“Reality is an aspect of property. It must be seized. And investigative journalism is the noble art of seizing reality back from the powerful.”
\\― Julian Assange,
Whoa! This story is getting a lot of play! I agree, in general, with the assessments of the posts dealing with this matter but I think I may have an additional spin on the whole thing. The New York Times posted His Reasons for Opposing Trump Were Biblical. Now a Top Christian Editor Is Out. It was subtitled: A clash over culture and politics comes to World, a groundbreaking journalistic institution that covers evangelical Christians.”
Who is Marvin Olasky and what happened to him?
Marvin Olasky is out as the long-time editor of World Magazine. He submitted his resignation on November 1, 2021. According to the NYT article:
He had, he said, received an effective “vote of no confidence” from World’s board, which had recently started a section of the website, World Opinions, without fully consulting him. The new section offers opinion essays on religious issues with the kind of commentary on secular topics like mask mandates, inflation, race and President Biden’s spending plans that can be found on any number of other conservative websites.
Here is a link to Wikipedia:
Olasky was a professor at the University of Texas at Austin from 1983 to 2007, provost of The King’s College in New York City from 2007 to 2011, and Patrick Henry College’s distinguished chair in journalism and public policy from 2011 to 2019. He is a senior fellow at the Acton Institute. He joined World Magazine in 1990 and became its editor in 1994 and its editor-in-chief in 2001. Earlier, he was a reporter at the Boston Globe and a speechwriter at the Du Pont Company. Since 1996 he has been a ruling elder within the Presbyterian Church in America.
I had no idea that he was the originator of compassionate conservatism. As one who practiced public health nursing in the projects and on the Navajo Reservation, this thinking appealed to me. Here is a link to his well-known book The Tragedy of American Compassion. Again from Wikipedia:
Olasky’s most famous book is The Tragedy of American Compassion, which in 1995 Newt Gingrich distributed to incoming Republican representatives of the 104th Congress. The book, an overview of poverty-fighting in America from colonial times to the 1990s, argues that private individuals and organizations, particularly Christian churches, 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 argues 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 giver and recipient.
The book eventually helped to define “compassionate conservatism” in relation to welfare and social policy. In 1995, Olasky became an occasional advisor to Texas gubernatorial candidate George W. Bush. Bush made faith-based programs a major component of his 2000 presidential campaign, and Olasky’s academic work helped form the basis for Bush’s “compassionate conservatism.” In 2001 and thereafter Olasky and WORLD criticized the Bush administration for not following through on school choice or on ideas for tax credits to encourage more individual giving to poverty-fighting groups.  In an interview with Mike Huckabee on October 10, 2009, Olasky denied that the Bush administration had implemented compassionate conservatism, remarking that “it was never tried.”
Others have “resigned” or are planning to resign along with Olasky
Julie Roys wrote Marvin Olasky, Other Top Staff Leave as WORLD Shifts Toward Opinion:
The Roys Report has also learned that Angela Lu Fulton, managing editor for WORLD, and senior reporter Sophia Lee offered their letters of resignation Oct. 27.
Fulton and Lee confirmed to The Roys Report that they’d resigned but declined further comment. Lee said a column was forthcoming announcing her departure.
So, something happened.
When in doubt or confused, think politics.
So, it seems like he is a decent journalist and has been well-liked at World Magazine. So what the heck happened? According to Wikipedia, that might mean that Donald Trump happened.
In 2014, The New York Times reported that “evangelical Protestant journalism is generally more public relations than reporting; World stands out as an exception. ‘We’re a Christian publication but not a movement organ,’ Olasky said.” That became even more evident in October 2016, after Donald Trump had consolidated his support among evangelicals. Olasky received about 1,500 critical letters when he wrote a cover story that called Trump “unfit for power” and proposed that he step aside because “we set the stage for even worse behavior when we ignore blatant offenses.”
In 2019, Olasky wrote a book laying out his controversial journalistic philosophy and his emphasis on God’s objective sovereignty and man’s subjective liberty. He explained biblical objectivity through use of a whitewater rapids analogy that he says will help Christians avoid overusing the Bible (claiming “God saith” when He has not) or underusing it (ignoring God’s wisdom when it does not conform to our biases). He emphasized the importance of careful reporting rather than opinionating.
That year, Olasky announced he would retire as editor in chief when he hit his 30th anniversary of editing in 2022.
The NYT article remarked:
At one level, Mr. Olasky’s departure is just another example of the American news media sinking deeper into polarization, as one more conservative news outlet, which had almost miraculously retained its independence, is conquered by Mr. Trump.
Olasky also noted that an October 2016 editorial calling Trump “unfit for power” drew 2,000 mostly dissenting emails in response. WORLD founder Joel Belz said the incident “divided our staff as we have never been divided before.”
