Part 8 in the Series:
The Spirit of Jezebel
By Don Enevoldsen
A couple of years after I started attending Living Word Bible Church, an incident occurred that would have been a sign to me of things to come—if I had known the details leading up to it. But I didn’t until more than a decade later.
The pastor’s assistant (I will call her simply M, for now) was having marital problems. Since the church was started on a word from God to build strong families, you would think this would be an ideal opportunity to put their calling into practice. And in a sense they did. Maureen Anderson spent time counseling M, at least for a while. But eventually she gave M definitive advice. Nothing was going to change and M needed to leave her husband.
So she did. She never questioned the advice (People rarely questioned Maureen Anderson, so intimate was her link to God perceived as being). In fact, from what I know of the situation, the advice was sound. Things weren’t going to change. So it’s not the advice that was the problem. I would likely have given the same advice. The problem was how Tom and Maureen Anderson acted after M listened to them.
Because a church trying to portray an image of being family-friendly didn’t want a divorced woman too closely associated with the leadership, it was determined that once M left her husband, she could no longer be on the church staff. M was suddenly without a marriage, without a job and, without a friend.
As always happened when staff members were fired, we got the Loyalty Speech. This was the teaching that was delivered every time anyone was fired from the staff—which happened remarkably often for the size of the staff—or anyone of prominence was kicked out of the church. There was a version for the congregation, a more authoritative version for the staff, and a third version somewhere in between for the pastors and elders.
The gist of it was that God expected us to submit to our leaders without questioning them. What they did, the decisions they made, were between them and God and were not any of our business. The implication was that they had a special pipeline from God by virtue of their position as God’s anointed. If we wanted to be blessed and not cursed, we dare not speak up. God would withdraw his protection from anyone who made waves and we were assured that the devil was waiting to pounce as soon as the door was open.
The staff and the congregation were strongly encouraged not to have any contact with M. They didn’t want us infected with her rebellion, after all. Our loyalty to Living Word demanded that we jettison any loyalty or friendship with M. She brought her misery on herself after all.
Incidents like this are what come to mind as I consider how to illustrate the description of Jezebel as one who “misleads my servants into sexual immorality.” Though it might take a little explanation to clarify why.
Sexual immorality was often linked to idolatry by biblical writers. Given the nature of Hebrew imagery and the essence of what motivates immorality, the connection is not surprising. Sexual immorality, by its nature, involves lack of self-control and unfaithfulness. In the symbolic world of Hebrew imagery, sexual immorality implied unfaithfulness of the type inherent in adultery.
The Greek word is porneia, which denotes any illicit sexual activity. To biblical writers, there was a natural link between sexual immorality and sacrificing to idols, a related thing Jezebel led people into. Idol worship was spiritual adultery, unfaithfulness of the most egregious kind. Anything that took the focus of worship away from God was linked to idolatry. In Romans 1:25, Paul portrayed indulgence of sinful desires for sexual impurity as worship of “created things rather than the Creator.” Those who engaged in fornication worshiped each other’s bodies. This was as much idolatry as bowing to a statue of a pagan god.
The link between pagan sacrifice and immorality was further strengthened by the entertainment presented at banquets, which, as we have seen, was a major part of the activity associated with Jezebel (go back and read the last couple of posts if you missed that part). The feasts were already connected to various gods. They were also opportunities for unrestrained drinking and licentiousness. Philo railed against the perverse behavior of the Gentiles around him. When he considered public banquets, he saw troupes of entertainers and copious supplies of strong drink which led to merriment and revelry of dancing, all of which resulted in the awakening of “unruly lusts.” (Philo, The Special Laws II 193)
“These festal and holiday rests have in the past often opened up countless avenues to sins. For unmixed beverage and luxurious diets with excessive drinking arouse the insatiable desires of the stomach and also kindle the desires of the parts beneath the stomach. As these desires both flow and stream out in every way, they produce a surge of unspeakable evils using the fearless stimulant of the feast as a refuge to avoid suffering anything.” (Philo, The Special Laws I 192)
This lack of self-control drove men out of their “natural reason” and resulted in rage and destruction, like “ferocious dogs” attacking each other, “biting and gnawing each other’s noses and ears and fingers.” (Philo, On the Contemplative Life 40)
Early Christian writers shared Philo’s distaste for feasts. Justin Martyr spoke of “excessive banquetings” and “subtle flutes” which “provoke to lustful movements,” which in turn led to the banqueters being “carried away by intemperance,” and indulging “as a common practice in wicked and insane fornication.” (Justin Martyr, The Discourse to the Greeks 4)
No doubt, Jewish and Christian perspectives were exaggerated, but the evidence indicates that excessive drinking was always a significant part of banqueting, and erotic entertainment was frequently provided. Regardless of the supposed reason for the feast, whether personal, business or religious, the feast itself was the priority. (John S. Kloppenborg, “Collegia and Thiasoi,” Voluntary Associations in the Graeco-Roman World, p. 19) The banquet of Trimalchio, described by Petronius in The Satyricon, disposed of abundant wine and precipitated at least one memorable brawl. (Petronius, The Satyricon 57) A wide variety of funerary engravings portray banquets with women in various states of undress and unrestrained sexual behavior. (Katherine Dunababin, M. D., The Roman Banquet, Images of Conviviality, p. 67) Banquets were the most common display of luxury and entitlement, typified by drunken licentiousness. (Marcus Terentius Varro, Rerum Rusticarum 3.2)
All of that to say that indulgence of every kind, including sexual immorality, is a natural adjunct to the kind of power and entitlement attitudes that go with ancient Roman banqueting, voluntary associations and food sacrificed to idols—in short, with the spirit of Jezebel. Entitlement seems to consistently walk hand in hand with indulgence. For Jezebelian leaders, the rules are for other people, and that attitude tends to be picked up and manifested in the lives of their most devoted followers. Blind obedience to Jezebel’s influence does not prevent hidden abuses, but in fact, seems to be enhanced by it. Jezebelian systems have much to hide and most of the abuse they practice is designed to hide their unfaithfulness to their calling, to their congregations and to decency.
