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Moving forward with gratitude


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In 2014, a reader sent me an essay-long email about a story I had written about the Navajo Nation. Delighted, I sent an essay-long email back. Long emails pinged back and forth from my MacBook in Los Angeles to her clunky old computer in an Iñupiat village, as we bonded over our common backgrounds as third-culture missionary kids. That reader invited me to visit Alaska, where she and her family live as missionaries.

By then, I had only been working full time at WORLD for a year, but I crossed my fingers and sent editor-in-chief Marvin Olasky a preposterous proposal: Send me on a two-week reporting trip to remote villages in Alaska. Months later I was chewing on whale blubber dipped in soy sauce, learning how to fly a two-seat monoplane across snow-draped mountains, and deep-frying fresh-caught fish with an Athabascan family by the Koyukuk River. The way I saw it, I got paid to have a grand ol’ adventure, learn new cultures, and meet wonderful people. I loved it.

Initially I chose to work for WORLD because it was the only option for a fresh college graduate with bills to pay. But I continued working for WORLD because I realized, for all His wondrous reasons, I was exactly where God wanted me. And what an incredible nine years it’s been! The relationships I’ve formed with my colleagues, editors, sources, and readers are as unexpected and precious and delightful as discovering a plump sac of roe in my grocery-bought fish. Writing for WORLD has challenged and humbled me, even as I sought to challenge readers with my reporting. I entered WORLD a naïve, apolitical immigrant with strong ideas of right and wrong, but with so many questions.

Today, my Biblical convictions remain strong, but my understanding and comprehension of the world we live in have become less black and white, more colorful, confusing, and complex. It’s strange and humbling to read articles I’d written years back and realize I would have written them differently today. But who knows, nine years later, if the articles I write today would in the eyes of a middle-aged Sophia Lee need tweaking? Our minds are like living, interactive wine, aging and fermenting and maturing through time, experience, and the people who shape and build and break us.

It is with that acknowledgment of my still-growing process, and with overflowing gratitude, that I announce my resignation from WORLD. It wasn’t an easy decision, but I feel uncomfortable about WORLD Opinions, which has declared itself “unquestionably conservative.” Even as a theologically orthodox Christian, I’ve never felt entirely comfortable in the politically conservative evangelical world and its tendency to mark certain political and cultural instincts as “Biblical.”

As a journalist, I also feel uncomfortable with today’s media landscape, where opinions get more clicks than reporting. During my reporting for a three-part series on the divisions within evangelicalism, I asked Christians I met where they get their news. I could correctly guess how they viewed the world by their primary news source. We hope our Christian faith informs and shapes our judgment and politics, but often, our understanding and wisdom are limited by the information we get from our trusted sources. Journalists have responsibility, but readers have responsibility too for what and how they choose to consume media.

Some will disagree with me. I have my own blind spots too, so I ask God for mercy for my shortcomings. I don’t know what’s next, but I intend to continue writing. You can keep in touch with me on Twitter: @sophialeehyun. My DMs are open. Projects I have finished up will appear in future issues of WORLD Magazine.

Finally, thank you. Thank you for reading. Thank you for supporting the excellent work that my WORLD colleagues still produce. Thank you for your emails and hand-written letters, both the compliments and criticisms. The sweet letters I received from my last column moved me to tears. I stand on the prayers of readers like you.


Sophia Lee

Sophia is a senior reporter for WORLD Magazine. She is a World Journalism Institute and University of Southern California graduate. Sophia resides in Los Angeles, Calif., with her husband.

@SophiaLeeHyun

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ABUZ1078

I'm very sorry to see you go, Sophia; your articles and columns were ones I consistently looked forward to and valued. I really appreciated your international-news stories and your nuanced, thorough work. Especially with your recent 3-part series on the evangelical church: that's a really important topic and I appreciate that you and WORLD tackled it. I thought I could tell which side you sympathized with, but it also seemed like you tried to be fair and accurate for both sides.

I remember an article a couple years ago where you told a story about a conversation with a pastor who said you'd never make headway trying to share your perspective on racial issues with a Republican audience, and you concluded you wanted to try anyway. Thank you very much for that; I do think your approach to racial issues has been helpful, sensible, and (again) more nuanced than most on either right or left. If you do continue writing, I'll try to keep up with your work still.

