Eugene Cho

our response to jason russell should not be that complex

The conversations surrounding the campaign of Kony2012 are complex. They really are. To simplify them only furthers the criticism that some have had with the entire campaign with over-simplification.

Part of the reason why I haven’t written anything about Kony2012 is that I’m still processing what I liked and disliked; agreed or disagreed; the assessment of what was compelling and deterring. There are some important lessons to be learned by all – but especially non-profit organizations – such as the one I recently started, One Day’s Wages. So, my posture has been slow to speak and quick to listen. I’m reading, processing, asking, conversing, and perhaps later, I’ll have some thoughts to share.

But one thing I’d like to make clear is that to reduce the work of Invisible Children to a 30 minute video would be simply unfair – to them, to those that they have sought to come alongside in Uganda, and to all of us. They’ve done some important work since their inception in 2003 and will continue to do important work.

Having said that, I was surprised (to say the least) and saddened to read the “breaking news” of Jason Russell’s detainment and hospitalization yesterday in San Diego. Jason is a co-founder of IC and the narrator of the Kony2012 video. He has also bore the brunt of much criticism during the recent weeks from the entire world.

The conversations surrounding the issues of Kony2012 may indeed be complex but hear this loud and clear, our response to the recent news about Jason Russell ought to be very simple: Compassion and Grace.

Unimaginable Attention.

I don’t personally know Jason. While I’ve had the pleasure of meeting with several of the Invisible team, I’ve never met Jason…and look forward to the day I can personally say hello.

Each person is responsible for their own actions and I’m sure that when Jason is in a healthier state, he’ll be able to own up, apologize, give an explanation, seek additional help if needed, and continue to live out his convictions. His well-being (and that of his family) are the most important things.

While I’m not making excuses for Jason, I think it’s important to imagine – just for a second – the amount of attention he has received as the “face” of Invisible Children. Attention is one thing. But this is something the world has never seen. Over 100+ million views of their video (and counting) and possibly every country and variety of news sources, media outlets, and bloggers “reporting” on the video and the organization = unimaginable feelings of _________.

Drop those stones and Pray.

It’s true, isn’t it. We love our heroes – when they get there. But perhaps, we love our villains and scapegoats even more. Their demise is our pick-me ups. Their destruction is our elevation. It’s easy to pick up our stones and say with glorious glee the infamous line:

“I told you so…”

If you’re tempted, I have three words for you:

“Don’t do it…”

One thing that’s absolutely clear to me is that Jason, his family, and the entire Invisible team are good folks. Really good folks. Drop those stones. Turn away from the temptation to throw them under the bus and pray for them.  I’m not talking metaphorically. Literally…pray for Jason, his wife, their two children, and the entire organization.

Whatever your views of Invisible’s KONY campaign, NOW is the time to pray for Jason, his wife & children. Not abandon them.

Never revel in the trials of others.

Leaders, individuals, causes, churches, and organizations should NEVER revel in the trials of other leaders, individuals, causes, churches, and organizations.

Never.

I’m not going to mention names but reading couple tweets yesterday from “leaders” writing the effect of “I told you so…” makes me sick.

Feedback, criticism, pushback, and tough questions are all fair game. All fair game and even necessary for all of us to be better and deeper. But never revel in the trials of others.

Never.

Imagine yourself in that situation.

Seriously. We’ve all had our bad days.

Imagine for a second – your worst day or your worst decision – and having that magnified a million times. A google search for Jason Russell Arrest (not an actual arrest since charges weren’t made) conjured up 121,000,000 results on Google. Imagine that with your name.

Seriously. Imagine this. I went ahead and inserted my name in the first article I read yesterday about his detainment (see below).

Go ahead and insert your name…and let me know how it feels to have a million eyes reading, judging, shouting “I told you so’s”, condemning, laughing, ridiculing…

As one my friends noted, the truth is that all of us are only an event away from our personal nervous breakdowns.

