In this post I explore the 104 reconciliation out of a list of 140 individuals. This is with a member from Redeemer Arlington. I recount a harsh conversation in a coffee shop, and my desire to seek forgiveness for being extremely difficult long after the fact. This was a reconciliation that helped bring about some peace, and it was one of the more amazing ones in the sense that I had no idea how to do this as I was managing a false accusation simultaneously.
“Beware the irrational, however seductive. Shun the ‘transcendent’ and all who invite you to subordinate or annihilate yourself. Distrust compassion; prefer dignity for yourself and others. Don’t be afraid to be thought arrogant or selfish. Picture all experts as if they were mammals. Never be a spectator of unfairness or stupidity. Seek out argument and disputation for their own sake; the grave will supply plenty of time for silence. Suspect your own motives, and all excuses. Do not live for others any more than you would expect others to live for you.”
Christopher Hitchens “Letters to a Young Contrarian”
“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.”
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
Romans 12:15 ESV
In my journey back to the Christian faith I eventually approached 140 individuals and sought out forgiveness from each one. There are many stories I would like to tell, as they are rich, unique and colorful. At this blog I have already told several. For example in this post I touched on approaching Mark Batterson from National Community Church. In this post I talk about approaching Sovereign Grace and seeking out forgiveness for hate. Next is Justin Pearson from Sojourn Church Fairfax who I approached for forgiveness as well. Then there is the story of Archie Griffin down in Atlanta. Today that remains the most difficult relationship worked out and salvaged. Today I am writing about the 104th person I sought forgiveness from. It’s an interesting story as I didn’t have Dan’s contact information and was managing Andrew White’s false accusation simultaneously. This came about and it is something that I prayed for, even though I had no idea how it could happen. I didn’t even think it would happen, yet I prayed and hoped.
Background Information for the Reader
A number of things drove me in my faith crisis. The tipping point for me was being bitten by fundamentalism at my grandmother’s funeral. Meanwhile while I was dealing with incredible doubt – with most of it being the problem of evil – I also was angry by the fact that I once was a John Piper Kool aid drinker who caused great pain to my Mother who survived pancreatic cancer and was dealing with survivors guilt. Having explained that let me go one step further and discuss my mindset in the winter of 2012. I proclaimed myself to be an agnostic, when in reality I was more of a militant atheist. During this time I barked about how Christianity is a cancer and talked about how society is better served by it no longer existing. In another month or so me and a large number of other agnostics and atheists would descend on the national mall and participate in the largest atheist rally in United States history. I’ve written a number of posts already about my faith crisis and atheism that I would like to quickly highlight. In this post I explore the differing kinds of atheists that exist. While in this post I explain why evangelical Christians are not going to be able to reach or engage atheists. The reasons why are due to not being able to understand the culture and a massive intellectual deficit that currently exists in evangelicalism. Then in another post I examine and reflect on what Christopher Hitchens meant to me, and why I was deeply engaged with him and others like him. In this post I write about Richard Dawkins reading his hate email from Christians and discuss evangelical misunderstanding of atheism. Then as a Christian I stand back and write about what I appreciate and respect from atheism. (Quick side note…I hope to do this for reformed theology and a couple of other strains of Christianity in the near future) Finally I also examine what a faith crisis felt like and re-lived and wrote what it is like to lose faith which is based off a post at Neil Carter’s Godless in Dixie.
