Category: Community

“It’s shocking. It’s awful. It’s tragic. There’s hope.”

“It’s shocking. It’s awful. It’s tragic. There’s hope.”

Those were my words when the first accusations against Bill Hybels, founder and senior pastor of Willow Creek, came out in the Chicago Tribune and Christianity Today last spring. My words were in response to a group of men who asked how it felt for me, knowing I had served on staff at the church for four years in the 1990’s.

Those words still hold true for me today; they are just stronger. As weeks have gone by more women have courageously stepped forward to reveal shocking stories of harassment, intimidation and inappropriate behavior they say they experienced from Hybels. He still denies the accusations and the elders are now re-investigating the claims, after months of their own denials and unkind characterizations against the women.

From the perspective of 20 years of distance following four years of immersion in the Willow Creek soil I pray for the following:

  1. That all the truth finally comes out. The scope and breadth of harmful behavior, crude touching or worse that Hybels apparently directed toward numerous women must come to light. As long as patterns remain hidden or denied they will remain festering and unhealed. For the sake of the women, for the church and for Hybels’ own emotional and spiritual health all of the truth needs to come out.
  1. For full confession and repentance from Hybels and the elders for their actions and words. Those who have harmed others privately and publicly must confess and repent privately and publicly. This means Hybels admits what he has done. This also means the elders and pastoral staff at the church, and leaders at the Willow Creek Association, many of whom have resigned and have begun to admit their previous errors, take personal responsibility for assumptions they made in defense of Hybels, as well as conclusions they reached and publicized against the women.
  1. For forgiveness when the time is right—for the women. I disagree with the apology approach that includes the words, “Will you forgive me?’ Those are not the words an offender has a right to say to those he has harmed, let alone a response he has a right to insist from them. The offender’s responsibility is to apologize and repent. It is up to the wounded one to determine when and how she will respond. For her sake choosing eventual forgiveness can bring her peace. But she has every right to decide when and how her heart is be prepared to do that.
  1. For the names and reputations of Willow Creek and the Association to be eventually restored. The global impact of Willow Creek can hardly be exaggerated. Certainly there will be hundreds of thousands of men, women and children who will spend eternity with the Lord because of the vision and message of the church. It’s my hope that some day, through genuine self-examination, apology and repentance, Willow will be held in high esteem once again.
  1. That the honor and reputation of the Church at large will be defended. Let those of us who claim to be brothers and sisters of those who have made terrible mistakes of judgment, as well as of those courageous women who have stood up and spoken up, make a commitment to examine our own areas of weakness, selfishness and condescension that harms other Believers, our families, neighbors, co-workers and others who trust us.
  1. That there might be a time when the women who have been harmed would see a spirit of contrition and humility in Hybels, a spirit already demonstrated by the elders and former pastors, that would cause them to welcome a restored relationship on whatever level is safe, healthy and right for them.
  1. That I would cease any arrogant spirit that might cause me to think I am incapable of the hiddenness, defensiveness and deceit that Hybels appears to have carried out. May I turn my eyes toward my own wounded story, healing, and repentance, and allow God to build in me a deeper spirit of humility and compassion toward others.
  1. That God’s name will eventually be magnified and honored because of how those in the center of this profoundly tragic story carry themselves as his followers. And because of how we who call him Lord conduct ourselves.

The challenges we encounter in life have the potential to destroy us. They also carry the equal potential to be defining and transformational steps in increased Christ-likeness. The impact depends on our attitudes and actions in the face of those challenges. I pray this deeply tragic episode causes Willow Creek, the Church at large, you and me to more deeply reflect the Spirit of Christ.

American Exceptionalism: Random Male Violence, Part II

In my previous post, Random Male Violence, Part I I began to unravel the mystery of why the random violence we regularly encounter happens in the U.S. on a level unlike any other country. Our soul searching requires that we recognize that we are developing wounded males. But all countries have wounded males.

There’s another inescapable reason random mass slaughter happens within American borders so much more than anywhere else— the ease with which anyone, regardless of capabilities, mental health or training can get their hands on assault rifles—weapons of mass destruction. The solution to this issue has proven exceptionally difficult to find, but I don’t think there is any question that this is a central part of the problem.