So, here it is for the entire world to see – had it been me in this situation. Do as you will but I hope in the midst of your response,  there’s some room for compassion and grace – not just for my sake, not just for Jason’s sake, but for your sake, too. For all our sake.

Eugene Cho, 41,  was allegedly found masturbating in public, vandalizing cars and possibly under the influence of something, according to the SPD. He was detained at the intersection of Ingraham Street and Riviera Road.

An SPD spokesperson said the man detained was acting very strange, some may say bizarre.

“Due to the nature of the detention, he was not arrested,” Lt. Andra Brown said. “During the evaluation we learned we probably needed to take him to a medical facility because of statements he was saying.”

Police said they received several calls Thursday at 11:30 a.m. of a man in various stages of undress, running through traffic and screaming.

Police described Cho as “in his underwear.” He allegedly took off his underwear at one point, but it was back on by the time officers arrived, said police.

Several people attempted to calm him down and when officers arrived police said he was cooperative.

“He was no problem for the police department however, during the evaluation we learned that we probably needed to take care of him,” said an SDPD spokesperson. “We determined that medical treatment was a better course of action than arrest.”

Cho was taken to a medical center after the incident.

Grace is the final word.

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63 Responses

  1. Joey McGee says:

    Thank you for your sober-mindedness; it is refreshing in a world of critics.

  2. Stuy Lewis says:

    Thanks so much for your post. It means a lot to see people have this deeper understanding in the face of all the negativity. Here’s another blog written by one of Jason’s close friends that I thought was beautifully written and help’s things in perspective. It parallels C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters. http://thewaterisblack.tumblr.com/post/19465929768/my-dear-wormwood

  3. Sarah Moon says:

    thank you for this reminder. I needed to hear it.

  4. Kristi says:

    Eugene, I’m pretty convinced that we’re ALL one life event away from our own nervous breakdown. I hope that the Body of Christ can lead the way in responding with love and mercy for this brother. As a humble member of the Fellowship of the Broken, he has my prayers. My prayer is that he’ll rise from the ashes and kick some serious butt. From what I could tell, he’s got the capacity to do so.

  5. Ben Irwin says:

    As someone who’s voiced some concerns with Kony 2012, I think you’re 100% right on this. Well said.

    • Eugene Cho says:

      As I shared, it warrants concerns and questions. These – in my opinion – will only help IC in the long run but the cruelty of some of the comments and criticism is appalling. And this was even before this incident.

  6. Kelly says:

    Thank you.

    Since Kony 2012, a lot of bullies have come out of the woodworks and attacked Jason and his family. A quick look on Invisible Children’s page and you would be shocked to see the name calling.

    After the Kony 2012 video came out, Jason was called a pedophile, a faggot, a child rapist, a thief..and those are the G-rated versions of the name calling. No wonder he had a mental break down.

    My heart aches .. deeply, deeply aches for Jason and his family.

  7. Drop the Stones and Pray. It doesn’t get simpler than that.
    Christians (including myself) are too quick to judge people who are struggling; its like we find satisfaction in saying “I told you so.”
    Thank you for the reminder that our response should be one of grace and humility. After all, haven’t we all been there.
    Well said, Eugene.

  8. Melody says:

    Thanks for this. Needed to be said. None of us “deserve” compassion, grace and love but that’s what Jesus offers and so should we.

  9. Morgan says:

    This is beautifully written, and sums up everything that needs to be said about this situation.

  10. Beautiful picture of grace (“drop the stones and pray”). Thank you for, once again, showing us the way to give grace to the broken. I’m praying for Jason and his family.

  11. Thank you so very much, Eugene. Grace and Love are always the first, middle, and final words of the Jesus Story. Thank you for reminding us to pray for Jason Russell’s and the I.C. family in this difficult time.

