Did a Baptist Preacher’s Online Bullying Drive a Teenager to Suicide? August 4, 2014

Did a Baptist Preacher’s Online Bullying Drive a Teenager to Suicide?

Ergun Caner is the alleged evangelical con man who pretended to be a defected ex-Muslim terrorist from Turkey and was the dean for Liberty University’s seminary until his actual past as a non-Muslim Swedish immigrant was exposed about a year ago. He continues to work as a Baptist minister and is currently the president of Brewton-Parker College in Georgia.

Criticism aside for a moment, his 15-year-old son Braxton reportedly committed suicide last week. Caner confirmed the death on Twitter, saying:

The exact motives for a suicide will always remain somewhat unclear to those surviving the victim, but there’s reason to think that the online bullying of Braxton by another Baptist minister may have driven the teenager to his desperate final act.

J.D. Hall is a minister in Montana who seems to have a particular obsession with Braxton Caner, following his social media and constantly blogging and tweeting in rebuttal to the kid’s posts, particularly ones where he was kissing his girlfriend. Hall seemed to think Ergun Caner should get his kid in line and keep Braxton from posting such things, because they’d be a bad testimony to the Christian missional agenda.

Hall is also a loud critic of Ergun Caner’s ministry and his career of deception, which is understandable. I’ve had my share of rage over the existence of Caner and his “ministry” in the Christian community.

But Hall has no compassion for victims or passion for healing driving his anger. In fact, he’s been (probably fairly) compared to Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church for his rhetorical tactics. And the fact that he went after a child’s Instagram posts.

Seriously, how is it Christian (in any sense of the word) to attack a child’s social media expressions of coming of age? I posit that Hall’s actions are more evil than Caner’s deception, though they’re guilty of the same sin. Both are misrepresentations of Christ, who didn’t play into temptations for power when offered to him, and who refused to condemn those with messy social effects of their sexual choices.

I’m all for calling out Caner on his lies, but thinking adults can see through his writing, not to mention his “ministry” is less personally destructive than someone bullying a teenager, possibly driving him to commit suicide. J.D. Hall should be ashamed.

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