American Exceptionalism: Random Male Violence, Part II
American Exceptionalism: Random Male Violence, Part I

American Exceptionalism: Random Male Violence, Part I

Once again we wrestle with piercing feelings of grief, bewilderment and anger. Yet again a young American male has unleashed his wrath against a vulnerable group of students. Our hearts ache, our heads shake and our minds reel. How can this keep happening? What can we do to make sure this never happens again?

We’re familiar with the spectrum of suggested causes as well as solutions—it’s a mental health issue, it’s a gun access issue, it’s a cultural issue. It’s all of those to some degree, but in my opinion it’s a horrific case of American Exceptionalism.

I love my country, but I really dislike the way that term is typically used. It implies that American culture is first and best, as if we’re all in a global competition for a mythical cultural gold medal. Having traveled to more than 60 countries over the years I’ve experienced qualities in every one of them that are admirable as well as unfortunate. Mine included.

Yes, we Americans have demonstrated an outstanding technological ability to fly humans to the moon or to instantaneously connect and communicate with others half a world away. But honesty also compels us to admit our exceptionalism in incarcerating the highest number of citizens per capita of any nation in the world.

In grief we must also admit the exceptional acts we regularly face—young males who randomly unleash deadly violence against their own kind. Even a short-list of the locations where slaughter took place over the past 19 years evokes memories and emotions that should never entirely fade: Columbine, Orlando, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Aurora, Las Vegas, and now Parkland. (See my previous post, Our Spirits Groan.)

Each stands out in its own uniqueness of location and horror, but they share two common characteristics: the perpetrator was male and he was an American.

Of course, other nations have violent young men, but they tend to slaughter those who are different from themselves. They go after those of another religion, ethnicity, tribe or political persuasion. In the US our violent males slaughter randomly.

Why does this happen here and not elsewhere? My opinion is that American culture produces young males who are profoundly self-absorbed and entitled. (See my previous post, Brilliant Jerks.) At the same time they are deeply uncertain of their own significance and place in a dramatically changing cultural and economic landscape. And, they often pick up the message—whether through bullying, macho posturing, gangs, or violent video games— that the solution to disagreement and conflict is often best settled through some form of violence.

I had intended to start writing this blog last weekend, but found myself gripped by both sadness and anger at the violence recently unleashed in Parkland, FL. Having decided to take a break and see a movie, I was stunned at what appeared in the very first frame: this quote from author D. H. Lawrence, “The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic and a killer.” It was all I could do to keep from gasping out loud at how horribly accurately this described exactly what I was grieving.

Man, how much I want to disagree with that statement! I know so many wonderful, connected, compassionate, life-giving men. And, Lawrence had a different, late 19th-early 20th century, American era in mind when he made that statement. But I have to also acknowledge the extent to which this quote fits today. So many young males in American culture are tough, alone, emotionless…and can so easily turn into killers.

In his book Guyland, author Michael Kimmel identified an American sub-culture of males, ages 16-26 whose key qualities are privilege, narcissism, entitlement and self-centeredness. They are convinced that they are the center of the universe, that they are the most sought out marketing demographic (unfortunately, they’re right), that they set the social rules, and that everyone else who wants to fit in, women above all others, needs to accept and adhere to those rules. As long as a male in that demographic succeeds, he’s in. If he doesn’t measure up by the group’s or his own standards, he’s out.

Some of those young males who find themselves “out,” simmer with anger and shame until they decide to resolve things in violence. Some of them grow older and never find a sense of community or significance, until the lava of hidden resentment suddenly erupts with deadly consequences. Then they become a headline.

Courage and humility require us to face the awful circumstances we repeatedly see in American culture. In the next post, American Exceptionalism, Part II, I’ll explore factors that indicate what some solutions might be.

Our Spirits Groan

We see the news updates on our phones and can hardly believe what we are seeing. We turn on the TV and shake our heads, wordlessly, stunned at the carnage we once again witness in our broken world.

A morally lost 64 year-old man has killed more 50 and wounded more than 500 attenders of an outdoor concert in Las Vegas. He’d probably never met any of them. The audio of machine gun fire, along with the video of thousands running, crouching, weeping, is almost more than our hearts and minds can handle…

Our Spirits Groan
Which Will It Be…Rights Or Rites?

