Ted Olsen wasn't very impressed with John Whitehead the first time he saw him. It was 1994; Ted was a student at Wheaton College, and Whitehead was barnstorming with his Religious Apartheid video and indulging in over-the-top rhetoric comparing the ALCU to the Nazi storm troopers.
All that was before Whitehead became famous for championing Paula Jones's civil suit against the President. And it was before Whitehead made a number of changes. Change is part of what makes Whitehead interesting, and his upredictability has made it hard for him to form alliances with other Christian culture warriors. But then change makes for interesting journalism, so Ted took up the challenge of describing the John Whitehead of late 1998. (See "The Dragon Slayer," p. 36.)
While John Whitehead continues his legal battles for truth, justice, and the American way, his personal interests run not to case law but to the messages of popular culture. His desk is littered with hundreds of action figures, and his walls are covered with posters of the entertainment culture. Ted says that Gadfly, Whitehead's maverick magazine of pop culture analysis, is Whitehead's real passion, with the political and legal projects much lower on his personal agenda. (Check out Gadfly on the Web at www.gadfly.org.)
Like Whitehead, Ted is fascinated by pop culture. "Well," says Ted, "I'm 24 years old. Everyone my age is interested in pop culture." And like Whitehead, Ted would be happier if evangelicals just knew more of what was going on in his media-saturated world.
Ted's office is decorated with signed photographs of Muppetmeister Jim Henson and country-music mandarin Johnny Cash. After reading an online preview of the script for Gen-X filmmaker Kevin Smith's forthcoming movie Dogma, he wrote about it for CT's sister magazine BOOKS & CULTURE. In grade school, Ted was known as Mork, after the Robin Williams character in the Mork and Mindy sitcom. And yes, he even wore Mork-style suspenders.
Having built his journalistic foundations as news editor of the Wheaton College Record and then as editorial resident in CT's news department, Ted is now assistant editor of CHRISTIAN HISTORY. When asked about his favorite issue of that magazine, Ted immediately says, "It was the first one I worked on—the David Livingstone issue. He was amazing, an enigma, fascinating—a pop culture hero of his time."
He is also excited about CH's coming issue on the conversion of the Vikings. Ted's heritage is half Norwegian and half Swedish, and after finishing his year at CT he went to Scandinavia to track down his relatives. One wonders: will we soon see Hagar the Horrible on the cover of CHRISTIAN HISTORY?
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