It happened again. I suppose we should be immune to the shock by now; but I have to admit, the news stung me. When a pastor friend of mine texted me the headline, I felt an immediate and familiar mixture of frustration, anger, disappointment, confusion and heartbreak. Yet another prominent Christian had used influence and prominence to gain the trust of young women and then betrayed that trust through sexual misconduct.
This time it wasn’t a pastor. It was one of my favorite comedians. His name is John Crist (sometimes mispronounced as “Christ,” which is one of John’s jokes). Outside Christian circles he may not be a household name, but among my Christian friends, he’s a superstar. In the last few years, Crist’s influence has skyrocketed with countless viral videos poking fun at the hilarious quirks of church life, sold out comedy tours filling megachurch auditoriums across the country, millions of social media followers and a new Netflix comedy that was scheduled for release on Thanksgiving but is now on hold.
Last week nearly every Christian friend I have was commenting online about a report by a Christian news website called Charisma News. It was based on months of research and interviews following longtime “whispers” that Crist’s behavior toward women was consistently inappropriate. When confronted with the overwhelming evidence, Crist confessed to the allegations, apologized for his behavior and canceled his remaining tour dates for 2019.
Why do our leaders keep failing?
In the #MeToo and #ChurchToo era, I believe we need to ask ourselves why this keeps happening. In a culture where laws have never been stronger to protect the rights of women, how and why do men continue to attempt to circumvent the law and use their influence in the workplace and elsewhere to use, abuse, harass and mistreat women? In the church, which should be the safest place on earth for all people, how do our leaders and influencers keep falling? If we’re truly following in the example of Jesus Christ, we’re following the greatest example of a man respecting and protecting women recorded in all of human history.
How does this keep happening, and what’s the solution?
For starters, we need legislation, we need cultural change, we need accountability, we need respect, we needs lots of things, but as we’re publicly passing judgment on all the prominent figures who have fallen, we should also take an honest self-evaluation about our own thoughts and actions. We have all been part of the problem; and until we have the courage to admit that, we’ll never find a lasting solution. It begins by re-examining our own part in this story and then committing to teach our children to do the same.
As a follower of Christ, I also believe there is a spiritual component here that legislation and man-made measures alone will never solve. We need to repent (which basically just means we need to turn away from the wrong choices and turn toward a better way). We need to replace lust with love. Lust looks at people as objects to be used. Love views people as souls to be cherished. Men, we are called by God to treat women as sisters to be protected and cherished; not as objects to be harassed and abused. As the Apostle Paul warned his young protégé Timothy nearly 2,000 years ago, “…treat young women with all purity as you would your own sisters.”
I want my sons to respect women
Our kids need us to get this right. I don’t want my boys to say and do all the right things on the surface, but then become one of the countless well-groomed, polite young men who commit a violent and/or sexual crime against a woman. Even beyond the most horrific examples, I don’t want my boys growing up with the more subtle forms of sexism. I don’t want them to become men who interrupt women or ignore women’s input or overlook women or objectify women. I want them to respect women.
I’ve spent the last few years of my life researching these issues, because I wanted to do everything in my power to help my sons learn these truths and grow to become men who would respect themselves and also be respecters and protectors of women. Those years of research birthed a new book, “Raising Boys Who Respect Girls.” Of everything I’ve ever written, I’m perhaps proudest of this book because of its heartfelt message and its potential to be a small part of the solution to the epidemic continuing the plague our culture.
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Just to clarify, I don’t think I’m the final word on this subject. I just know I need to rethink my role in the story and take more responsibility in leading my sons to healthy mindsets and attitudes in their interactions with females. I want them to see the blind spots that have tripped up so many men. I want to become more aware of my own blind spots too. The journey of writing this book wasn’t just to help them; it’s to help me become a better respecter of women too.
Crist blew it but God still loves him
I’m not writing this article as a guy who has all the answers. I’m also not writing this to beat up on John Crist at his lowest moment. Although I’m incredibly disappointed in his actions, I hope he remembers that while he may have abandoned certain tenets of his faith, God has never abandoned him. I’m so thankful for grace that’s bigger than our biggest sins. There are still consequences for our actions (and there should be), but we’re ultimately not defined by what we’ve done but by what Jesus has done for us. John Crist, you blew it big time, but God still loves you and He always will. Never forget that.
This should be a big story:Are we bored with rape? I hope not. Jean Carroll’s Trump allegation deserves attention.
For all the rest of us, let’s commit to making positive changes. Our first instinct is usually to look only for political solutions. Politics are important, but not nearly as important as our individual actions and what we’re teaching our families. What’s happening in the White House doesn’t impact these issues nearly as much as what’s happening in your house and my house.
Let’s commit to raising kids who understand that integrity means being the same person in public and behind closed doors. Let’s remember that in our own lives too. Instead of stories of another fallen trending tomorrow, let’s make respect start trending. In our own homes, our offices and our relationships, we have the power and the responsibility to bring positive change.
Dave Willis is a speaker, author, relationship coach and television host for MarriageToday. His new book, Raising Boys Who Respect Girls: Upending Locker Room Mentality, Blind Spots, and Unintended Sexism, will be published Tuesday. Follow him on Twitter: @DaveWillis