape the world." Another said he demanded changed thinking among his students: "I want 100 percent converts, I really do." Another claimed to be a man on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and a woman the rest of the week. (Or was it vice versa?) I put up on my office door at Thanksgiving time a cartoon depicting two Pilgrims sitting across from two Indians, with one of the Indians saying, "Rumor has it you're from the religious right."

Meanwhile, largely unknown to me, The Tragedy of American Compassion slowly gained a small following among some journalists and philanthropists in New York and Washington. Then, after the 1994 elections shockingly gave Republicans control of Congress, one or several people introduced putative Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich to the book, which he read and apparently loved.

"Not my will, but Thine." My plan had been for the major publisher to launch the book in 1991 with a publicity barrage. By 1994 it would have been old stuff. In God's timing, the book was fresh early in January 1995 when Gingrich-then the political world's center of attention-told the House of Representatives in his first speech as Speaker, "I commend to all Marvin Olasky's The Tragedy of American Compassion."

Gingrich went on to make it virtually required reading for Republican members of Congress. One strange aspect of this was my lack of advance warning. Two weeks later I told Brian Lamb, the great C-SPAN interviewer, that "I was just walking through the kitchen" and heard Gingrich praising my work. Lamb asked, "Where was the kitchen?" I responded literally: "We have a den in our house and the television's at the end of the den, and then there are several steps that go up from there to the kitchen. I was just . . ." Lamb cut in: "What city?" Oh. Duh. "Austin, Texas."

I took a leave of absence from UT and headed to Washington. I would keep editing WORLD but would also spend the next 20 months talking with senators, congressmen, and people around the country about welfare reform.

Read other episodes in this multi-part biographical series.

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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