A popular Christian comedian has canceled his tour dates for the rest of this year after a major conservative Christian magazine published a story Wednesday in which five anonymous women accused him of sexual harassment.
In a statement to Charisma magazine, comedian and YouTuber John Crist said he receives regular professional treatment for “sexual sin and addiction struggles,” and that his closest friends, family and colleagues were aware of his “battle.” He said he postponed all of his future commitments to focus on getting “healthy spiritually, mentally and physically.”
“Over the past number of years, various women have accused me of behavior that has been hurtful to them,” he said. “While I am not guilty of everything I’ve been accused of, I confess to being guilty of this — I have treated relationships with women far too casually, in some cases even recklessly. My behavior has been destructive and sinful.”
He added, “I realize it will be difficult for some people to ever forgive me, and I accept that as a result of my bad decisions and actions.”
Crist, 35, did not immediately respond to a HuffPost request for comment.
The child of a pastor, Crist has gained fame among young American evangelicals for his comic commentary on idiosyncratic aspects of their culture. He’s poked fun at Millennial missionaries, evangelical dating culture, how hipster pastors dress and how Christian music is made. His YouTube videos have amassed millions of views. In his most recent one, published last Monday, he lampoons Christian televangelists who travel on expensive private jets.
Crist recently performed stand-up at Liberty University, a private evangelical Christian college in Virginia.
But behind his popular public persona, Crist’s accusers say he used his status as a Christian celebrity to sexually harass them.
In its piece, Charisma describes Crist’s alleged mistreatment of women as “a kind of open secret among certain Christian circles.” All of the women cited in the article go by pseudonyms, though an editor’s note says four agreed to use their real names if the magazine wanted to.
The allegations detailed in Charisma concern incidents spanning the past seven years. The magazine said his harassment followed a pattern ― the comedian would contact women through social media, flirt with them, and then attempt to initiate sexting or other sexual activities. Two women told the magazine that Crist would tell them how much he cherished them while pressuring them to keep their communications with him secret.
In one incident from 2017, a woman told Charisma that Crist plied her with vodka before attempting to kiss her and propositioning her for sex.
The Rev. Ashley Easter, an advocate for abuse survivors from Christian communities, called Crist’s public apology a “classic deflection and minimization tactic,” pointing out that it only came after he got caught by Charisma. Easter also believes Crist is conflating addiction and abuse.
“Many people suffer from addictions but this does not mean they commit abuse of others to satisfy the addiction,” Easter said. “Abuse, such as harassment and manipulation, are purposeful, premeditated choices not unfortunate symptoms a person is powerless to resist.”
Easter said she’s been speaking out about Crist’s abusive behavior since 2017.
“I do not know what the motivation was behind those who failed to stop Crist from harassing women but I suspect he surrounds himself with people who benefit from his power and therefore have reason to keep quiet,” she said.
Crist has been set to expand his audience outside the Christian comedy scene with a stand-up special slated to air on Netflix this Thanksgiving. The streaming service did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment on whether the show will still air.
The comedian’s first book, “Untag Me: The Subtle Art of Appearing Better Than You Really Are,” is scheduled to be released by WaterBrook & Multnomah, a Christian imprint of Penguin Random House, in March. The publishers did not immediately respond to a HuffPost request to comment.
Crist, in his statement to Charisma, said, “My entire career has been lived out on stage, and even though I’ve shared many of my life struggles with my audiences, I’ve lived in constant fear of the darkest parts of my life being exposed publicly. … I now humbly seek forgiveness and mercy and love—not just for me, but for those I’ve hurt along my path. I’m so sorry.”
This article has been updated with comments from the Rev. Ashley Easter.
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