“Statisticians have long warned that correlation is not causation, but they have apparently warned in vain.” Thomas Sowell
AUTHOR’S NOTE: THIS IS A SENSITIVE COMMENTARY ON A SENSITIVE TOPIC. IF YOU DON’T BELIEVE A COMMENTARY ON THIS SUBJECT CAN BE EDIFYING, YOU DON’T HAVE TO READ IT.
Every time I think that the Ergun Caner debacle can’t get any worse, it does. Last week, Brewton-Parker trustee chairman and pastor of Vidalia First Baptist Church, Bucky Kennedy, announced the creation of the The Braxton Caner Memorial Fund for the Prevention of Suicide and Cyber-bullying. This fund has been established in the wake of the tragic suicide of Ergun Caner’s 15-year old son, Braxton. Although the departed Braxton left no suicide note, some have theorized that a short Twitter interaction between Braxton and one his father’s many critics (which they consider to be a case of “cyber-bullying”) caused the boy to take his own life. According to a Brewton-Parker Press release, “While doubtful anyone can ‘prove’ cyber-bullying was the cause of the young Caner’s death, the impression nonetheless exists strongly enough to establish a memorial fund to raise awareness and prevent both teen suicide and internet crimes like cyber-harassment and cyber-bullying.”
I don’t know what caused Braxton to take his own life. I never met him. I did not know him. It would be irresponsible for me to conclude on his particular motivation(s) for taking his own life. Like others, I can only form impressions (Braxton’s short interaction with his father’s critic is not one of them). Here are some of them:
1. Braxton was a preacher’s kid.
Being a preacher’s kid or a preacher’s wife is difficult. Such a person always feels like he or she is being watched and judged. Lots of times, they are.
2. Braxton’s family moved a lot.
Moving around a lot isn’t easy. According to his own claims, Ergun Caner pastored churches in North Carolina and Colorado. During Braxton’s lifetime, Ergun Caner began career in academia at the Criswell College in Texas. From there he moved to Liberty University in Virginia. After being dismissed from Liberty, he moved back to Texas for a short time to work at Arlington Baptist College. From Arlington Baptist, Caner moved on to Brewton-Parker in Georgia. This last job move was during Braxton’s teenage years. When I was Braxton’s age, my family moved. It was hard. The prospect of moving from Texas to Georgia may have been hard on Braxton.
3. Braxton’s father traveled a lot.
Ergun Caner speaks at churches and youth camps all around the country. For security reasons, Caner does not post his speaking schedule. However, it’s safe to say that Ergun Caner is gone from home on a lot of weekends. It’s hard for kids when their father isn’t around. To my knowledge, Ergun Caner’s family was still living in Texas as he worked at Brewton-Parker in Georgia.
4. Braxton’s father spoke negatively about Islam and was threatened for so doing.
Ergun Caner once told the congregation of Decatur Baptist Church that he has moved three times and has changed his phone number eight times due to threats from Muslim extremists. Emir Caner, Braxton’s uncle, has spoken to Roswell Street Baptist Church about the need to carry a gun for protection. Threats to his family over the years, could have stressed the young Braxton over his lifetime.
5. Baxton’s father is a charlatan and it’s hard to be a charlatan’s son.
After becoming famous while claiming to be a trained jihadist turned Christian evangelist, it was discovered that many of Dr. Ergun Caner’s claims contradicted one another. He subsequently lost his job at one of the country’s most respected Baptist colleges. Ergun Caner has been less than contrite about his deception and continues to be the target of widespread criticism. Being a kid is hard enough. Being a kid whose dad is a charlatan is probably harder. I don’t know if Braxton believed that his own father was a fraud, but many others (perhaps even some of Braxton’s peers) thought so. Maybe those peers bullied him, in person and in cyberspace. I don’t know, but I do know this. I look up to my own father immensely. If I ever found out that he was a fraud, I’d be absolutely crushed, even as an adult.
6. Braxton may have been mentally ill.
I speak with all the expertise of someone with six hours of undergraduate psychology credit and one course in pastoral counseling who didn’t know the deceased. Bear that in mind. I theorize, given what I perceive to a pattern of pervasive, bald-faced lies told by Braxton’s father, that Ergun Caner may be Bi-Polar. Perhaps Braxton was. Who knows? I don’t. It’s just a theory. I’m not psychology expert and have no personal interaction with Braxton Caner and very little such interaction with his father.
