The Conundrum of Compassion

The Conundrum of Compassion March 20, 2012

And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without. And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders and went backwards, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father’s nakedness.


I’m not going to post the video here but in all likelihood you’ve already seen it. The video of Invisible Children’s co-founder Jason Russell, nude and ranting, has been been front and center at The Huffington Post and various other news sources online, as well as played and replayed on all the major television news shows. Anchors have made one quip after another, smugly considering their verbal volleys all in good sport, considering.

But that’s the problem isn’t it?

They aren’t being very considerate. In fact, many of the so-called news sources initially reported that Jason Russell was performing a lewd act in public. Some suggested he was delusional due to drug usage.

Few, however, verified or substantiated facts before running to print rumor and innuendo.

The idea seemed to be Let’s expose the man in all of his nakedness and humiliate him the best we can, which, tragically, seems to be the way of media lately.

I knew the minute I saw the first headline that Russell was likely having a mental breakdown of some sort. I’ve witnessed that sort of thing up close and personal and once that happens you know all the triggers.

In the weeks leading into his apparent mental breakdown, Russell  released the very stirring documentary KONY 2012. He’d worked for years to document the atrocities of children being forced into military slave-hood by Kony. And, to his credit, it showed. The video went viral and people the world over suddenly forgot — briefly — about Kim Kardashian and Lindsay Lohan and began to talk about really important things, real news stories, like the Invisible Children.

For a brief moment, we all began to care about something really important.

But alas, that was quickly followed by the skeptics among us. Those who wanted to suggest that Russell had his own selfish motives for wanting to Stop Kony from his abuses. It was surreal listening to the discussions online and in the news. It was like a military diversion tactic, or something Wormwood might have thought up. There was more criticisms of Invisible Children and Russell than there was of Kony and his atrocities.

We are good at that.

When we get to feeling convicted over anything, we look to blame somebody else. Anyone or anything that makes us feel convicted or guilty is immediately suspect, and a target of our collective ridicule and anger. It’s the conundrum of compassion in a culture intent on cultivating narcissists.

We are like  a pack of rabid dogs, attacking and eating one another alive.

If journalists would do their real jobs — the ones that call them to verify information and print the factual evidence of something — it would go a long way toward settling the hysteria of meanness that plagues us.

In one article I read, a person noted that Russell had spoken at Liberty University, as if speaking at a conservative Christian college was some sort of indictment of wrongdoing or wackiness.

Perhaps,  the lunacy isn’t Russell’s. Had we witnessed the atrocities toward children that Russell has seen, wouldn’t renting our clothes and screaming in the streets until others intervened on behalf of these children be the sane thing to do?

There is a definite disconnect, mentally and emotionally, when we choose to divert the conversation away from the wrongs being inflicted upon children to a national discussion of ridicule and humiliation of a man who did the one thing we keep failing to do


getting off our high horses and waging a battle on behalf of tortured children.

Jason Russell cared.

And that was his shame among a nation of people too smug to.

Now that Jason Russell is getting medical treatment for his compassion we can go back to focusing on our celebrities and our own problems.


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  • the hysteria of our own meanness, indeed. thanks, Karen.

  • Anonymous

    This was wonderful. Thank you for injecting grace into the discussion.

  • Tony V

    Jeez, how guilty are we all of this every day…what great words, Karen! Thankful you shared them honestly.

  • Therichmonds

    That verse about is immediatly what I thought of. How important it is for us to pray that he feels the protection of the Lord as he deals with the shame “we” heap on him. Thank you for your compassionate post.

  • I can only add a heartfelt Amen to what you have stated & to the comments below.

  • Sherwood8028

    “We are like a pack of rabid dogs, attacking and eating one another alive.”

    And we have an appetite to match, it would appear.

    And then there are those who boast that we are a “Christian” nation… excuse me,
    but somehow I doubt it, even though being a Christian is the only label I will

    Reviewing such stories, the words “for shame” come to mind.

    • Yes, Sherwood, but the shame should be upon those who could care less, not those who care.

  • holly

    I am heartbroken for him. And yes, we should protect him in his weakness vs. attack him with shame.

    • I can’t figure out when it became socially acceptable to belittle those having mental breakdowns.

  • Tim

    Mental breakdown is what first came to my mind too, Karen, because I also see it with some of the people who end up in my courtroom. People under pressure snap, and this guy had enough pressure to cause a complete break with reality.

    And you’re right, his act of caring should shame a nation too smug to care. I bet it doesn’t.


    • Tim: I know courtrooms to be places full of brokenness and despair. We all need to keep our judicial system and its workers in our prayers. You all deal with what most of us don’t see on a day-to-day basis.

      • Tim

        Thanks Karen. Judges deal with awful stuff all day long, and our cases are filled with the oppressed and downtrodden.


        P.S. I followed you over from a comment you left at Scot McKnight’s blog, and I’m glad I did.

        P.P.S. I just posted an article on oppression of women and what men can do about it at The Radical Journey where I just joined the team of writers:
        Don’t know if you’ll have a chance to take a look , but I am really new to this blogging stuff and any feedback I can get is really welcome!

  • Luke A

    “In our achieved satiation we have neither the wits nor the energy nor the courage to think freely about imagined alternative futures.” – Walter Brueggemann

    The royal consciousness we (even the most counter-cultural of us) have bought into is numbing to true pathos. Our passion is dead. So our ability to imaginitively suffer with people has also died.

    I pray that the Resurrection life of Jesus would be more than a catalyst for ham dinners and family games this year.

  • Dear Karen…
    *Thank you.*
    For who you are. Thank you.

  • Jcrabe56

    I so agree with Ann, you are truly speaking for so many of us and more importantly being a voice for many, many children!!

  • Amber

    Oh, thank you thank you thank you. Finally, a post on this issue with which I wholeheartedly agree. Love protects — it does not expose. May we all be a people who practice such compassion.