A Moderated Discussion between Marvin Olasky and Jim Wallis
March 11, 2010, Cedarville University
Jeremiah Chapel, Dixon Ministry Center
Marvin Olasky, founder and Editor in Chief of World Magazine has been called "compassionate conservatism's leading thinker" by George W. Bush. Olasky's book, The Tragedy of American Compassion made such a deep impression on Newt Gingrich that he sent a copy to every Republican in the House of Representatives during the "Republican Take-Over" of 1994. Olasky was instrumental in articulating the philosophy of charity and service that led to the creation of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. Olasky's conservative credentials are impeccable and he cares deeply about a Biblical approach to poverty.
Jim Wallis, founder and Editor in Chief of Sojourners Magazine has been called America's leading progressive evangelical by The Washington Post. Wallis' book, God's Politics: Why the Right Gets it Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get it spent 15 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Wallis was picked by Time Magazine as one of the "50 Voices for America's Future." He is known as perhaps the leading figure and spokesperson for the "religious left." Wallis currently serves on Barak Obama's Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Initiatives. Like Olasky, Wallis identifies himself as an evangelical and he has built a reputation as a Christian advocate for the poor.
The Critical Concern Series will bring both of these individuals together on our campus for a serious discussion about the responsibility that Christians have to be stewards of the resources that we control, using those resources wisely to care for those in need. The session will be moderated by Rob Moll, Editor at large for Christianity Today, and the 2006 Cedarville University Young Alumnus of the Year. Moll currently serves at Opportunity International, a Christian organization that uses microfinance to address needs related to poverty around the world. His book, The Art of Dying: Living Fully into the Life to Come, will be coming out in June of 2010.
"I am very enthusiastic about bringing two speakers of national stature to our campus. Marvin Olasky and Jim Wallis represent the Christian right and the Christian left, respectively. They are both passionate advocates for Christian justice and concern for the poor and the disadvantaged, but they approach these values from two different perspectives. Our students will benefit greatly from hearing separate presentations by these articulate spokesmen, followed by a discussion moderated by Rob Moll. Such an event will garner widespread local interest and will do much to educate our students. This will be a win-win situation for the academic growth of our institution."
Dennis M. Sullivan, MD, MA (Ethics)
Professor of Biology
Director, Center for Bioethics
Both Jim Wallis and Marvin Olasky offer arguments for greater involvement by God's people on behalf of the poor. But the approaches they recommend to address poverty are strikingly different as the above quotes suggest–the former advocating increased government involvement; the latter, advocating "compassionate conservatism" (a phrase which he coined) and limited government involvement. Olasky's testimony and insights are particularly instructive, having graduated from Yale and become an activist in far-left movements before his conversion to Christianity. Wallis, on the other hand remains an advocate for a liberal approach to liberating the oppressed from poverty and injustice. These two articulate advocates will individually challenge our students, faculty, and community; whereas, a subsequent exchange between Olasky and Wallis, moderated by Rob Moll, will help us to analyze their positions from a biblical worldview.
John Silvius, Ph.D.
Senior Professor of Biological Science