Prominent Christian magazine editor speaks on religion, politics at UC Berkeley

Aren Saunders-Gonzalez/Staff

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Marvin Olasky, editor in chief of WORLD magazine, spoke to a crowd of about 30 UC Berkeley students and community members about Christianity and politics Thursday at an event hosted by The Berkeley Forum.

Olasky has been editing WORLD magazine for 25 years. Although the magazine focuses on news stories through a Christian perspective, Olasky said he was not sure that WORLD represents an “evangelical voice.” WORLD, according to Olasky, focuses on Biblical objectivity and balancing subjectivity in its content.

Olasky, who was an informal adviser to former president George Bush in 2000, spoke about the intertwining of religion with the United States political system and said that it is easy to balance his religious and political beliefs. According to Olasky, the American political system is based on the Christian understanding of the “original sin,” that humans are flawed and that therefore, power should not be concentrated in one person.

“Being a journalist is great because you always get a front-row seat at the circus,” Olasky said. “You get to meet interesting people, go to interesting places … I’ve really enjoyed it.”

In his speech, Olasky said he had grown up Jewish, later becoming atheist and then converting to Christianity in 1976. At one point, while he was an atheist, he also identified as a communist.

In order to receive his doctorate at the University of Michigan, he said, he was required to know a foreign language, so he chose Russian. While reading books in Russian, he read a copy of the New Testament, which made him think, “This is something special,” he said.

Olasky was hosted by The Berkeley Forum, a nonpartisan, student-run organization that focuses on mediating discussion. After being introduced by Berkeley Forum President Haley Keglovits, Olasky gave a brief presentation, followed by host-mediated questions and an audience Q&A session.

According to Keglovits, The Berkeley Forum strives to bring to campus ideas that are not always represented and to allow people to discuss and engage with important ideas.

Berkeley Forum Talks Manager of Events Abigail Guadarrama, who coordinated the event, said she thought Olasky’s presentation was “enlightening.”  

“I definitely think that … many (UC Berkeley students) would think of (Olasky) as sort of a more controversial speaker, but I think that it’s necessary to have speakers like that and it’s good to be able to listen to their ideas as well and talk to them directly,” Guadarrama said.

According to Olasky, a college education is “supposed to be triggering.” College is a place where people should be hearing different views, discussing, debating and even arguing at times, Olasky said.

“I was in college a long, long time ago and did learn from hearing different types of views,” Olasky said. “Students who come to college now and don’t get that are really being cheated.”

Contact Ella Colbert at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @colbert_ella.