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Marvin Olasky

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Marvin Olasky (born June 12, 1950) is the provost of The King's College, a Christian college in New York City. He is also editor-in-chief of WORLD Magazine. From 1983 through 2008 he was a tenured professor of journalism at The University of Texas at Austin.

Youth and education

Born in Boston, Massachusetts into a Russian-Jewish family, Olasky became an atheist at 14, shortly after his Bar Mitzvah. In college, he discovered Marxism and joined the Communist Party USA in 1972, after graduating from Yale University in 1971 with a B.A. degree in American Studies. In 1976, however, Olasky became a Christian after reading the New Testament in Russian, studying Puritan sermons, and reading Walker Percy, Whittaker Chambers, and C.S. Lewis. Also in 1976, Olasky graduated with a Ph.D. in American Culture from the University of Michigan. In a series of WORLD Magazine articles and WORLDmag.com podcasts, Olasky shares how he moved from being a card-carrying Communist to a Bible-carrying Christian.

Career and works

Olasky began working as a speechwriter and public affairs coordinator for DuPont in 1978, and in 1983 began teaching journalism at the University of Texas, becoming a full professor in 1993. His initial writings gave him the opportunity to win funding from the Bradley Foundation in 1989, allowing Olasky to begin his most famous work, The Tragedy of American Compassion, which was first published in 1992. Largely ignored at first, this book in 1994 and 1995 gained the endorsement of William Bennett and Newt Gingrich, who gave a copy to every incoming Republican freshman representative in the 1994 Congress. Critics blasted the book for its criticism of government programs and said the book was short on research; supporters said it was well-researched and used it in the 1995-1996 welfare reform debate.

The Tragedy of American Compassion argues that private individuals and organizations, particularly the Christian church, have a responsibility to care for the poor, and contends that challenging, personal, and spiritual help, common until the 1930s, was more effective than the government welfare programs of recent decades. Olasky states that government programs are ineffective because they are disconnected from the poor, while private charity has the power to change lives because it allows for a personal connection between the giver and the recipient. He demonstrates his points by a chapter by chapter overview of poverty-fighting in America from colonial times to the 1990s. The book, with its sequels, became a key work defining "compassionate conservatism" (a term coined by Doug Wead) as it relates to welfare and social policy.

In 1995, Olasky became an occasional advisor to then Texas gubernatorial candidate George W. Bush, who put some of Olasky's policy suggestions into action during his term as governor by encouraging the use of religious charities to solve social problems. Christian ministries were called in by the state government to help in a variety of ways, most notably with the rehabilitation of drug and alcohol abusers and the counseling of prisoners. Their disputable success led Bush to make faith-based programs a major component of his 2000 presidential campaign, and in 2001, Olasky saw the national implementation of his ideas when President Bush created the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. During Bush's campaign, Olasky attained brief mass-media notoriety when he was understood by many to have claimed that the 2000 John McCain candidacy was equivalent to a pagan religion of Zeus. Olasky was actually playing off Tom Wolfe's novel A Man in Full, where a main character converts to the "religion of Zeus." Olasky was observing that McCain emphasized in campaigning the classical virtues, such as courage, while "compassionate conservative" Bush emphasized biblical virtues such as mercy—and Olasky learned that wry comments during a heated campaign are verboten.[1]

Olasky has been a foster parent, a PTA president, a cross-country bicycle rider, a newspaper reporter, and a Little League coach. Three of his books concern the history of abortion and compassionate alternatives to it. As a past chairman of the Austin Crisis Pregnancy Center he has spoken at fundraising dinners for pregnancy resource centers in Tucson, San Francisco, Spokane, Indianapolis, Terre Haute, Augusta, Tallahassee, New Braunfels, and Nacogdoches, and has written many articles about the work of prolife centers.

Following publication of "The Tragedy of American Compassion," Olasky wrote three other books about Christian ways to help the poor, along with numerous articles about the work of rescue missions. He has spoken at conferences of the International Union of Gospel Missions and the Salvation Army, and at fundraisers for the Allentown Rescue Mission, the Hope Rescue Mission, and others. He has also spoken for state-level groups such as the North Carolina Family Policy Council, and at gatherings for numerous Christian schools throughout the U.S.; Olasky helped to found a Christian school in Austin.

Profiles of Olasky have appeared in The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, Le Monde, The [London] Times, La Tercera, Nezavisimaya Gazeta, and many other U.S. and international publications, and on 60 Minutes, Dateline NBC, CNN, and other shows and networks. He has been interviewed on the O'Reilly Factor, Hannity and Colmes, the PBS NewsHour, the CBS Morning News, the BBC’s NewsNight (BBC), and many other American, Canadian, British, Swedish, Dutch, German, Czech and Romanian television shows.

Olasky has also spoken at 50 colleges and universities, including Biola, Columbia, Covenant, Grove City, Harvard, Hillsdale, Kyoto International, Liberty, Northwestern, Rice, Tulane, the University of Calgary, the University of Maryland, the University of Virginia, Wheaton, and Yale.

Olasky supported the passage of Proposition 8. He signed his name to a full-page ad in the Dec. 5, 2008 New York Times that objected to violence and intimidation against religious institutions and believers in the wake of the passage of Proposition 8. The ad stated that "violence and intimidation are always wrong, whether the victims are believers, gay people, or anyone else." A dozen other religious and human rights activists from several different faiths also signed the ad, noting that they "differ on important moral and legal questions," including Proposition 8.[2]

WORLD Magazine

In 1992, Olasky became an editor of WORLD, a biweekly magazine from a Christian perspective that now has 120,000 subscribers. His writing appeared regularly in the Austin American Statesman from 1996-2003, and occasionally in USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, and Investor's Business Daily. He is also a senior fellow at the Acton Institute and a prolific author on the topics of conservative social policy, American culture, and Christian journalism. Olasky, as WORLD's editor-in-chief, has emphasized reporting on compassionate activities by Christian groups throughout the United States and internationally, but the magazine has also criticized Christian organizations and individuals that have not followed biblical standards. WORLD gained support but also opposition by opposing new ideology-based translations of the Bible in the late 90s and exposing the involvement of religious right leader Ralph Reed in the Abramoff political scandals a few years later. WORLD, generally politically conservative, has deviated from the right on immigration and other issues, and consistently emphasized journalism rather than public relations.

