Monthly Archives: November 2014

The story of the UVA rape storyteller

This Washington Post article gives a bit of background to the UVA rape story and its author. Click here.

Scroll down 2 or 4 posts to see my thoughts.

My next post on the subject will be thinking about what leaders can learn from this tragedy.

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Happy Thanksgiving

As many Americans gather with family and/or friends for a big meal tomorrow, many will be asked to state what they are thankful for. Many, unprepared for such, might stutter and stammer and say they are thankful for their family or for the cranberry relish or their dog or whatever. Now these are valid and in many cases honorable things to be thankful for, they are probably even heartfelt. But, that we stutter and stammer may mean we have to think about something we have not thought of to date. Which leads me to the question. Why are we not more thankful more often?

Perhaps if we made a more regular practice of being thankful, we might have better outlooks on life in general. Paul said to “give thanks in all circumstances;” (1 Thess. 5:18a) he did not say give thanks for everything. The idea is to look to God and be thankful. In his very recent book on prayer, Tim Keller exclaims: “It is remarkable that in all of his writings Paul’s prayers for his friends contain no appeals for changes in their circumstances.” (Keller. Prayer, p. 19) Paul’s emphasis is the inner life and that if we focus on it, the outer life will take care of itself. This is how he can say “give thanks in all circumstances.” If we are viewing the circumstances of life filled by and strengthened by Christ living in us, we have much to be thankful for.

So, take a moment and give thanks. Not sure for what? Your heart is beating, right? You just took a breath didn’t you? Did you have to plan either of those? Someone taught you to read didn’t they? Or is this being read aloud to you? If so, be thankful for that person. Look around, in the midst of the pretty awful stuff that is going on, we really do have much to be thankful for, especially those of us who already have Christ in us.

In everything, give thanks.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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UVa rape saga: what can we learn? Part 2

This is my second post on learning from the saga taking place up the street at the University of Virginia. But remember this is NOT just about UVa, it is about colleges all across the country. These posts are based on the Rolling Stone article and for the purposes of these thoughts and questions, the article is being treated as an accurate portrayal of the events. My objective with these posts is to engage us in thinking about our culture and our reaction to it.

These events depict a severe cultural problem. As I study culture, I am convinced that they are changed neither by university presidents nor legislative bodies. Culture is changed one person at a time. Indeed, like disciple making, intentional culture change happens not so much from a pulpit but across the table of conversation. I say that with the full understanding that implicit culture change is happening all around us through TV, film, video games, Fb, etc, etc, etc. My hope is that through considering the various aspects of this tragic story – one aspect at a time, as I see them – we can each see ways to engage in positive culture change, one person at a time. Finally, let me preface this by saying that my comments and questions do not mean that I think that the persons described here are typical of all college students. But neither would I consider them exceptions. All of us can learn, whether we are 18, 38 or 58, from these events because like it or not we are all part of a culture.

There are a multitude of different relationships in this article. The one I have chosen for this post is that among ‘friends.’ Near the beginning of the article, after the crime, the victim had regained consciousness on the floor in the room where the atrocity was committed. She left the frat house and called for help. When the people she called found her they wanted to know what happened. The Rolling Stone description picks up here:

“Jackie shook her head and began to cry. The group looked at one another in a panic. They all knew about Jackie’s date; the Phi Kappa Psi house loomed behind them. ‘We have to get her to the hospital,’ Randall said.

Their other two friends, however, weren’t convinced. ‘Is that such a good idea?’ she recalls Cindy asking. ‘Her reputation will be shot for the next four years.’ Andy seconded the opinion, adding that since he and Randall both planned to rush fraternities, they ought to think this through. The three friends launched into a heated discussion about the social price of reporting Jackie’s rape, while Jackie stood beside them, mute in her bloody dress, wishing only to go back to her dorm room and fall into a deep, forgetful sleep. Detached, Jackie listened as Cindy prevailed over the group: ‘She’s gonna be the girl who cried ‘rape,’ and we’ll never be allowed into any frat party again.’ [1]

Now, please pause and consider the reasoning:

“Her reputation will be shot for the next four years.”

