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Commentary: Another Super Manning You Should Know About

On Sunday Peyton Manning will attempt to lead his Denver Broncos on a stampede and to victory in the Super Bowl. It will be his 3rd trip to the big game. Across the table at family gatherings, brother Eli Manning, has two Super Bowl rings. At the head of the table, the family patriarch Archie Manning, was voted the SEC Quarterback of the Quarter Century (1950-1975) for his expert piloting of his Ole Miss teams. Archie was the 2nd pick in the NFL draft and may have made it to the Super Bowl himself had he been blessed with a better supporting cast than the woeful New Orleans Saints of the 1970’s.

If the Manning men have a brand it is Success with Class. The way the trio carries themselves you get the feeling that they would be effective and quietly successful at anything they did. And then there’s Uncle Brennan…

Actually Brennan Manning is not related to this particular strain of Manning’s. If he were, Brennan would be the eccentric although brilliant, deep but unstable uncle who would keep family gatherings interesting—just perhaps not always in preferred ways.

Defrocked Priest
Brennan Manning was a Franciscan priest and a closet alcoholic, was later defrocked as a priest, was married and then divorced—not exactly points to pad one’s clergy resume or impress a religious audience.

But as happened to the Apostle Paul, Brennan Manning was arrested by grace and was never released. And Brennan never let go of his grip on grace. When you read Manning you get the impression that Brennan & Grace are two inseparable lovers who are somehow, even absurdly, brought even closer on the path of Brennan’s admitted failures.

And the failures didn’t stop. Brennan Manning was simultaneously brilliant as a Christian writer & speaker and bumbling as an alcoholic who often fell off the wagon.  Manning wrote, “I’ve amazed crowds one night and lied to friends the next. Drunk for years, sober for a season, then drunk again. I’ve been John the beloved, Peter the coward, and Thomas the doubter all before the waitress brought the check.”

As one of Christendom’s great authors one might be inclined to label Manning a hypocrite given his rollercoaster ride of success & failure with booze. While never making light of his falling and failing, Brennan never presented himself as the sparkling Before/After picture of conversion. He never pretended to be completely whole; instead he took refuge in being completely loved by God.

Manning concluded the introduction of his memoir, written in failing health, with these words: “I am steering toward home. These pages are my final words on the matter. Grace is everything. I am Brennan the witness.”

Dependable Mentor
My conservative evangelical heritage (which, by the way, I chose & still choose—it was neither handed down to me nor forced upon me) has often been cooked with the ingredients of judgment, anger, legalism, and self-righteousness.  The kitchen too often favors trite sayings and easy answers for complex questions and problems, especially those posed and presented by broken people.  Brennan Manning would have none of that.

The changeable-letters sign outside of a church in my community reads, “The weather in hell never changes.” I’m not sure if driving past the sign would make Brennan angry or sad. Probably both. The sign holds not even a hint of God’s grace which would anger Brennan and is completely void of Christ’s love which would make Brennan sad. 

I am personally indebted to Brennan Manning and books like The Ragamuffin Gospel, Abba’s Child, and Ruthless Trust. Books like this bring me back to center. Prone to drift on subtle waves too many to name I need an anchor.

At least once a year I re-read Chapter 3 (The Impostor) from Abba’s Child because while I give off the impression of being totally genuine, secure, and humble I am in fact quite often none of those. Instead I am prideful and competitive as a writer & therapist, and secretly insecure as a speaker. I hunger for public applause and thirst for private admiration.

Frequently when I think I’m about to finally get pure authenticity into the boat it slips off the hook and swims away. But Brennan reminds me that whether I’m at my honest and sickest worst or at my deceptive and slickest best, I am profoundly loved. Now THAT is something super I can cheer about.

Author and therapist, Dr. Ramon Presson, is the founder of LifeChange Counseling and the Marriage Center of Franklin, TN.  He can be reached at

Posted on: 2/2/2014


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