HTR

I'm having a difficult time understanding why so many folks, including those resigning from WORLD, are so upset about a Christian magazine offering an "opinions section." Christians, and a Christian magazine, aren't allowed to have opinions? As another commenter pointed out, the magazine makes it clear that these are "opinions" - unlike the mainstream media that tries to sell their opinions as "hard news." I will keep reading WORLD, including its opinions. Thank you, WORLD, for adding this section to your magazine.

gndgirl

I don't understand why it's objectionable for World to announce a conservative slant to their opinion feature. It's refreshing for a news source to honest, rather than the many news sources that regularly parade opinion masquerading as "news." Perhaps as this feature evolves, opinion pieces from less conservative Christians could be included. But astute readers will be aware that this is opinion, not news.

TayFlatsgndgirl

There isn't anything wrong with it. It's a red herring word used to mask something the Left doesn't like because saying "unbiblical" would be a lie. So they say "conservative" because it already has cultural connotations they hope their readers will run with. Seeing this comment section... many have.

STEVE SOCAL

Gods blessing on you and yours, Sophia. I truly appreciate your work. I haven't always agreed with every angle you've taken, and have sometimes made that known, but I believe you are a quality reporter whose work aims for Biblically grounded objectivity and your voice is important. If World is becoming another political mouthpiece, I will be extremely sad! We don't need that. It was a pleasure to meet you as you reported on refugee issues several years back. May the Lord open the right doors for you going forward.

TayFlatsSTEVE SOCAL

"If World is becoming another political mouthpiece"

Don't fall for the lies. It's not becoming a "political mouthpiece." However, the Left, which Sophia identifies with, has long since abandoned Biblical teaching for worship of politics.

HTRTayFlats

Great point!

Salty1

I am sad to see you go Sophia, and wish you the best in your future endeavors. Although, I have often thought differently than you on politics and issues surrounding immigration and the cultural war, I have enjoyed your reporting.

I never bought into the notion that a reporter could be unbiased for there are always hidden biases that reporters have. What are the true facts? Can you trust the NYT over Breitbart? Are there hidden agendas that we are unaware of? What facts do you include or exclude from an article? All of this can make an “unbiased” reporter an instrument of propaganda without even knowing it. So the idea that an Opinion Section will tarnish World and the “quality journalism” seems weak to me. I do subscribe to the notion that a reporter should attempt to be objective in their reporting, but the realities are there are many strikes against even a good reporter.

I do believe that the Opinion Section will open up World to better enable discussion of the role of Christians in the cultural war and how we should address it. For this reason, I would hate to see you leave this discussion by leaving World, so I ask you to consider staying.

No matter what you decide, you will be missed at World if you go and we do hope you submit an article to World every once in a while if they will let you. And personally, I would hope you would even consider submitting to that evil “Opinion Section” once in a while- if you could stomach it! Your brother in Christ, Salty1.

Hyuntae88

As a fellow Korean-American and because I value your writing, I started your piece and almost immediately thought to myself, "Oh no, no, no...," only to have my fears confirmed when you announced your resignation. Concerns over World's new Opinions feature are exactly why I'd hoped you would stay, as I've especially treasured your balanced perspective for our black and brown and poorer brethren in Christ. Alas, I also trust your faith to know when it's time to exit, and while I've never used Twitter, I told my wife I will likely open an account if only to see where you land. Praise the Lord for your nine years, as well as however else He furthers His kingdom through your future words, Sophia.

Thomas Woloszyn

You will be missed and I appreciated your perspective and writing.

Janet TX

I will miss you and your beautiful and unique writing terribly, Sophia. May the Lord bless you and show you how to keep blessing others with your work.

dooley

I've been reading WORLD since I met and married my husband in 2011, who had been a longtime subscriber already. Although I often appreciated your excellent reporting, I do vehemently disagree with your pro-ILLEGAL immigration stance, excessive contempt for pres. Trump and WORLD's deafening silence on anti-white racism being megaphoned by mainstream media and education system. I emailed you about this before. Not that this should matter, but I am Korean by race like you. Very grateful legal immigrant, American by choice.

Before your announcement in this issue of magazine, I've never checked out WORLD Opinions. I scanned through and read a couple of articles. Haven't found anything objectional from biblical standpoint so far.

