Sunday, May 27, 2007

Praying for "Hef"

I recently had the opportunity to pray for a man who has had a huge influence on my life, and on the lives of every American man, Hugh Hefner. Thousands of people pray daily for leaders in the entertainment industry and cultural influencers. Thursday’s prayer target was “Hef.”

It’s risky to share a private conversation I had with God about somebody else. It is bad form to waggle on about another man’s life in public. Of course, that’s just what fills countless gossip columns in newspapers, magazines and blogs. Here at “The Old School,” we try to rise above our baser inclinations. God help us.

OK, back to Hef. What can one say about the leader of the sexual revolution as we know it today? Hefner said, “The major civilizing force in the world is not religion, it is sex.” Is Hefner referring to sexual politics? The high stakes game of “who’s on top?” Is the single motivating factor in the world most responsible for human development merely the drive for procreation or raw pleasure? Somehow, I think not.

In the explosive 1950s, the young Hugh Hefner was bold and comprehensive in his mission. Publishing a magazine was merely an avenue to promote his ethic, his “playboy” lifestyle. America’s cherished freedoms of speech and press, defended over the last century through a civil war and reconstruction, two world wars, prohibition and a depression, were finally and fully exercised in the 1950s, with Hefner at the cultural vanguard. He preceded the birth control pill and Viagra. He preceded Roe v. Wade and Internet porn. He preceded AIDS and the explosion of teen pregnancy rates. Yet his principles were a unifying strand through these developments. His cultural ethos was central to the last half-century of gender relations, and they were central to my formation in the 60s and 70s as a hot-to-trot young man.

Every baby boomer guy I know has a story about the day he found those magazines, and the forbidden secrets they held. It’s too bad most families and the church have little desire to tell the stories of love, lust and sex.

I dug into those stories, as told by Hugh Hefner and his magazine. I bought into Hef’s philosophy as I pursued all that the world of sexual freedom had to offer. I paid cash money for his magazines. I paid a higher price in abusive and broken relationships, and misplaced priorities. Every day I fight (and usually win) the mental battle to respect women, not ogle them. I receive supernatural help daily to honor the fabulously beautiful woman God has given me as wife.

Hugh is beyond his second marriage now. He keeps a harem of seven blondes as “companions.” Hef says, “The interesting thing is how one guy, through living out his own fantasies, is living out the fantasies of so many other people.”

Mr. Hefner needs many prayers. He celebrated his 81st birthday this past April, and will soon meet his final reward. The rest of us will be left behind to clean up after the party.

Check out Steve Gallagher’s book, How America lost her innocence – A history of the sexual revolution (Pure Life Ministries)

XXX Church - Helping to bring a different sort of awareness to the pornography debate. Providing Christians with non-judgemental and creative solutions to adult material.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Men suffer more from divorce, study finds

From the Statistics Canada report, we find evidence that men take divorce harder.

It might seem obvious that men have more to lose in the dissolution of a marriage. Others will contend women are less happy to begin with and so the seperation is less of a change. The interpretations are endless. And the comments to this story are insightful!

Old School's bottom line: Brothers - divorce is major trauma, like an amputation in the wilderness, with no helicopter evacuation. If you're married, it's worth the investment of body, soul and spirit to keep it together. And in the words of Canadian prophet Red Green, we're pulling for you.

As reported in The Globe and Mail.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Thug life and new hope for brothers

my mind is in the depths of hell,
but when i'm walking on tha street, kid, my name rings bells
and I never fell, n****r, I stand too tall.
I'm just a thug motherf****r who was born to brawl.
-- deceased rapper Stretch, on Tupac Shakur’s “Street Fame”

New Year’s Day 2007 in Denver was surreal. On January 1 I usually rise early in the morning to a quiet home, review my appointments from the previous year, and meditate on the coming year. This time, the radio announced the death of a young Denver Broncos player, Darrrent Williams, killed in a drive-by shooting as he left a private New Year’s Eve party.

It’s not hard to imagine the hair-trigger tempers that could have led to this shooting. The Denver Post quoted the city’s gang expert, the Rev. Leon Kelly of Open Door Youth Gang Alternatives. “In the gang world, respect is a major issue," Kelly said. "Someone may have felt disrespected. The shooting wasn't random."

Another young black man is dead, killed most likely by another young black man. It put the year into perspective. While the broader society presents many challenges to our young men, too often, we are our own worst enemy.

Education, job opportunities, housing, health, crime, the church that’s losing influence – these areas stack up against our young men like giant dominoes leaning over to crush them. But the biggest weight of all, the gravitational push that presses tha brothas into a muddy hopelessness is the breakdown of the family, specifically the loss of the father.

That’s the feeder system for gangs that are ravaging our cities, boys without dads. That’s the motivation for a young man to sacrifice his mother and sisters, and present his body a living (dying) sacrifice for the gang system. He will make a bid for power by submitting to a beating, or beating others. He will abuse women in a twisted attempt to gain self-worth, and call it playin.’ He will fill his lungs with toxic pipe-fulls of mind-erasing drugs, just to find a little peace.

And in a world-class move to justify his crimes against his own family and community, he will promote an insane campaign to “Stop Snitchin,’” painting it as a stand for justice in a corrupt system. (Denver is particulary sensitive on this point, with two witnesses – innocent bystanders - murdered in the past two years.)