During this time frame I was being pursued by Andrew White, a co-worker, an Air Force Officer, and 2005 graduate of the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Andrew White was a Care Group Leader at Redeemer Arlington. He also placed an exceptional amount of pressure on me to attend and get involved. So here is the situation at the time you have this agnostic drinking the Christopher Hitchens Kool-Aid trying to figure things out thinking that he would live out his life as a skeptic. Then you have a Care Group Leader from a Sovereign Grace church who proclaimed it the “healthiest church he had ever known” trying to get him involved. In many ways it was the perfect storm, that’s why I led with the trailer from the movie in writing this post. When I was being invited to Sovereign Grace I researched it and I was horrified as to what I was finding. Part of my past includes Mormonism which you can read about here and here. Sovereign Grace was the first religious organization I had stumbled across and was being invited to that had as many red flags as Mormonism did. I couldn’t believe what I was discovering…it included a number of things from child sex abuse cover up, to incredible spiritual abuse, to CJ Mahaney’s alleged blackmail of Larry Tomczak, which by the way you can read the transcript of that alleged act here. Due to the pressure I was under I data mined SGM Survivors and SGM Refuge for any and all information on Redeemer Arlington, and read everything about Redeemer on those blogs. During this time I talked about how corrupt Christianity is, and being invited to a church, in a denomination mired in alleged criminal activity, child sex abuse, and other problems only fed my agnosticism/atheism. It helped justify it and is like pouring gasoline on a fire. In this post I explain how and why. It led to a conflict that I had never had before in my life and hopefully will never have again. How much did Andrew and I clash? Let me paraphrase something I read on the Facebook page “Repeal the Bylaws” which is led by Rob Smith. They had a story about 2 members of Mars Hill Seattle who stood in a drive way at 2 in the morning screaming at each other. One called Mars Hill a cult, while the other one loved it. Sadly I know what that kind of conflict feels like. One time at work Andrew and I stood in the lobby and almost got into a shouting match. He called Redeemer the “healthiest church he knew” and talked about how Godly his pastors were and how he wanted to be like Eric Simmons. In return after all I read at SGM Survivors I barked that Redeemer is a cult, and that he was worshipping Eric Simmons in the same way I once saw Mormons worship Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. Andrew was incensed at the comparison. So it became a very difficult situation with a lot of clashes by two individuals drunk on their own respective Kool-Aid who were greedily reaching for more. So now that you have that understanding let me move into the story.
A Meeting in a Coffee Shop in the Winter of 2012
In the winter of 2012 Andrew emailed me at work and asked me if I would be willing to meet one of his friends from Redeemer and hear him talk about suffering. I thought about it and said I was willing. Andrew set up a date, and then he later forget. I put it down on my calendar and when the day came I asked him about it, and he said, “Oops, sorry man, my bad…” So he rescheduled. We eventually met in a couple of weeks time. I had no idea what I am going to but I arrived at the coffee shop and had no idea of who or what to look for. Then Andrew showed up and thanked me for coming. Andrew and Dan connected and I was introduced to Dan. Dan if I remember correctly is a social worker in Arlington, Virginia. Andrew ordered some food and offered to pay for it. Now part of the reason why I lead with that long introduction up top is that I want you to see and know my mindset. So when you hear about what I said, you can understand why. While Christopher Hitchens would have been proud of me today as I reflect back on this I am most certainly not proud of what I said at all.
Dan spoke about a situation that happened in his own family. He spoke about his father who had an affair over the internet. If I remember correctly the day after he graduated from Liberty his father filed for divorce. The marriage was destroyed and he left the family. The person whom he got entangled with however didn’t work out and he ended up committing suicide. So I heard this story of suffering and with the mind set I had, combined with the knowledge I had of John Piper having once read him, I asked something to the effect of, “Did God foreordain the suicide?” I remember Dan just looking at me and blinking and Andrew said, “Hey that’s in-appropriate.” Today in looking back I cringe in knowing how I thought or acted. The conversation was a little tense as I recall, and then it was over. Dan tried to hug me and I was very cold in return. Then he hugged Andrew and parted. I thought that was the last time I’d interact with Dan and I didn’t think anything more of the event.
Hitting Bottom and Finding a Way Forward
On May 8, 2013 Andrew gave birth to a serious false accusation. I was accused of a crime that I didn’t commit. It would send me into the darkest season of my life. I managed the false accusation day in and day out for 408 days. I wrote about it in detail here. Dee Parsons who is familiar with Human Resource law coached and helped me document it. As time passed and the situation dragged on I began to realize something that I very much wanted to deny. I began to realize this is why rape and sexual assault is a problem in the military. It occurs when individuals in the military abuse their authority. That was happening in this situation and the culture I was in enabled it. It took me a long time to admit that to myself. Before May 8, 2013 I didn’t think rape is a problem in the military and that it is greatly overblown. Today I can understand why its an issue. While I was under the threat of being reported to law enforcement for something I didn’t do, Andrew resumed proselytizing Redeemer Arlington to another co-worker. I had to endure and listen to it, as I could do nothing.
