An Interview with Marvin Olasky: Reflections

Jul 15, 2015 by

Marvin Olasky

An Interview with Marvin Olasky: Reflections
Michael F. Shaughnessy –

1) Dr. Olasky – for our readers who may not be familiar with your work and scholarship- could you provide a brief bio as to who you are and what you do?

Marvin Olasky is editor-in-chief of World, the leading news magazine from a Christian perspective. He is the author of 22 books, including Prodigal Press, Fighting for Liberty and Virtue, The Tragedy of American Compassion, and Compassionate Conservatism. He and his wife Susan have been married for 39 years and have co-authored four sons.

Dr. Olasky earned an A.B. from Yale University in 1971 and a Ph.D. in American Culture from the University of Michigan in 1976. He was a reporter on The Boston Globe and has written more than 3,500 articles for publications including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, Fortune, and World.

Dr. Olasky was a journalism professor at The University of Texas at Austin for 24 years. He gave up tenure in 2007 to become provost of The King’s College, New York City, and then dean of the World Journalism Institute and a visiting professor at Patrick Henry College. He is also a senior fellow of the Acton Institute and an elder in the Presbyterian Church of America, and has chaired the boards of City School of Austin and the Austin Crisis Pregnancy Center.

2) One of your books is especially relevant in this day and age – The Religions Next Door. I am interested in the response to this book and why this book published in 2004 is still salient and relevant today.

I taught a comparative religion course at The University of Texas for ten years, so I wrote it largely for my journalism students, who found it useful.  It includes chapters on Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism that are still relevant, because those religions haven’t changed in the past dozen years. It also critiques typical U.S. press coverage of religion, and that hasn’t changed much either.

3) In terms of religion, do you personally consider yourself a Christian, a Jew, an agnostic, an atheist , and why ?

Jewish Christian. I’m glad to have Jewish roots and faith in Christ.

4) Let’s talk about journalism and ” Telling the Truth “. In the current zeitgeist- is television slanting the news, embellishing the news, presenting their own personal opinions, or is it factual and unbiased ?

Slanting the news for prevailing ideological reasons and embellishing it for rating reasons. Some journalists state their own opinions but many have not thought things through: They state opinions received from professors, colleagues, and influential media such as The New York Times.

5) Do you believe there is still an “Anti Christian Bias in the American News Media “?


6) Briefly, what is the tragedy of American Compassion?

Tragedy typically involves over-reaching. The tragedy of American compassion is that we as a nation knew what worked to help most poor people  leave poverty behind—compassion that is challenging, personal, and spiritual—but we abandoned it. We over-reached by taking the good work of volunteers in religious and civic organizations and trying to universalize it via professional governmental work. One result: We now mostly enable people to stay in poverty rather than rise out of it.

7) You have written about political and cultural wars in 18th century America. What is going on currently in terms of cultural wars in 2015?

The secular left is winning and trying to cement victory by assaulting religious liberty and hamstringing Christian institutions.

8) Are people in our nation still “Standing for Christ in a Moern Babylon”? (It would seem the Supreme Court is not).

Some are. The Supreme Court’s task was not to stand for Christ but (among other things) to defend the First Amendment, and it’s not certain that a majority of the justices will do that in regard to religious liberty.

9) We currently have 15 candidates for President in the Republican party. What does this say to you about American politics?

Republicans have a lot of people with the experience to warrant presidential consideration. Some may do so in humility and others in arrogance.

10) What have I neglected to ask ?

Question: In your 20s, why did you move from Marxism to Christianity?

Answer: God’s grace, for which I’m deeply thankful.

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