Internet Wars Cause Real Life Casualties

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Since writing my post on the Tony Jones Debacle of 2015, events have continued to unfold. Open and honest communication between camp Julie and camp Tony has been strained and tenuous, at best. People from Stuff Christian Culture Likes and the Wartburg Watch have continued to call on high profile individuals within the progressive Christian community and those directly involved with what’s gone down with Julie and Tony in the past to communicate with and listen to Tony Jones’ ex-wife, Julie McMahon. Responses from people like Brian McLaren, Matthew Paul Turner, Rachel Held Evans, and Nadia Bolz-Weber have ranged from an apparent willingness to communicate and make amends, to angry blog and social media posts, to silence.

Meanwhile, critics of camp Tony have been anywhere from measured and tenacious, to aggressive and abusive, to their best impression of a soccer player beating the hell out of another player and then saying, What? I didn’t do anything!

I haven’t been able to keep up with every single volley back and forth between the camps, nor all the blog and social media posts. (In fact, some have been deleted, making it impossible for me to read.) But here is what I’ve observed, and what has taking up a good deal of my headspace.

The Calling of Shenanigans
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One major criticism by Group Julie against Rachel Held Evans is that she has publicly, and quite often, called out Mark Driscoll for his abusive theology, misogyny, and homophobia. She even went so far as to contact the elders at Mars Hill, and encouraged others to do so as well, to demand that they make Mark Driscoll change his behavior. Not only did she discuss public statements, like his books and those made in sermons, but also stories of former congregants who escaped the Mars Hill madness. Matthew Paul Turner did the same. (I believe MPT has disabled his blog for now. The original letters he posted from a former congregant who was under discipline at Mars Hill, therefore, are no longer there.)
In comparison, Rachel has decided to mostly stay out of this clusterfuck, instead advocating for resolution through the court system, (as she has before when decrying the horrific nightmare of Sovereign Grace Ministries.) Of course, it makes sense to pursue resolution through the courts, to a point. Rachel can’t call a Twitter quorum and decide custody issues. But there is more at play here than a domestic relations dispute. We have tacit support of a friend and colleague, Tony Jones, and all those who engaged in abuse and inappropriate behavior. There seems to be an unwillingness to believe that a woman who threatened to kill herself in order to get Tony to skip yet another trip away from his family, could be the same woman who was physically, verbally, and emotionally abused by this man.
And you know what? I get it. It’s easy to cry foul on a person, like Mark Driscoll, for whom there is no love lost. It’s much harder when the person is your friend and colleague. It’s harder when you’re in shock because of what he has been accused of doing. It’s harder when the other person, (Julie) has a tendency for high emotion and dramatics, and your friend has told you that she’s mentally ill. By the same token, I’m sure it’s easy to cry foul on Tony Jones when you don’t like him. Most of the people who believed Julie from the outset had no love for Tony. That’s not to say that they weren’t right for believing Julie right away.

Abuse and assumptions
Some of the people in groups like Stuff Christian Culture Likes can be real dicks. It doesn’t matter what you say or what your reasons are, if it doesn’t align with what they want and expect, you are clearly a horrible person. Even when people change their minds, like Matthew Paul Turner finally, publicly declaring that he believes Julie, it’s too little, too late. Every single action and possible motive is scrutinized and framed by that person’s past experience of church abuse. It seems to be forgotten that people like Rachel, Matthew, and Nadia are just people. They’re imperfect people who make mistakes and don’t have impervious armor for when verbal abuse,
and valid criticism alike, rain down on them.

And, as in all things, the dicks ruin things for everyone. It’s easier for Matthew Paul Turner to call SCCL a swarm and hide when people are rude and hold him accountable for every injustice ever. But for the most part, the people within SCCL are measured, reasonable, and thoughtful people who are hurting. They know what abuse looks like because they’ve been abused. They can smell the stink of church-speak and gaslighting from a mile away. They know that, perhaps, all of this could have been avoided if progressive leaders had just listened to Julie. They just want to be heard, understood, and for injustices to be made right.

