The Face of the Movement Has Fallen…Now What? #KONY2012

It’s been communicated to me that when people think of Uganda or Invisible Children, they think of me as being knowledgable. Because of this, I had dinner with a few friends to give thoughts on the “KONY 2012” video as someone that has been following the work of the organization for the past 7 years. Following this, I went to a class to speak on this topic and to answer questions, especially as I had been Trinity’s contact with Invisible Children from Fall 2009 to Spring 2011.

Right before I went up to talk, I saw a post by Invisible Children on Facebook saying:

Jason Russell was unfortunately hospitalized yesterday suffering from exhaustion, dehydration, and malnutrition. He is now receiving medical care and is focused on getting better. The past two weeks have taken a severe emotional toll on all of us, Jason especially, and that toll manifested itself in an unfortunate incident yesterday. Jason’s passion and his work have done so much to help so many, and we are devastated to see him dealing with this personal health issue. We will always love and support Jason, and we ask that you give his entire family privacy during this difficult time.  – Ben Keesey, CEO, Invisible Children

After reading this, I received a text from a friend saying, “Absolute worst about Jason Russell,” and I thought it made sense with what I had just read. However, upon getting up to the podium I heard someone say something about “he was caught masturbating in public” and I thought it might be a good idea to quickly search his name on Google.

The results made my heart sink, only momentarily though as I knew this wouldn’t really change anything, this would just add another unnecessary hurdle and stone to throw for critics. I briefly addressed it at the beginning as all had been reading about it and as much seemed to be speculation still, it felt safe to not dwell on it for too long.

After speaking of Invisible Children and connecting my own experience with Ugandan children that I had interacted with to show the reality instead of the abstract idea, I had no plans for the night.

As soon as I got in my car, I started to get really frustrated. I couldn’t believe that this guy that had just been seen by over 80,000,000 people as the face for Invisible Children (especially as a husband and a father of two [one of which had just become “famous” with him]) would go and do something this stupid now that, although presumably unintentional, the media’s attention is on him.

I felt that I should say something online as I know that people see me as someone who is “in the know” about Invisible Children, so I posted a link to Donald Miller’s thoughts (as I really liked his approach; Miller’s Post) and I posted this along with it,

Great words. This is really disappointing but it doesn’t change any of what Invisible Children has been standing for. Kony must be stopped. Don’t let the frailty of humanity stop the pursuit of justice for the oppressed. God help us and let our imperfections sober us and remind us that we NEED you.

I don’t think that my own words penetrated my heart enough. Even in posting this, I was still bitter that Jason would do something even remotely close to this and wondered how he could not realize all that he is jeopardizing the credibility of. So, it seemed right to pray.

When I am deeply frustrated by realizing the fallen state of this world, especially in more than one fresh example, I find it hard to use a calm tone or peaceful words in prayer (this is never directed at God, simply voicing frustration and asking for help/wisdom). I went to start to ask what it was that troubled me and I had to keep stopping myself from using the “f-word,” and instead what ended up coming out was, “What the hell was Jason thinking?” to which I quickly clarified, “He probably wasn’t.”

As I know this place of “not thinking,” all too well, I began to think about my own crap (as Donald Miller puts it). I started to think about the positions of leadership that I’ve been in and others that I have almost been in. In thinking about this, I wondered about if I had received a Youth/Worship pastor position that I had applied for, would I still have made some mistakes that I had made that, if they had been found out, would have likely had me removed from my position?

I wanted to say, “no, I would have had control, this kind of thing never would have happened.” But I decided to be honest with myself and before God and I admitted that I probably still would have done wrong in the ways that I had or in others.

Don’t misunderstand this as justifying whatever may have happened in the case that it was not a literal “loss of his mind,” what I am simply getting at is that we really need to look at ourselves before being so critical of others.

I cannot imagine the kind of humiliation, frustration, pain, regret, and shame that Jason (if now of right mind or if not, once he is) must feel about this.

Within that, I know that if I was in that place, being left alone would not help at all. It would further the sense that, “I’ve screwed everything up.” Which, although he has participated (willfully or not) in producing a hurdle for the organization/movement to face, is not the case. Jason needs love, right now, more than ever.

Regardless of whatever happened, Joseph Kony is still “The Worst.” Regardless of whatever happened, Joseph Kony needs to be stopped. Regardless of whatever happened, we cannot slow down.

Imagine if Hitler had not killed himself (or been poisoned, whichever it was) and the main person speaking out against him and leading others to kill him went and did something like this. Would that have meant that Hitler was no longer an issue or all that had been spoken against was rendered invalid? Of course not!

With all of this said, it seems rational to respond in these four ways:

1. Silence

  • Most of the accusations found in various articles seem to have no solid basis and the actual statements concerning what the police found/thought seem very vague and insufficient to talk about
  • If the accusations are true, that doesn’t mean that we need to spread the news or talk about it at all beyond looking at what this means for the cause or how we should react towards him
  • As a principle for the broader whole of the movement, don’t simply watch a 30-minute film, read several recent articles, formulate and assert opinions and then claim to know all there is to know; do real research before saying anything of weight

2. Reflection

  • Think about the mistakes you’ve made on any level (public or private) and think about what would happen if the worst thing you’ve ever done at your worst point was made public at a massive scale
  • The reality of it is, many of us would lose our jobs, our families, and our friends
  • Invisible Children, as an organization, has set a great example for how to respond in their care for Jason and support in his difficult time

3. Love

  • Regardless of his current mental state, Jason has fought tirelessly for the oppressed for about 8 years now
  • Jason is clearly in a difficult place and needs support
  • Kicking him while he is down in the light of what he is now known for and the suffering that he has dedicated his life to trying to eradicate, is disgusting

4. Perseverance

  • Jason’s personal problem being made public, whether a previously existing issue or an unforeseen trouble, does not change anything
  • Joseph Kony must be stopped, and Jason’s shortcoming serves as a reminder that we are all frail and imperfect and not one of us can do this alone; we need to stand together against evil and above all, we need God

My prayers are with Jason and his family. May God meet them in their time of need.

Continue to stand strong in the midst of injustice no matter how the largest proponents of justice may fail. We are human, we are imperfect. I can’t imagine that Satan would be happy about a generation rising up to seek justice and to fight evil. Is it possible that where good begins to grow, evil attempts to choke it before it is able to develop into a real threat? There is evil in this world, and it seems to find us most often when we try to fight it and don’t just allow it to exist. Get up and fight.

Ephesians 6:12 NIV – “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

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