Like a time-bomb winding down, our community faces utter desolation (see New Orleans) if we, as individuals do not pull together, and re-build the essential, elemental unit of peace, harmony and prosperity, the family.

Rather than just cursing the darkness in the hearts of my young brothers who are hell-bent on gangsta livin,’ let’s offer some ways to bring light to our young men’s choices. The life and health of our community are in the balance, tipped one way or the other by our men.

1- GET THEM YOUNG. Make a commitment to young boys. The younger they are, the better our chances of righting their course. This includes encouraging boys at an early age toward courage, heroism and responsibility.

2 – PARENT THEM TOGETHER. As parents (together, separated or divorced), both father and mother must commit to hands-on parenting of boys. In John Singleton’s debut film, “Boyz N the Hood,” Tre’s single mom called the father, saying in effect, “He’s 13 now. I can’t handle him. You better come get this boy.”

3 – MENTORING IS A MUST. Yes, even a father “figure” will do quite well. In fact, there are so many fatherless youth, that only an all-out revival of mentorship can save many of our young men from hardship and failure. This is a clear call for every single man to find a boy and invest yourself in his life. The statistics are imposing. There is no way out of the gang mess without every decent, straight young man to build up at least one boy.

Originally published in Glory Christian Magazine.

Denver Post reports “gang takedown” Apr. 27, 2007

(photo: Fishburne and Gooding as father and son in "Boyz N the Hood" - Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Prayer – a man’s job?

The cards are stacked and they're not in your favor,
But you've got an ace up your sleeve,
Get on your knees and fight like a man…
-- Christian rock group Petra

Many a man has been brought to his knees by the prayers of a woman. Salute to the praying moms and grandmoms out there who never quit praying for us wayward fellas. But is prayer a manly sort of thing?

First there’s the posture of prayer, usually on one’s knees – not a battle-ready position, and completely vulnerable. We don’t do “vulnerable” well. But the fact is there is one Being before whom we are ultimately vulnerable. Ask the man who clutches his chest in pain, or the man who awakes gasping for his last breath. We are not masters of our ticking heart. Another One is.

Being knighted, a king’s soldier will fall to one knee. (Prayer on both knees is reserved for private, secure devotions before the Almighty alone.)

Before great battles, though, the toughest among us can be seen dropping their heads in a reverent pause to ask for help. That goes for athletes who don’t want to get injured as they chase a ball, and infantrymen who are charged to occupy land and avoid snipers. There are no atheists in foxholes. Some of us are bold enough to pray for nothing less than victory.

During times of particular stress, I pray and walk. There is a worn circle in my living room carpet where I pace about, wrestling with some issue or another that I can’t seem to figure out on my own. Privately, I can be loud, and gesture wildly, or be stealthily quiet, listening for direction from on High. (I’ve also been known to pray while walking across the length and breadth of a city, sometimes carrying a 9-foot cross. Wanna join me one of these days?)

Prayer is most commonly seen around the dinner table. Those who honor God will close often their eyes as they say “thanks for the food.” Sometimes this even happens in restaurants. It’s a pleasure to watch believers interrupt the bustle of a public meal to give some respect to the Creator, and ask for a blessing on the food, and upon the people who prepared it, and the people who planted, husbanded and harvested it.

(Is prayer before meals an insurance policy against tainted food? It’s worth considering in an age of Mad Cow Disease, salmonella poisoning, and countless other terrors of the nightly news. Two thousand years ago the Nazarene promised his followers, “if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them.”)

In professional ministry settings, prayer precedes most meetings. Sometimes it is heartfelt. Sometimes it is routine.

On this National Day of Prayer, many prayers will be public. Jesus warned about public prayers, just before he taught “The Lord’s Prayer” in Matthew’s Gospel, chapter six.

“And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.”

That does not disqualify all public prayers, just the ones that are offered for “show.” Political prayers, designed to influence policy or people are misdirected as well. The only, singular Audience for genuine prayer is You-Know-Who. So in the context of public prayer, say whatever you want, but know that the One who is listening already knows you very well. The only question is, are you willing to acknowledge before Him that you see what He sees, and you’re willing to see some changes in YOURSELF.

In short, the most effective prayers are confessional. Do you really want to do that in public?

There is also a school of thought that says you can identify with others and pray with them. This is called Identificational Repentance. John Dawson’s book Healing America’s Wounds has much more to say on that. That’s like taking the blame even though you didn’t do it – although you agreed with the deed, or you may have benefited from the outcome of the misdeed. (Remember the Christian doctrine: “If you did it in your heart (lust, murder), you did it.”)

See the article by Dr. Gary Greig, posted at the International Reconciliation Coalition.

Because I have led many prayer walks (guys like moving while they pray) and I’ve been to many men’s prayer meetings, I am have seen first-hand that men can indeed experience vigorous prayer. Men can, at the same time, be both humble and bold. Guys can pray with compassion, and sometimes tears. They can shake the walls with the volume of their declarations.

But you’ve got to get to know the One to whom you pray. That’s what the Father wants, some quality time with his boys.

Happy National Day of Prayer.

Cao’s blog on the prayers of a knight
(artwork: "The Vigil," John Pettie, 1884)