On This Page:
- Introduction and Key Facts About the NakedPastor Thread of September 5 – December 15, 2014
- Readers Guide #1: Conventions of this Conversation (Case Study: Jenell versus Alex)
- Readers Guide #2: Doorways into the Discussion (Key Comments and Word Searches)
- Readers Guide #3: Reflection/Discussion Questions
- Readers Guide #4: What Others Thought of the Thread
- My Own Thoughts on the Significance of the 2014 NakedPastor Thread
OVERVIEW. This page offers a combination of interpretive analysis and “readers guide” for the NakedPastor thread, Tony Jones on Mark Driscoll: What came first, the thug or the theology? This post drew over 1,000 comments in its run from September 5 through December 15, 2014, before comments were closed by the thread’s host, blogger and cartoonist David Hayward. It has proved highly significant as the backstory for the social media “eruption” of Emergent-related issues in early 2015. This article includes such elements as significant/unique features of this thread, select comments, and suggestions for how to approach reading/studying the thread. The thread itself moves beyond exposure of the personal issues between Tony Jones and Julie McMahon, and into some of the larger organizational purposes and connections of the Emergent Movement.
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Introduction and Key Facts About
the NakedPastor Thread
of September 5 – December 15, 2014
Overview and Some Significant Themes
David Hayward posted a cartoon and critique of Tony Jones on Mark Driscoll: What came first, the thug or the theology? on his NakedPastor blog. It was in response to the September 4, 2014, blog post of Tony Jones, Some Thoughts About Mark Driscoll.
The NakedPastor thread turned out to draw an epic 1,000+ comments in those 14 weeks. Julie McMahon, ex-wife of Tony Jones, posted about 10-15% of all the comments the first month, and shared bits and pieces of her experiences of alleged emotional, spiritual, financial, legal, and physical abuse from Tony. She challenged Tony and his “commender” supporters to apologize for their behaviors during the time of the Jones’ divorce proceedings and afterward, including if they had contributed to spreading “gaslighting” gossip and rumors that she was “batshit crazy.” (See this post on the misuse of descriptions or diagnoses of “mental illness” to pressure people into silence and/or isolate others from them.)
Three weeks into this unique thread, on September 27, 2014, David Hayward welcomed Julie’s continued sharing of her story. In this very important summary post, he also refused to censure or censor her. And he refused to succumb to requests or demands that he delete certain comments or the entire post – and he reportedly received a number of behind-the-scenes messages asking him to do just that, both during the time that comments were open and also afterward.
One result was that the bulk of Julie’s story appears in that thread, albeit in fragmented form where most “chunks” of information relate to specific points brought up by others in comments, or from other forms of direct messages that she received via email, Facebook, etc. Another result was that the system of personal friendships and financial partnerships connected with Tony Jones began being exposed to serious public scrutiny. That theme would continue early the next year with the announcement in January 2015 of the forthcoming WX15 event, facilitated by The JoPa Group.
The thread also records a trail of interactions that, all things considered, remained relatively civil. People who knowingly or unwittingly used typical silencing tactics found themselves challenged – sometimes not so gently. The entire process was uncomfortable in many ways, but seemingly productive. A number of people who previously had no voice or platform to share their story experienced freedom on this post to do so. So, more than just Julie McMahon were able to share their personal accounts of enduring abuse, intimidation, gaslighting, violence, etc.
Some Basic Facts and Statistics About the NakedPastor Post
Start date: September 5, 2014
Comments closed: December 15, 2014
Number of views during that period: 53,000 (a close approximation, given by David Hayward)
Number of comments: 1,082
Number of comments by Julie McMahon: 181
Number of comments by David Hayward: 95
Number of comments in first month: 1,000 (September 5 to October 5, when David Hayward posted comment #1,000)
As of February 10, 2015:
- Total number of views: 58,403
- Facebook likes: 1.1k
- Twitter tweets: 229
- G+1 publicly recommend: 15
Cartoons by David Hayward / nakedpastor
All of the following are cartoons by David Hayward, usually posted with relatively short related articles on his nakedpastor blog. I have selected this series of cartoons for their relevance to the issues of spiritual abuse, and their appearance during the period when his first post on Tony Jones went up on September 5, 2014 (and led to a record 1,082 comments in about three months!) to the present.
