On friday 3/16, Jason Russell was taken into “involuntary commitment” by San Diego authorities. Although I’m certain you already know this, Jason is one of the founding members of Invisible Children, a non-profit committed to helping the people of Uganda who have been devastated and displaced by the civil war (arguably on-going) in their country.
Less than two weeks ago, Jason created a 30-minute video entitled “Kony 2012.”
This video has grown to literally become the most viral video of all time.
The news of Jason’s hospitalization has grown almost as virally.
Full disclosure: I questioned a lot of what Invisible Children was supporting. I was vocal about that. I wasn’t sure I stood with Invisible Children. But I do know one thing for sure:
I stand with Jason Russell.
As I logged into Facebook Friday afternoon, my newsfeed was filled with people posting articles on Jason’s meltdown. My heart broke.
I won’t go into details, but it will suffice to say that I once had a friend who had a similar meltdown and was also involuntarily committed. I visited him in the mental institution the day after his incident. Heavily medicated, he mumbled of his shame and regret as he played with the strings of his hospital gown.
My friend was brought to the lowest point in his life, and the image of him behind plexiglass will stay with me forever.
Jason has been devastated too. But nobody, no matter how much their message is disagreed with, should be humiliated and have their family humiliated too. I am deeply saddened by his pain, and even more saddened by my fellow Christians’ response. We have collectively laughed at him, jealous of his success, or furious at his message.
But Jason is only a filmmaker.
Who knows what kind of leader they will be under tremendous stress?
We might not have done any better.
I think it’s funny when people say, “If I was president, I would _________.”
Let’s be honest. If you were president we would find you sobbing in your bathtub, 48 hours into your 4-year term.
The type of fame and power Jason was thrown into would be enough to break anybody, even battle-hardened leaders. Especially not glorified film students.
Think of any European kings and queens of the middle ages. Think of the Caesars. Can you name one person who finished their rule with dignity? How many were exiled for their crimes? How many were thrown into dungeons, executed, or betrayed as they were drunk with power?
Human beings were never programmed to have this much attention. It drives us mad.
Donald Miller, author of several best sellers, posted this on his blog in response to Jason’s meltdown:
“God works in the world the way crops are grown. He works slowly, with teams of people, quietly and through relationships. For all of us hoping for an explosive, sudden jolt, just know it isn’t natural and it jacks with your mind.”
He couldn’t be more right.
Yet… we laugh at Jason?
Just because I did not agree with him gives me no right to laugh at his humiliation.
Many have come before him
Many smirked in glee as Jason’s short fame crashes because they’ve they felt that Invisible Children’s message was promoting violence in Uganda. Many accused Invisible Children of trying to get the US to send military to the country and enter into another bloody conflict.
All of this can be argued, but one thing can not be argued: Jason deeply loves his Ugandan brothers and sisters. When they are murdered, maimed, or raped, Jason feels it too.
Maybe his message was for violence and I’m not convinced it was, but for the sake of argument, let’s say it was.
There are other leaders who have been accused of pushing violent agendas. Even Jesus Himself.
German priest and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer sounded the alarm in Nazi Germany, long before the world took notice. He saw his Jewish brothers and sisters being treated horrendously and even disappearing. He did everything in his power to end the tragedy, while a World sat in complacency. On April 9th, 1945, he was executed for his (albeit very small) role in an assassination plot against Hitler.
Who, if given a chance, would not personally take Hitler out, as we now know his crimes?
It’s easy to be a historical “armchair quarterback,” especially in retrospect.
But what if you saw the people you cared about being raped, tortured, and murdered?
What would you do? Would you be tempted to make a call for arms?
For now, the battle is over for Jason Russell.
At best, the internet’s short attention span will turn toward the newest gizmo and gadget, and a video of an overweight guy falling down will quickly bury Kony2012 further and further into oblivion.
At worst, Jason’s wife and son will live under the shame and guilt of one afternoon of mistakes. Clearly, Jason Russell is mentally unhealthy at this time. Do we blame him for this? Is it easier to point fingers and laugh at those with underlying mental illnesses simply because we don’t know the afflicted personally?
History will judge Invisible Children for the their message, their motives, and their outcomes.
I will not judge Jason Russell.
He is a man who was unprepared for extraordinary fame. He is a man willing to go to extraordinary measures to save his friends.