It has been so disturbing recent months to witness the series of events that have brought into glaring spotlight the differences that still separate the races—especially white vs. black—in the United States.
We who long for genuine reconciliation and mutual respect, regardless of one’s race, are pierced when young black men are killed by officers of peace, when police who defend our homes are treated with vile disrespect, when those who disagree with our president smear him with names and images that mock the dignity of his office, let alone his value as a human being.
And still, how shocking it was to see the uploaded video of fraternity members at the University of Oklahoma chanting, in a bus, vows that no “n—–” will ever join their frat. (As if any black person in their right mind would want to get on the bus with these people.) You’ve probably seen the clips, and they don’t need to be repeated here.
One of the sad ironies here is that fraternities were originally established at universities to provide support for students finding themselves on campuses increasingly straying from Christian values and morals. My son, Alec, joined the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity at the University of Wyoming and found that their founding priorities were to urge high character and honorable behavior.
When will we see genuine respect, repentance, apology, forgiveness, even a degree of reconciliation and redemption in race relationships? We just did.
One of the frat members who led the chant, Levi Pettit, after two weeks of silence made a public apology. It appeared genuinely contrite and sincere. “There are no excuses for my behavior,” he said. “The bottom line is that the words that were said in that chant were mean, hateful and racist.” He’s right. There are no excuses.
He has been expelled from his university and will have to live with the images and consequences of his actions for a long time. He has paid a heavy price and he has now humbly owned up to his role in causing that price.
More importantly, he didn’t stand alone. It wasn’t fellow frat members, or fellow students, or even family members who stood closest by his side as he asked forgiveness. He was surrounded by black clergy and civic leaders—members of an African American Baptist church and Oklahoma state Senator Anastacia Pittman among others—who visibly gave him moral support as he faced the public.
These were men and women who easily could have snubbed any display of association with Pettit. They easily could have responded with their own name-calling. Or spit in his face the first time they saw him. They didn’t; they stood with him.
When Pettit was asked a challenging question by a member of the media after his apology, it was a black man standing behind him who reached forward and placed his hand firmly on his shoulder as if to communicate, “I got you, bro. You’re not alone.” I don’t know who that man is, but I want him to be my friend. I’m moved by that kind of act of forgiveness and allegiance. I think almost all of us are.
It’s the power of redemption. When an act of disrespect, conflict or violence is met with patience, forgiveness and humility, a power emerges that turns destruction into reconciliation. Redemption brings hope in the midst of despair.
Let’s see more. Let it begin with me.
My greatest joy in life is my family. I know, that sounds like the comment you’re supposed to make as a man and father. All I can say is I literally shake my head in wonder at the family I have: my wife Beryl; my daughter Barclay and son-in-law Vince, their four daughters, Bella, Brynn, Brooke and Blake; my son Alec, my son Conor and daughter-in-law Bonnie, their daughter Gemma and son Calvin. Every one of them is a genuine gift. Beyond that, I have a calling that I live out through Peregrine Ministries. It is to help men: Understand their identity in Christ, Embrace their role as men, and Live out their God-given calling in life. Bottom line is I’m convinced men matter and I want to help them live life on purpose.