Bill Hybels, Book Review Series, child abuse, Clergy Sex Abuse, Homosexuality, Sexual Abuse/Assault and Churches, Willow Creek Church/Willow Creek Association, Women and the Church

Book Review – “Christians in a Sex-Crazed Culture” by Bill Hybels – Part 3 – The Unrepentant Confidant

Bill Hybels, Willow Creek, Clergy Sexual Misconduct

-by Kathi

Part 1 of this Book Review series may be found here.
Part 2 of this Book Review series may be found here.

This is the final post in this series and covers Chapters 7 and 9-12. So far we have learned that Bill Hybels has quite the background on sex. He has mentioned excitedly sneaking movies of childbirth to show other boys, sneaking peeks at soft porn magazines, viewing child pornography, and oddly manages to describe a hotel room in a seductive manner.

There are a couple of other stories Bill shares about his experiences that I would like to highlight. First:

I suffered from homophobia for many years of my life. I liked telling stores about gays. I knew some very funny queer jokes, and every time I told one I thought it affirmed my own masculinity. It removed any doubt about where I stood on the subject. Back in college, if we didn’t have anything to do on the weekend, we’d say we were “going into town to beat up some queer.” Of course we didn’t do it, but the fact that we said it revealed our attitude.

page 112

Then there’s another detailed childhood experience (Bill has to be about 10-years-old):

When my father finally entered our room, he sat on my desk. With uncharacteristic nervousness he began to tell us that God made boys to be attracted to girls and He made girls to be attracted to boys. I almost burst out laughing. I thought he was kidding. I couldn’t believe we were going to get the birds and bees talk from my father. He didn’t know it, but I was already quite experienced with the neighborhood girls. I was only in fifth grade, but I knew the difference between boys and girls.

Page 124

What is even more interesting are the “stories” he describes in the book of people telling him about their sexual experiences. Usually when I hear, “I once received a letter from a woman who….” my first gut reaction is to question whether or not this is real. Who writes, calls to talk to, or meets their pastor about sex? Perhaps Bill asked people for their stories as “research” for the book. Maybe he did preach that series on pornography as promised to James Dobson, and made a request from the pulpit. Who knows – but I find it odd. One example is in the chapter on abortion:

I keep meeting women and receiving mail and phone calls from women who tell me how abortion has scarred their lives. One woman wrote: “Bill, I’m sure my letter won’t be any different from the hundreds that you receive concerning this subject, but knowing others have experienced this doesn’t lessen my pain. My hands are shaking as I write this letter and my eyes are filling with tears again. I too made a terrible mistake some years ago. I had an abortion, and I wish to God I hadn’t.”

Page 84

Then there are the women who challenge him and the elders at church. Bill directly asks why and finds that the issues stems from them being sexually abused as children.

Several women who seemed very spiritual and had an obvious desire to grow with the Lord were very critical toward the male elders and toward my ministry in the church. It seemed that every time I gave a message that had any real challenge to it I would sense resistance from these women. As I got to know them better, I asked, “Why is it that you resist me so much? Why don’t you trust my leadership?” More than once that broke down a wall, and the truth came out. One woman said, “I have reasoned for many years that if I ever submit to another man, I expose myself to the possibility of abuse. Every time I submitted to my uncle or my father I got abused and I’m never going to submit to any man, because I make the connection of submission and surrender and cooperation with abuse.”

page 107

He would “sense resistance.” I’m very curious to know what he means by this. What did he sense from these women that was “off” to him? From what we now know, maybe these women had a better sense of Bill and were smart!

There are a couple of chapters on homosexuality, and apparently Bill also had many homosexual friends who confided in him:

One homosexual told me his experience. “When I was seven years old my mother began to live in common law with a man who was secretly bisexual. We became really good friends, and one day he took me fishing. Before the day was over I had my first homosexual experience.”

page 116

Ummm…No…Unless this “experience” happened after he turned 18, this was child abuse.

Also:

One of my homosexual friends explained to me his early family dynamics. It illustrates how destructive family dynamics and an early erotic experience worked together to create homosexual desires in him.

page 117

I don’t know how many people attended Willow Creek in 1989, but can you imagine being a member there and reading this book wondering who Bill might be talking about? Someone might be able to figure out he was talking about “Susan Smith” with this:

At 2:30 in the morning, the woman came to meet with the elders of our church. She was exhausted, offtrack spiritually, out of tune in her marriage, and contemplating adultery. She knew she needed help.

page 135

I’ll wrap up this last post with one more quote:

That is why that woman’s attitude about committing adultery affected me so much. We must never treat sin with such a flippant attitude. How dare we presume on God’s forgiveness when we fail to understand the cost of our sinful actions? There is no such thing as easy sin, easy repentance, and easy forgiveness.

page 138

All in all, this book suggests that Bill, from a young age, had a problem with sex and how he sexualized women. The writing seems to be a self-fulling prophecy. Bill couldn’t seem to follow his own words above because he took the easy road out when allegations of sexual misconduct were addressed. Instead of repenting and accepting corrective action, he denied his actions and retired early. How dare he point out the sins of others when he is not willing to acknowledge his own sin!

