Culture

“I have treated relationships with women far too casually”: In John Crist’s fall, a call to sober talk and living

by Gabriel Ong // November 7, 2019, 10:52 pm

John crist

No one is laughing anymore in the wake of the allegations that have surfaced against popular Christian comedian John Crist for sexual misconduct and manipulation.

The American comedian, who has made his name through video skits and stand-up sets satirising Christian culture, was reported by Charisma to have “exploited his Christian reputation and platform to harass, manipulate and exploit young women over the last seven years”.

These are some of the allegations levied against Crist by the Charisma editorial team, who spearheaded the investigation and spoke to at least five women with claims about Crist’s sexual misconduct. 

  • Sexting multiple women concurrently.
  • Initiating sexual relationships with married women and women in committed relationships
  • Offering show tickets in exchange for sexual favours
  • Repeatedly calling these women late at night while drunk 

One man’s thoughts on Harvey Weinstein and sexual predators

In response to the allegations, Crist issued a personal statement which has been published within the Charisma article.

Crist did not take responsibility for “everything” he had been accused of, but he admitted: “I have treated relationships with women far too casually, in some cases even recklessly. My behavior has been destructive and sinful.”

He continued by clarifying what his next steps would be in the aftermath: “I’m committed to getting healing and freedom from my sin and have decided to cancel my remaining tour dates this year and to postpone all future commitments in order to devote all my time and energy on getting healthy spiritually, mentally and physically.”

Crist further revealed that he had been receiving regular professional treatment for his “sexual sin and addiction struggles” over the years, and concluded towards the end of his statement: “I’m responsible for my actions and I’ve repented and am taking full ownership.”

The slippery slope of addiction: From pornography to prostitutes

Crist, who had been looking forward to a personal career milestone in the coming release of his Netflix special I Ain’t Prayin’ for That on November 28, Thanksgiving Day, now faces the fallout following the sexual misconduct allegations that have arisen. 

The career-defining moment has come early and in an unexpected form, as Crist’s reputation for being a clean Christian comedian has been completely shattered in the wake of the misconduct claims.

Consider now, one of his most famous skits on YouTube, Christian Mingle Inspector: “Recently, we’ve got some reports of people not acting very Christian on dates.” Without going too much into detail, the video sees him inspecting and riffing over numerous aspects of dates and people not being “Christian” or “clean” enough.

“If there’s anything I can do for someone to prevent a life of destruction, I feel like my work here is done,” concludes Crist at the end of the video.

Sadly, it’s a skit that has aged like milk. I genuinely wish those words would have rang true.

Did Gillette get it right? What IS the best a man can be?

WHAT DO WE MAKE OF THIS?

“There is a levity which has not enough heart to laugh, but trifles with everything. It is flippant, hollow, unreal. A hearty laugh is no more levity than a hearty cry.”Charles Spurgeon

I may sound harsh, but that’s because I’m choosing to take Crist’s example very seriously.

The reason I do this is because I’m very much a joker at heart. I grew up being the class clown, and I still make fun of things relentlessly today. I take a lot of things lightly, perhaps in a similar vein to Crist’s self-confessed “casual” and “reckless” behaviour in life. So I do see a lot of similarities between us.

Furthermore, Crist has his platform while I have mine, online and in the world. Indeed, we all do in the contexts that God has placed us. So we should examine where and how our brother has stumbled – with grace – for the reason that we might prevent ourselves from a similar fall.

Help! I keep compromising in National Service

And as I ponder on the issue, I feel God telling me that serving Christ on a platform is no laughing matter. If anything, it’s a call to even more serious and sober living.

And sure, Crist isn’t a pastor, a church leader or an author. He’s a comedian. But before all those things, he’s a Christian. So that doesn’t exclude him from the standards and principles about humour, levity, seriousness and soberness that we find the Bible.

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29 ESV)

Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus is no joke.

I really struggle with this verse because a large part of my humour is a “kena ject” kind of humour. Essentially, I’d say that’s a kind of humour that makes someone else look stupid or silly by way of a witty comment or outright insult – poking fun at them.

Sure, it’s funny by the world’s standards. But when I look at how I make others laugh (and hurt) by God’s standards, I begin to see the truth that I’m maybe not as nice or good as I think I am. Far too often is my humour egocentric and ill-timed.

When I weigh the value of being funny like that, I imagine all the words in my life really boil down to something like 30% corrupting talk, 50% needed chatter for living and only 20% talk that is good for building up. And that’s really not good enough.

Do your words stab or sharpen others?

A few verses on in Ephesians 5, Paul continues to exhort believers to stay away from “crude joking”. To me that’s not just dirty jokes, but also jokes that are disparaging or deprecating (build up is the call). And what are we supposed to do instead of that? “Let there be thanksgiving” (Ephesians 5:4).

Thanksgiving. We see one example of what this “thanksgiving humour” looks like in Psalm 126:2: “Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them.’”

So are we spending our words and time on thanksgiving and building up one another? Does our use of humour achieve that in our lives and ministries?

There isn’t an easier way to phrase this, so I’ll just say it as it is: Crist has made a career out of poking fun at the Church and its subcultures. And in my limited view, I’m more inclined to believe more has been torn down than built up in that time.

I hope I’m wrong about that somehow. But even as I throw a stone, the reality is that we are all Crists in our own way. Just think about the jokes we heard and laughed at when it came to Pastor Kong Hee and the City Harvest trial. Some of us are even guilty of being the ones who made those jokes against our brother – that’s friendly fire.

Christians in a call-out culture

There’s a lot of things we can be snide about and make fun of in Singapore and her Church. But Christians have the choice between dispensing grace and speaking sober words, or participating in and perpetuating a culture that celebrates ridicule and levity.

Indeed, we have our own versions of Crist in Singapore. It’s the friend who is cheeky and inappropriate all the time… It’s when we treat things lightly, without giving them the honour or gravity they are due.

TAKING THINGS TOO TRIVIALLY

“But there’s a world of difference between natural, spontaneous, uncalculated eruptions of humor on the one hand, and planned, calculated clowning on the other hand. By clowning, I mean at conferences, on podcasts, in sermons, trying to sound funny, which usually means demeanors and practices and words that create a silly, slapstick, jokey, jesting, clever, trifling, young-teen summer-camp rah-rah atmosphere, because that’s the only alternative to boredom and sadness and sullenness and moroseness and glumness that American culture knows. It’s just the way the entertainment-saturated culture of America is.”John Piper

At the end of the day, I’m left to wonder if there’s indeed a real danger in taking things too lightly or being willing to make fun of everything.

How much of that attitude ultimately accounted for Crist’s disregard for the institution of marriage when he propositioned those married and committed women? And how much did that outlook on life affect the way he belittled and mistreated his sisters in Christ?

The Church is not perfect, but it is beautiful

In my view, honour is giving someone or something the gravity they are due. Whenever we take away from that, we run the risk of running someone down. Is that sort of humour worth it?

Then there is the other kind. It’s a life-giving joy that comes from God. In view of such incorruptible happiness we might have, I suspect we need not chase after worldly laughter when we take God and His people seriously.

THINK + TALK

  1. How much of your words tear down versus build up others?
  2. How much thanksgiving does your speech have?
  3. What or who do you like to make fun of?
  4. Are there things in church that you find yourself poking fun at or being snide about?
About the author

Gabriel Ong

Gabriel isn't a hipster, but he loves his beard and coffee. In his spare time, he'd rather be on a mountain.