Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Morning thanks--repentance and forgiveness

There's so much to this story that's old news, so much that's so awful yet so obscenely ordinary, that the whole thing is almost predictable. To a point. 

At some D-1 university, some football players get drunk along with some maidens who've come for a party they really wouldn't wish on their worst enemy. Too much booze goes down, waaaay too much, and things go on that are beyond reprehensible, plain criminal. Rape goes on. Again and again.

Brenda Tracy, 24, a single mom, should not have been in the company of footballers from the local university, Oregon State, that night. She had her own life and the lives of her children to attend to. But she was. 

When she woke up, she was naked beneath a sheet. Something beyond imagination, worse than a nightmare had gone on.
The attack lasted more than six hours and as I went in and out of consciousness the things that they did to me are now burned into my memory, Like a piece of cattle I was branded, never to forget eight hands on me, inside me, their laughs as they high-fived each other in a congratulatory manner as they each took turns raping me. … Never to forget the next morning when I awoke to the smell of dried vomit in my hair, the stickiness of a condom stuck to my stomach, the food crumbs that left indentations on my skin as I lay face down on the apartment floor like a piece of garbage that someone forgot to pick up.
She decided to call the police. 

And then commit suicide, she told a reporter.

The men who'd done it were hauled in. Two of them were charged with sodomy, unlawful sexual entry, and sexual abuse. They claimed it was all consensual, of course, and their coach, Mike Riley, slapped a one-game suspension on them.

Then Brenda Tracy dropped charges. The heat was horrible--hate mail, death threats, backlash. The players were stars.  "They are really good guys who made a bad choice," Coach Riley said.

Later, when the entire story came out, Riley made clear that he deeply regretted what he'd done and not done, what he'd let the young men do, regretted it horribly.

So why tell this story again? Because there's more. The Washington Post featured it yesterday, but I can't believe my neighbors in Nebraska didn't know it long ago because Mike Riley is now coaching the Nebraska Cornhuskers and almost nothing that happens on that team gets by thousands of loyal Husker fans. 

Here's the not-to-be-believed chapter: Eighteen years later, Coach Mike Riley asked Brenda Tracy to come to Lincoln and talk to the Huskers herself. 

"I hated that man worse than my rapists," Brenda Tracy told an Oregon newspaper reporter. In the years that had passed since that awful night, she'd become a nurse, an advocate for rape victims, and even an employee of Oregon State, where she helped the institution prevent sexual assault. But her hatred for Mike Riley hadn't really subsided. He was, after all, the enabler. 

When the two of them met, he reached out and hugged her, let her cry on his shoulder. They talked for an hour, the two of them. "I feel like I put everything on the table and left it all there," she told a reporter from Omaha. “He answered everything."

Then, as requested, she talked to Riley's Huskers, told them every detail, then turned to the coach, the enabler. She said she felt 150 faces turn simultaneously. "This is what accountability looks like," she told them. "It's okay to say you're sorry."

Amazing story. Wonderful story. You can't beat repentance and forgiveness. 

Just can't beat it.

What happened, happened. Nothing will ever take it away, de-record it from memory. But 150 men witnessed something remarkable because repentance and forgiveness always is. 

We come near unto God, Abraham Kuyper says, when we try to do what we know he does.


Anonymous said...


ronvdm said...

Well worth sharing more broadly!

prayer partner said...

sadly... Riley's original response is far too often the response in the Church as well to abusive behavior by leaders...

The heat was horrible--hate mail, death threats, backlash. The players were stars. "They are really good guys who made a bad choice," Coach Riley said.

It's the same excuse the church uses... look at the good these "leaders" do... here's a quote from :

BOQ: I was stunned. I will never forget the betrayal of that statement, or the sound Lauren’s voice made after I repeated it. The woman who had called D**** out when he excused L*** saying, “He does so much good,” was now making the same excuse for D*****. The one who had fought for Lauren from the beginning, who was the sole witness to many of D*****’s missteps, and who watched Lauren (and me and my parents) suffer because of his choices, was essentially saying, “D***** does enough good to outweigh the damage he has done to you and the trauma L*** has caused you.”EOQ

and another quote from a different article on how Christians leaders re-frame the narrative regarding sexual abuse...

BOQ: When the abusive behavior of Christian leaders is uncovered, all too often the immediate response is not an unconditional admission or a genuine expression of authentic repentance. Instead, a common response is a new narrative. A false narrative. A narrative that attempts to paint a picture of the situation without any regard for truth. A narrative designed to protect reputations and preserve future incomes. A narrative designed to keep the leaders in the spotlight and the victims out of the way. EOQ

very sad, Church... waiting for the genuine expression of authentic repentance by those who have abused their power in the Church and done deep harm to the Body of Christ... I hope to God it doesn't take 18 years!