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  WORLD  
 

Circulation: 138,000
Date of Birth: 1986
Frequency: Weekly
Price: $49.95 a year
Natural Habitat: Tucked between the family Bible and a
Focus on the Family newsletter

By Clint Hendler

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Jesus told his flock that the meek would inherit the earth. Nowadays, they can read World, the newsweekly of evangelical America.

World is only available through subscription. So even though it claims to be the largest Christian weekly, and the fifth-largest American-produced newsweekly of any kind, those without faith are unlikely to come across it. If they did, editor-in-chief Marvin Olasky would like them to come away from the magazine not as converts, but as readers who have learned that evangelicals can be serious and thoughtful. Or, as he quips, “These are not fundies-in-their-undies.”

On the surface, it’s hard to tell the magazine from its secular counterparts like Time and Newsweek. Its glossy, full-color design is professional. The magazine opens with a spread of short news items, reviews, notable quotes, and editorial cartoons culled from the week’s newspapers. And each issue has a page of personality-based sports news (David Beckham’s move to L.A., gun violence in professional football).

But at some point, the similarities end.

That’s because for over twenty years, World has reported the news “from a perspective committed to the Bible as the inerrant Word of God.” As such a mission statement suggests, the magazine doesn’t keep its lamp too far under the basket. Where there’s an obvious evangelical line, the magazine’s coverage tends to suggest it: On the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the magazine profiled a crop of newly-elected anti-abortion Democrats. Where God’s people’s position is less clear—say, on Russian petro-diplomacy or Iraq—the magazine’s coverage is straightforward, if a little warmed-over. You definitely won’t find any articles on Brad and Angelina, celebrity rehab visits, sex, or—yes—hard science.

Instead, there are articles about evangelicals and evangelical issues. You can read pieces on persecuted Christians—abroad or on American college campuses—and sunny profiles of photogenic evangelicals working against global warming or human trafficking. Such notes of optimism crop up more often than secular perceptions of evangelical fire and brimstone might suggest. A reviewer chides Bill O’Reilly for his pugnacious new book and suggests that if he spent more time with the Bible, “he might understand more of God’s holiness, man’s sin, Christ’s grace, and the centrality of love.”

That positive outlook isn’t surprising considering the history of Marvin Olasky, the magazine’s self-described “born again” editor-in-chief. He’s perhaps best known for his book Compassionate Conservatism (then-Texas Governor George W. Bush wrote the foreword) and its central idea, that faith-based groups—bolstered by tax money—can help the poor better than secular social welfare.

The magazine has a history of supporting conservative forces in doctrinal battles. A forerunner publication, the Presbyterian Journal, saw its circulation plummet in the 1970s after siding with Biblical literalists in that church’s theological schism. The tradition continues today. Last year’s Daniel of the Year award—think Person of the Year for the Bible-toting set—was given to a pair of African archbishops whose strident protests against expanding rights for homosexuals have torn the Episcopal Church apart.
World participates in the political arena—forget about rendering unto Caesar.  Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and Kansas Senator Sam Brownback, both candidates for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, have provided access to writers from the magazine. “These guys are very eager to have World cover them because they want to get their message across to the evangelical community,” says Olasky, who would like to see the magazine’s Washington influence grow.

We don’t want to have sermons in the magazine. We just want the coverage to be infused with the Word of God,” says Olasky, who also teaches journalism at the University of Texas. “We’re committed to journalism, as much as possible to pound-the-pavement journalism, rather than essay writing.”

With World, evangelicals have their own newsmagazine to go with their own radio stations, television news shows, and cable networks. All of these outlets arose because, evangelicals say, they did not see their values reflected in the secular media.

Of course, it would be easy to say that the reason that World readers didn’t, and don’t, see enough Christ in, say, Time—which back in 1966, you may remember, had the gall to ask, “Is God Dead?”—is that journalism leaves little room for unsupported claims of the supernatural.

World’s editors and writers argue that God knows more about how the world works than any human and that God’s words, as recorded in the Bible, make His views very clear. Olasky calls the magazine’s journalistic procedures “biblical objectivity.” They accept the Gospel as an objective, journalistic truth.

For World and its readers, God is the ultimate unimpeachable source.

 
 
 

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