00B Reader’s Guide for Orienting to the Issues

On This Page:

  • 0. Purpose and Introduction
  • 1. Brief Introductions to the History and Issues
  • 2. Julie McMahon’s Account of Events and Alleged Abuse
  • 3. Tony Jones’ Account of Said Events
  • 4. Orientation to Emergent/Progressive System Problems, Key People, and Unfolding Issues
  • 5. Tony Jones as a “Limited Public Figure”
  • 6. How This Case is Affected By a Clinical Diagnosis of Axis II Narcissistic Personality Disorder

0. Purpose and Introduction

This page is designed to orient newcomers to various key issues that have arisen related to Tony Jones and his ex-wife Julie McMahon, and some of how that relates to the Emergent/Progressive Movement. I have organized the first four sections below so you can find the approach(es) that best fit your ways of processing information: historical, personal narrative, and topical. The final two sections give some key resources on two specific issues of significance in this situation: Tony Jones as a “limited public figure” and how a clinical diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder affects this situation.

I have selected some posts that are short (about 500 words), some longer (several thousand words), and some series or sites for extended information. Also, for a catalog of additional materials available on this site – historical, narrative, topics, social media, etc. – see Page 00A Purposes of This Site and Expanded Table of Contents.

NOTE: Readers need to keep in mind that personal accounts and evidence pieces have been posted periodically since 2009, and some items have disappeared from the internet, so that what was available for interpretation changed significantly over time. Also, further complications and events kept unfolding and so what was once relatively accurate, wouldn’t be seen as such later. It’s a reminder that the materials at these links are time-stamped snapshots, not constantly updated reports, and may have been the most complete or accurate pieces available at the time.

1. Brief Introductions to the History and Issues

For a one-page introduction to many of the key issues, people, and timeframe, see this summary on Emergent Nightmares: Tony Jones, Julie McMahon, and #Emergent: The Story So Far. It is approximately 550 words.

For a one-post summary of the overall situation from about 2008-2015, I recommend this post by veteran blogger Brent Toderash (aka “Brother Maynard”). It is about 2,300 words, and I think this is the best single article-length orientation for newcomers to both the historical landscape and the current scope of significant systems issues involved in this situation. It also addresses why it is important to reflect on what’s happened with Tony Jones, Julie McMahon, his supporters, and the larger Emergent/Progressive Movement. Here is my summary of that post, which happens to be the first in a series of 10 posts so far (as of May 13, 2015).

Post #1 – February 15, 2015. Tony Jones & the New Emergent Manifesto, Part I, by Brent Toderash (Subversive Influence). Lays out the historical context on Tony Jones/Emergent from 2008 and 2009, and summarizes the Naked Pastor thread of 2014 where Julie McMahon was able to share snapshots of her story. It then brings the issues and allegations into the present – including the push-back on Rachel Held Evans about her supposed “diligent investigation,” the posting of support statements for Tony Jones on the Scribd WhyTony site and Storify TruthAboutTony site, and subsequent push-back on the linguistic gymnastics and loose use of “documentation” by Tony Jones and his supporters.

2. Julie McMahon’s Account of Events and Alleged Abuse

For a first-person account: Julie McMahon: this is my story, this is my song, guest post by Julie McMahon (April 27, 2015; nakedpastor: graffiti artist on the walls of religion). The owner of this blog, David Hayward, provided a safe space for Julie McMahon to share her story from September 5 through December 15, 2014. That post – Tony Jones on Mark Driscoll: What came first, the thug or the theology? – drew 1,082 comments. Julie posted 181 of those comments herself, so a substantial amount of her recollections and perspective came forth there. But this post represents the first time she has told her story all in one place, at one time, all in her own words. Here is the opening paragraph:

Hi. My name is Julie McMahon, and I am a survivor! I am a survivor of domestic abuse and infidelity, shaming, silencing, bullying, and gas lighting. I want to share my story. Many of you may have already heard it, but split into pieces across the internet. I am very grateful for the many people who provided safe spaces for me to share my experiences over the last year. But now I feel the need to give a short synopsis of my story in one place. This is my personal version of events.