This is a charge that the World CEO denies. From Roys:
Yet, WORLD CEO Kevin Martin told the Times he disagrees with perceptions that WORLD is becoming pro-Trump.
“I don’t see in any way that we are becoming more partisan or more Trumpy,” he told Smith.
Similarly, Joel Belz said he believes Olasky’s departure is simply a matter of “growing pains.”
But Belz, who also left, stated (again from Roys)
In an Oct. 21 column about her resignation , Mindy Belz wrote that her approach to journalism was “at times at odds . . . with some directions World News Group is charting.”
Olasky was not enamored with Trump or Hilary Clinton.
I knew that Olasky took a firm stance against Trump. What I hadn’t realized is that he also took a stance against Hilary Clinton and the World staff was divided, just like the rest of America. According to the NYT:
By the general election, it was clear that, whatever leaders thought, Mr. Trump was popular in the pews. And so when World’s editors, in October 2016, declared Mr. Trump “unfit for power” on its cover because of his remarks about grabbing women, and demanded that he step aside, Mr. Olasky received about 2,000 emails, he said, about 80 percent of them disagreeing. (In a column two days later, Mr. Olasky also suggested that Hillary Clinton step aside for her “lies” and policy errors.)
“That was a very painful time for us because it divided our staff as we had never been divided,” Mr. Belz said.
Sadly, the division appeared to extend to many issues:
Ms. Belz said she had felt growing pressure on two topics in particular: “on issues that related to masks or to voter fraud.”
There have also been tensions over World’s coverage of Republicans, particularly a piece in August 2020 by the reporter Harvest Prude about the allegations against Mr. (Madison) Cawthorn, who won election to Congress. (You can read about the allegations of sexual misconduct against the NC respresentative in Wikipedia here.)
Enter Al Mohler and the SBC-uh oh…
According to the NYT:
The last straw came when he learned in September that Mr. Eicher and Mr. Mohler, the board member and seminary president, planned to start World Opinions in the coming weeks.
“That’s when I realized this wasn’t going to work,” he said. “I realized we were really coming from different vantage points.”
Paul Pressler and long time allegations of sexual misconduct
Sometime in 2010 ( I can’t remember exactly), I received an email from a person who claimed that he had been molested by Paul Pressler and asked if I would write about what happened. I was new to this sort of thing and I became concerned. Do you know who Paul Pressler is?
According to Wikipedia:
is a retired justice of the Texas 14th Circuit Court of Appeals in his native Houston, Texas. Pressler was a key figure in the conservative resurgence of the Southern Baptist Convention, which he initiated in 1979.
Even as a neophyte, I knew that going up against Pressler without facts would be difficult. The person who contacted me forbade me to use his name and I knew I couldn’t write the story without pertinent facts. Sadly, I was unable to post anything until 2017. Even then, I was unsettled. During the years after 2010, I met Amy Smith of Watchkeep and we shared stories of what we had heard. Here is one article, written in 1989, about Pressler that ‘ETHICS PROBLEMS’ DERAIL BUSH CHOICE TO HEAD OFFICE OF GOVERNMENT ETHICS Read what it says about him.
His name was sent to the Federal Bureau of Investigation in July for the routine background check on candidates in advance of formal nomination. Officials would not detail the FBI findings except to say they did not involve allegations of crimes or financial improprieties. A senior official said, “Information was uncovered that we felt was disqualifying.” Pressler could not be reached for comment,
We heard that many SBC leaders were well aware of Pressler’s “issues” but looked the other way. One person claimed that when leaders discussed him, they referred to him by another name.
(Before I continue, in an effort to be fair, one person that I know and respect claims that he, as a young man, spent time with Pressler, and Pressler was very appropriate in his actions. However, even alleged abusers don’t abuse everyone they know. )
Pressler knew everyone in the SBC. His was the worst kept secret in the SBC. I believe that there are current-day leaders in the SBC who knew about the accusations and turned their heads the other way. He was such a beloved friend of Paige Patterson that Patterson put his image on a stained glass window in the chapel of SEBTS. It has since been removed. One of my satisfying moments at TWW was when we uncovered the “stained glass window” heard round the SBC world.”
World Magazine posted a devastating article about Paul Pressler.
Mary Jackson and Lynde Langdon of World Magazine bravely posted What is a young man worth? subtitled “Accusations against a longtime Texas Baptist leader highlight the difficulties of addressing the abuse of men in the church.” Wow, just plain wow. I had doubts that I would ever be around to see an article like this one.
In interviews and documents WORLD reviewed, we found evidence that over a 40-year period two young men said Pressler sexually assaulted them and two others said he made unwanted sexual advances. Some of the accusations were reported in the press in recent years when one man sued the judge for sexual assault. WORLD also found evidence that a few Baptist leaders were aware of accusations of misconduct against Pressler but made no moves to protect young men once the accusations surfaced.