“since he [Andy]  and Randall both planned to rush fraternities, they ought to think this through”

“we’ll never be allowed into any frat party again.”

Let that sink in for a minute.

The debate began with the question of if they should take her to the hospital after she was raped.

Their prevailing concern, as portrayed in the article, appears to be for a continuing social life including membership in a fraternal organization.

Friendship lost. Social life won.

This way of thinking by these students was not learned at UVa, there wasn’t time. If they were all ‘1st years,’ in September, they were about 90 days out of high school, probably 18 years old. They came to UVa with this mindset. Why?

I invested 16 mostly wonderful years teaching high school seniors. I’ve had hundreds of conversations with people of this age group about issues of life. On numerous occasions we would discuss why people go to college. A prevailing reasoning was: go to the right school to get the right job to make enough (or a lot) of money to… fill in the blank. We’re all familiar with the business networks that exist and are, at least partial, motivation for joining a fraternal organization. These networks are part of the deal. I have to believe that many, if not all, of these factors were in that back of their minds as this discussion ensued. Again, this thought pattern was not learned when they got to Charlottesville, indeed the desire to succeed, because of being a UVa grad certainly drives the decision of many students to apply to the university. Just yesterday the Washington Post put a story on one of its blogs that UVa is among the best schools in the country for mid career earnings in both Engineering and Social Sciences. These students come to UVa to build their future. They have worked hard to get in and are working hard to get ahead. But… at what cost?

The thinking behind this decision had already been developed back home in ‘Where-evers-burg.’ They are the product of a culture. What are we learning from our culture about relationships?

My question for all of us: what are the ways that we can instill in young people (and ourselves) the desire to put the needs of people above our desire (or need) for success?

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” – Jesus (John 15:13 ESV) Not long after saying this Jesus was killed, was buried, and rose from the dead – for us.

He provided us with help that we could not provide for ourselves in our natural, fallen state. In Him, we can be changed into people who are becoming more like Him. In His strength we can put others first. In him, we can become the people who love people, by putting ourselves, our social life, even our success aside to put someone else first. We should be thinking about our culture and the ways that we can change it, one heart, one person, one life at a time.




Today, the UVa Board met in an emergency session. In part 3 I wish to express some thoughts about leadership and the role of school administrations and their boards in protecting the young people they attract to their schools and then how they handle incidents like this.

[1] Read more:

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Learning from the UVA rape saga: part 1

UVa was chosen as the focal point of an article about rape culture that exists in universities across America. There are a number of things that should be learned.

I thought that I should preface my thoughts by saying a perfunctory ‘this is not about blame.’ And I mean that, it’s not about blame, that’s not my job, but it is about learning. From UVa’s President and Board of Visitors (who have their own troubled past as a group back in June of 2012) all the way down to RAs and lower level assistant deans, there needs to be learning and change of policies to facilitate the well being of the university’s youngest community members. University policies must be changed to facilitate the victim’s willingness to reporting these crimes. Focus groups are not even a beginning. Action is required. Suspending the Greek societies yesterday at UVa is a good first step. But this is just one step on a long journey.

There are lessons to be learned by federal and state legislators who have enacted laws that are protecting perpetrators of these heinous crimes. When it became known that the accused abductor of Hannah Graham had a history of sexual assault at CNU and Liberty, those schools told us they had to protect student’s privacy. These laws need to be reevaluated and changed appropriately. Now. But neither of us, you, my dear reader, nor I can do anything about any of that.

But there is one area that we can do something about and that is the area that I focus upon here. I have a question that comes from what I call ‘the dad paragraph.’ Here is that paragraph from the Rolling Stone article.