September 5, 2014. Tony Jones on Mark Driscoll: What came first, the thug or the theology?
September 12, 2014. what you can expect when you speak up against spiritual abuse.
September 30, 2014. 10 Questions Churches Can Ask Themselves About Spiritual Abuse.
October 3, 2014. 10 Suggestions on How to a Create Safe Space.
October 14, 2014. 8 Clues You Are in a Controlling Church.
November 9, 2014. Tony Jones, the Church, and the Empire strikes back!
December 31, 2014. Are you a victim of a more subtle abuse?
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Readers Guide #1:
Conventions of this Conversation
(Case Study: Jenell versus Alex)
The NakedPastor comment thread on “thugology and theology” unfolded in a unique way that I certainly had not seen before, and I’m not sure anyone else had either. It was definitely messy, but real, and uncomfortable, but validating.
Constructive Conventions; Destructive Shut-Downs
The form sort of wobbled around a while before it established a pattern that one commenter, Tim, eventually termed as its existing conventions, when he sought to explain them to a newbie commenter (AnImpartialObserver) who obviously hadn’t quite gotten it yet. I have selected Tim’s post of October 2, 2014, for his great summary of those conventions of the conversation.
AnImpartialObserver / Alex, some specific hints on this kind of conversation:
1. People own their own story, and get to make decisions on their own privacy.
2. Ask once, then leave it the person to answer.
3. If someone declines, don’t keep mentioning it!
4. Don’t ask others to do what someone else has refused to do.
5. This is an ongoing conversation and story. Incomplete information is normal and expected.
6. The repetition of rumours is gossip. A collection of stories can help show a pattern. The difference is subtle, and often unclear, but it’s important. (And names aren’t needed to demonstrate a pattern.)
7. When you’re hanging out with deconstructing people, any claim to be “impartial” tends to land somewhere between confronting and silly. (Or were you being ironic?)
8. Finally, while apologies are nice, if you can see what you’re doing is annoying people, it’s best just to stop. Then no apologies will be needed.
This isn’t an attempt at setting the rules for everyone in this conversation – I’m just trying to help clarify for you what some of the existing conventions are.
I selected another comment, this one from the conversation host, David Hayward on September 23, 2014, for his summary of arguments people were using in their attempts to shut-down the conversation, because they deemed it inappropriate. It also gives his point-for-point responses to these peoples’ behind-the-scenes communications. (Note: This comment and others from David Hayward on this page have been copied here in full with his permission.)
I will not give names. But essentially it’s the same script:
1. Is a blog as the best forum for the publication of such information?
2. The leaders being challenged, even though they may have faults, are great people.
3. There are two sides to every story.
4. This is too nasty.
5. What about the children?
6. Cautioning me with suggestions of legal action.
7. Questioning my ability to moderate.
My response is pretty consistently the same:
1. The silenced will use any means that makes itself available to them.
2. Are we more interested in the truth or in ministries, character or reputations?
3. True, but only one side has been heard so far.
4. Confessions and disclosures are messy.
5. Julie apparently has custody and she’s okay with this.
6. I have said nothing to defame anyone.
7. I’ve never censored comments. My passion is providing safe spaces for people to exercise their voices.
The truth is, I consider myself in relationship with everyone. Including those who have written me personally. I would still consider them my brothers and sisters. I am not taking sides of any person, but I am hopefully taking the side of the enlightening of truth. I’ve simply provided a space. It’s not that I’m wiping my hands clean of responsibility. It’s that I would not prohibit anyone from commenting here in their own way. I love the good fruit that is coming out of this, and I’m confident we’ll see more.
Case Study: Jenell versus Alex
As a case study, I have selected two of many potential commenters to illustrate opposite ways of interacting in the thread.
On September 23, 2014, Jenell Paris presented her own story, her reaction to Julie McMahon’s narratives, her own run-in with Tony Jones, and some ideas she thought might prove helpful in the situation. (You will find Julie’s response here, later that same day. And do a search for just “Jenell” to find responses to her from other commenters.)
