MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Tuesday, November 19th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.
NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. In about 20 seconds we’re going to have a commentary on an adult topic, so if you have young children around, you might want to hit the pause button and come back later.
REICHARD: The topic involves Christian comedian John Crist. No doubt you’ve heard about the scandal by now: A man who made millions of fans satirizing evangelical culture admitted to inappropriate encounters with women.
In some ways, the details are depressingly familiar. But WORLD Radio’s Megan Basham says there’s actually something very different about it.
MEGAN BASHAM, COMMENTATOR: As Christian leaders have continued to comment on the John Crist story, an implicit message behind their words has begun to feel troubling to me.
“There are victims here, and our concern should first go to them,” one prominent pastor wrote. “Hoping this is a part of his victims finally getting some justice,” tweeted an author and activist in #ChurchToo movement—a spin-off of the #MeToo movement.
Other articles linked Crist to revelations of ministerial abuse. Many offered prayers for his victims’ healing. No comment from any preacher, teacher, or theologian I saw said anything to suggest the women who accepted Crist’s advances were anything other than victims.
In fact, Charisma magazine refused to even name any of the women involved—even though they were all adults, at least 21 years of age. Some were married.
Crist wasn’t anyone’s employer. He wasn’t anyone’s pastor. He held no authority over the women in any way.
He simply used his fame to persuade women to give him sexual favors. Sometimes he also claimed he loved or wanted to marry them.
Let’s be clear. By his own admission, Crist sinned grossly. If the allegations are true, he also behaved in a predatory manner. Neither the women’s ages nor their marital status does anything to lessen Crist’s guilt. It was wrong for him to sext with these women, exchange explicit photos, and have sexual encounters outside of marriage.
But neither does his guilt remove theirs.
When pastors or Christian publications issue blanket characterizations of the women in the Crist case as victims of “emotional manipulation” or “gaslighting,” they’re doing what the Scribes and Pharisees did. They’re fashioning new rules based on the world’s wisdom not the Bible’s.
Jesus encountered several women who’d engaged in unlawful sexual acts in the New Testament. It’s reasonable to suppose, based on their culture and backgrounds, they’d all experienced some form of abuse at the hands of men.
Yet Christ never pretended this absolved their guilt. He didn’t tell the adulteress of John 8 or the woman at the well to “go and be ‘emotionally manipulated’ no more.” He didn’t tell the religious leaders of Luke 7 that the woman washing his feet was the victim of a system that unjustly penalized women more than men. Though it did.
Christ’s compassion recognized the women’s suffering. His holiness acknowledged their sin.
Martin Luther once said human nature is like a drunk on a horse. If he falls off one side, the next time he’ll make sure to fall off the other.
Can we not embrace an abuse-reckoning in the church that is long overdue without unbiblically suggesting women aren’t also accountable for their wrongdoing? Can’t we run toward victims without running away from preaching God demands obedience from us all, regardless of our gender?
I would hate for my daughters to hear from our pastor a message that implies: “When you’re adults, you don’t have to answer to God for your own decision to sin if someone deceived you about their feelings.”
One Christian radio host wrote to the women of the Crist story, “This isn’t your fault. There’s freedom from shame.”
She’s partly right. There is freedom from shame. And women, no less than men, need to hear that it can’t be had without acknowledging our own wrongdoing so we can turn to the one who offers forgiveness.
For WORLD Radio, I’m Megan Basham.