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Stan Guthrie

A Journalist in Babylon

The need for a critical mass in the Fourth Estate

In a widely noticed op-ed piece last March, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof admitted that "nearly all of us in the news business are completely out of touch with a group that includes 46 percent of Americans": self-described evangelical or born-again Christians, according to Gallup.1 Never mind that the definition of "evangelical" used to generate this figure is pretty loose. Kristof's frank acknowledgment of bias was as stunning as it was welcome. And while he made it very clear that he isn't calling for uncritical acceptance—"I tend to disagree with evangelicals on almost everything," he writes, "and I see no problem with aggressively pointing out the dismal consequences" of their increasing influence—Kristof deplored the "sneering tone" that many of his colleagues routinely adopt when dealing with all things evangelical.

Kristof concludes that it's time to lower the temperature. "One of the deepest divides in America today is the gulf of mutual suspicion that separates evangelicals from secular society," he writes. "Both sides need to reach out, drop the contempt," and treat each other with respect.

Are evangelicals ready to reciprocate? A positive answer comes from what might appear to be an unlikely source: Marvin Olasky, editor-in-chief of World magazine, the feisty Christian conservative weekly, and the author of a standard journalism text in Christian schools.2 In his new book, Standing for Christ in a Modern Babylon, Olasky gives advice to narrow the gap and allow Christians to speak constructively, even redemptively, to members of the media. Written after the September 11 terrorist attacks but before the Iraq war and recent journalistic laments such as Kristof's, the book raises issues that American Christians need to consider.

Olasky says that efforts to transform America into a Christian nation are doomed. He likens our position to that of Daniel, a Jewish leader called to be faithful in the pagan courts of Babylon. He says we Christians should settle ...

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