  12. Josh Freeman says:

    Hi Eugene,

    Beautiful post. Jason has not lost any credibility in my book and I am proud to stand by him on this day. I feel like confessing all the sins that I have done in secret. We are all human and all fall short of the glory of God. Even Paul (biblical) claimed to be the chief sinner the most in need of Christ’s forgiveness. America is in desperate need of a revival of the Holy Spirit like the Asbury one of a few decades ago.

    Also just to relate — I went on a local news station just after Kony went viral, before IC asked us alum not to, and even just from the response of some of my students toward the way I “did this” or “said that” or “stuttered there,” I was really shaken up by some of their critiques! Even hearing that another teacher said something inappropriate about me…Now if I were to magnify that 100,000,000 times, I’d be a mess too. Thankfully we all have a Savior who took all that shame on 10^100 fold (that’s a googol btw), and He has made me an heir of eternal life through His blood! Thank you Jesus!

  13. David BG says:

    Thank you for this thoughtful response. It resonates so deeply with St. Patrick, a man full of grace and the Spirit.

  14. Mouse says:

    Thank you for this post Eugene- a voice of reason and compassion as always. Over the last two weeks I like the rest of the world watched as the KONY 2012 video gained incredible traction and was promptly swamped with an equally forceful backlash. I don’t want to go into the complex discourses surrounding KONY 2012, because regardless of what I think of KONY 2012, the snark and extreme cruelty surrounding Jason Russell’s very public meltdown- makes me sick.
    When the news first broke I immediately looked at all the social justice sites to see if anyone had written a measured response to the madness- nobody did- yours was the first. I am amazed at the judgementalism leveled at someone who was obviously having nothing short of a manic episode or complete breakdown, and what disturbs me, more importantly, is what it says about our society’s response to those who are mentally ill. These days when we see someone having a breakdown in public, the first thing we do is take out our IPhones to record the entire sorry spectacle and promptly post it to Youtube where it makes the rounds and is preserved for posterity for anyone who wants a few minutes of entertainment at someone else’s expense. If nothing else, this is a cautionary tale of how social media is a powerful, volatile force that cannot be predictably harnessed, and how quickly it can turn ugly in a world that loves to kick people when they’re down.

    • Eugene Cho says:

      As I shared in my post, this is something the world has never seen before.

      I suspect others – despite the criticism – will seek to replicate IC’s “success” but I agree with you in that this is a cautionary tale of how social media has changed the game.

  15. Vegas C says:

    Thank you so much for this. I haven’t been as discouraged with humanity in general as I have been over some of the comments I’ve read in forums about Jason over the past few days. People think disagreeing with his organization or even simply disliking him as a person are an excuse to say some of the most horrible things to someone who is beyond the end of his rope. I wouldn’t wish what he or his family are going through on my worst enemy and I hope he gets the help he needs.

  16. HK says:

    Just because one is a Christian doesn’t mean you can’t be disappointed in this man’s actions. The excuse of fatigue & dehydration is laughable at best. It’s certainly sad & seeing people delight in this is disgusting, but his actions were as well. One doesn’t negate the other.

  17. Ryan says:

    And I’ve had to learn that it’s not so much the not-deserving that’s the point, although it’s entirely true. The fact that God wants us for his own, anyway, and is willing to work within us to make that happen, that’s the point. :)

  18. Rick says:

    You just do not know what may be going on for another person in terms of mental health, the challenges of taking a huge project, the pressures of seeing it go into the viral millions and the conflict surrounding its accuracy. So yes, compassion and grace is a must for the Christ-follower. Though the specifics may be different, there but for grace go all of us.

  19. Ascottj says:

    Thank you. You’re words are so peaceful.

  20. Amy says:

    Thank you for your words. I can’t imagine if my worst day had been pulicized like this. Really, any of us could have ended up in his position. Thank you for that reminder and for inserting your name into the news story.

  21. enscriptchun says:

    Wise words, Pastor E. Thank you for sharing them.