AnImpartialObserver – who later renamed his handle as Alex the Inept – didn’t use those types of approaches and didn’t get the same positive responses as did Jenell. He started with a lengthy first post on October 2, 2014, and posted a total of 11 comments on October 2. Alex posted six comments on October 3 as AnImpartialObserver and then switched to Alex the Inept for another three comments on October 3, and then one final comment on October 4. There are many other commenters who chime in to engage Alex in between his comments, so the best way to research his approach is to check out his first comment and skim through all the comments in between that and his last.
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Readers Guide #2:
Doorways into the Discussion
(Key Comments and Word Searches)
So, Part #1 introduced you to what turned out to be some of the conventions of the conversation and also key reasons why some people felt the thread should be shut down (maybe even deleted). It also offered two relatively short case studies to illustrate how the conversation progressed with two very different kinds of commenters.
In Part #2, I’m going to suggest three exercises that will expose you to the core themes in this massive, 1,082-comment thread.
Look at the cartoon, read David Hayward’s post, and read Tony Jones’ post that David was responding to. Then read the first 100 comments. This will introduce you to the commenting styles of David Hayward, Tony Jones (and a number of his friends and his financial partner Doug Pagitt), and Tony’s former wife Julie McMahon (and a few of her friends whose names you might recognize from blog comments they posted on related issues in 2009-2010).
Start at the top comment and search for the root “apolog” as this will take you to comments that contain apology, apologies, and apologize. Then follow that trail through at least the first third to half of the entire comment series, and see what you learn.
I have chosen this because Julie McMahon has multiple times and places stated that all she was really looking for was an apology from people who called her “crazy” or acted in ways that otherwise harmed her. She was not looking for justice or revenge or restitution, just apologies. So I am letting her own stated purpose guide your search. See how many times she asked for an apology, who she challenged to issue them and for what, and who apologized (whether she even knew them or not before this) and for what. And don’t miss where Julie realizes she’s gotten something wrong and she herself apologizes to someone else. This one root word will be a world of education about spiritual abuse and the contours of reconciliation.
Read comment #1,000, posted in full below for easy access. This was posted by conversation facilitator/host David Hayward, on October 5, 2014, exactly one month after the post started. This is an important comment for his summing up of his key observations of this really rather epic thread.
Well I’m going to be the 1,000th commenter. I’m amazed at the quality of this conversation, which points to the quality of those involved. Even where there is disagreement and conflict, included with emotion, they have, for the most part, turned out well.
I’m glad that this has become known as a space for the silenced to speak out and speak up without fear. My hope is that more and more communities providing this basic privilege and right will emerge.
It is remarkable to me that most of those who try to silence have been men, while most of the silenced have been women.
I think we can take a huge lesson from this conversation.
For me, this is what I’ve learned so far:
1. I hope that those from all sides of this incredible story will come to an agreement that each individual person is more important than any reputation, ministry or movement.
2. If we cannot love the least of these then we cannot love the world. If we cannot change our own hearts then we cannot hope to change the hearts of others.
3. The gravitational pull of all organizations, gatherings and movements is towards the dehumanization of people. We must practice diligence at every moment to ensure this doesn’t happen.
And then read the final 82 comments in the thread. These are also important because, in those next nine weeks before David posted the final word, many commenters shared their thoughts on what this process had meant to them and/or what they saw as its significance in the larger scheme of things for the Kingdom.
And then read that last comment, #1,082, one more time. (Posted in full below.) Maybe you’ll want to write out your reflections on what you’ve observed, how it has affected you emotionally and/or in your thinking about theology, and/or your responses to questions posted in Readers Guide Part #3.
After a few months since I posted this article, What Came First: the Thug or the Theology, in which I wrote about Tony Jones’ take on Mark Driscoll, I’ve finally decided that I need to write this closing comment.
After a few months since I posted this article, What Came First: the Thug or the Theology, in which I wrote about Tony Jones’ take on Mark Driscoll, I’ve finally decided that I need to write this closing comment.