Which Will It Be…Rights Or Rites?

Rite of Passage. Western culture largely views these as age-based rights young adults automatically deserve once they hit a certain date. Depending on local laws 18 or 21-year olds are allowed to consume tobacco, alcohol, marijuana and pornography; they can now purchase weapons and ammunition. In most cases, this “right” is granted regardless of whether youths have benefited from any guidance in the inherent dangers of these practices nor any training in discernment in their use.

High school sports team and college fraternity hazing rituals involving sexual abuse, or deadly alcohol over-consumption, as we saw this week at Penn State and in 2013 at my own alma mater, Northern Illinois University, confirm the consequences of the absence of effective guidance in rites of passage.

Cultures across the globe have practiced the often-sacred ritual of male rites of passage when the fathers of a village suddenly take the sons away from the familiar and expose them to a new understanding of their roles as young men.   These practices universally include the stages of separation—encounter—challenge—return—celebration.

Jewish culture, Native American, African cultures and others continue these time-honored traditions today. North American and European cultures have largely abandoned this kind of “initiation” to responsible, self-disciplined adult behavior at great cost.

This week Peregrine Ministries guided six dads and six sons through a modern version of this sacred practice we call Passage to Manhood. The dads “stole” their unsuspecting and bewildered sons from their high school for a day of mystery, teaching, challenge, movie clips, story-telling and sharpshooting. The journey culminated the next night with a room full of moms, siblings and grandparents who witnessed story-telling and blessing.

This isn’t a one-time deal where the sons suddenly become men overnight. But it is a profound and significant step in a journey that encourages young men to love God and others with all their heart (compassion), soul (confidence), mind (conviction), and strength (courage.)

Do you have a son who needs to hear this truth and experience this kind of encounter with you? Let us know. Because he matters.

At Last!

“What was the highlight of 2016 for you?” our Christmas party host asked around the dinner table. Beryl and I had the same responses, “First, the birth of 5th granddaughter, Gemma. Very close after that…the Cubs winning the World Series!!”

“Really?” some asked. “A sports event was a highlight?” Clearly, they were not aware of the cosmic significance of the event. At least not of its impact on the Glass clan. Why did this rank as a highlight of the year? Because it was of far more significance than just another sports event. For these three reasons:

A Village of Fathers

A Village of Fathers

If you’ve read many of my posts in the past there’s a good chance you’ve seen me quote an African proverb I learned from a Kenyan pastor: “The boys in the village must be initiated into manhood, or they will burn down the village…just to feel the heat.”

When I heard this statement it caused many observations I’ve had about our society to fall into place.

  • It explains why fatherless inner-city gang members turn to violence.
  • It explains why self-absorbed frat boys, with no healthy mentors, assert their will on women.
  • It explains the profound urgency of father-son programs like Peregrine’s Passage to Manhood.

Watch this remarkable clip illustrating some mentors who have their eyes on the next generation of African American young men.

Man, am I glad for men like this! May their tribe increase.

Get Home Safely

3039844-inline-i-1-the-talk-in-americaI never knew this before, but apparently many African American families do.

Some parents of black kids have this talk in order to increase the odds that their kids will get home safely if they encounter the police when they are away from home: “10 Rules of Survival if Stopped By Police.”

I never had this talk with my kids; it never crossed my mind. I’m pretty sure none of my grandchildren will ever hear this talk from their parents. But it’s considered crucial parenting wisdom for black families. I had no idea; perhaps that’s the case for others of you who are white.

Black Lives Matter; Blue Lives Matter; All Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter; Blue Lives Matter; All Lives Matter

Once again, I’m stunned at the video footage that confronts all of us:

BLACK LIVES MATTER

  • 49 patrons of an Orlando dance club are brutally slaughtered by a man who apparently hates gays, non-Muslims or both
  • A black man in Louisiana shot twice in the chest as he’s wrestled to the ground by two officers
  • A black man in Minnesota is shot four times after getting pulled over by an officer for a broken taillight, as his wife and 4 year-old daughter watch in horror
  • A protest in Minneapolis turns into a virtual riot as firecrackers, Molotov Cocktails and bricks are thrown at police, who then respond with smoke and tear-gas. Dozens on both sides are injured
  • A peaceful protest in Dallas, in response to these shootings, turns into a sniper attack where a black man kills five police officers and wounds several others

The development of live video footage anywhere at anytime has exposed us to shocking injustice as well as outright evil. Many of us experience the disorientation and overload of being exposed to more violence, mistreatment and bloodshed than our senses and thought processes were designed to manage.