7. The harmful impact of spiritual forces
I’ll offer no commentary on this particular impression
In the case of Braxton Caner, we have a young man who grew up a preacher’s kid, moved around a lot, was a member of a family that was threatened by Muslim extremists, was often away from his father at a vulnerable age, was possibly afflicted with mental illness, and was son to one of the most reviled men in evangelical culture. No fund has been established to recognize that…
One shouldn’t be.
“We do not know what led young Braxton to do the unthinkable” Todd Starnes
The only human who knew why Braxton Caner did what he did was Braxton Caner. Now, no one knows. It is irresponsible and unproductive to definitively claim otherwise. Putting a fund together and naming it The Braxton Caner Memorial Fund for the Prevention of Suicide and Cyber-bullying does just that. Correlation does not equal causation.
All the living can know about this suicide is that the situation is awful. It’s sad. It’s tragic. The death of a child or a sibling is the worst earthly thing that could happen to a family member. I feel sorry for Ergun Caner, his wife, and his remaining son. I can’t imagine the weight of the loss which they bear.
I’m left remembering that the actions we take affect our families. Our actions can affect our spouses even before we meet them. Our actions can affect our children even before they are born. What we say and do matters. Furthermore, what we say and do to others affects them. We never know what someone else could be going through when we talk to them. When we interact with someone, we need to remember that he is someone’s child and a human person created in the image of God. We shouldn’t pick on people, lie to them, or blame them unjustly.
In the wake of this horrible tragedy, we should follow the example of the penitent. We should not politicize tragedy but rather mourn it. We should throw ourselves upon the mercy and grace of God and show mercy and grace ourselves. We should let the dead rest in peace and let the living live in peace.
Death and judgment will one day come for us all. We need to be ready to give an account for how we treated God and our neighbor. We should be honest with both. Where we are ignorant, we should rely upon the perfect knowledge of God. Where we are not ignorant, we should rely upon the perfect knowledge of God.
“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might; for there is no activity or planning or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol where you are going.” Ecclesiastes 9:10
*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.
Reblogged this on The Paperthin Hymn and commented:
Good commentary from Seth Dunn
This is one of the absolute most unintelligent, assenine, insensitive, and ignorant pieces I have ever read. I am a preachers kid who moved around a lot, who traveled a lot, whose dad was gone a lot. You set yourself up as some expert on suicide based fueled by your incomprehensible fetish of hatred for another. It is worse than being a Pharisee. Millstone. Neck. Sea.
You really did not read what he wrote, did you? He said the exact opposite of your criticism.
And the irony of your own castigation of him is apparently lost on you.
Thanks for the commentary, Seth. We are saddened by the perpetual narrative-building by the Caner Camp, which unfortunately started from the very beginning. The man who has said multiple times on record “I wish I did know the reason [for the suicide]” has started a fund to prevent cyber-bullying. The irony here can’t be lost.
I hope that the above commenter, Caleb, starts to consider that his words to you fit the qualification of what Bucky Kennedy and Peter Lumpkins call “cyber bullying.” He is using the internet to inform you that you are wrong, he is rather terse about it, and even speaks of God’s coming judgment against you. It’s like the homeless man living in his 96 Yukon, Craig Whatever-it-is continually hurling tweets in my direction for the absurd and downright libelous charge of “stalking Braxton in the days leading up to his death.” His behavior actually does fit the qualifications of abusive or harassing, but asking people to be introspective or thoughtful rarely wins out over emotionalism and hysteria.
It’s the opinion of many people (who are more reasonable than Caleb seems to be) that the Caner Camp – whether his spokesman, Lumpkins, who wrote this press release or SBC Today that hashtags all tweets #BraxtonsList – that the young man is being used as a human shield to protect his father, uncle and those with integrity problems from criticism. Every time SBC Today hashtags a random, irrelevant article #BraxtonsList they’re saying, “Do not criticize us; it could lead to the death of a child.” These are cowards hiding behind the deceased.
Whether or not there’s any truth that Braxton’s brief interaction with me led him to commit self-murder nearly a month later (and there’s not), making his death useful to his father’s continued quest to be above criticism is hardly honorable to the young man’s memory. — JD
JD – perhaps your congregation should see this evidence of your “contrite” heart. My refererence above is not a prophetic judgement. It is Christ’s unfortunate preference for those who would offend little ones. In this case, it is historical commentary rather than prophetic. And it is in large part to your own pecking out words on your keyboard.