As difficult as it is to reflect on the above and even write about it there is something else that I also realized and prayed for in my life. In early May 2013 I realized that forgiveness is the only way forward with so many people, and I had to own my mistakes. I firmly believe that is part of my responsibility of being a man. A man owns his mistakes, he doesn’t run, flee or act like Jonah. Then I also realized what makes Christianity so distinct from other religions is the following…mistakes, moral failures, and messes are opportunities for the Gospel to shine. Most if not all of Christianity in the United States has forgotten this point. That comes from making morality an idol which the evangelical Christian church does exceedingly well. And I realized during the false accusation that I was sitting on a gift, an incredible gift of grace to Andrew if he only came to me and said, “Eagle I screwed up, I was wrong…let’s work this out and resolve everything in a series of conversations.” Andrew and I could have done something beautiful that would have been the greatest spiritual lesson of his life. It could have carved Andrew spiritually, and made him one hell of a man. However, much of this would be lost in the course of time as Andrew squandered the greatest opportunity to influence and affect others for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In this post I explain how and why. However, during this period that is what I prayed from mid May 2013 for the next two years daily. After the false accusation I realized that I had to work things out with many people and seek forgiveness. The only way forward is going backward. With that in mind I compiled a list that eventually became 140 names. As I moved through it Dee Parsons was stunned and told me at the time that I am doing what Mark Driscoll and CJ Mahaney couldn’t do. For me it wasn’t about being right, it was about righting a wrong, and confronting the pain I caused so many people. It was about helping others heal and owning my mistakes. But as time moved on I knew I was doing something truly unique and unheard. As I have written about in June of 2013 I realized by wrestling match and my faith crisis which dragged on for 5 long years was finally over.
During this time my comments to Dan popped up in my mind and I thought of what I said to him in that coffee shop. I was disgusted with myself, and I wanted to right this wrong. It was also during this time that I wanted to approach Redeemer and seek forgiveness for some of what I wrote at SGM Survivors and calling it a cult. I mean God, I believe Mormonism to be a cult, yet I would never say that directly to a Mormon. So with that in my mind I put down on my eventual list of 140 the following:
38. Dan (unknown) Sovereign Grace pray
I had no idea what to do as I didn’t have his contact information. I was managing a false accusation from Andrew and pouring my heart in to diffusing it. Therefore I couldn’t approach Redeemer, as I didn’t want to give the appearance of trying to contact Andrew. I obviously couldn’t contact Andrew to discuss this and ask him for the name of his friend. So I decided to do the next option. I knew in the course of time given the volume of what I was undertaking that Andrew would find out. What I did in DC made its way around a couple of churches in Wisconsin, I knew it was only a matter of time before Andrew heard. That by the way is what eventually happened. So I prayed that when Andrew heard that he would approach and work this mess out, and that I would be able to say, “I need your help, I’d like to resolve things with Dan..” So I prayed and set it aside and worked on all the other people for the next several months.
Approaching Dan Glenn for Forgiveness
On September 30, my Mother found out about the false accusation I endured and she wept. As a mother she had that instinct that something happened and asked about it. I had to explain the situation, the false accusation, Sovereign Grace, etc… my Mom as a Catholic didn’t understand the entire situation. The following day on October 1, I was cleaning out my email. I was deleting stuff, and filing other emails away, and during this time something unexpected happened. I stumbled across and email sent to both me and Dan from Andrew. I was taken back and wondered, “Is this the same guy that I met in a coffee shop?” I was uncertain and I sat on it and continued. A couple of days later I wondered if it is and decided to take a gamble and pose the question. Neither Andrew nor Redeemer were involved so I thought this might be a way to help resolve this situation. After all…what is the worse thing that could happen? I could be ignored, or he could say, “nope wrong guy.” I wouldn’t know unless I tried. So I composed and sent on October 3, 2013 a short email. I wanted to make sure it was the right individual.
Before I proceed further I want to make sure I am addressing the correct person. I stumbled across your email while cleaning out my email box earlier.
Is this the same Dan that sat down with me in a coffee bar 2 years ago and shared about pain and suffering? And what your family endured? If it is and your okay with it I would like to either meet with you or work this out by email; but I would like to ask for your forgiveness for how I responded. I have a letter written up but before I send it I want to make sure that this is the correct individual.
With deep respect,
And with that I thought I’d find out soon if this is one of the guys I needed to get things resolved with. Shortly afterward I got this response. “Eagle, yes it is…and please no worries. I did not feel that you responded wrongly at all. No big deal at all. How are things going with you? My wife and I are actually living in Port-au-Prince, Haiti right now — as of mid-September.” I was taken back and didn’t expect to receive that email so soon. I was also amazed because I didn’t think this would happen given the circumstances I was working and managing. The other problem that also presented itself is the issue of Andrew White…how do I address that? I thought it would be awkward to ignore it, at some point he would find out, or he already knew. So I decided I would have to breach the situation in the letter. Its better to be honest and forthright than to try and hide something, as honesty is always the best way forward. So armed with the right email I wrote a long tender response in return. By early October I had worked things out with 103 people and Dan was going to become 104. This is what I wrote in response:
I attached the enclosed letter asking for forgiveness. My doubts, and skeptical mindset tore me apart and I hit bottom in May. It was there that I realized that I was a Prodigal, needed to repent and find my way back to the Christian faith. It was slowly happening but I was in a dark, dark place for years. I went to my first Bible study in nearly 6 years last night, and Fairfax Community Church wants me to be baptized; which will take place in November.
