Thank you, readers
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.
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