Marvin Olasky’s Conservative Fantasy “World”

A friend of mine gave me a subscription to WORLD magazine, the conservative Christian weekly that Republican pundit Marvin Olasky edits. It is pretty amazing how WORLD offers its readers an alternative universe of facts from that of TIME or NEWSWEEK or BBC or just about any other major news source in the West (except, of course, FOXNEWS). And they revel in it—in the current issue, Hugh Hewitt gives this slant on the generals who have recently criticized Donald Rumsfeld: “The amplification of their comments by the mainstream media is troubling.” Hewitt then makes the “MSM” (“Main Stream Media”) into left-wing conspirators that are “eager to take down Mr. Rumsfeld as part of its never-ending campaign against President Bush.”

A recent cover story featured a smiling John Bolton, offering the softer side of our UN Ambassador than what his critics have offered us (there's a reason that President Bush made Bolton a recess appointment in order to skip around the criticism).

Last week’s cover story on Global Warming (“Greener Than Thou”) was infuriating. In an article that pretended to be an unbiased news story, the predispositions and backhanded putdowns were in just about every paragraph. It was a calculated opinion piece seeking to undermine the credibility of the Evangelical Climate Initiative (ECI), signed by more than 85 evangelical leaders, including bestselling Purpose-Driven Life author and pastor Rick Warren, Foursquare Church president Jack Hayford, World Vision president Rich Stearns, Salvation Army national commander Todd Bassett, Christianity Today editor David Neff and executive editor Timothy George, Wheaton College president Duane Litfin, and former National Association of Evangelicals president Leith Anderson. The article tried to make the case that these leaders were duped into signing something they didn’t understand—that they failed to recognize the implications of ECI’s statement that climate change “is being caused by human activities” and advocates “national legislation requiring sufficient economy-wide reductions in carbon dioxide emissions.” Uncritical readers are led to believe that anyone who signed this initiative are either ignorant or stupid. World is among the few conservative Christian institutions that are absolutely unwilling to believe the scientific findings of the majority of the world's experts on climate.

Olasky’s “WORLD” is a conservative fantasy-land, in which the old battle-lines remain drawn between Conservative Christians (who believe in an individualistic gospel of personal salvation and personal responsibility) and Liberal Christians (who believe in a gospel that changes society and public responsibility). In Olasky’s most recent commentary, he eulogizes the famous advocate of the Social Gospel, William Sloane Coffin, Jr. After talking about Coffin’s "hip sermons" that pleaded for churches to help the poor and to overturn social classes and traditional institutions, Olasky shares his personal story of when, while in college, he personally embraced Marxism. Olasky’s pendulum has seemingly swung the extreme other way. He now writes that when Coffin died this month, “that’s what has happened to the social gospel as well. A few Coffin epigones talk on in an attempt to keep that ol’ time religion alive, but evangelicals rely on the most important change agent of all: the grace of Jesus Christ.” Olasky attempts to build that old, stale wall between the “Jesus Christ Gospel” and the “Social Gospel.”

But I have news for Olasky: That ain’t gonna play anymore.

What I’ve witnessed in the last three to four years is a revival of social concern among evangelicals (especially among the younger generations). They are critically concerned not only about issues like ABORTION and MARRIAGE, but also about issues such as WAR and PEACE (and people like Rumsfeld who lead powerful nations into unjust wars), CREATION CARE (and the effects our exploitation of the earth has had on climate change), the POOR (and economic policies that favor the rich and hurt the oppressed), and many other social issues. Olasky seems oblivious to the resurgent rise in popularity of those who advocated an evangelical version of that “ol time social religion”—people like Ron Sider and Jim Wallis. He seems dismissive of evangelical leaders like Rich Cizik, The National Association of Evangelicals’ Vice President for Governmental Affairs. And he seems to not even know about the whole new generation of leaders who make up “the emerging church” that see themselves as “post-conservative and post-liberal,” refusing to say it must be "either-or," but rather "both-and." These emerging leaders are more appreciative of a Gospel that focuses in on “The Kingdom of God,” which has implications not only for our personal lives but for society as well. It is almost a revival of the theology of Walter Rauschenbusch, who made the Kingdom of God the basis for his “Social Gospel,” in which “humankind [is] organized according to the will of God.”

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rich said...

Great stuff Bob, great stuff. Thanks.

Bob Robinson said...

For more insight into the Walter Rauschenbusch, check out Scot McKnight's post today at Jesus Creed.

Interesting how both he and I see the parallels between what Rauschenbusch was writing in the early 1900's and what is being said in Emerging Church circles today.

austina said...


Thanks for your insightful comments on the article. I haven't read that magazine in a while. Not sure where I could pick it up in Columbus, but after your comments it makes me want to read the article.

Bob Robinson said...

You can follow the links that are underlined in this post to read these articles on-line.

BTW, hope all is well at Ohio Dominican U. Say "hi" to Jana for me!

Ted Gossard said...

Thanks for sharing this. I did say more on this comment, but figured it really wasn't prudent (as even this sentence may not be). I do get upset at what I perceive to be a bias that should not characterize people, and especially God's people.

ColoredOpinions said...

A good book to read, if you want to know something about reformed theology is the babylonian captivity of the church, by Martin Luther. Why do we allways have people like Olasky and Warren that pretend they are the pope.