Honestly, I'm not surprised by your resignation, judging from some not-so-subtly biased articles of yours for the past couple of years. Sometimes such bias was so glaring, it was as if I were reading LA times or SF chronicle.

You once mentioned in a column that you felt "extremely uncomfortable" watching these videos of black people beating up Asian folks in various States. #stopAisanhate died off quickly as the vast majority of the perpetrators were black. Does facing a fact make you extremely uncomfortable just because it does not fit your narrative? It may be natual to feel that way, but not something to be shared when you are a journalist, isn't it?

In your recent 3-part series, you contemptuously dismissed conservative news sources and led readers to see CRT only through the lens of a black pastor who seems to operate on victim mentality mostly. You insinuate people are getting inaccurate info/messages regarding CRT because those are by "2nd/3rd-hand sources", then why do you not provide first-hand information for readers and dispute it's actually not a new form of racism/Marxism in the guise of anti-racism?

I refuse to let my half-Korean, half -Taiwanese AMERICAN kids who attend 90%-white Christian school be indoctrinated to believe they are the victims and majority of their classmates are "inherently racists". Quite contrary to what the black pastor in your article claims, nobody is calling a black man a thug simply " he can be gunned down in the street" - whoever guns down the innocents and destroy other people's business are called thugs, regardless skin color

I am watching my beloved adopted country is just barely running on the fume of the past. For the reasons I listed above, if WORLD Opinion is really the major reason you are leaving, as far as I'm concerned WORLD is heading back to the right direction. The vile, inflammatory interview of David French by Marvin Olasky last year just repeating leftists' talking points diverted our annual donation to WORLD to Republican Party. I'd never heard of him before that and later learned he's a full-time professional anti-Trumper who vomits words on Twitter before facts being verified. ( Look, I voted for Ben Carson and my husband for Ted Cruz in 2016 primary. We do NOT worship Trump or any other human being. However, once we got the candidates, the choice was clear. And Trump did way better than we'd expected. ) Then your obvious bias was to permanently put a stop to our support. However, as you make it clear you don't have much tolerance for conservative readers and leaving, I'll keep reading with vigilance and consider resumption of our donation if it finds balanced reporting again.

MWOO3059

Sophia, I am saddened by your departure from World magazine and saddened by World magazine's departure from a commitment to a balanced presentation of news and views. Your writing has provided a window on people and situations which needed to be explored. You were able to do so with gentleness, humility and a desire for accuracy that is so rare. Whatever comes next in your life, please know that you have made an impact for good and that you will be missed. May the Lord show you more of Himself in His Word by His Spirit and may you faithfully use all the gifts He's given to you.

BMIL8829

I've been a subscriber to World for 25 years and I'm sorry to see you leave. Your writing and your column were one reason I enjoyed reading World. My own parents were relief workers in India and Africa for a number of years and brought back an understanding from outside of American culture as you have in your writing. Thanks for all you have done and for a good future endeavor.

Laura W

I'm going to miss you. I too have been concerned about some of the recent changes, and it was people like you who kept me around.

Meg I

“…..but I crossed my fingers…”. Interesting. Thank you for your years of writing with World Mat.

Steve S

Your resignation makes a lot of sense to me. As a subscriber to World and a occasional donor, I was sorely disappointed to see the direction that Dr. Mohler has set for World Opinions. Frankly, it feels like a disturbing attempt by political conservatives to co-opt christianity. I'll also be 'resigning' as a subscriber and donor because although I value the street-level reporting in World Magazine, I can't stomach the idea of funding this type of one-sided Opinion writing that will only include "unquestionably conservative" opinions. (as stated here: https://wng.org/opinions/into-the-battle-of-ideas-1633023747). I hope the reporters of World are able to start-up another magazine that is closer to the original mission. If so, let me know where to find you!

LDor

I am sad to see you go. The reason you are leaving makes it harder. I agree that the opinions section doesn't fit what I have understood the mission of World to be. Thank you for standing for sound journalism grounded in facts and Biblical truth. Thank you, too, for sharing glimpses of your life. You will be missed.

WKSK

I experienced a very interesting physical reaction when I read this. These clear, salty liquid drops emanated from my lower eyelids and moistened the lower half of my face.