For a topical analysis of issues: See the Diagnosing the Emergent Movement website, Page 04 Personal: Issues Between Tony Jones and Julie McMahon, the opening section on “Seeking Integrity and Justice for Julie McMahon Regarding Emergent’s Tony Jones.” I designed this article as executive summary of less than 2,000 words. I developed it substantially from Julie McMahon’s comments on various blog posts, mostly from 2014. It includes about 60 links, nearly half of which go to her comments, so you can read about specific issues from her own perspective. Julie McMahon also reviewed this article before it was posted.

3. Tony Jones’ Account of Said Events

To my knowledge, there is no one post that offers a personal account or a second-party summary or introduction to Tony Jones’ version of the allegations and issues. The closest there was at one time to a personal narrative was his 12-page “Statement by Tony Jones.” In that document, he referenced evidence that he believed refuted Julie McMahon’s version.

His Statement was posted January 27, 2015, on the WhyTony Scribd site, along with statements of support by other people. These were all removed February 21, 2015, and replaced by A Note About the Removal of These Posts. A link to Tony Jones’ original Statement can be found on this post by Brother Maynard on Tony Jones & Narrative Control, which also summarizes the context and situation with the WhyTony site and his Statement.

4. Orientation to Emergent/Progressive

System Problems, Key People, and Unfolding Issues

Brent Toderash (known for many years online as “Brother Maynard”) has done a series totaling 10 posts to date (May 13, 2015). They do an excellent job of moving from his overview into the wider set of issues with Tony Jones, his supporters and proxies in the Emergent/Progressive Movement, Julie McMahon’s experiences, and other specialized issues of concern. He offers historical context, astute analysis, and links to other posts that have proven to be essential reading on specific situations and issues. His series addresses such relevant psychological, theological, and toxic systems topics as:

Why it makes a difference that Tony Jones has a self-acknowledged Axis II clinical diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder as a condition that can potentially be “managed” but not “cured” and what that means for those around him.

How people in Emergent/Progressive movement are trying to control the narrative, silence the victims and critics, and maintain their power differential.

A theological critique of Tony Jones’ “There are Two Marriages” eBook (which was removed from sale on Amazon sometime in early April 2015, but most of the material is still available on Tony’s blog with articles in the two marriages tag). Brent’s critique is longer than Tony’s book and delves into the theological aspects, and practical implications in terms of the alleged abuse.

How Rachel Held Evans, and other supporters of Tony Jones, fit in with this, and wondering what additional pieces of evidence it will take to “prove” to these insiders that their continued recommendations of Tony Jones are irresponsible and help perpetuate alleged misuse of his spiritual platform and of theirs.

Analysis of various social media tactics used in attempts to control the narrative in ways that could minimize the negative facts and impacts of the situation with Tony Jones, silence critics of Tony Jones and advocates of Julie McMahon, and maintain the brand and image of the Emergent/Progressive Movement.

Even just reading the following summaries of his posts will provide an overview to the main players and issues at hand. I find Brent’s writing accessible, insightful, and full of Kingdom klieg lights. But his Subversive Influence blog series has credibility in part because Brent is NOT new to this situation of controversy. He was one of only about 11 bloggers directly involved with the eruption on social media in late 2009-early 2010 about issues between Tony Jones and Julie McMahon, just before and immediately after the finalization of their divorce, plus parallel eruptions about Emergent.

Post #1 – February 15, 2015. Tony Jones & the New Emergent Manifesto, Part I. Lays out the historical context on Tony Jones/Emergent from 2008 and 2009, and summarizes the Naked Pastor thread of 2014 where Julie McMahon was able to share snapshots of her story. It then brings the issues and allegations into the present – including the push-back on Rachel Held Evans about her supposed “diligent investigation,” the posting of support statements for Tony Jones on the Scribd WhyTony site and Storify TruthAboutTony site, and subsequent push-back on the linguistic gymnastics and loose use of “documentation” by Tony Jones and his supporters.

Post #2 – February 16, 2015. Tony Jones & the New Emergent Manifesto, Part II. Focuses on dynamics of the alleged gaslighting of Julie McMahon by Tony Jones, his acknowledged clinical diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (Axis II, not Axis I as he mis-reported in his January 27, 2015, Statement) and what that means, and his alleged recruitment/use of proxies to spread information and misinformation. Brother Maynard also issued a challenge:

This is therefore a call to those leaders in and around Emergent Village in 2008-2010, and who have currently issued letters or made statements of support for Tony Jones, whether formally or informally. It is similarly a call to those on the fringes of Emergent™ who heard and repeated the Julie-is-crazy meme based on what you had been told at the time. Please rescind your support for these actions against Julie and for covering it up in whatever large or small way you participated.

