Tony Jones is tenacious, I’ll give him that. But tenacity is not always a good thing, especially if your end goal is as misguided as his. The ToJo Narcissist News of the Week this week the letter bearing the upside-down-Nike-swoosh-logo-letterhead of his lawyer, one M. Sue Wilson. I was made aware of this letter by Tony’s ex-wife, Julie McMahon, as were a number of other bloggers, one of whom has posted a copy in all its glory, with personal information redacted. The letter reminds Julie of a court order that instructs the parties, Tony Jones and Julie McMahon to cease posting about this matter and to remove their past postings, insofar as they are able to remove them. So far, so good. However.
I haven’t said anything for several weeks now, though I know others have said things, and there has been some general chatter. I know that some have reached out to Julie McMahon with encouragement. It seemed like things have gone quiet, though really, nothing had changed. Tony Jones remains a bastard NPD out to get what he wants in the spotlight, at any cost. This single short statement holds a few things that deserve a bit of unpacking.
I’m not the cartoonist that David Hayward is, so I have to steal. David posted a ‘toon today with tips on how to silence a dog (or a person) in response to Christianity Today‘s Shame-a-Thon TwitterChat, about which I knew nothing until I read David’s post. But the record is there, so everyone can go back and read at least some of what was said.
The television show M*A*S*H was a sometimes biting commentary on the Vietnam war, but was set in Korea about 2 decades earlier. They never mentioned Vietnam and could defend against accusations of attacking US government policy with that. But nobody was fooled, and it was impossible not to make the connection. I can’t say for certain that CT’s Twitter chat was sparked by the growing swell of online chatter about the Tony Jones situation, but it’s impossible not to connect the dots if you know they’re there.
There are a lot of people who will tell you that marriage is on a pretty unstable foundation in our culture. Often it’s said from an anti-same-sex-union agenda, but it’s also been said in appeals for monogamy and the sanctity of marriage. Rather than dig up some statistic to make a point, it seems easier to simply acknowledge that marriage is not widely regarded with the assumed longevity that it once was. And that, I think, is the sentiment that was behind Andrew Jones’ comment that Tony Jones’ call to stop performing marriages was unorthodox and threatening to marriages.
I’ve been thinking about the latest update on Julie McMahon’s situation this week, the one where she’s having to drop the matter of trying to use the courts to achieve the return of her son to her lawful custody after his father, Tony Jones, refused to return him after scheduled visitation back in January. The one where she’s already in for $6,000 in legal fees and can’t keep spending money she doesn’t have to force her Emergent/Convergent leader/author/speaker ex-husband to abide by the court’s prior custody ruling.
Just how naive is Rachel Held Evans?
Now I’m no David Hayward, but this is what came out on the last one as I was wondering what it was going to take for “leaders” like Brian McLaren, Doug Pagitt, and Rachel Held Evans to revoke their support for and endorsement of Tony Jones. I call this one #WhenTony.
I’ve always had a kind of love-hate relationship with Emergent Village. I liked how EV sought to push what we called “the conversation” in emerging circles and help to bring it to the foreground. I liked that they helped bring some books into more popular consciousness. This would have been back around 2004 through 2006, say, back in the earlier days of this blog. Back when I had begun my church exodus and detox, when I was deconstructing and reimagining and exploring.
I have never displayed the “Friend of Emergent” badge on my blog. Oh, I considered myself Emergent-friendly, but it always stuck in my craw that displaying the badge came with a price tag — literally. If you contributed to EV, became a member, whatever, then you were invited to display the badge. You couldn’t “just” be a friend. You had to buy it. I never liked that whole concept, and as time went on, I became a Friend of Missional instead. That was free, thanks to my friend the Blind Beggar. I didn’t have to join anything, pay anything, or buy anything — I just had to be friendly.
As I said almost a week ago, Tony Jones posted a statement countering the allegations made by his ex-wife, Julie McMahon. Tony’s statement was filled with lies, innuendo, half-truths, horrible leaps of logic, and other miserable attempts to control the narrative. One of the few bits of truth in the statement is that he has been diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. R.L. Stollar has published documents which set the record straight in an evidentiary way; these can be compared with Jones’ statement to show his lies and misrepresentation. I was a little steamed at Jones’ blustery statement, but glad that I archived it because it disappeared from the site a few days later. I’m not surprised, and my links to that statement and several others from the “WhyTony” site on Scribd are all to my own local copies of the statements for this very reason. You can’t simply post something on the Internet and then remove it to pretend it had never been there. Not when people are watching, and the people who are watching highly suspect your motives and are onto your tactics. These tactics are simply means of attempting to control the narrative, to bend it and alter perceptions in one’s own favour.
So I’ve been dragged back into blogging for a little, but some of these thoughts have been percolating for some time now. Yesterday while I was writing about Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) as it relates to the Tony Jones situation with his divorce and the Emergent Village leadership at the time, Kathy Escobar was writing a thing or two about narcissism (+ church). Kathy is someone whose blog I used to really enjoy back when I was regularly reading emerging/missional blogs, and I’m so glad to see she’s still blogging — especially given the insight she’s shared about NPD.
My last post laid out the situation surrounding the divorce of Tony Jones and Julie McMahon, and introduced the matters which were brought to light concerning not only Tony Jones, but Emergent Village. It’s clearly evident that Tony lied concerning the details of his divorce, and has misrepresented the facts at points to skew public perception in his favour. While conclusive evidence of an affair with Courtney Perry has not (yet) been made public, those who have viewed it seem generally convinced that an affair began while Jones and McMahon were still married (and indeed, perhaps while Perry was still married). Having seen some of it, I’m convinced an affair took place, and the psych eval makes it clear that the evaluator also believes this to be true. Let’s set aside the affair though. Affairs happen, people lie, people get divorced, dog bites man. Nothing to report there, so far as it goes. Sad though it may be, this is still true in Christian churches and in those engaged in Christian ministry. Even through the midst of the public debate of Julie’s story, it had been stated repeatedly that this was not about the divorce. So what’s it about? Let’s begin with Tony’s behaviour through the affair, divorce, and subsequent relationship with Julie. For our purposes today, whether he was a good husband or father is not germane, and let’s be honest, very few of us want to be judged on that question alone.
So it’s now public knowledge that the Golden Boy of the Emergent Village has lied about almost all of the facts surrounding his divorce from his first wife, Julie McMahon. R.L. Stollar bravely published excerpts of the documents, including those indicating the injury that Jones denies causing to McMahon’s shoulder. There remain two things which are not immediately clear. (1) Why certain leaders continue to support Jones; and (2) How the leadership of Emergent Village could have allowed an environment where this could take place while they feigned ignorance.
I’ll back up. There are a lot of summaries of this mess out there already, and even more commentary upon the matter. But I’ll recap some “highlights” with a few notations of my own, after which I’ll explain why this matter catches my attention enough to resurrect this blog and comment publicly, and I’ll pose some questions around what I consider to be the larger issues at play. As has been said all along, this is not just about the breakup of one family — as painful as that was and continues to be for them.