Marvin Olasky – Faith-based in what?

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Tuesday, September 1st. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. Here’s WORLD Editor in Chief Marvin Olasky now on faith and science.

MARVIN OLASKY, EDITOR IN CHIEF: Today I’m channeling my inner George Grant and looking into the history of a word—actually a hyphenated word, “faith-based.” 

The religious left used “faith-based” in the 1980s. For example, in 1985 Witness for Peace was a “faith-based movement of North American citizens…united in their opposition to U.S. policies toward Nicaragua.” 

In 1987 the Christian Science Monitor praised “faith-based protest groups, acting out of a sense of moral indignation.” In 1989 The Boston Globe referred to a Quaker-funded house for homeless women as “a faith-based project to create justice and not charity.”

The term entered conservative politics during the 1990s. HUD Secretary Jack Kemp complimented public housing residents for starting “a very faith-based movement” to make their homes drug-free. “Faith-based” took off in 1999 when presidential candidate George W. Bush used it frequently, often in connection with his “compassionate conservatism” campaign slogan. 

Democratic candidate Al Gore did not want to be religiously flanked. He pledged to listen to “the voices of faith-based organizations.” Jim Wallis used the expression 21 times in a Sojourners article. “Faith-based” was everywhere: Recently I Googled it and got 521 million results, including a proclamation of “Faith-Based Community Economic Development Day” in Pittsburgh. 

Why was it so popular? In 2001 social critic Thomas Frank wrote, ‘Faith-based’ is somewhat nebulous, yet noble too. We all want to be faithful, don’t we? Whereas if you say ‘religious,’ people get suspicious. Like, is he against dancing?” But as President Bush lost popularity, headlines like this 2008 one in Patheos became common: “Let’s drop the euphemistic phrase ‘faith-based.’”

That’s fine with me, because “faith-based” by itself doesn’t mean much: The question is, faith in what. In reporting today’s big social issues, I’d rather be Bible-based and science-based. The Bible tells us that God made us male and female. Science backs that up: boys are XY and girls are XX. Imagining something different does not make it so. 

The Bible defends human life but doesn’t say exactly when it begins: Science is helpful in saying life begins at conception. So Christians are not loosely faith-based: We have faith in God as He’s shown in the Bible, and in science, when it’s based on experimentation and not speculation. So should you.     

I’m Marvin Olasky.


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One comment on “Marvin Olasky – Faith-based in what?

  1. Peter Kushkowski says:

    “Faith-based” leaves out this important aspect: faith based in/on who/what…

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