I really made a mess out of confusion and pain that lasted for years. When my faith crisis started in 2008, I pulled away from communities, friendships, and the Lord. I hurt a lot of people in the process but didn’t fully realize the extent of it due to my mindset. When I hit bottom in May shortly thereafter I was walking to my car and a thought popped up in my mind (from the Lord I believe) telling me that I needed to forgive and seek forgiveness. I was deeply haunted by Matthew 5:23-24 and before I could deeply worship the Lord at the alter I had to clean up a lot of my past and mend a number of bridges. So I have been working back through 20 years of my life to everyone I interacted with in faith asking for forgiveness. I started in mid-May and as of October I am still working it. I have been forgiven by 103 people in California, Wisconsin, Montana, and Washington, D.C. In some cases since I was dealing with skepticism of people I offered to travel out to places like Charlottesville, Denver or St. Louis to give an apology in person. So I’ve rekindled and redeemed a good part of the mess. Actually I should say that the Lord did that, I was trying to be obedient.
Approaching so many people has been amazing. And the stories I have heard of people who prayed for me when I walked away from Christianity has stunned me. I am speaking to some people who I have not spoken to in a decade or greater. It has brought a lot of peace, closure, and healing to many people I have hurt, as well as myself. One of the people I reconciled with was praying for me regularly to come back to the Lord for years and crossed me off his regular prayer list when I contacted him and reconciled.
Thanks for the response Dan. I deeply appreciate it. Your name popped up in my mind one day but I didn’t know how to contact you. I prayed for you and prayed that one day I could approach you and ask for forgiveness.
One other thing I will tell you is even though I have deep disagreements with Sovereign Grace I realized a couple of months back that those disagreements actually were hate. So I contacted a pastor from a Sovereign Grace Church and asked for forgiveness for hating an organization. That has also brought a lot of peace.
I would ask if you could pray that Andrew White and I could reconcile one day. I deeply hurt him, and pushed his buttons. I had embarrassed, attacked, called him a cult member, etc… We had a major falling out. We both hurt each other in many ways but I hurt him deeply. I’ve been praying hard each day that one day we could be at peace. You know I’ve learned a lot about worship these past three months. Going forward after what I went through I had to both repent of secular humanism, practice forgiveness, and going forward I just want to live a life of grace and love with everyone. 1 Corinthians 13 really has driven me in this regard. When I was watching and looking at material from Richard Dawkins, Greta Christina, Hermant Mehta (Friendly Atheist) I was so consumed by so much hate. Going forward I want to be consumed and live out a life of love and grace. It can be quite humbling to accept grace from the Lord and from so many people.
I have to run to my doctor’s appointment. Can I ask you and your wife pray that I can reach 134? That is the goal that will close out this part of my life. Can I also ask that you pray that Andrew White, Archie Griffin, and Zach could be reconciled one day Instead of a Paul and Barnabas situation I am praying hard for a Paul and John Mark situation. And with some people who forgave me I still have a lot of work and a lot of praying to do. When you burn a bridge trust isn’t rebuilt over night. I’m done with secular humanism and I don’t want to have another argument again.
Thanks Dan for your response. I didn’t know how to contact you, but I prayed that somehow we could communicate and that I could make sure that I had no hurt you, and if I did, I ask for forgiveness. Thank you, I’ve been praying hard for this day.
With love and grace,
That response led to this response in return and with that I felt that I hit 104. I was concerned about righting a wrong and taking ownership for that wrong. I wanted to bring peace, clean things up, and bring about closure for pain that I could have caused or did cause. I felt that strongly about Dan.
Thanks again for reaching out and explaining how things have been going for you and the process that you have been going through.
It sounds like God has really been working in your life…unexplainably, which is awesome. That is an answer to prayer, bro!