I am not a Caner fan. But your vendetta against him went much too far, and your continued actions belie your “contrition”. No matter the reason the son took his life, you personally did not pull him away from his early grave. Take no rest that it happened four weeks earlier. You may have caused it to fester in his mind. Placed doubts in his mind about his own father at a age which simply was off limits to you, sir.
God removing your guilt from your mind would by much to merciful. But He is merciful.
JD – my comments are not the same as your sin. I am replying to a blog and your writings written for provocation in the public eye (after all your stated goal is to expose). You sought out a boy’s Twitter account. That boy is no longer with us.
If Ergun Caner really does get death threats from Muslims then they must be Muslims of the peculiarly non-thinking variety, because Caner, sadly, provides some of the best dawah they could hope for.
In the early days of this I had actually held out some lingering hope that this awful event might have shaken Caner out of his sin, but clearly that hasn’t happened. My other suspicion was that his camp would eventually try to turn it into some kind of Servetus-thing and that is exactly what they are doing.
Caleb, this blog is significantly more private than a Twitter account. But again, by Bucky’s definition you are “Cyber Bullying” me.
Blogs which consistently “expose” are private? Oxymoron. The more you continue down this path, the more you discredit your original purpose of “Reformation”. You’ve lost your way.
I don’t know Bucky. I don’t live by his definitions.
Having lost my own 15-year-old son to suicide but a week before the Caner’s lost Braxton I will simply say that putting a mild disclaimer above your blog post does not absolve you of your lack of sensitivity to suicide, or anything regarding the Caner’s situation. I’ve spent the past three months in bitter pain, trying to come to grips with why my son did what he did. And out of curiosity I decided to see if there was anything new today regarding the Caner’s, as I hadn’t seen anything since the initial press release. My suggestion for you, as a parent who has now lost a teenage child by suicide, is to try and put yourself in their or my shoes. Try and grow some compassion, and realize that you are playing with real people here, and real emotions. The fact that you even post this excrement makes me wonder if you even have a heart or a soul as a human being. At the very least, this goes beyond being shameful and cowardly. Feel free to come visit me in Tallahassee, FL. I need to take my anger out on someone, and you seem like the perfect candidate.
John 8:7 So when they continued asking Him, He lifted Himself up and said unto them, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” Words are like stones…….
This “verse” you cite is misused so much that I recorded a response to it on YouTube.
Have you ever researched this passage of scripture? It is very likely a later addition to John’s gospel. Is that the kind of “scripture” you want to quote to make your point?
I want you to imagine you were the person being wrongly accuse of cyber-bullying a young man to death in front of your spouse, small children, and church?
Would you want me to speak in defense of you?
For the sake of full disclosure, Seth contributes to JD’s Pulpit & Pen. blog.http://pulpitandpen.org/contributors/
He’s hardly an impartial observer and more like an ax grinding henchman.
For the record, Keith, I published this article before becoming a P&P contributor and JD et al were ignorant of the article’s content before its publication.
Also, please identify specifically the axe that you claim that I have to grind.
By the way, what does anything you say have to do with the soundness of my observations?
So, JD was ignorant of you opinion of Caner?
The specific ax involves FBC Woodstock.
Your animus toward Caner calls to question the soundness of your observations.
Your tone is confrontational. I think you’re just trying to start something to get attention.
Your question about whether or not JD knew of my opinion of Caner is non sequitur. It has nothing to do with any specific knowledge he had of this particular post. He had none. In fact I’ve never contributed a post about Ergun Caner to the P&P blog.
Of course, JD has known about my opinion of Dr. Caner for a long time. Many people have. I first blogged about it in December 2013 before I even knew (I think) who JD was. As my early blog expresses, I have no particular animus towards Dr. Caner ( who I think is lost) but a problem with a state convention that hired him. It’s wrong. Again this was expressed, in great detail, in December of last year.
Also, what specific ax do you claim I have to grind with FBCW and how does it relate this article or my involvement with Pulpit and Pen?
Also, do you have two Twitter accounts? K_tucker and KthTckr? You followed me from the latter account today and then made a seemingly unsolicited supportive comment to Dr. Caner….even though he’s received very little, if any, published criticism within the past few days from me or the P&P.
The latter twitter handle advertises your blog whereas the first does not. It seems to me like you may be trying to stir contention with notable P&P bloggers on Twitter in order to draw traffic to your own blog. You know we think poorly of Dr. Caner so you said something about him that you knew we’d notice.