19 thoughts on “Book Review – “Christians in a Sex-Crazed Culture” by Bill Hybels – Part 3 – The Unrepentant Confidant”

  1. Usually when I hear, “I once received a letter from a woman who….” my first gut reaction is to question whether or not this is real. Who writes, calls to talk to, or meets their pastor about sex?

    A la “Dear Penthouse Forum…”?

    A lot of this sounds like 80’s sex cliché stuff I heard as a kid.

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  2. Someone commented on the Facebook page that there were 15,000 people attending Willow Creek in 1989. This sparked my middle-aged brain to remember that I went to a service at Willow Creek in the summer of 1990. I was doing an internship in the Cabrini Green neighborhood and one of the other interns invited me to go. I remember feeling the stark contrast between the inner city neighborhood where I was working and the Willow Creek building.

    Needless to say, there were a lot of people attending Willow Creek in the late 80’s and Bill was talking about sex to a lot of people.

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  3. In 2008 I got addicted to Christian TV and so many of the preachers changed the subject to sex when the topic didn’t go with sex. From what I see Christians are the ones who are sex obsessed. Christian big shot wannabes come off as peeping Tom like in other peoples sex lives. I have always hated for preachers to talk about sex. Most people do not want to think about preachers and sex. It grosses people out. Church hierarchy act like they are experts on things they don’t know anything about. They always sound resentful and pervy. Even young teens can tell they are making stuff up and don’t know what they are talking about.

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  4. “He would “sense resistance.” I’m very curious to know what he means by this. What did he sense from these women that was “off” to him? From what we now know, maybe these women had a better sense of Bill and were smart!”

    He means they did not flirt with him, kiss his @ss, and stroke his ego.

    After my father died my mother started going back to the church she grew up in. Her new preacher hated that I stayed away from him. He would holler when he saw me that I did not like him. He was right. I wondered why he thought a fifteen-year-old girl needed to hang out with him. Every time he came over I went in my room and closed the door. Preachers are very entitled invasive people. They don’t think they should have to take no for an answer. Their energy screams untrustworthy.

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  5. Kathi, thanks for reading and reviewing Hybel’s
    book. I wouldn’t be able to make myself read it. Christianity Hurts, thank you for your comments.

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  6. @CindyBrunson:

    Kathi, thanks for reading and reviewing Hybel’s book. I wouldn’t be able to make myself read it.

    In the circles I run with, this is called “Kathi takes the Sanity Loss for you.”

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hybels: We must never treat sin with such a flippant attitude. How dare we presume on God’s forgiveness when we fail to understand the cost of our sinful actions? There is no such thing as easy sin, easy repentance, and easy forgiveness.

    That doesn’t sound like the kind of attitude espoused by Willow Creek as it has been exported round the world – and I think I have been in some 4 churches that to a greater or lesser extent followed WC. I would have said playing down sin and the harder doctrines of the Christian faith – God’s wrath, his severity, Jesus words on divorce or hell – was the order of the day, and these were conspicuous by their absence, having been replaced by a God who is nothing other than love, always merciful and wants everyone in heaven. A distorted picture that can be very deceptive.

    Did Hybels start well and go off the rails?

    From what Kathi has written here it seems to be Hybels was hung up about sex – that’s the nicest interpretation I think you can give to his words, although one or two other expressions come to mind. What is it with these preachers? Once you have taught that sex is for marriage between a man and a woman (the positive), and that any other expression is sinful and immoral (the negative), surely you don’t need to go into the gory details, let alone view DVD’s of them? A loving Christian marriage eliminates everything else. If and when problems occur, surely they should be dealt with pastorally, in private, not in ‘explicit’ sermons?

    Adam and Eve coped without Tim and Beverly Lahaye – or we wouldn’t be here!!

    Personally, I think one of the reasons so many believers flirt with sexual sin is because of a doctrine called the ‘unconditional love of God’, an expression I have never found in any version of the bible I have ever read. This is very Willow Creek in my experience, and can lead to the catastrophic idea that God condemns sin in the unbeliever, but condones it or turns a blind eye to it in the believer. It’s not such a big deal. It can lead to the idea that if you have believed once, regardless of what you do thereafter you are somehow ‘safe’, your ticket to heaven is assured. There are some 80 places in the NT that point in a different direction, but it took me some three decades to be willing to start taking them seriously and at face value. This doctrine is not confined to WC.

