Pivot Points: Adventures on the Road to Christian Contentment – Marvin Olasky

Pivot Points: Adventures on the Road to Christian Contentment by Marvin Olasky
Also by this author: Lament for a Father: The Journey to Understanding and Forgiveness
Published by P & R Publishing on March 13, 2024
Genres: Non-Fiction, Christian Life, Memoir
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Whenever we pivot in life, freedom from fear requires either a colossal ego or a colossal God. Ego leads us to grab what is not ours. The path to contentment starts with faith in God. In this sequel to Lament for a Father, Marvin Olasky first describes his journey from Judaism to atheism to Marxism to Christ and then his adventures in evangelical, conservative, compassionate, and journalistic circles.

A few years ago, I enjoyed reading Marvin Olasky’s book Lament for a Father, in which he explored the family history and generational trauma that shaped his childhood. In this memoir, he writes about his adolescence, college years, and career through the present day, focusing on “pivot points” where he faced major decisions and changes. The format is unique and interesting, because in addition to focusing on these major transitional moments, he also writes about all of this in the present tense. It’s an unusual choice for a memoir, but it shows how ever-present the past can feel, even when you’re looking back on events from decades ago.

Pivot Points: Adventures on the Road to Christian Contentment focuses on formative moments from Olasky’s past, beginning with his conversions from Judaism to Marxism, and then from communism to Christianity. He also writes about major career transitions, and his paths into academia and journalism. One thing I found particularly interesting is how he accidentally garnered political attention after publishing The Tragedy of American Compassion, an overview of American efforts at poverty alleviation. What started as a niche book release ultimately led to Olasky informally advising President George W. Bush’s campaign on poverty-related issues. I’d heard before that Olasky was “the father of compassionate conservatism,” but I evidently didn’t know what that meant! Even though I grew up reading World, the news magazine that Olasky edited, I was so young during the Bush campaign that I completely missed all of this. It was fascinating to read about.

Olasky writes with his signature clarity and style, and each chapter is short and succinct. This memoir moves at a quick pace, and I found it difficult to put it down. Olasky looks back on past events with humility and perspective, acknowledging his mistakes and failings along with the highlights from his career, and I found it especially interesting to learn about more of his behind-the-scenes work with World over the years, beyond what I knew from the magazine itself. I started reading World cover to cover when I was about eleven, and it’s a major touchstone in my life. This memoir also covers Olasky’s departure from World in the midst of post-election and pandemic polarization, and he includes more about this in the appendices, addressing this topic in a clear, forthright manner without giving way to resentment.

Pivot Points is a unique, gripping memoir that will appeal to the author’s following, and to anyone interested in the premise. I enjoyed this and learned a lot, and also reflected more on the impact that Marvin Olasky has had on my life through his involvement with World magazine. I can describe in great detail how World influenced me through its hard-hitting investigations and willingness to expose inconvenient truths, its book and movie reviews, and its thoughtful columns and opinion pieces. However, as I read this book, I recognized that what I actually remember is only the tip of the iceberg. There are so many things I take for granted as fundamental aspects of my worldview, core values, and identity that World helped shape or gave me words to express. I enjoyed this memoir, and am truly grateful for the author’s impact on my life.