Which is why the story of M comes to mind. The pastors were unfaithful to M and unfaithful to their calling to build strong families. They were even unfaithful to the counsel they gave M to leave her husband. They expected her to exhibit loyalty to them when they had no intention of exhibiting loyalty to her.
More to the point of the message to Thyatira, other members of the congregation joined in the unfaithfulness by allowing themselves to be pressured into ignoring M when she most needed them, all for the sake of not being asked to leave the church and give up their status or powers as members. This is spiritual adultery of the most heinous kind.
This means that sexual activity is not the core of the meaning of the phrase “sexual immorality.” But that does not mean immoral sexual activity does not occur with great frequency. In fact, sexual immorality of this type manifests itself in a variety of lies, deceits and indulgences. Jezebel demands unquestioned and unreciprocated loyalty. Never mind unfaithfulness to the most basic biblical tenets of love for one another. Godly love has nothing to do with it.
In coming posts, I will share more examples from my own encounters. Unfortunately there are many.
Next, part nine: The Deep Things of Satan
Go to the beginning of the series, The Spirit of Jezebel: Part 1, A Jezebelian Kind of Thing
Do you have an additional thought on this subject? Please join the discussion and share your insights.
6 thoughts on “Sexual Immorality Isn’t What You Think”
Don, i knew M at this time. From what I knew a close experience with the situation, M was having illusions about her life and it drew a bad picture of her husband. I knew her husband. He was a good dedicated man. Marriage is a commitment made with vows. Most people forget they made a vow before God. Most people live by feelings which are always up and down. Love starts as a decision and then the feelings will follow. To love your spouse unconditionally takes the other spouse to receive God’s unconditional love first. Too many pastors are giving counsel without the knowledge of God’s unconditional love. With divorce being at around a 50% rate and larger with a 2nd marriage, 90% pastors need an education on love and marriage. I’m speaking with 45 years of experience. Is it easy? No!
John, I wholeheartedly agree with your statement that 90% of pastors need an education on love and marriage. Unfortunately, that’s where the agreement ends. I have taken some time to answer your comment because of the intensity of my reaction to your points, and I don’t like to make reactionary declarations without giving them some thought. But it bears noting that the intensity is there because for quite a few years now my ministry has been dealing firsthand with the extreme emotional, psychological and spiritual damage done to people by the very belief system you have presented. So at the risk of jeopardizing a long-standing friendship, I am compelled to respond in direct and relatively unrestrained language.
To begin with, my post above is primarily concerned with Jezebelian leadership and how it looks in real life. My information about the interchange between Maureen Anderson and M is the eyewitness account of a third party who was in the room at the time. “You deserve so much better,” Maureen told her. “You are family. You are my sister. We support you.” Then they fired her. An example of the Anderson definition of loyalty.
Second is the question of whether M should have left her husband. You have essentially said she could never be justified, that she forgot her vow before God, that unconditional love means sucking it up no matter what the circumstances. You suggest that if only more pastors understood God’s unconditional love, they would forbid poor misguided souls like M, deluded by her “illusions about her life” from drawing a “bad picture of her husband.”
From my 56 years experience in church, most of it in leadership, your view is the dominant, majority opinion among evangelical pastors, not the 10% that you imply. And you could not have said anything that infuriates me more than this half dozen lines. I’m inclined to see it as proof that you can put 10 pounds of crap in a 5-pound bag.