SHAR2407

Thank you for your reporting in World, for sharing . I too am concerned deeply about the inclusion of World Opinions. It just doesn't fit with the very foundation of the reporting done in the magazine and World news group. May the Lord guide and direct you with His eye upon you and may you bring joy to His heart.

CAFFEINATED

Oh, me. So sorry to hear this. May the Lord bless you.

joansredpen

It was a gut punch when Mindy Belz announced her resignation. Today, we're hit with two more blows--losing you and Marvin Olasky. I haven't had time to read World Opinions. I suppose I ought to take a look to learn what is driving my favorite writers and editors away from World. I do wish World would stick to reporting and leave the opinions to its readers. After nearly two decades as a World subscriber, I feel like I'm losing close friends. So sad. I'm not on Twitter but hope to find your writing elsewhere, Sophia.

Strawberry Roan

Sophia, God's blessings on the new chapter in your life. I've loved reading your articles. I loved the article on your parents meeting your in-laws, and their second meeting when your mother-in-law passed away. Thank you!

CROB3561

Very sorry to hear you are leaving. Unfortunately, I am not on Twitter, is there any other way to read what you are writing?
I will never forget the Burma Ranger story. I doubt I would do as well as you did even though you commented on your failures. May God continue to bless you. I hope you will write occasionally even if you cannot write full time.
I also hope World will print through the lens of the Bible. I have Townhall and National Review for conservative press and it is impossible to miss the liberal press onslaught.

Ruthiedarkeyes

I'm sad.

NBrooks

Sophia, I have really loved the different perspectives you have introduced to me here. I certainly hope World continues to be that gentle, wise voice that appreciates complexity and shows love for people.

KWAR2107

I just heard this morning about Marvin’s resignation and soon realized Mindy was leaving over the same issue. I immediately thought of you, Sophia, so searched out your name and found this. I am so sad to lose your voice here! You have always been able to see the bigger, more nuanced picture and I deeply appreciate that. We desperately need voices like yours. Sigh! This has been a kind of depressing day. Praying for you as you move on, and praying that WORLD won’t get drawn into a single black-and-white mindset in the mistaken view it’s biblical.
-Loren, wife to Kraig

S LEWIS

Thank you, Sophia, for writing such a grateful and humble farewell column, and for giving us nine years of in-depth reporting. Whether you were covering homeless people on the sidewalk or immigrants at the border, you saw folks as fellow image-bearers and avoided easy answers. Well-done! Higher click rates and larger donation totals achieved through ideological purity are nothing compared to the long-term ripple effects of the mission you are still committed to. May God bless you in your every endeavor.

ASMI3046

Sorry to see you go! We are huge fans of your reporting and reflections and will continue to follow you wherever you end up. God bless!

Neil Evans

I too have so very much appreciated your writing. One of the things I greatly admire about World is that positions are expressed without arrogance or incitement. It really is a challenge to claim to follow Jesus Christ and the absolute truths of the Bible and accurately communicate that the Bible, not ourselves, is the real authority. Even Jesus was and is misunderstood because part of the responsibility for accurate communication is on the hearer. One of my beliefs is that when Jesus addressed the religious leaders with the words "woe to you," He did it not with a wagging finger but with weeping for their lost condition. He was able to do that because He knew them perfectly. In our technological world it is very difficult to significantly know either the people we are speaking to, or the people who are speaking to us. It is so easy to talk, or write, at people rather than to people. Thank you for letting God give you the desire and the ability to communicate what you see of God's Truth. I am also thankful for World's desire for the same. God Bless you with HIMSELF!!!

AMY MEDINA

This is such a big loss for WORLD, Sophia. I have loved your writing and your perspective. I am troubled by WORLD's new direction.

RJAM2515

You have been one of my favorite authors at WORLD. Please let us know where you land.

JRAU5405

You will be sorely missed. We are also theologically orthodox Christians who often feel unsettled in politically conservative evangelical circles. For us, it's frequently not the issue itself, but the way that issue is framed and communicated. This is what we have long loved about World. It has been a gentle, steady voice of a solidly biblical journalistic worldview without all the polarizing clamor. We thank you for your contribution to that voice for so many years and pray that when the dust settles, World's voice will emerge steady and unwavering in its commitment to solidly biblical journalism. The world is complicated and nuanced. May World continue to faithfully acknowledge that. We will be following you!