Meanwhile extreme voices on either end of the political spectrum take advantage of the horror to press their own predictable agendas.

Groups like Black Lives Matter, whose name and motto I fully agree with, seem too often to become violent and abusive in how they express their anguish. Sometimes it sounds like: Black lives matter more than yours. No, they don’t matter more: but they DO matter more than the prejudiced treatment they’ve lived under for centuries. I think we can agree on this, even though we may disagree with how it’s communicated.

Those espousing that Blue Lives Matter, whose name and motto I fully agree with, seem too often to ignore the demeaning, soul-crushing reality of what it feels like, as a black man or woman, to live in a society where you are constantly suspect, feared, over-looked or attacked. But, folks, where would we be without the courageously self-sacrificial service the great majority of police provide their neighbors? Utter anarchy.

Where do we land? For starters, though it sounds ridiculously simplistic to say it, we need to live with the unalterable conviction that All Lives Matter. Regardless of ethnicity, race or gender, the truth is that we have all been made in the image of God. (Gen. 1:27) That matters, or at least it should. You have never looked into the eyes of a person who God does not love with all his heart.

We also need to live with the unalterable conviction that every one of us, regardless of race, gender, demographic, addiction or sexual lifestyle choice, is deeply wounded. The Creator designed every one of us with deep longings for love, significance, security and joy. All of those were lost as a consequence of sin, pride and, ultimately, through self-centered separation from God.

As a result, all of us live with deep loss, brokenness and longing. We try to fill those longings with a wide variety of selfish behavior that still leaves us thirsty…until we discover the true Source of living water. (Jer. 2:13) And even then we all still have the capacity to live selfishly.

To me, this means we live with the unalterable conviction that, while the outward evidence and consequences of our self-centered choices may vary widely, every one of us has the capacity for prejudice, anger, pride, addictive behavior, destructive pursuit of pleasure and self-protection.

I’m not invulnerable to these; neither are you; neither are those whose lives are very different from yours. We’re all broken. We’re all longing for what our hearts were designed for, and then, was lost when mankind’s relationship with God was broken.

So how do we respond?

hug2

  • We live in humility. We recognize that deep inside we are all broken.
  • We work to understand others. We all long for the transcendent relationship with God we were built for; we pursue different wounded paths.
  • We forgive graciously. Because we have been forgiven so much.
  • We speak with conviction. To remain silent in the face of sin or injustice we disagree with, is to allow it to continue.
  • We act courageously. Action almost always requires courage.
  • We love extravagantly. One of the most powerful stories Jesus told, commonly known as the Prodigal Son, is really about the Extravagantly Loving Father. Even as that son was rebellious and self-absorbed, his father watched the horizon for him every day. Our Father does the same: watching, waiting, embracing and forgiving every child who comes to him. We should reflect that same love.

Because all lives matter.

Build Good Men. Continued.

p_blacksmith_1660195cYet again, we come face-to-face with the bewildering, heart-breaking news of another mass killing in the U.S. This time, for my wife, Beryl, and me, it pierces even closer to home—3 killed, 9 wounded in Colorado Springs, our home for the past 16 years. Revulsion, grief, ache, and anger boil to the surface.

And, just days later, another horrific scene of slaughter takes place in San Bernardino, CA. We watch the horror unfold in stunned disbelief.

Coming so shortly after the bombings and killings in Paris and Mali, a world that already felt unstable and unsafe, now feels even less safe and even more bewildering.

What is going on? I feel compelled to comment, mostly on the Colorado Springs event, because it happened in my backyard. I’m intentionally bypassing the political issues of abortion, terror or gun control. There is another time and place for that conversation. I’m landing on the common thread in these stories that motivates me more than any other.

Build Good Men. Continued.