A Baptist preacher was involved in a viral Twitter beef with a 15-year-old boy just weeks before he committed suicide. J. D. Hall has an extensive history of going after Ergun Caner, the president of Brewton-Parker College and the father of the victim. In a heated debate which went viral, Hall made the decision to include Braxton in one of his attacks. The question many are left asking is, “Did the preacher’s inappropriate Twitter beef lead to the teen’s suicide?”
Hall is the lead pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church and co-founder of Reformation Montana. According to the website, Reformation Montana is an affiliation of like-minded churches and individuals that cooperate for the purpose of sending missionaries from Montana and the surrounding regions to the rest of the world.
Hall has been one of Caner’s most vocal critics. For several years he has maintained a longstanding campaign against the preacher. Hall has accused Caner of not telling the truth about his past which allegedly includes being a devout Muslim who was trained as a terrorist. He continuously calls him an unrepentant liar and has used multiple platforms to publicly attack the man.
In early July, Hall decided to include Braxton’s Twitter feed in his attack against Caner’s inability to properly parent. The pastor used Twitter not only to play the teen against his father, but also has accused the youngster of “gross immorality.” He not only initiated the beef with Braxton but continued to Tweet back and forth with him in a public debate.
Why is @ErgunCaner’s son, @braxtoncaner89 posting make-out pics and profanity on his Twitter? The immorality surrounding Caner is astounding.
After the series of Tweets ended Hall did not let the “online” beef with Braxton die, instead he invited the teen to email him if he ever wanted to talk about his father. He also transitioned the conversation from social media to his public blog where he wrote:
Ergun Caner has employed vulgarity for some time in both public and private discourse. His love affair for certain forms of entertainment that most would consider less than sanctifying (to say the least) in which he includes his sons has been public record. And now, we see the ungodliness in his son’s Twitter account.
This leaves us with strong concern regarding Caner’s leadership, and anyone claiming his son’s immorality isn’t relevant or pertinent to his leadership need to consult 1 Timothy 3:4-5. Notice, these examples of clear immorality have been publicly broadcasted in a public forum. And so, I made a public comment, pointing out his son’s already-public behavior.
Hall’s actions with Braxton angered many people in the Christian community and caused them to question whether his attack influenced Braxton’s decision to commit suicide. They have added Hall’s name to the host of cyber bullies which have taunted people in the past.
One man called “Paul” quickly came to the boy’s defense saying this form of bullying was not surprising at all. He called it typical JD and said this is part of his efforts to generate more publicity for him and his radio program. Paul went on to say,
You are not his parent, pastor or friend. You do not know him and have no invested interest in this child. You spent time reading the twitter feed of a 15-year-old boy and decided his tweets and picture were inappropriate. Then, you engaged another man’s 10th grade child in online conversation and asked the 15-year-old to message you privately so you could talk to him about his father. You have no God-given authority over this child in any way and were wrong to engage him.
One person posed the question, “How would you feel if you were a teen and someone accused you of immorality and claimed your father was to blame for it? Could he have in turn blamed himself for causing more pain to his father? Although there are no hard facts that this is the case, one thing is sure – It did nothing to encourage either him or his family.
In response to the many complaints Hall received on his blog post he released a statement of apology:
I regret pointing people to the material or behavior exhibited on Caner’s son, Braxton’s, Twitter account. That was a distraction, and I should have contacted Caner about it. I did reach out to one of Caner’s associates, but apparently did not give enough time for him to amend the situation. Again, I should not have done that.
Hall and those who support him believe his actions were inappropriate but it is unfair to attempt to correlate Braxton’s suicide to their Twitter dispute. He explained that it is not only unfair but the accusations have led to threats on his life. As a result Hall has reported direct and veiled threats to his local police department and has been forced to take certain actions to protect himself and his family.
Whether or not the actions of J. D. Hall contributed to the suicide of Ergun Caner’s 15-year-old son, many believe he indeed went too far. Emotions have continued to run high over the young man’s fatality, not just for family members, but for many onlookers as well. Braxton Caner was funeralized on Saturday, August 2 at New River Fellowship Church in Hudson Oaks, Texas.
By: Cherese Jackson (Virginia)