Sorry, I’m not taking the bait. I think it’s distasteful that you’d try and use a blog about the unfortunate death of Dr. Caner’s son to try and get attention.
“Your tone is confrontational. I think you’re just trying to start something to get attention.”. That’s rich coming from the author of this blog. Perhaps Dunn and Hall should merge under the new name The Baptist Enquirer, available soon at a grocer’s checkout lane near you. There is no biblical pattern for their treatment of Caner.
You’ve found the speck in my eye
Are you sure it’s not a log?
Some sort of Braxton’s List resolution was passed unopposed this week at the Georgia Baptist Convention.
I speculate you plan was as follows:
1) Comment on my blog so I’d know your name and take notice when you subsequently followed me on Twitter.
2) Make a comment favorable to Dr. Caner in the hopes that I’d take exception and make an unsolicited negative response about your character, that of Dr. Caner (a man who is less than 4 months removed from losing a child), or the passing of the GBC resolution. This negative comment would tag both you and Dr. Caner.
3) People would notice that I was responding to you on a issue that’s a controversy lightning rod. They would notice your blog address on your Twitter profile and go to it.
4) They’d find on your blog a piece (that you would write) about how Seth Dunn “cyber-bullied” you under the definition of Braxton’s list in clear defiance of a GBC resolution against cyber-bullying.
5) I would be made to look bad as a baptist in Georgia or perhaps even look unfit for seminary so that I might be brought under the discipline of those in authority over me in the baptist community.
This all makes sense to me since the Braxton’s list resolution was passed very recently and this particular blog entry is somewhat old. I believe you’ve read it already but chose today to comment because you saw opportunity. I further believe you’ve heard my interview JD on the P&P and studied my past interactions.
I would appreciate it if people didn’t plot against me and try to draw me into arguments. I’m a human being made in the image of God and am thus worth of being treated as an end in myself and not as the means to some other (nefarious) end.
I’ve no axe to grind. I’m in the rest of Christ. I praise the Holy Spirit for His influence in my life.
Are the above comments typical for Christians? What a bunch of (English swear word)!
Zeus… This is why believers in Jesus end up walking away from Church.
So many hypocrites.
Can you be more specific?
It’s not beneficial. Men who call themselves capital P pastors (from whatever camp) usurp the authority of Jesus. They are typically Alpha in kind, abusive, lacking in any and all the qualities our Lord displayed. Keyboard warriors. Modern Day versions of the Matthew 23 kind.
if you love God, walk away from them. They spend hours studying books and love traditions of men.
But they lack love.
Don’t become like them.
Salaried to serve. Where is that in my Bible?
Absolutely disgusted. I do not ever want to meet you or jd. you are scum. i cannot adequately express my loathing for “christians” like you. to get an idea do a bible search on “wolves” and then do the statistics on how many are covenant community leaders. Eat it. it is you.
I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Some time ago I read Seth Dunn’s opinion of how Mormon’s aren’t christians. After reading what Mr. Dunn had to say regarding Braxton Caner’s suicide, I must say that I find it really hard to see how he could be “qualified” to judge anyone. I find Mr. Dunn has little compassion, if any, for those who have suffered what I would consider the ultimate pain. To the person in Tallahassee who lost a child, please accept my heartfelt condolences for the terrible loss that you have suffered. I pray that you can find hope and healing through your relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Please know that I have said a prayer in your behalf and that I will continue to pray for your comfort. Yes, I am a Mormon, one who knows God’s love, compassion and forgiveness.
God help us all.
The Bible is the standard by which statments about God should be measured. The LDS contradicts God’s word. The LDS are nothing more than idolatrous polytheists.
This was true for 100 years before I was born. Even while I wasn’t on this earth to be uncommpassionate, the LDS was blaspheming God. The lies your “church” propogates have nothing to do with my character. I’m sure there are many people you’d find “compassionate” who share my opinions of Mormonism.
The truth is, Mormonism is a lie.
Speaking of children, if you are raising any of them in the stifling cult that is Mormonism, the best thing you can do is to get them out of it.
Coming from a friend of Hall. Every word the Father hears spoken or sees typed, most importantly, the hearts intent He knows. To God be the Glory in All things alone. Holy Spirit Lead, help us all submit self to You for our identity in Christ, boasting in You. Guard our lips from gossip, hearsay, pride and being sounds of clashing cymbals. May Your children uplift, encourage and exhort one another in Christ.