Through his attorney, Pressler declined to comment for this report. In court filings and other news reports, he has denied all accusations of sexual misconduct.
I wonder. Will the SBC handle this one as they investigate accusations of abuse? Or, are some of the folks involved in the investigation ones who knew about it? Did some turn a blind eye due to Pressler’s power or from the fear that they would be sued?
All of the judge’s accusers say Pressler’s alleged behavior changed their lives. Interviews WORLD conducted showed some who heard rumors or accusations against Pressler through the years dismissed the idea that a married man in a leadership role would engage in homosexual behavior. Now the Southern Baptist Convention is reckoning publicly with how it has handled sexual abuse cases.
Pressler, who many believe was a bastion in the SBC started his “career” as an Independent Presbyterian. He was also allegedly a member of River Oaks Country Club.
The judge often also took small groups of boys from the church to the River Oaks Country Club in Houston, Twining said. In his affidavit, he gives the following account of one trip when he was 18: He said he agreed to go but was surprised when he learned it would just be the judge and him. They went into the sauna alone, where Twining said Pressler approached him and fondled his genitals without permission. He quickly walked away, redressed, and rode home with the judge without speaking about the incident.
River Oaks Country Club does not have membership records going back that far. A representative said no one from the 1970s who might recall details about the judge still worked there.
The pastor removed Pressler as youth director but appears to have, as Amy Smith puts it, “passed the trash.”
Two weeks after his alleged molestation by Pressler, in September 1978, Twining said he told three people: a friend who also attended Bethel; the church’s pastor, Bob Tolson; and his dad. Both of Twining’s parents have died. Twining said Tolson believed his account. He said he met a second time with Tolson and an elder who questioned him. After those meetings, Tolson removed Pressler as youth director.
Pressler went onto the SBC while becoming a judge.
Pressler and his family left Bethel in 1978 and began attending First Baptist Church in Houston. Pressler earned an appointment in 1978 as a judge on the Texas appellate bench. He became increasingly involved in SBC politics, leading what he described as a grassroots movement to renew the denomination’s commitment to the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy. In 1984, Pressler was elected to the SBC Executive Committee, an elected group that manages the denomination’s budget and makes decisions between its annual meetings of delegates from local churches. He served for seven years.
From there, he allegedly would go on to molest some young men. As I read their accounts, I realized that what they had endured was made worse by the continued silence of those SBC leaders and pastors who knew what was going on. Here are three stories that need to be read in their entirety.
Brooks Schott, a 30-year-old attorney, moved from Washington state to Houston in 2016 to work at the Woodfill Law Firm, where Pressler was by then a former law partner. WORLD contacted Schott, who declined to comment for this story. He said he gave a complete account of his interactions with Pressler in an affidavit he submitted to Rollins’ attorneys. His statements allege that Pressler continued to make unwanted sexual advances as recently as 2016 and that knowledge of the judge’s behavior was widespread among his legal colleagues.
…Tabor described a group of nearly a dozen men ages 18-24 whom Pressler referred to as “dear friends.” After dinner and a stop at a pie joint, Tabor carpooled with Pressler and a young male driver. He said the judge talked about “fringe benefits” of friendship with him, including trips to his Austin-area ranch for men’s retreats. Tabor claims Pressler asked to speak with him alone later that night and talked further about ways he helped people both monetarily and through networking. He then allegedly clarified that at his ranch, men often went in his hot tub naked together. Tabor said Pressler told him “Christians should not be afraid to be naked together,” and asked if Tabor would have a problem with that.
Tabor says the conversation jolted him. At the time, he privately struggled with gender dysphoria. (He now identifies as transgender.) Tabor says he immediately distanced himself from Pressler.
…Rollins’ lawsuit claims, Pressler started abusing him two to three times per month. The abuse often comprised inappropriate touching at the University Club, an athletic club in the Houston Galleria, followed by rape at the Pressler home, Rollins said in his initial court complaint filed in 2017. He said he began drinking and using drugs to cope with the alleged abuse, which he said led to criminal activity and several years in prison in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Where does that leave us? Marvin Olasky is gone (in January 2022) but these two journalists fearlessly went after the truth about Paul Pressler and the allegations of molestation. Even better (or is it worse?), it appears that they uncovered that some leaders knew about this. If this is true, then all of them should resign and hang their heads in shame. What worries me is that they will take this excellent piece of journalism and attempt to politicize it. I can see that happening in some powerful factions of the SBC. I will be watching what happens from here. There better not be any further “forced” resignations from World Magazine. One thing I know, I am really mad about all of this. Thank you, Mary Jackson and Lynde Langdon. I am so sorry about Marvin Olasky.