One of the values of nakedpastor is that people can express themselves without fear of censure or censor. I critique ideas, behaviors and systems that are harmful to people and their communities. So providing a safe space for the voiceless victims of spiritual abuse is crucial to me. I build places where people can share their own interpretation of events and give voice to their own sufferings without fear of discipline. Nakedpastor (and my online community The Lasting Supper) is a space where people can freely express their pain, where victims are heard and abusers called out… something many spiritually abused people did not experience in the church that promised them care. Most abused people feel they must live in silence or confide their private pain to a therapist while their abusers thrive. For those who participate on the nakedpastor blog, there is an implicit respect for those speaking, that we will listen and not edit, instruct, or correct what they say. For those who don’t participate, it is understood that they are observing a sacred space for cathartic healing. As I repeated throughout the comment section, I never took sides but only kept the space open for people to share their stories. When some tried to control the conversation, they were quickly admonished by the community to let them keep telling their stories freely. It would be impossible to be an advocate for each and every story. But it is entirely possible to be an advocate of a safe space to tell their story in. Yes, there were negative comments, including negative comments about me. However, I believe this was a rare and historically significant event where the spiritually abused told their raw stories and held their personal truths in a public forum without being shut down.
I want to reiterate that the opinions of those commenting do not reflect mine. What I say and what others say is distinct. Some claim the comments come under the aura of nakedpastor and people cannot help but interpret them as an extension of my opinion. They are concerned when I allow comments to stand that are critical of others that I am believing, condoning, and endorsing them. I want to be clear that this is not true. However, even though I have no trouble distinguishing what I say from what the commenters say, some do not accept this distinction.
I cannot apologize for what others said. But I can apologize for the pain nakedpastor caused by association. I realize that the post put a distance between myself and others. This grieves me.
Here’s what’s motivating me: in a world that’s becoming more divisive and polarizing, I want to work in the opposite spirit of unifying and gathering. I’m not interested in campaigns against people or the groups they compose. So even though I will continue critiquing ideas, behaviors and systems that are harmful to people and communities, I want to cooperate with those interested in furthering the unity and health of the church and the world and ridding it of anything that hurts people.
I welcome anyone who feels genuinely hurt by my actions and who wants to work toward reconciliation to contact me personally and begin the process.
1. I will continue to create space for challenging what is unhealthy while uplifting what is healthy for people and communities.
2. I’m glad many people found a safe space here to share their unedited stories.
3. I have, by association, hurt others.
4. I’m sorry and want to reconcile and work together for the common good of all people, the church, and the world.
I will now close the comment section of this post for the sake of discretion and closure.
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Readers Guide #3:
The comment thread on the NakedPastor post represented a complex mix that revealed interpersonal conflicts, the sharing of personal stories and perspectives, the search for details, posting about thoughts and emotions and questions, allegations and accusations and challenges, apologies both sought and unsought, and more. Many kinds of questions could be raised to help process the vast amount of information it generated. So, feel free to add your own, but here are the first baker’s dozen that came to my mind in writing this section.
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From reading the NakedPastor post on Tony Jones on Mark Driscoll: What came first, the thug or the theology? … and Tony’s original post on Some Thoughts About Mark Driscoll … and the comments:
1. Overall, did you see the post and thread as valuable, or not, and why?
2. What issues did this thread make you aware of that you didn’t know much about before?
3. What groups or behaviors or theological issues do you think this thread could potentially educate Christian communities about?
4. What main impression does this leave with you about the Emergent/Progressive stream of the emerging ministry movement?
5. How do insiders and outsiders to that Emergent/Progressive stream seem to be viewing that conversation?
6. What do commenters suggest about how, how often, and why women tend to be disbelieved when they attempt to share their accounts of abuse, dehumanization, gaslighting, and/or violence?
7. What patterns do you see among Tony Jones, various friends of his, and followers of Emergent when they comment on the thread?
8. What patterns do you see among commenters on the NakedPastor thread who apparently also had commented on the Emergent situation back in 2009-2010 when Julie began speaking out online?
9. What quips or quotes most stand out to you from the post and/or comments, and why?
10. What did various sides tend to do that you found either encouraging, or annoying, and why?
11. If you were given the opportunity to talk privately with parties on opposite sides of the dispute, what compliments and what constructive criticisms would you offer each person/group about how they’d handled themselves?
12. If you had the opportunity to host a blogalogue like this one turned out to be, what would you seek to do differently from how David Hayward sought to facilitate it, and what would you likely do pretty much the same ways he did?
