From the very beginning of this whole #TonyGate ordeal, there has been a lot of pressure on those commenting as well as on me to take down the original post that started all this and remove or edit some comments.
In other words, the pressure to be silent has been enormous and hasn’t let up. Actually, for me, the pressure has been to stop providing places for the silenced to speak.
My hope was that some of our so-called leaders would really take the lead in showing solidarity with the silenced. In fact, I expressed this very thing in a letter to them at the beginning of January, 2015. I’ll share it with you here because I’m not betraying any confidences:
“I would like to give you, if you don’t mind, my perspective as it stands now. I think Julie’s story is going to become more and more published. More and more people are talking about it. If I may assume you are my friend, the following is what I would say to a friend of mine:
- If Tony did physically assault Julie…
- If Tony did have an affair and justified it with the “spiritual wife” idea…
- If there was a coverup to protect the emergent movement and individuals’ careers
- and if there was a “she’s bat-shit crazy” campaign to silence Julie…
… then eventually it’s going to come out. It seems to me that if these are true (I don’t know if they are, but that’s Julie’s story and she seems to have evidence for some and proof for others)… then it is definitely going to come to light.
If I were you (speaking as if to a friend)… I would come clean as soon as you can with any involvement you might have had with this scenario… either wittingly or unwittingly. I would explain with as much clarity and compassion as possible what your understanding and role was. My guess is that as this comes more and more public, people will start distancing themselves from the problem and those who created it. But for those who were there, they’ll need to explain what happened from their perspective.
I would also encourage anyone who was involved to take the lead in advocating for the revelation of the truth, no matter how painful or difficult or embarrassing. I think this is where the real rubber is going to meet the real road: if an emergent leader could advocate for the weak, abused, and silenced, and symbolically say, “I’m putting the welfare of the abused ahead of my career!”, then that would speak volumes for that leader and maybe the movement they’re associated with.”
Soon after, I saw this thread where these very same leaders posted their support for Tony Jones and even threatening with lawsuits. I was saddened. But not surprised.
Here’s the issue for me: For me, the core issue isn’t who’s guilty or not guilty. For me, the only thing I am determined to do is to keep that post up with all the comments in spite of the surmounting pressure to take it down and silence myself and those who commented. It’s not about “trial by twitter”, as Rachel Held Evans suggested, but about simply giving space for someone to share their experiences, to be heard and even to be believed. That’s their right just like it is a leader’s right.
For instance, what if Tony did cheat on his wife, had an affair, and justified it with his There Are Two Marriages: A Manifesto on Marriage theology and covered it up by deleting posts, pictures, and persuading friends of his side of the story, and then convinced people that Julie is bat-shit crazy? I’m not saying this happened, but let’s just say it did. His story was the popular, official, and publicly known and acknowledged one. There were speaking events, blogs, other leaders, books published… you name it… that substantiated his story. I didn’t even know Tony or Julie, but in 2010 one of these leaders told me face to face that Julie was bat-shit crazy, and like everyone else probably did, I just nodded my head and continued listening to the official account of events. But then Julie who has none of these platforms visits a little blog and makes a little comment, essentially saying, “Um… it didn’t happen that way!” and they move all of heaven and earth to shut her down and anyone who let’s her speak and calls it “unethical”, “inappropriate”, “hysterical”, “unbiblical”, “abusive”, etcetera, then threaten to retaliate with lethal legal force.
So for me it is about the privilege and abuse of power, plain and simple, and how it marshals all of its fathomless resources to silence all those who question or criticize it.
Oh the letters I have received! Just because an alleged victim shares her experiences that don’t align with the official account.
I have served many strong, authoritative, influential, powerful, charismatic leaders, and many of them have threatened me with defamation lawsuits just because I criticized them. This is what they do.
I’m sad, not because so-called leaders aren’t believing Julie, but because they refuse to let her to be heard in the first place. And none of them are taking the lead in advocating for the silenced like the one they claim to follow did. In a lot of the phone calls and correspondence I’ve received, these two words keep coming up: reputation and revenue. I realized I have neither of those, and maybe that’s why I rejoice when the silenced speak.
This should make us raise at least one eye-brow.