I knew M at this time, too, as did several others who have shared their observations with me. And I knew her husband even better than her. There were many rumors that he was abusive. At the very least he did not work much to support his family. M was the one who worked long hours and was expected to be a model housewife and mother at the same time. I did not witness any overt abuse firsthand, but people other than the victim rarely do. However, I have gotten pretty familiar with the profiles of abusive relationships and they are amazingly consistent. For an example of what I mean, see my assessment of my in-laws, Fred and Mary Schamer (“Profile of an Abusive Family” at: http://overcomingsexualabuse.com/2012/09/02/profile-of-an-abusive-family/). Fred molested his daughter through most of her childhood, yet maintained a church image as a charming, and to use your words, “good dedicated man.” That is true of virtually all abusers. When you know what to look for, though, you can see more than enough telltale signs of the reality behind the facade. The Schamer family was as textbook as it gets. Knowing those profiles as well as I do, nothing in my experience with M or her husband gives me any reason to doubt her story any more than I doubt my wife’s story.
Which brings us to the idea of divorce in general. This subject is so important and misunderstood that I am considering interrupting the series on the Jezebel Spirit to write about it. There is much more to say than I can fit into this comment, so next week I will examine the relevant biblical passages. For now, suffice it to say that the context of God’s declaration, “I hate divorce” (Malachi 2:16) is not divorce. It is about violence done to wives by husbands. God hates the violence. One thing I am certain of is that M’s distressed state of mind did not happen in a vacuum.
In fact, the drastic increase in the divorce rate over the past 50 years actually indicates neither a departure from unconditional love nor a decline in the quality of marriages. Rather it was the natural result of two changes in society that began earlier but largely came to fruition in the 1960s.
For the first time in history, large numbers of women entered the marketplace as full time workers where they made enough money to support themselves without total dependence on a husband. This newfound financial independence coincided with a realization that they had rights that had been denied them since the beginning of civilization. Remember that women could not even vote prior to 1920. As late as 1887, there were still places in America where married women had no legal right to own property (a legal doctrine called coverture). Everything belonged to her husband. Upon marriage she lost all legal identity, meaning that not that long ago, she could not even sue in court for any grievances or abuses she might suffer at the hands of her husband.
The feminist movement brought a major and significant influence regarding how women perceived themselves. It changed the thinking of many who not only began to experience freedom from suffocating financial dependence, but they also began to realize they didn’t have any moral obligation to endure abuse. Not surprisingly the divorce rates went up.
And I believe we could make the case that the higher divorce rate indicates an improvement in the quality of marriages, since abuse is more often called to account. No marriage can ever be healthy unless the two people in the marriage are both healthy. And because of that, the health and well-being of the individual must always take precedence over the well-being of the marriage.
Unfortunately, the culture of subservient women has been and is being perpetuated by the teaching of so many churches that the individual must be constantly sacrificed for the good of the marriage, the family and the church. As you have done in your comment, John, the victim is automatically assumed to be at fault, rebellious, and delusional without any reference to the facts. The result is a church culture in which we would rather see people abused, physically and emotionally, all in the name of unconditional love, than to take a stand and unconditionally love the victim of abuse in a way that actually helps them.
So, to the one point you made that I agree with, 90% of pastors need an education on love and marriage—specifically that in love and marriage, God hates violence a lot more than he hates divorce.
I raised my 3 children in Scottsdale alone (it was Jesus and me – no familial) and this happened to me all throughout these decades. I was consistently shunned for being divorced and ‘pretty’ I guess. It s so very isolating and lonely, if not for Jesus I would. Never have survived. My FOO I have discovered is and always had been an abusive system. Evil Appearing good. I was drawn to an abusive man.. To churches with the same familiar spirits. I’m still alone.. I don’t trust corporate churches.. Jezzebel is everywhere it seems. I know The Lord is healing restoring and repairing all. The trauma has inhibited me from moving forward like I want to. I feel like I know Christina. The abusers were revealed to me just 2 years ago and the spirit of Jezzebel has a hold of them. This is all so sad. Thankyou Thankyou for the work you both are doing. Your prayers are much appreciated. God bless you.
Cindee, it breaks my heart when I hear stories like this. No one should have to endure such isolation, but it’s especially egregious when the source of the abuse is church. I so hope you derive hope and perhaps a little sense of genuine fellowship and safe community from our online presence. Don’t give up. There is good there, but sometimes it takes a while to change the ingrained habit patterns of thought that keep luring us back toward the abuse we’ve known in the past. Christina and I are working on some material to help people change those patterns. It will be a little while before we’re ready to present it, but keep checking. It’s basically the things we’ve learned as we worked through some of the very things you’ve described.
I wrote up some thoughts a few years ago on “Jezebel”, some of which which I think dovetail with what you’ve written here. I hope they’ll be helpful:
Great thoughts, Ramone. Thank you for sharing them. Sounds like you went through some of the same thought process I did. The traditional interpretation never sat right with me, either, and it’s unfortunate that so many never dig a little deeper to get past the tradition and see the reality.