  22. Lexie Dache says:

    Your post really helped me process this! I had the opportunity to meet Jason for a brief hour, driving him to an airport last October. Obviously, that experience was something that made invisible children personal to me, as I reflected on hearing Jason’s heart and passion, his vision and goals. I didn’t realize until your blog post that after the news broke, I had been putting this pressure on myself to have had an “I told you so moment.” I wanted to have seen it before. The truth is, Jason was so personable and took the time to care for me in that one hour, by asking me questions and giving advice and engaging. I owe him grace and prayers, out of my sincere gratitude, not judgment and condemnation. Thank you for helping me realize this!

  23. Mark Lee says:

    We love to be right. We love when those we dislike fall, “God judged him”, is our normal “Christian”‘response. Although on the inside we are almost giddy with self righteousness. That you Eugene for reminding us of grace. It is a word not heard very often in many churches today. But it should be the mark of every Christian. Jason needs grace and he and his family need our prayers and our hands to help him back up. They do not need condemnation and pointing finger. Peace to you and the amazing ministry you have.

  24. Thank you Eugene! Beautifully said. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if your response got as many hits as Jason’s video. I will be praying for him and his family.

    • Eugene Cho says:

      Hmm. I’m not sure if I want 100 million people reading the article that I was detained for being naked and “allegedly found masturbating in public”…

      but I guess that’s the point.

      But in all seriousness, I do hope that this post serves as words of “peace-building” rather than tearing down.

  25. bcovyouth says:

    Seriously, great post Eugene. Thanks for sharing this and being real.

  26. Alison says:

    Thank you for your compassion.

  27. Great post. Thank you. My hunch is that I am nearer to the rhythms of glorify/crucify than I casually imagine.

  28. Anon says:

    THANK YOU. I know Jason a little bit And it has been so hard for me to watch what’s been going on the past few days. They are not treating this as if it was a mental breakdown, but instead, something he brought upon himself. Compassion and grace. Thank you again.

  29. Cheryl...(Mom) says:

    Annette, Good morning and thank you darling…

  30. […] I’m astounded by the people who rejoice, revel and have fun with these kind of sad moments. It diminishes us all. And for those of us who are Jesus-people, it is painful when members of our tribe join in the “fun.” I love what Eugene Cho has to say. […]

  31. Wendy says:

    This guy was obviously under the influence of drugs, and caught naked and masturbating in public. The charity has been under scrutiny for years because of shoddy accounting practices. Sometimes, its really a good idea to stop spiritualizing everything, use common sense, and donate to charities that are actually making a difference rather than handing out millions of plastic bracelets to raise awareness and alleviate slacktivist guilt.

    • Casey says:

      Wendy where did you get your info? Were you there? I haven’t seen anything about drugs.

      And furthermore, I don’t know where you pull your “charity has been under scrutiny for years” bit. And as far as making a difference is concerned, I’m pretty sure that Invisible Children were instrumental (with the help of other uganda-focused charities) in getting the 2009 U.S. troop advisors sent to Uganda to help apprehend. You make claims about slacktivism in this charity but I’m not sure that you’ve fully proved your point (talk about “slacking” in your argument). Accusations without proof says a lot about one’s character and worldview. I hope that you can prove your point with adequate examples. I have been looking to substantiate a lot of the “criticisms” and have only found that people are using statistics to explain their own worldview. Regardless, you missed Eugene Cho’s point and more importantly, Jesus Christ’s, whom Eugene follows.

      • Wendy says:

        A quick Google search at reputable sources, including Charity Navigator. I realize it is difficult to see things clearly through those rosy Christian glasses you have on. I didn’t miss any points, I find it incredibly sad that ignorance and sentiment is more valued than fact.

        • dean says:

          Wendy, quit reading other people’s blogs for fact checks. Charity Navigator gives them three out of four stars overall and four out of four stars in the “Financial” category. They recieved 2 out of four stars in “Accountability” because they are one short of the number of board members required by Charity Navigator, which is in the process of being addressed by IC.