Post #3 – February 18, 2015. Narcissists in the Pulpit. Gives extensive description of characteristics of people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), and related problems of power dynamics, spiritual abuse, and treatment possibilities. He also looks at options for preventing those with NPD from involvement in leadership roles due to their lack of empathy, and tendencies to lie and manipulate. Brother Maynard suggests that “people diagnosed with these conditions are unfit for christian ministry, ever” (emphasis his).

Post #4 – February 23, 2015. Tony Jones & Narrative Control. Explores the Scribd WhyTony statements, a post by John Vest where he concludes he wishes he hadn’t written his statement and wants it removed, the removal of all the WhyTony statements, and a detailed analysis of its replacement with a note that gives a pseudo-legal explanation of why they were taken down. Brother Maynard also raises the issue of Tony Jones’ apparent breach of the parenting agreement with Julie McMahon by his failure/refusal to return their oldest child after Tony’s visitation period had ended. Brother Maynard posts archived copies of all the WhyTony statements, and explores how these statements and events have been used in narcissistic ways in attempts to control the narrative of the ongoing disputes.

Post #5 – February 24, 2015. Tony Jones & the New Emergent Manifesto, Part III. Traces the history of emerging/Emergent, and some of the historical problems and push-back, including contentions about who “founded” “the emerging church” and who “killed” it.

Post #6 – February 24, 2015. Sometimes I Doodle on 3×5 Cards: #WhenTony. An attempt to visualize how much evidence it will take before those supporting Tony Jones revoke their support.

Post #7 – February 28, 2015. Tony Jones & the New Emergent Manifesto, Part IV. Critiques the apparent naiveté of power dynamics shown by Rachel Held Evans, who suggested initially she had done a “diligent investigation” into the issues between Tony Jones and Julie McMahon, but later backtracked from that stance and noted she had not spoken with either party. She also suggested that victims work out their issues through the court system. Brother Maynard offers other resources for working through issues, and how to support those who voice their claims of victimization. He again challenges commenders of Tony Jones to rescind their support and apologize for harm done to Julie McMahon.

Post #8 – March 2, 2015. Tony Jones & the Multiple Marriage Proposal. Critiques the weak theological methodology behind Tony Jones’ “two marriages” view, and its resulting faulty conclusions. He also overviews some of the history of its impact of how this came into play in 2009-2010 with social media and how this affected the Emergent movement. He explores the question of “what to do with the theological work of someone who has fallen morally. There are really three possibilities: (1) ignore the moral failing and evaluate the theology on its own scholarly merit; (2) discount any of theology in the area of the moral failing but accept the rest; or (3) throw it all away.” This issue is becoming more prominent in light of multiple instances coming to light in recent years of Christian leaders whose moral failings were kept in the dark – often until numerous previously-silenced victims came forward to tell their stories years after the fact.

Post #9 – March 13, 2015. Shameful Ignorance: Tony Jones & Christianity Today #CTshame. Overviews the recent Christianity Today hashtagged “Twitter chat” of #CTshame, explores differences between critiquing versus shaming, and considers how silencing is a tool of “narrative control” to overpower the stories of those who’ve been victimized.

Post #10 – May 4, 2015. Tony Jones & The New Emergent Manifesto, Part V. Analysis of the actions and impact of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) has continued in recent weeks in relation to the situation of Tony Jones. This post captures an important unfolding area of concern, and that involves how apparently unmanaged Narcissistic Personality Disorder plays out with parenthood. Specifically, how Tony Jones is potentially using his own children as “narcissistic supply” to fulfill his wants,  and how that could be directly and indirectly harming them. So-called “concern trolls” who have used an argument “what about the children?” argument don’t bring that up in relation to him; they imply that talking about the contentious divorce on the internet harms the children of Tony Jones and Julie McMahon, but they do not challenge Tony to stop his antics that likely harm his own children. A comment on the post calls out some associates of Tony Jones in this regard, and one wonders if this pressure will affect their personal and/or professional support for him:

Scott Morizot on Tuesday May 5, 2015 at 5:04 am

I honestly expected better from RHE [Rachel Held Evans] and NBW [Nadia Bolz-Weber], especially the former. If nothing else, I would expect them to at least stand up against the abuse Tony Jones is inflicting directly and by proxy on his children.