13. Describe the impact you feel this thread had on the Church/Kingdom, as well as on the larger sphere of those who see themselves as “spiritual” but “not religious” – such as the “nones” and “dones” and humanist collectives?
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Readers Guide #4:
What Others Thought of the Thread
I plan to post additional quotes in this section, including from people I specifically asked for their thoughts on the subject of the NakedPastor thread and its significance. I will also see about gleaning perspectives from various other news reports and blog articles that referred to the thread.
This is one of the types of research tools I use to broaden my perspective, by compositing together the diverse opinions of others who were observing and interpreting the events or material in question. Some whose opinions I see were insiders to what happened – primary sources. Others were not directly involved, but indirectly had reason to watch and develop opinions about what was happening – secondary sources. I think of such sets of gleanings as a “discernment MRI” to help me with a deeper diagnosis.
As I said, I’ll add more quotes later, but thought it would be appropriate to start with the host, David Hayward. I asked him this question on February 10, 2015: “Anything that stands out to you today as the most memorable thing(s) that happened from the hosting of that posting?” Here is his response, with the content unedited except to break one Pauline-length paragraph into three:
The most significant moments for me were when commenters would come on and try to shut down or derail the conversation, and the community would basically push back with their right to share their experiences. It became very clear who was for free speech and who wasn’t. Free speech! As long as you say nice things about me!
The other eye-opener for me was in December . This is how all the real kick back started. and this is going to show either how stupid or naive I am, but I think may reveal how sincere I was too in my efforts to provide safe spaces for people to share their experiences. But, like Paul said, just because my conscience is clear does not make me innocent. I’m keenly aware of that.
So this is what happened: I’ve been commissioned by a UK publisher to write a book. In December they asked me to look for endorsers. They like the endorsers I had on my first book. Anyway, I reached out to many “leaders”… many of these people I know or know of, and vice versa. THAT WAS LIKE POKING THE BEAR! The general response was, “Are you kidding me? After what you’ve done? And you have the audacity to ask me for an endorsement?”
I was shocked and sad because I believed everyone believed in what I believed to be most valuable: the liberation of each person, the welcoming of the marginalized, the giving voice to the voiceless, etcetera. I presumed we were all on the same team. NOPE! I discovered, sadly, that what I had done got me banished from the circle of influencers. I was being punished for breaking a secret code I wasn’t aware of. I got angry and bewildering letters and phone calls pressuring me to take down the post or edit or hide the comments. That’s what motivated me to write the final comment and close comments to preserve the integrity and beauty of what happened there. That only brought on another flurry of fury. And so on.
Another thing: My comments that many saw as me encouraging people to share their experiences and clarifying the purpose of the comments and keeping things on track … those who were upset by the post saw these facilitations as “spurring them on” and considered it very unprofessional and provocative … like I was fanning the flames of a fight and enjoying it like an instigator. I found that peculiar.
Added on, later the same day from David Hayward … as insights so often do seem to pop up with delay reaction response:
Another observation I would like to make: I found it very curious that those who were upset with the post found me to be very controlling and abusive. The fact that I kept insisting Julie have the right to share her experiences they interpreted as allowing abuse to continue, and me not allowing them to influence me to shut it down was controlling and somehow creating a place where serious pain was being inflicted on some people (the alleged accused). So, even though many people saw this space as safe and healthy and free, others saw it as dangerous, harmful and controlling.
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My Own Thoughts on the Significance
of the 2014 NakedPastor Thread
In conclusion to this “readers guide,” I thought about writing up something about my own thoughts on the significance of the 2014 NakedPastor Thread. But, as I was skimming through the 35 or so comments I made there, I realized there really was no need. One comment of mine in particular captured the essence of the “so what” of what this seemed to mean in the wider scheme of things. So, I present that here, unedited. Oddly enough, I posted this comment on September 17, 2014, when the thread was not even two weeks old yet. But even now, five months later, this still seems to me to best capture what I see as most significant.
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For what it’s worth on the importance of this thread and the sharing of Julie’s narrative accounts … As for me, I’m all about context and consequences, not about the intricacies or intimacies of a telenovela as providing a source of gossip for those thrive on romance, malignancy, and malice.