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  8. @HUG

    “In the circles I run with, this is called “Kathi takes the Sanity Loss for you.””

    I’m taking one for the team!

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  9. @KAS – It’s interesting that you mention Adam and Eve. Here’s what’s on the back book jacket:

    “The sexual awakening did not begin in the sixties. It began with Adam.”

    Clever, eh?

    I finished watching Ken Burns’ Prohibition documentary last night. (It’s on Netflix if anyone is interested.) The third episode focused on the 20’s and how loose sexual mores were, especially in the big cities. Times never change, do they?

    I’m always fascinated by how many Christian leaders and teachers are hung up on sex. They’ll go on and on about how bad society is yet they are equally as focused on sex.

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  10. I finished watching Ken Burns’ Prohibition documentary last night. (It’s on Netflix if anyone is interested.)

    Did they mention a domestic violence link? I have heard that was a factor in getting prohibition passed but never fully researched it.

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  11. Lea – Yes, there was a domestic violence piece associated to it. At the beginning, the argument was that alcohol (strong liquor) caused men to mistreat their wives and children and leave them destitute due to spending all their money on drinking. It was interesting to see the all of the different parties involved in the fight for Prohibition. Clergy, many women’s groups (which also fought for the right to vote), and the KKK all had a say at some point during the 13 years the 18th Amendment was in place.

    Those in favor of Prohibition thought that if the sale and consumption of alcohol was banned, then the family would be more stable. It’s interesting to reflect back on this now because this was a constitutional amendment set in place to regulate morals and values. At the time, there were no laws to protect women and children from abuse. Domestic violence was well known at that time, but now blamed on alcohol.

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  12. At the beginning, the argument was that alcohol (strong liquor) caused men to mistreat their wives and children and leave them destitute due to spending all their money on drinking.

    Yes! That is what I had heard. I may have to check this series out.

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  13. I have maintained for years that Christians are just as screwed-up sexually as anyone in our sexually-screwed-up culture, just they show it differently.

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  14. KAS, “Personally, I think one of the reasons so many believers flirt with sexual sin is because of a doctrine called the ‘unconditional love of God’, an expression I have never found in any version of the bible I have ever read.”

    I think it’s a false dichotomy to offer legalism or license as the only two possible camps. I think you consistently try to drive Christians to a legalistic interpretation of scripture, but that is only arrived at by, for example, applying layers and layers of theological misdirection to passages like these:
    “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)
    “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

    While these have to be understood through the lens of other passages, but I don’t think it justifies Reformed Evangelical-types saying: “God hates you and has a horrible plan for your life”

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  15. I think it’s a false dichotomy to offer legalism or license as the only two possible camps.

    The legalism side only cares about a few things, and they will excuse a wild amount of sin from their friends or that doesn’t touch them. I don’t trust legalists at all.

    License is much more complicated.

    I think love is the only thing that’s truly important here anyways and filter my interpretations through that. But different people think differently.

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  16. Mark – “God hates you and has a horrible plan for your life”

    I suppose you could argue that very strict or hyper-Calvinists end up saying this by virtue of believing in double predestination.

    The trouble with ‘God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life’ is that it is not wholly untrue. It’s what is not said that is the problem, the impression given that only believe and everything will go well for you thereafter and you will have ready solutions to all life’s problems, if you have any. A kind of variant on the prosperity/health gospel. All benefit and no cost.

    I’m glad that license or legalism are not the only alternatives available – if you like alliteration (I don’t!) then Christian liberty is the goal. But if we are all honest, the Christian life is a battle to avoid both of these extremes, and we all get it wrong from time to time, to a greater or lesser extent. The answer if you have fallen into either of them is not to embrace the other in reaction!

    Hybels is, I think, the classic case of the tragedy that can occur when a man adds to the bible to make up for supposed deficiencies. To ‘tamper with God’s word’ is how the RSV renders it, where tamper means to adulterate, to add in mixture from other sources. And the fact it is the mixture makes it all the more difficult to discern, as it will contain a fair amount of truth as well.

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  17. In case you all haven’t seen it, may I invite you to sign this profoundly moving apology, written by a long time insider, to the women who were sexually abused by Bill Hybels and then cruelly retraumatised by the two gigantic, powerful wealthy religious institutions he founded? http://lovingtheworld.com/apology

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  18. I think it’s a false dichotomy to offer legalism or license as the only two possible camps.

    I see it as Boolean logic — 1 or 0, True or False, Total Yes or Total No, NO intermediate states possible. That’s how MACHINES “think”.

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