This post also explores how friends of Tony Jones have allegedly continued in their attempts to control the narrative. For instance, Peter Rollins posted an article on May 1, 2015, talking generically about narcissism and narcissistic defense mechanisms, and philosophically about defense mechanisms and psychoanalysis, without seriously engaging the harmful impact typically coming from people with a clinical diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder and specifically, his friend and professional associate, Tony Jones. Also, other close associates of Tony Jones have taken to deleting unfavorable comments about him/Emergent on their social media, extensive blocking of commenters on their social media, and/or refusing to read comments or interact with commenters.

Post #11 – May 15, 2015. Tony Jones, M. Sue Wilson, & the STFU Campaign, by Brent Toderash/Brother Maynard (Subversive Influence). Examines the Jones McMahon Lawyer Letter of May 12, 2015, and analyzes it in terms of First Amendment issues, lack of court jurisdiction over anyone other than the two people directly involved – Tony Jones and Julie McMahon – and the lack of court authority to require bloggers to remove their own social media posts, and/or comments by themselves, Jones, or McMahon. Also highlights the ongoing troublesome issues of apparent attempts at “narrative control” by Tony Jones and alleged “lawfare” campaign as pay-back to his ex-wife for telling her side of their story.

5. Tony Jones as a “Limited Public Figure”

Some Historical Context on Tony Jones gives a helpful summary that clarifies the ways that Tony Jones has put himself into the public’s eye, and therefore would be considered a “limited public figure” in terms of the public commenting on his writings, actions, and character.

This summary examines the statements of Tony Jones, who is a limited-purpose public figure according to US Law. Tony Jones has thrust himself into world-wide Internet discussions concerning issues of theology, power abuse, position abuse, scripture abuse, spousal abuse, mental diagnosis, and divorce and remarriage. He began posting on the Patheos web site, beginning January 2004, under the heading of “Theoblogy,” and currently blogs at his own website, “tonyj.net.” So, Tony is the moderator and poster of over 10 years of public statements. He is also the author or a main editor of nearly 20 books, most available via Amazon. So, he is clearly a very large “limited-purpose public figure” who has voluntarily opened his life to scrutiny by being what he himself calls a “theological provocateur.”

6. How This Case is Affected By a Clinical Diagnosis of

Axis II Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Out of the Fog is a website with both professional/technical and practical information about personality disorders. It has an extensive section on Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) that includes an overview of NPD characteristics and traits, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual criteria for diagnosis, and a list of over 40 individual traits with a one-sentence description. It expands on each of those traits with a separate webpage that typically includes a definition, short description, examples, and what to do/not do for managing related behaviors and coping with their impact. This includes detailing terms that have come up frequently in this particular situation, for instance: abusive cycle, baiting, cheating, emotional blackmail, sense of entitlement, frivolous litigation, gaslighting, intimidation, lack of conscience, narcissism, pathological lying, proxy recruitment, raging, scapegoating, and threats.

Narcissists in the Pulpit, by Brent Toderash (aka “Brother Maynard” (February 18, 2015; Subversive Influence). I chose this post for its implications for people in roles of ecclesiastical authority who may be called upon to evaluate situations involving individuals who are potentially disqualified from roles as thought leaders and/or ministry role models. The article gives an extensive description of characteristics of people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), and related problems of power dynamics, spiritual abuse, and treatment possibilities. It also looks at options for preventing those with NPD from involvement in leadership roles due to their lack of empathy, and tendencies to lie and manipulate. Brother Maynard suggests that “people diagnosed with these conditions are unfit for Christian ministry, ever” (emphasis his).

Narcissistic and/or Psychopathic Church Leadership,by Bill Kinnon (February 10, 2015; kinnon.tv). This short post is a series of tweets that look at ways that current culture promotes and protects “the celebrity-driven church” model of power, which frequently leads to abuse of authority. Bill Kinnon, like Brent Toderash, is one of the few bloggers who engaged in online dialogue about the Emergent movement and issues between Julie McMahon and Tony Jones. He knows that of which he speaks.

 

Advertisements