During our coverage of the FBX Jax saga, a news story that has received international attention for the past eight months has providentially come to a head. Liskula Cohen, a well known Vogue model, was being harassed by an anonymous blogger. This blogger called her disgusting names and accused her of perverted behavior. Here is one of the blogger's insults: "Over-the-hill skank" with Mr. Ed-like looks who is "psychotic, lying, whoring."
This blogger’s sick attack lasted over a prolonged period of time. In January 2009 the model went to court to obtain the right to learn the name of her attacker from Google. It's important to draw attention to the fact that she went to a public court to obtain this right. She didn’t sneak around with a detective/bodyguard to get a “secretive” subpoena. The model finally discovered the identity of the anonymous blogger. However, what happened next is so surprising that last night, Bill O’Reilly, of the enormously successful prime time Fox news show, The O’Reilly Factor, called Ms. Cohen “a patriot” during the segment, entitled “Pinheads and Patriots. The model, upon learning the blogger’s name just two days ago, realized that she vaguely knew this woman. As soon as she got the mystery blogger's personal information, she called her and said, 'I just want you to know that if I've ever done anything to you to actually deserve this, that I'm really very sorry. I'm sincerely apologetic,'" Cohen said. Cohen, 37, said she forgave the mean-spirited blogger, dismissively describing her as "that girl who was always there" whenever she went to a party or a restaurant. "She's an irrelevant person in my life," Cohen said. Read more:
Bill O’Reilly said on his show that Ms. Cohen is refusing to release the identity of the person, wishing to deal with it privately. I (Dee) was in the process of preparing for today’s post when I heard this, and I replayed the O'Reilly segment again because I was startled that she would respond in such a mature manner. I did some further research on this supermodel and learned that she is active in the NYC party scene. There is little to indicate that this woman is an evangelical Christian. Her actions were so out of the ordinary that stories are circulating throughout the news services. I guess the world rarely sees someone who has clearly been wronged behave in such a forgiving manner. We have heard how the previous Pope forgave his attempted assassin. Did you know that the man eventually converted to Catholicism, stating that the Pope’s visit with him made a profound impact on his life?
One of the most profound examples of forgiveness in the last decade occurred in an Amish community. Do you remember the crazed gunman (a true sociopath) who shot some Amish children in their school and then turned the gun on himself? What happened next is a testimony to their faith (no matter what some of you might think about their theology). They publicly forgave the assassin and brought meals and others forms of tangible help to his widow and family members. In September, 2007, Christianity Today featured an excerpt from a book entitled Amish Grace and the Rest of Us: The Amish response to the Nickel Mines shootings wasn't just plain Christianity By Donald B. Kraybill, Steven M. Nolt, and David L. Weaver-Zercher
Amish spirituality emerges from their particular way of understanding the biblical text, a lens that's been shaped by their pacifistic martyr tradition. With the martyrs hovering nearby, offering admonition and encouragement, the Amish have esteemed suffering over vengeance, Uffgevva over striving, and forgiveness over resentment. All Christians can read Jesus' words in Matthew's Gospel—"forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors"—but Amish people truly believe that their own forgiveness is bound up in their willingness to forgive others. For them, forgiveness is more than a good thing to do. It is the thing to do”.
In the same issue of Christianity Today is a sermon given by Philip Yancey to Virginia Tech campus two weeks after the shootings. It’s title is “Where Is God When It Hurts?” Here is an excerpt from the talk. “Last fall, I visited Amish country near the site of the Nickel Mines school shootings. As happened here, reporters from every major country swarmed the hills of Pennsylvania, looking for an angle. They came to report on evil and instead ended up reporting on the church. The Amish were not asking, "Where is God when it hurts?" They knew where God was. With their long history of persecution, the Amish weren't for a minute surprised by an outbreak of evil. They rallied together, embraced the killer's family, ministered to each other, and healed wounds by relying on a sense of community strengthened over centuries”.