No, this is not about a divorce per se — never was — or ping-pong statements to figure out who owns more culpability in the demise of a relationship. Or about protecting the children from online information, when, according to Julie’s accounts, they have already been eye-witnesses to numerous key incidents of evil.
I would suggest that it is at the core about the intertwining of pathology and theology, and so is on-topic for the original focus of the post. Unexpectedly, it moved to a parallel public situation that comes from the opposite end of the “emerging” lake out of which Mark Driscoll’s version of New Calvinism originated.
Ultimately, this was (when I first followed these same incidents and patterns in 2009-2010) and is now all about issues of duplicity. It was and is about personal character issues of public figures, when their actions end up in widely reported behaviors that affect the Body of Christ in detrimental ways. It was and is about what hypocrisy does to the name of Christ, both in the Church and in the community.
It is like Ted Haggard preaching vehemently against homosexuality and working at the political level to carry out what he considers policies for national righteousness. And then we find out that this has been one of his own moral issues all along.
It is like C.J. Mahaney and other high-up leaders in the Sovereign Grace Ministries movement denying for decades accusations of culpability for not responding to known/suspected child sexual abuse within their churches. And then in the trial of now-convicted pedophile Nathan Morales, Grant Layman — another high-up, long-time SGM leader — testified under oath that he believed he was obligated to report Morales to police authorities, but did not.
It is like Bill Gothard talking about “umbrellas of protection” to shield from harm those within your realm of authority (e.g., church/ministry leaders over flocks, fathers over wives and families and single adult daughters). And then we find out there is testimony after personal testimony exposing his sexual harassment of young women who served at his ministry headquarters, under his authority, for 30+ years.
It is like Mark Driscoll being paraded around for nearly 20 years as controversial and edgy and prophetic and flamboyant. And then the record of things he has continually said and done seem to repeatedly demonstrate his base contempt for people, uncontrollable anger, spirit of violence, and inflammatory language.
And now what is emerging involves key public figures from Emergent Village and its theological and organizational spin-offs that all supposedly promote women as peers to men, and they hail C21/Christianity 21 which let some women of consequence release their voices, and they cheer on celebrity female authors and speakers who hold their views …
… and we then find out publicly from Julie McMahon ex-Jones in her online comments in 2009, 2010, and 2014 that at the same time those seemingly good things were happening, apparently she was enduring emotional and verbal and physical and spiritual abuse.
… and also there was apparently marital infidelity, theologically justified by The Doctrine of Spiritual Wives versus Legal Wife, and gaslighting of Julie and labeling her as “crazy” apparently as a way to blamer her as the cause of the divorce.
… and there was mostly silence in public by the EV celebrities involved, though enough blips of evidence of their views from themselves and others associated with Emergent Village, plus documentation of their appeals in private to delete, edit, direct, control, shame.
And so, from my own studies of online evidences then and now, I think I can legitimately wonder what other unjust actions may have gone on behind the scenes to hide what I can only interpret as misogynistic, self-serving, perpetrator-protecting behaviors under a guise of generosity, goodness, and light. Shouldn’t such allegations deserve to be researched and documented, verified by witness testimonies, and exposed to the light? Hopefully under the sun they will be bleached into oblivion and those who perpetrated and/or perpetuated such damages to others can clear their conscience and move forward in their true identity as siblings in Christ.
I myself am a survivor of multiple incidents of spiritual abuse by leaders in a range of evangelical, moderate, conservative, and fundamentalist churches and parachurch settings over the past 40 years. For the past seven years I have written extensively on indicators of malignant ministers and toxic organizational systems, principles and practices for personal recovery from traumatizing abuse of spiritual authority, and constructive system solutions for dealing with destructive organizations.
My own most basic conclusion is this: I believe that men and women who put themselves forth as public thought leaders and therefore as personal role models within any Christian church, ministry, or movement obligate themselves to be held accountable for their character as demonstrated through actions — IRL and virtual. They are the equivalent of elders, whether acclaimed by others in a church or ministry, or self-proclaimed through publications, speaking engagements, and ministry positions. Hence, 1 Timothy 5:20 applies: “But those elders who are sinning you are to reprove before everyone, so that the others may take warning” (NIV).
And that is why, for me, I’m all about context and consequences, and open-air discussion so there can be, hopefully, redemption and restoration.
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