I never blamed you for having doubts or being skeptical; I go through those times as well. When we met with Andrew, it seemed as if it had quite a grip on your life. I am so glad to hear you have worked through things, as well as God has softened your heart quite a bit! I will be praying for you. That’s awesome that you’re seeking restoration with so many people; I admire you for that — but never forget that the ONE whom you needed the greatest restoration with, has already done that for you. I’ve been reading Romans lately …particularly in chapter 4, when Paul talks about righteousness applied through faith. Let God’s grace in your life pour over you.
I will be praying for restoration with Andrew!!
Haiti is awesome and very hard all at the same time. Some days I love it here, and some days I hate it here! Moving from DC to a third-world nation is hard. But God is challenging me to depend upon him and less upon my “stuff” for happiness. There is so much poverty here and yet people seem generally quite happy and content — though they have very little to nothing Folks here have a very cavalier attitude towards life, which in a lot of ways is really good for me…teaching me to calm down and not “go,go,go”.
Please pray for my marriage, and that God would keep my wife and I close and that we would be close to one another and Him. Pray for grace to get through hard times of missing family and friends, and for wisdom to plan for career-related endeavors for when we move back to DC next fall.
Thanks man! Keep on moving on!
After that I offered to send Dan any care packages to Haiti if he needed anything at all. After all when James Crestwood and his wife were in Kenya I sent him multiple care packages based upon emails or requests from either. Plus I also offered to buy Dan dinner when he returned to the DC area and hear about Haiti. After this I moved ahead and continued to work the other situations. In a little over a month I was scheduled to be baptized and I prayed that I could resolve all problems and work through my list of 140 before my baptism.
Concluding Thoughts and a Word to Dan Glenn
At Godless in Dixie the other day Neil Carter wrote a post about why abrasive atheism will trump moderate atheism. In that post Neil criticized a scene from Christopher Nolen’s Inception. In the scene Cobb , Arthur and Eames are talking about how they are trying to break up Robert Michael Fischer’s father’s company. In the scene Cobb says, “No. Positive emotion trumps negative emotion every time. We yearn for people to be reconciled, for catharsis. We need positive emotional logic.” To that Neil Carter says, “It’s not the positive impulses that most effectively inspire action, it’s the negative ones. It’s those things that upset us that motivate us to do something, to change things.” Neil goes on to say, “It’s a noble idea, but I don’t think it’s necessarily how human psychology plays out.” Come Friday if all goes well I will discuss and look at this post by Neil Carter. What I would like to do is push back and explain why. Does positive emotion trump negative every time? Maybe not every time, but I would suggest that a good portion of the time. Why do I say this? I learned this in approaching 140 people and asking for forgiveness. Most people want to forgive, they want to release. However they also want the person who wounded them to know, and understand the pain they caused. They want that person to understand. This is why I knew I had a challenge in approaching 140 people. In my case I would have to overcome skepticism, cynicism and doubt. So I knew that on a scale of 1 to 10 I had to hit a 15. What I had to do is so beyond the pale, that it would not leave any doubt, question, or leave a person from not wanting to work things out. I wrote some thoughts about reconciliation here, but as I said I want to discuss that post on Friday. Part of the problem I would suggest is that Christians today don’t repent, say “I’m sorry” or demonstrate a lot of care for the world around them. Instead they build tribes, withdraw, and ignore the pain they cause others. That’s profoundly sad.
As I wind this long post down I want to direct the remainder of it to Dan. First let me do here what I should have done when I was with you and Andrew in that coffee shop in 2012. Grieve, mourn and express me deepest condolences on the loss of your father. Dan, I’m sorry….I can’t imagine what its like to lose a parent in the way you described. Suffering doesn’t get easy with time, I’ve learned to live with it. But Holidays, special events, even having your first kid will be difficult in knowing that your father is not going to be there to witness that occur. For that I am sorry. Dan you had asked me to pray for your marriage and I want you to know that has happened. I held up my end in my desire to live in a way that I didn’t do the first time. When you met me that one time I was very much a difficult person. I was drinking the Hitchens Kool aid by the gallon and today it bothers me deeply.
I do want to say another thing that means a lot to me. Thank you for releasing me. Thank you for helping me find some closure. I honesty didn’t think I would be able to approach you one day. My soul was torn apart and shredded in pain, and my desire to approach each person was strong. What I did was extremely unique, I would bet my 501K that you will probably never see another person do what I did in your lifetime. Not on the scale that I did. To be perfectly honest I don’t know if I will have the strength to do something like that again. But I did it because I wanted to bring others peace and redeem a mess. I want you to know that I still do love, care and yes I am praying for you. You have my contact information and if you need anything let me know. With that I will close this out and say, Dan, and everyone else, I love you!