          Second, way to jump on the “drug” bandwagon without facts. Have you ever known someone who has had a manic episode? If you had, you would have much more compassion in this situation than you are showing in these posts. The video I saw on TMZ was not a drunken pervert. It was a man in need of serious medical attention, which is exactly the response the police had, reporting that it was not a criminal issue, it was a medical issue. The only reason that the words “drunk” and “pervert” were thrown out were because people were calling 911 about an undressed man in yards and in the streets. This is what made headlines.

          While it is true that things can be seen through “Christian glasses”, the opposite can be true as well.

    • Derek says:

      wow. did you even read this post?

  32. […] to see what he and his family are going through is devastating.  I’m so thankful for people like Eugene who have extended grace and called on others to do the same. I also think that Jedidiah nailed it […]

  33. Jamie says:

    Theres having a breakdown and then there is this. I honestly think if it was something like a dui people would let it go. I think this guy has some larger reaching problems
    From watching everything Jason Russel has done I cant help but shake the feeling hes centered on promoting Jason Russell. And as an orginization they want to leave their mark on history more then the effects of their charity.

  34. Fantastic response, Eugene. Measured, patient judgment coupled with helpful counsel to extend grace, forgive, pray for, and embrace. The invocation of John 8 is appropriate.

  35. I’m so sorry your guys’s (Christian) beliefs about homosexuality cause people like Jason to have to lie about themselves… I’m telling you, he is a closeted gay man, I can tell from the second video with his effeminate movements/speech… I believe the pressure of living a life trying to be someone you’re not finally caused him to snap and this is the result. If Christianity abandoned homophobia, misogyny, etc. it would actually deserve to be named after Jesus.

    • Mouse says:

      Wow, stereotyping much? One’s sexuality isn’t dependent on being “effeminate”. There are effeminate straight men and hyper masculine gay men. Funny how you know everything about one person from one short video and can conclude that his marriage is a sham. Nice work.
      Regardless, Christianity covers a broad spectrum of beliefs about sexuality and you can find the homophobes on one end and GLBT affirming churches on the other end. If Jason is a closeted gay man, as you so confidently claim, then perhaps his interest in social justice and humanitarian stems from his own experience of being oppressed in a society that doesn’t accept those who are different from themselves. If he’s gay, great. If he’s straight, pansexual, whatever… great. But I find it really funny that you insist that the pressure of “living a life trying to be someone you’re not” caused him to snap…. when in the last two weeks, his video has gone viral in unimaginable proportions and he and his organization have been subject to a tidal wave of criticism (some deserved, some not) and personal attacks from every quarter.

  36. Shania W. says:

    Russell is on some drugs, Meth or crack and he used the money he gets from his so called charity to spend it on his family and drugs. He is also gay and isn’t really too good at hiding it.

  37. As one who has spoken strong concerns about the campaign from the point of view of being in S Sudan and the potential impact on us here, all I can say is we are praying for Jason and his family. It deeply saddens my heart to see anyone suffer and be targeted as such. Thank you for your loving and grace-filled response. From South Sudan-Michele

  38. Sherry-Lynn says:

    Thank you for writing this. It is a beautiful thought that a community still believes in Grace. Christian or not. For some odd reason I can’t help but shake the feeling that Jason Russell would be one of the last men to kick you when you’re down. But one of the first to help you up. I think a man keeping a promise for almost a decade shows integrity, a quality almost unheard of these days.

  39. […] Day’s Wages co-founder, Eugene Cho (who does not personally know Jason), wrote an excellent response to the KONY2012 critics who shouted “I told you so” after this weekend’s […]

  40. Bobby says:

    “For God so loved the world He gave His only son…not to condemn the world but to save it.”. How do we expect to join God in His redemptive work in this world through condemnation? The answer is simply, we can’t! Thanks for helping us all to see that Jesus didn’t throw a stone…so neither shall I!