In 1998, Olasky was instrumental in the creation of the World Journalism Institute, an organization originally with the goal of training Christian journalists for positions at World and in the mainstream media. WJI subsequently came under fire because of WORLD Magazine's reporting philosophy, which critics say calls on Christian journalists to "'report biblically,' not objectively." Olasky argues in his book Telling the Truth that God created the world, knows more about it than anyone else, and explains its nature in the Bible, so "biblical objectivity" accurately depicts the world as it is, and conventional objectivity is really a balancing of subjectivities.[3] WJI reorganized its mission to emphasize training for secular media, and World's parent organization created a World New Media division to train reporters for positions in Christian publications.

Also controversial for some was Olasky's editing during the late 1980s and early 1990s of the 16-book Turning Point Christian Worldview series funded by Howard Ahmanson, Jr.'s Fieldstead Institute, which champions and funds the cause of "total integration of Biblical law into our lives."[4][5] Ahmanson funded four of Olasky's 30 books, and Michelle Goldberg, author of the book Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism, places Olasky in a crucial role to Christian reconstructionism and dominionism, saying "I’m not sure whether he actually identifies himself as a Christian reconstructionist, but he’s very close to Christian reconstructionism." Olasky, however, calls himself a "Christian libertarian" and criticized Christian reconstructionism in one of his books, Standing for Christ in a Modern Babylon. Goldberg also notes that the phrase now associated with Republicans, "compassionate conservatism," is in the title of one of Olasky’s books, and that Olasky was an advisor on Bush’s first Presidential campaign, influencing not only the thinking of Bush, but the thinking of the Republican Party.[6]

Ecumenical relations

In November 2009, Olasky signed an ecumenical statement known as the Manhattan Declaration calling on evangelicals, Catholics and Orthodox not to comply with rules and laws forcing them to accept abortion, same-sex marriage and other matters that go against their religious consciences.[7]

Books

  • Corporate Public Relations: A New Historical Perspective (1987)
  • Turning Point: A Christian Worldview Declaration (1987, with Herbert Schlossberg)
  • Patterns of Corporate Philanthropy: Public Affairs Giving and the Forbes 100 (1987, foreword by Donald Rumsfeld)
  • Freedom, Justice and Hope: Toward a Strategy for the Poor and the Oppressed (1988, with Clark Pinnock, Herbert Schlossberg, and Pierre Berthoud)
  • Prodigal Press: The Anti-Christian Bias of American News Media (1988)
  • The Press and Abortion, 1838–1988 (1988)
  • Central Ideas in the Development of American Journalism (1991)
  • Patterns of Corporate Philanthropy: Funding False Compassion (1991, with Daniel T. Oliver and Robert V. Pambianco)
  • More Than Kindness: A Compassionate Approach to Crisis Childbearing (1992, with Susan Olasky)
  • The Tragedy of American Compassion (1992, republished in 1995)
  • Abortion Rites: A Social History of Abortion in America (1992)
  • Patterns of Corporate Philanthropy: The Progressive Deception (1992, with Daniel T. Oliver and Stuart Nolan)
  • Philanthropically Correct: The Story of the Council on Foundations (1993)
  • Fighting for Liberty and Virtue: Political and Cultural Wars in Eighteenth-Century America (1995)
  • Telling the Truth: How to Revitalize Christian Journalism (1996)
  • Renewing American Compassion: How Compassion for the Needy Can Turn Ordinary Citizens into Heroes (1996)
  • Whirled Views: Tracking Today's Culture Storms (1997, with Joel Belz)
  • The American Leadership Tradition: Moral Vision from Washington to Clinton (1999)
  • Compassionate Conservatism: What it is, What it Does, and How it Can Transform America (2000, introduction by George W. Bush)
  • The American Leadership Tradition: The Inevitable Impact of a Leader's Faith on a Nation's Destiny (2000)
  • Standing for Christ in a Modern Babylon (2003)
  • The Religions Next Door: What We Need To Know About Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, And Islam - and What Reporters Are Missing (2004)
  • Monkey Business (2005, with John Perry)
  • Scimitar's Edge (2006)
  • The Politics of Disaster: Katrina, Big Government, and A New Strategy for Future Crises (2006)

References

  1. Goldberg, Jonah (2000). "McCain's Still My Guy". Goldberg file. nationalreview.com. http://www.nationalreview.com/goldberg/goldbergprint030300.html. Retrieved 2006-08-08. 
  2. NoMobVeto.org
  3. Moll, Rob (2004). "World Journalism Institute Changes Its Focus". Christianity Today. Christianity Today International. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2004/123/51.0.html. Retrieved 2006-08-08. 
  4. The strength of their conviction Peter Larsen. The Orange County Register, August 10, 2004
  5. Theocratic Dominionism Gains Influence Part 3 No Longer Without Sheep Frederick Clarkson. Political Research Associates, March/June 1994.
  6. BuzzFlash interview: Michelle Goldberg Christian nationalism inside America's mega-churches WorkingForChange, June 2, 2006.
  7. Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience

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