Note what Yancey said, “the press came to report on evil. Instead they ended up reporting on the church." The Amish actions caught the attention of a jaded world. My point here is not to begin a lengthy debate about the theology of the Amish. It is to look at how this community responded with uncharacteristic grace in the midst of tragedy. Forgiveness is, and naturally should be, the hallmark of those who profess to follow the One whose ultimate act of forgiveness led to our redemption. We have all fallen short of the glory of God, and that includes models and pastors. Unfortunately, these stories lead to the inevitable comparison how FBC Jax and its leadership, under the guidance of Mac Brunson, responded to Tom Rich. Let’s be absolutely clear about Tom Rich. He was cleared of any criminal intent or wrongdoing. He wrote about his concerns regarding his pastor's lifestyle and other church issues. He did nothing like the blogger and perpetrators in the aforementioned examples. So, with Tom’s rather mild blog in comparison to these other examples, let’s take a look how the church leadership handled their “tragedy.”
1. They secretly filed for a subpoena to disclose the blogger’s identity (not to mention a couple of other unrelated blogs). The model went to an open court to request that the blogger’s identity be made known to her. She found no reason to keep her concern a secret. What was the leadership of FBC Jax afraid of?
2. After Tom’s identity was known, they sent two men in leadership to Tom’s house with papers listing 16 sins and two trespassing papers for Tom and his wife. The model called the woman, who was not a close acquaintance, offered an apology, and showed considerable grace. The Amish sent members of their community to the shooters’ family to assist them.
3. Tom’s name was eventually told to the over 100 deacons claiming that church bylaws had been broken. His name spread quickly through the community. Haven’t some of these same people accused Tom of gossip? Hmmm… The model chose not to release the name of her accuser, stating she would deal with this personally.
4. Mac called Tom Rich a “sociopath” in a public newspaper.
Frankly, this is an erroneous, unbecoming term to use towards any human being, particularly to one who is being labeled falsely. Mac Brunson demonstrated his profound ignorance in this statement. Didn’t Mac learn not to pretend that he is psychiatrist? This sort of behavior is unbecoming to one who claims to follow the living Lord as a leader.
Since he doesn’t seem to know the definition of the term "sociopath", I will provide you with an explanation of this tragic condition. Sociopath also has the same meaning as Antisocial personality disorder (ASPD or APD). This serious condition is defined by the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual as follows: "a pervasive pattern of disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others that begins in childhood or early adolescence and continues into adulthood.” In order to diagnose someone with this disorder, the individual must be eighteen years of age or older and have a documented history of a conduct disorder before the age of fifteen. People having antisocial personality disorder are sometimes referred to as “sociopaths” and “psychopaths”, although some researchers believe that these terms are not synonymous with ASPD.
Here are examples of sociopaths: Jeffery Dahmer- the cannibal who killed and ate humans. Ted Bundy who killed over 300 women. Serial rapists and murderers, Pol Pot, Hitler, the list is endless. How dare Mac Brunson say this about Tom Rich? He needs to publically repent of this grievous sin since he chose to inflict his hurtful response on the entire community of Jacksonville via the news media. So, how did the party going model handle this? She called and apologized to the woman, forgave her, and told others that the blogger was irrelevant in her life. Sure beats "sociopath".
5. Then, they threw Tom Rich and his wife out of the church, saying it was Tom’s responsibility to ask for forgiveness. By contrast, the Pope embraced his tormenter and became friends with his mother. Remember, this is the Pope who is the head of a much larger enterprise than FBC Jax and presumably has lots of things to do. Yet, he set aside time to become an important part of this man’s life, eventually leading him into the faith. The Southern Baptist Convention is bemoaning the rapidly declining baptism rate and the hemorrhaging membership. They recently lost the families of your two-blog queens. So, what is your answer to the title of this post? For us, the answer is obvious. We would run as fast as we could from Brunson’s model of servant leadership. As Tom Rich said to me (Dee) recently, "Mac seems to know how to extend the right 'boot' of friendship”