  41. Karen says:

    Well said. Regardless of whether or not I choose to support the organization financially or help further their cause, I keep thinking that the children left behind and the world of hate they have been exposed to are so real. And us wealthy Westerners (defined by what we have, not by what we have not) need to find ways for our hearts to break for and taken action for these kids.

  42. […] Our response to jason russell should not be that complex. by Eugene Cho […]

  43. Actually, yes! If we were shown on our worst day doing something like this in PUBLIC after PUBLICLY seeking attention among all media outlets while LYING to people (including your own family) about our true identity and unnecessarily involving them at their own expense all while the Kony campaign became more and more questionable, then yes, we have the right to PUBLICLY react. He sought this out. People are not just trying to be mean by seeking out mentally ill people and criticizing them — that’s not at all what this is. This has deeper roots and there is a reason so many have the same reaction, and no, it’s not just that we’re all heartless or mean, or just love to see others fail. We don’t like being tricked or lied to or people who feel they deserve attention just because they want it.

  44. Oliver says:

    I’m a christian and I don’t see or hear anyone saying how Jason Russell’s actions have hurt the people of that area. People from around the world see him as some sort of Messiah because he’s saving poor Africans from the evil warlord. If he had been an African American filmmaker no one would have paid attention. Since he is a privileged white male his words and actions make him above reproach.

    Yes, I feel empathy for his plight and I will pray for him but I will criticize him because he’s not insane or crazy, he knew that if he cast himself as the HERO and someone of color as villain he would get a certain amount of favorable response.Hollywood does it everyday and Americans believe it.

    People from that area of Uganda didn’t even know the film existed (no internet) and had no Idea who Jason was. Exploiting people’s suffering to make money is what he did.I have worked with nonprofits for years and once people find out you are a fraud they stop giving to that charity and they stop giving to the people that the charity was helping because the bond of trust is broken. People that claim to be Christians need to stop turning a blind eye to corruption because other SO called Christians are involved.People need to pray and find out how they can help those people in Uganda without Jason.Question: If the people of that area of Uganda never heard of Jason Russell, that means they never received any money, right?…..

    P.S. I have the video on my page where the people watched the video for the first time and started to riot and throw rocks at the screen. Jason knew that area had no internet so he wasn’t worried about a backlash…or so he thought.

  45. […] A response to Jason Russell […]

  46. […] A great reminder of the pressure that individuals in places of prominence find themselves under. Perhaps before jumping the gun and judging, one ought to consider the back story, the emotional stress and the way it would feel if our names were in the story instead of the person over whom we stand in condemnation. Response to Jason Russell  […]

  47. […] of the reason why I haven’t written anything sooner about Kony 2012 is that I’m still processing what I liked and disliked; what I agreed or […]

  48. Hans says:

    It’s not about “I told you so”. To focus on that is only a straw man.

    The organization is seeking donations based on a information that is significantly false. Many choices were made as to which pieces of information would be included in their videos. Choices were made on how to present that information. They chose to put emotional response over truthful education.

    It’s not a question of should we persecute Jason. (obviously we should not) It is a question of where we need to donate our time, money and skills. Invisible Children is not nearly as effective nor as important as many other organizations that need our help.

    This is not throwing stones. Each dollar a person gives is a dollar they no longer may give to another. Make your choices wisely.

  49. […] The Christian response to Jason Russell should be one of grace. I think it is very easy for Christians to judge Jason in this time and to say “we knew better.” I even found myself asking the questions, “Should I have seen this coming?” from the time I spent with him during his visit to Lynchburg. Christian blogger Eugene Cho expounds on this idea in his post, “our response to jason russell should not be that complex.” […]

  50. I did not know anything about the organization before hand. Do not know about Russell either. I do however know Jesus is full of Grace. So should we.

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