Ask the Editor: Dealing with adult topics

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Friday, May 3rd. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Quick note here at the top to give you time to hit pause if you need to before we get to Ask the Editor.

In about 15 seconds, we’ll be addressing a pretty sensitive topic.

Every so often we get questions about some of the difficult editorial choices we have to make. And that was particularly true of a cover story in a recent issue of WORLD Magazine.

So here for some answers about our approach is WORLD Editor-in-Chief Marvin Olasky.

Again, sensitive topic.

MARVIN OLASKY: I received some complaint letters about our March 30 cover story concerning a Navy SEAL wrongly found guilty of rape. The letters were of three types. I’ll give you a composite of each kind.

Type one understood the tradeoffs involved in putting out a news magazine: “Your story made a serious problem vividly clear: If less vivid, less clear. I’m glad WORLD deals openly with serious problems, but my initial reaction was that the article was too vivid for a Christian magazine.”

My response: That’s a good criticism. I could defend my judgment by saying that the Bible is often vivid about sin. If you doubt that, check out Chapter 23 of Ezekiel, and many other chapters. But God’s Word is inerrant—and I am definitely errant.

Type two noted that the main character in the story, a Navy SEAL, was honorable in his military career but not in his personal conduct: One reader noted “he is not someone to uphold. He took advantage of this woman for illicit sex as she did him as well.”

I agree that he did not act admirably, but that still does not mean he should be found guilty and imprisoned for years because of political correctness and the Navy’s desire for good public relations. At WORLD, we talk about sticking up for the uns: the unborn, the unwanted, the uneducated because they were stuck in bad schools, the unemployed because of factory closings. Those who commit adultery are sinners, but even sinners should not be railroaded.

Type three said we should not cover sinful behavior: “Make the magazine a safe place for families to go to inform themselves. This morning I read in Ephesians 5, “Sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you.”

I take that criticism seriously, but the Apostle Paul was talking about filthy bragging and gossip, not exposure of immorality and its consequences—because he often pointed out immorality.

In all of my 27 years of editing WORLD, we’ve tried to be honest. We reported on specific sexual abuse by Bill Clinton, on teachers who seduced students. We’ve had cover headlines: “Public saints, private sinners,” “Sex, lies, and audiotape,” “Clergy sexual abuse: Evangelicals.”

Thank you for all letters, positive or negative. We put both kinds in our mailbag and we don’t talk back in the pages of the magazine. But I can assure you we do not lightly report stories of sin and misery. We don’t have such covers often, but we think honesty regarding the state of the world requires them at times. We believe the heavens declare the glory of God and the streets display the sinfulness of man. Without opening our eyes to sin, we often underestimate our desperate need for Christ to rescue us.

For WORLD Radio, I’m Marvin Olasky.

(Greg Schneider/Genesis) Keith Barry, Navy SEAL

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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