“Before Jackie left for college, her parents – a Vietnam vet and retired military contractor, and a stay-at-home mom – had lectured her about avoiding the perils of the social scene, stressing the importance of her studies, since Jackie hoped to get into medical school. Jackie had a strained relationship with her father, in whose eyes she’d never felt good enough, and always responded by exceeding expectations – honor roll, swim team, first-chair violin – becoming the role model for her two younger brothers. Jackie had been looking forward to college as an escape – a place to, even, defy her parents’ wishes and go to a frat party. “And I guess they were right,” she says bitterly.”[1]

Let me zoom in on one phrase “…she’d never felt good enough….”

Let that sink in.

Of course, I don’t know Jackie’s dad. I cannot pretend to imagine how He feels. I have great sympathy for him as a dad. This is not about him. It’s about us. We who are dads of girls and younger women, I have one question:

What have you said or done today to help your daughter know that, in your eyes, she not only good enough, but is amazing. No matter her flaws, her rebellion, the fights she has with her mother, you make damn sure she knows that in your eyes she is an amazing young woman who is unconditionally loved. That is your most important job with her. If you are a follower of Jesus, you have received this unconditional love, the love of the Father who gave His ONLY son, for you.

If she knows that she is amazing in your sight and is loved unconditionally, you may very well have a voice into other areas of her life.

And you can do that even when you can’t give her all the rest of it: clothes, expensive education, etc. Give her that foundation of unconditional love that will cause her to actually hear your counsel and warnings.

Not a dad? Encourage one who is. Maybe even send them these words or give him yours.

Culture is not changed by university presidents, protesters or legislators; culture is changed one life at time. YOU have the ability to affect a life and change culture. When they talk about a culture of this and that, remember, you can affect lives.



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How do you change the course of culture? a response to the rape story

Last night I heard about, found and read the college rape story that many are talking about. I have thought about it many times today and was ranting about it with friends this evening. I was reminded of an article a few weeks ago about why kids sext.

It took the author of yesterday’s article 9000 words (according to the local news) to tell the story. It would take more than that to think through and express all that needs to be said about this horror.

For me, figuring out who to blame is not helpful right now. Rather, I wish to think through some bigger questions.

Who are the less-than-obvious victims?

Who has victimized them?

How did the young men who committed this crime learn that there are no consequences for their actions?

Or worse

How have these young men come to the conclusion that what they did is acceptable?

What, in their upbringing, taught them (through explicit or implicit means) that this behavior is acceptable? or at least that they could get away with it? or that someone could get them out of trouble?

How have violent video games, porn and certain types of music and film that is exploitative of humans, especially women, taught them that this behavior is acceptable?

What are the factors in their upbringing that have taught these young people that it is not just acceptable but expected that they would behave in the ways described?

Why were the victims ‘friends’ debating her need to go to the hospital after her assault verses her reputation and future popularity?

Why has a government placed the privacy of individuals over the good of the community through enacting ‘privacy laws’ that have the result of protecting rapists?

Why does the reputation of an institution outweigh the well being of even one rape victim? let alone scores? hundreds?

What is it about the human being that causes him or her to look at another human being as an object to be oppressed?

How long does it take a person to become so desensitized by these kind of stories that they shrug with indifference?

Why are we not outraged?

If we are outraged, why do we keep it to ourselves?

Why are the outraged not protesting against this culture of violence on our college campuses?

Why is it that this will likely fade away with the news cycle?

Why are we so apathetic?

Who, that has a voice, will speak out against this culture of drunkenness, violence, rape and murder that seems to be an ongoing story in this community?

This is a problem of culture and is like a gigantic out of control barge of trash that no one has any control over and no one seems to know how to stop it as it destroys one life after another.

A friend reminded me of this:

All that we call human history–money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery–is the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy. – C. S. Lewis

The last 24 hours since I read this article makes me realize the importance of the brief talk I was pointed to and posted yesterday afternoon… how we were meant to be. I urge you to take 17 minutes and watch and think.

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A refuge from North Korea shares her story.

This is an appeal by a young woman who escaped from North Korea. Please take 9 minutes and see if you are as touched by this as I was. Be patient and listen carefully up this amazing story. Click here

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