WORLD Magazine Admits to Putting Ideology Over Accuracy
In an amazingly honest op-ed last week, evangelical WORLD Magazine editor Marvin Olasky addressed the publication’s handling of the controversy surrounding David Barton’s discredited writings. Barton’s book The Jefferson Lies was recently pulled from the shelves by publisher Thomas Nelson after its rampant historical inaccuracies received widespread attention.
Historians have been calling attention to Barton’s shoddy, misleading work for years but have largely been ignored or dismissed as biased by conservative media. Outlets such as WORLD have only acknowledged these critiques because conservative Christian scholars have finally started echoing Barton’s longtime critics in the scholarly community.
Olasky’s op-ed addresses this inconsistency but does not apologize for it!
Left-wing historians for years have criticized Barton. We haven’t spotlighted those criticisms because we know the biases behind them. It’s different when Christian conservatives point out inaccuracies. The Bible tells us that “iron sharpens iron,” and that’s our goal in reporting this controversy.
To be clear, Olasky is admitting that he summarily dismissed legitimate criticisms of Barton’s work for ideological reasons, yet he defends that decision by maintaining the attack on these scholars as the “biased” ones.
Olasky’s preference for judging scholarly qualifications by ideology instead of accuracy is also evident in his continuing faith in Barton’s credibility.
David Barton should not be, nor does he want to be, defended as if he were inerrant: If his history writing does include some inaccuracies, I trust he’ll make corrections.
What Olasky fails to acknowledge here is that we’re not just dealing with minor blemishes; almost the entirety of Barton’s body of work is based on a sloppy, willfull distortion of history to suit his partisan political ends.
It’s certainly possible for a religious magazine with an ideological point of view to meet standards of journalistic integrity. But Olasky’s oblivious editorial misses the mark.