Earlier this week, Charisma magazine published a highly disturbing article about Christian comedian John Crist. The article had accounts from five different women who had been sexually harassed by Crist. In the wake of the revelations, John Crist canceled his remaining live shows through the end of the year and issued a statement of apology.
Since the story broke on Wednesday, there has been quite a bit of talk about John Crist. I was stunned and horrified. I’ve enjoyed his videos immensely. I had no idea anything like this was going on.
But I want to turn from talking about John Crist. Because, in reality, this isn’t about him. This is about five women: Kate, Lindsey, Nora, Sarah, and Maggie (all pseudonyms from Charisma). It’s also about an untold number of other women who were harassed, exploited, and manipulated by John Crist—women whose names and faces we don’t know, but who are very much human and who never deserved this.
Charisma reports: “Crist would initiate contact through social media, cultivate a flirty relationship and then initiate (or attempt to initiate) sexting and other sexual activities in addition to emotional manipulation.”
This is, of course, where it’s easy to start trying to assign blame. Did the women “ask for it”? Did they actually want some sort of relationship with Crist? What percentage of blame goes where?
However, let’s be clear: these were not healthy relationships. They were relationships with a guy who admitted to having a sex addiction. None of them would have wanted the relationship if they had known what would happen.
Right now, we have women who have been devastated by a man who showed one image on stage and a very different one in private. They thought they could trust him because he was a Christian who stuck with clean comedy.
Instead, they got a guy who used his celebrity status and Christian image as bait to bring in suckers. He used them to feed his addiction, then left them to grieve in private.
They built a relationship, excited (at least in some cases) by the attention from a celebrity. Later, they were crushed to find that he was soliciting multiple other women at the same time. They found a man who portrayed a clean image on stage but asked for sexually explicit photos in private.
Sarah, Lindsey and Maggie each say they experienced emotional manipulation by Crist. He would regularly make excuses for why they couldn’t be an official couple; the most common were that it would ruin his career and that he had baggage he needed to work through before he could date anyone. Despite these excuses, he would affirm how much he cherished the relationship and how lost he would be without the woman in question.
But Lindsey and Maggie say Crist made them feel paranoid and told them to keep their relationship with him a secret from even close friends and family, since they “don’t really love you” and are “out to get us.” Sarah says Crist would gaslight her, telling her things she witnessed firsthand had never actually happened and that she was being “crazy”—and eventually, she says, she gave in and stopped trying to catch him in lies. Lindsey says he would disparage her work and make her think of her value only in terms of her worth to him and his career. And Sarah and Lindsey both describe Crist regularly calling at 3 a.m. and expecting them to be awake to take his call.
“It’s terrifying to be in this position right now to talk to you,” Sarah says. “There’s so much shame in it: that you’re stupid, and you shouldn’t have or that you’re the one who was in the wrong or maybe you brought this upon yourself.”
The effects of abusive behavior don’t just go away. They leave scars that can affect a person for the rest of their life. Just as Uriah remained dead, even after David repented of his sin, so the effects of abuse don’t go away just because someone says they are sorry.
I’m not trying to disparage Crist’s apology. He sounds genuinely sorry for his actions and takes responsibility for what he did. I hope that he is truly repentant. But I have two hesitancies. First, I’ve seen numerous times where someone like Crist will issue a seemingly genuine apology, then go back to their old ways. Doug Phillips of Vision Forum is one great example that comes to mind. Although he initially issued an apology, he eventually turned to blaming his victim and basically refused all responsibility for his actions. Second, Crist has “repented” in the past (although not publicly), then continued his behavior.
But even if Crist is truly repentant and ceases to abuse women, his victims will continue to deal with the fallout for years to come. They will need support from family, friends, and the church.
This is, unfortunately, when people trot out sad clichés: “Have you forgiven?” “It’s time to move on!” They ask whether we’re praying for John Crist. But I don’t see these same people asking whether we’re praying for the victims. John Crist is one person. His victims are many.
I definitely believe that we should pray for Crist. But I believe that our first priority should be the healing of his victims. They deserve to be believed. They deserve apologies from those who doubted their reports in the past and did nothing.
We’re familiar with John Crist. But his victims, to us, are largely nameless and faceless. Let’s not let that stop us for truly caring about them.
Sadly, Crist’s behavior wasn’t completely secret. In fact, Charisma reports that his behavior was an “open secret”. “Some individuals contacted for the investigation expressed surprise that the general public was not already aware of Crist’s behavior.”
When the article hit Facebook, various people mentioned that they had heard about these things for a while. I wish that they could have been more vocal about what they knew, but I don’t know how much they could have actually said. However, I would have stopped paying attention to Crist a long time ago if I had known he was a hypocrite.
Over and over, I see people who are really concerned about false allegations. I absolutely believe that we should do our best not to pass along false allegations. At the same time, we should also be “wise as serpents”. We should beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing. Over the last number of months, we have seen ample evidence that many well-known, well-respected people have done some pretty awful things. Things that we would never have suspected them to even be capable of committing.
God calls us to be holy. He is a God of love, righteousness, and justice, and all three work together to expose sin and heal the wounded. Through His power, we should do the same.
Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.(Ephesians 5:11-13 NIV)
Perhaps the saddest consequences occurred in the lives of “Nora” and “Lindsey”. Neither one identifies as a Christian anymore.
“I haven’t been to church in years,” Lindsey says. “It’s hard. It’s hard to go into a place where you know that people know things that are going on, and they never do anything about it, because they just list it as ‘bad behavior’ or something that someone can just be forgiven of and then it’s fine. It’s not fine… It’s really hard to even consider participating in a community, in a body of believers, that would allow such behavior to unfold unchecked, and give it a platform. No, I don’t consider myself a Christian anymore.”Charisma
Satan stalks about, seeking who he might devour. He is more than happy to use someone like John Crist to destroy others’ faith in God.
I’ve personally experienced the disillusionment of watching “Christian” after “Christian” exposed as frauds. Sometimes, it was someone that I looked up to. There were times when I wondered whether Christianity was the same as ATI—a group that looked good and had nice, moralistic teachings, but nobody could actually make it work.
Somehow, by the grace of God alone, I still believe. Yet others do not. They’ve been driven away by those who had a form of godliness but denied its power.
And that, ultimately, is what concerns me the most about guys like John Crist—they drive people away from Jesus.
In closing, let’s take this as a reminder to support victims. People will say, “Don’t throw Crist under the bus.” But Jesus indicated that His punishment for causing a vulnerable person to sin is so bad, the perpetrator would be better off being drowned rather than facing His wrath. Maybe we should take a lesson about how seriously He takes this stuff.
Let’s pray that John Crist truly repents. But let’s prioritize the healing of his victims. Let them tell their stories. Pray for their healing.
Because when Christians heal, the Church gets healthier. And when the Church gets healthier, Christians heal.