The Proud Don’t Live Here
Documents from Julie and Tony’s divorce, psychological evaluations, and Julie’s medical records were released the other day. Whatever Julie may have done, it’s clear that Tony and church members abused and railroaded her. Such a person has no business being in a position of power and authority, especially when he doesn’t get how any of it is his fault.
From what I saw, no one was dancing an I told you so dance. In groups like SCCL, the only emotions I saw were hurt, anger, confusion, and grief. Not only were they, (and I) heartbroken over the abuse, but also the reactions, so far, from progressive leaders. Matthew Paul Turner deactivated his online presence and went dark. I’ve only seen silence from Rachel and Nadia, although I’m still hopeful that they are taking time to respond thoughtfully. I imagine that, they too, are possibly grieving. No one ever wants to be right about abuse. No one wants to be right that they are witnessing church abuse and the silencing of victims all over again, especially from people who gave people like me hope for the future of the church. Everyone has been wounded. No one is celebrating.

10 thoughts on “Internet Wars Cause Real Life Casualties

  1. Julie is just as guilty here. And it is interesting to me that she makes the claim that Tony is NPD and she is oh so stable. The type of smear campaign she is devoting her life to right now (seriously, go on Twitter or a public Facebook page and type the worlds “Rachel Held Evans” and Julie will show up to bitch about her and tell her “story”) is an extremely common tactic of NPDs and BPDs. Whether or not Tony should continue in any form of ministry considering his actions in this marriage and divorce is a valid question, but the sanctification of Julie who likely has a PD herself and is engaging in very typical PD behavior by dragging third parties into a conflict should not be happening. The progressive world and the internet “churches’ would do well to wash their hands of both of these disordered individuals.

    • A victim of abuse is never complicit in that abuse. With regard to NPD, Julie doesn’t simply make the claim; the report written up by the therapist states that Tony’s behavior is consistent with NPD. In addition, Tony himself confirmed that diagnosis. Any kind of diagnosis with regard to mental health does not make someone a bad person. What is at issue is Tony’s consistent, unrepentant, bad behavior that is propped up by colleagues within positions power. To tell one’s story and how one is treated is not “bitching”.
      It’s adorable that you’re trying to invalidate what has happened to Julie and her children using phrases like “oh so stable”, “bitch about”, “NPD and BPD”, “Julie who likely has a PD”, and “disordered”. You must be used to dealing with really gullible people.

  2. I do not have BPD. In fact, OUTOFTHEFOG I was not even diagnosed with mild depression. My abuser would like to control the narrative and rewrite a 22 page $4000 comprehensive psychological battery of testing. He is diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder with “sadistic traits.” Ask our no longer fit to hunt but can be a house dog just fine with over the counter benadryl dead family pet. It never ceases to amaze me the length to which his proxies will go to distract and confuse the FACTS. It’s futile.

  3. Tony J: a selfabsorbed, arrogant lousy husband and father
    Julie M: a quack determined bent on revenge
    David Hayward: misguided traffic seeking idiot
    TWW: misinformed stupidity
    You all should shut up, get a real life, and disconnect permanently from the internets.

  4. I can’t believe the vitriol from the SCCL Facebook page owner about RHE and NBW…she seems determined to make them suffer…she is abusing them, and it sickens me…neither Rachel nor Nadia have anything to do with the anuse of Julie…that was Tony Jones…yet when you read SCCL, you could be forgiven for thinking they themselves had been the perpetrators!

  5. I have seen people act in aggressive and abusive ways toward RHE and NBW, which I do point out in the post. But let’s not mistake abuse for refusing to let something horrible go. There is genuine hurt and a sense of betrayal. Whether they like it or not, RHE and NBW are de facto leaders within the church, and they should be held accountable for their actions, especially when such actions are in direct opposition to what they say they stand for.

  6. The truth is Juile and her ex went through numerous legal rounds with interviews, documents, appraisals of the children etc. Julie lost custody of all three with very limited visitation. Her emotional, psychological abuse of her children and complete disregard for the law are the issues that caused her to lose her children. She cannot blame Tony or anyone but herself. She needs help and now maybe she will quit blaming everyone else for her problems and find a good counselor and/ or treatment center.

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