In a March 7th commentary piece at Charisma, Jennifer LeClaire expressed outrage at sexual abuse scandals in both Catholic and Protestant churches. After citing several heartbreaking examples of sexual abuse in churches, LeClaire chided Christians for failing to rally against abuse and the media for failing to devote adequate attention to the issue.
"Evangelicals put so much effort into battling issues like gay marriage and abortion, which is all well and good, but where is the crusade against sexual abuse in the church? The secular media is reporting these instances, but it seems unless it’s a megachurch pastor or a celebrity preacher involved, cases of kids being molested in Protestant churches continue arising without much attention."LeClaire begged clergy abuse victims to speak out, notify police, and reach out to God for solace and justice. At first, I was relieved to see Charisma take abuse seriously. This is fantastic, I thought. They get it. They're talking about a serious issue like adults.
My relief was short-lived, unfortunately. Further down in the commentary, LeClaire speculated on the roots of sexual abuse in churches. Did she blame authoritarian church structures? No. Poor screening procedures for clergy, church staff, and volunteers? No. A lack of organizational accountability? No.
She blamed the Jezebel demon.
"In my book The Spiritual Warrior’s Guide to Defeating Jezebel, I point to one root of this sort of immorality. In charismatic circles, we call it the spirit of Jezebel, which is essentially a spirit of seduction that woos people into immorality and idolatry. (See Revelation 2:20.) Sexual predators carrying the Christian banner have been seduced and deceived by this spirit, which has somehow justified sexual abuse in their darkened minds. The spirit of Jezebel has formed a stronghold over our nation ... I am convinced that many of these sexual abusers had broken, wounded hearts of their own—perhaps they were molested as children—and have given over to the lusts of the flesh through the temptations of seducing spirits that justify the behavior."I was livid. Charisma columnists have an annoying habit of blaming demons for problems, but this time, the magazine went too far. This kind of superstitious thinking reduces a serious, complex problem to the mischief of an invisible boogeyman. To end sexual abuse in churches, congregations must tackle authoritarian power structures, patriarchy, lack of oversight, and barriers to institutional accountability, not imaginary spirits.
Furthermore, the Charisma article absolves perpetrators of their actions. When perpetrators commit abusive acts, they make a calculated, deliberate choice to abuse, and thus are morally culpable for their actions. By blaming clergy abuse on the Jezebel demon, LeClaire deflects culpability away from abusers onto an imaginary demon.
LeClair was right when she called for readers to take abuse seriously, but wrong when she reduced the problem to evil spirits. Now is not the time for superstition. We need mature strategies for ending abuse in our communities.