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changed my worldview not through thunder or a whirlwind, but by means of a small whisper that became a repeated, resounding question in my brain: “What if Lenin is wrong? What if there is a God?” My communism was based on atheism, and when I was no longer an atheist I quickly resigned from the Party, although I thought I was leaving the eventually winning side. Not until 1976 did I become a Christian, however. The steps down that path were hesitant and included activities such as watching and reading Christian existentialists. Olasky was enrolled in Michigan’s American Culture program, and planning a dissertation on politics and American films, particularly classic westerns. But the developing change in his political perspective created a conflict with his dissertation director, program chairman Marvin Felheim, as Olasky found himself not only endorsing the absolutist moralism of western films, but defending the 1950s Hollywood anti-communist investigations by the House Un-American Activities Committee. Olasky describes the episode as his introduction to academic political correctness -Felheim’s angry rejection of his first drafts left him without a director. His academic career was saved only through the intervention of the sympathetic chairman of the history department, Stephen Tonsor, a conservative Catholic. Felheim is dead, but Tonsor, now retired, concurs with Olasky’s memory of the story, saying he intervened at the request of the dean of the graduate school. “Marvin’ Felheim [told Olasky], `Well, you’re a fascist and you can’t write a doctoral dissertation for me…. ‘ Almost in desperation, Mr. Olasky ‘turned to me.” Tonsor was impressed with Olasky’s abilities, although he is uncertain what had made him change his political perspective. He laughed: “I guess he watched too many John Wayne movies, or something of the sort.” More seriously, he suggested that the change did not seem to be based on any emotional crisis, but was an intellectual conversion. “With intellectuals, emotionality and rationality are very closely linked,” said Tonsor. “I don’t think you can draw a line in these things. I’ve had students who have had major shifts in their thinking, but that was generally accompanied by enormous emotional disturbances of various kinds.” -Olasky had studied Russian, initially out of socialist zeal, practicing his conversation skills while playing chess with Russian seamen during his 1972 trip to Moscow. He describes as providential his graduate school review of the language, for by chance he used a Russian translation of the New Testament that he had been given during his stint as a reporter in Oregon. “To my surprise,” he recalled in World, “the words had the ring of truth. \(It “An assignment to teach a course in early American literature also helped, since my preparation involved reading Puritan sermons. Those dead white males spoke truth.” John Wayne, John the Baptist, and Jonathan Edwards: “From a Christian perspective,” Olasky says now, “I felt the Holy Spirit working on me at that point.” Another retired Michigan faculty member, Cecil Eby, first taught Olasky in an undergraduate course and later was a member Alan Pogue of his original dissertation committee. Eby says his own politics are “slightly on the right,” and very much anti-communist because of his research on the Party’s role in the Spanish Civil War. When he first met Olasky, he told him he didn’t even want to hear about his Communist Party activities, because he didn’t want to risk ever being called as a witness in some future investigation. Eby was later shocked to receive the initial chapters of Olasky’s dissertation. “This was such an about-face,” Eby remembers. “The kinds of things that I objected to, that he had expressed in a very adamant way from the left, that I couldn’t accept I suddenly found myself rejecting the stuff that he was saying from the right. I thought it odd…. Based upon what I know about ideologues, they can reverse themselves very quickly.” Susan Olasky, then an undergraduate at Michigan, met her future husband while he was in the middle of his work on the dissertation. “It was a very stressful time for him,” she said. “When I met him, he was definitely an anti-communist, but I wouldn’t say he was a Christian, at that point.” Marvin was very involved in student film societies, and she remembers his disagreements with other students over their “moral laxity” specifically his insistence that they strictly follow the terms of rental contracts with distributors. On their first date, they went to see Anatomy of a Murder. Later, he would recommend that she read Whittaker Chambers’ Witness. “That book described where he was then,” said Susan. “The battle between two religions: those that believed in God, and those that believed in communism or some kind of materialism. Chambers was pessimistic he thought the materialists would win. That was an important book to Marvin.” Susan, from the Detroit area, was a Methodist, although she wasn’t very religious and 10 THE TEXAS OBSERVER MAY 14, 1999