by Kristen Rosser cross posted from her blog Wordgazer’s Words
It’s a story my husband Jeff likes to tell from before we were married.
We were both members of a coercive Christian group of “charismatic” persuasion– meaning that the group believed in supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit. Like most charismatic groups, our church believed that Christians and churches could be harassed by, or even come under the power of, demonic spirits. We believed God had called us to “rebuke” such spirits in the name of Jesus and drive them out of our lives and the lives of others.
One evening Jeff was sitting in the living room of the apartment he shared with his roommate (I’ll call him Mike). Mike’s best friend (let’s say his name was Dave) was visiting, as he often did. The evening news came on.
Dave stared for a minute at the female news anchor, who was speaking in an assertive, confident voice. He raised his hand in a karate-chop motion and shook it at the screen. “I rebuke that Jezebel spirit in the name of Jesus!” he said. Mike nodded agreement.
My future husband stopped himself from rolling his eyes. “Why are you doing that?” he asked.
“Look at her!” Dave said. “She’s controlling and bossy. She thinks she can take over a man’s role. She’s got a Jezebel spirit!”
Jeff sighed, but didn’t try to argue. There wasn’t really any point. Mike and Dave’s ideas were right in line with our church’s teachings. Jeff’s disagreement would only be looked at askance. But even then he didn’t see that simply doing a news anchor’s job while female indicated the presence of a “Jezebel spirit.”
Jeff and I left the charismatic movement when we left our Maranatha Campus Ministries church, some years after we were married. I have nothing against the charismatic movement in general; I think their emphasis on real-life experience of the divine is a valuable and needed part of Christianity as a whole. But even some charismatics have problems with belief in the existence of a “Jezebel spirit.” As my online friend and respected colleague “TL” at SpoudazO Logos says,
It is unfortunate that there are those who have added to Scripture to claim that an evil woman of the Old Testament is now a female demon going about influencing mostly women to be like her in Christian churches. There is no biblical ‘spirit of jezebel’. What there is, is a real woman who lived and died. . . Her spirit does not roam the earth in the form of a demon and influence people.
Unfortunately, as far as online charismatic voices are concerned, TL is definitely in the minority. Googling “Jezebel Spirit” yields multiple websites dedicated to describing the supposed Jezebel spirit and giving points on how to fight it. There are also a number of books specifically about the Jezebel spirit: Iowa pastor Francis Frangipane wrote one simply named The Jezebel Spirit in 2001. Author John Paul Jackson put out a similar title in 2002. Florida minister named Jonas Clark has a website containing several pages devoted to stopping this evil spirit– he even offers a CD learning course which will cost you $150 to break free from being Jezebel’s eunuch. I even found a sales guide listing 10 or 20 titles on defeating this supposed “controlling” spirit and its corollary, the “passive” Ahab spirit.
There is even a website dedicated to information about this spirit: jezebelspirit.net. To be fair, they may not subscribe to the idea that the Jezebel spirit is actually the same being as the woman Jezebel who was married to Ahab, king of Israel, as described in 1 Kings 16 through 2 Kings 9. The way I understood the “spirit of Jezebel” when I was in Maranatha was that this was an evil spirit that possessed both Queen Jezebel and another woman called by the same name in Revelation 2:20-23, and which still influences women to manipulate, seduce and control men.
But what I found later, in the years when I went back to everything I had been taught as a Christian and searched the Bible in a reassessment of my beliefs, was that there is actually no biblical support for believing in a “Jezebel spirit” at all— whether as the spirit of a woman in history which has become a female demon, or as a demonic spirit which possessed that woman and is still active today. Neither the 1st – 2nd Kings stories, or the Revelation passage, say anything whatsoever about a demonic spirit. Rather, the Kings passages describe the real activities of a real woman, and the Revelation passage uses the symbolic name “Jezebel” to refer to a woman whom the writer considered to be committing similar sins to those of the original Jezebel.
Charismatics are taught to test everything — every experience, every teaching, every doctrine– against the Scriptures, which are the check and balance to keep their emphasis on the supernatural and on spiritual experience from leading them away from orthodoxy. I remember how carefully this was pressed on us when I was in Maranatha. But the teaching on the spirit of Jezebel turned out to be only one of many areas where I found, on re-examination, that the Bible actually didn’t say anything like what I’d been taught in Maranatha.
So why am I bringing this up now?
Because it appears to me that the teachings about the Jezebel spirit are continuing to escalate even past the beliefs I once had about it, to the point where Charisma News columnist Jennifer Leclaire says there is a “spiritual warfare culture” where this spirit has “rock star status” (Leclaire actually believes in these spirits herself, though she is one of the voices cautioning common sense and restraint.) This faithsite.com article considers the Jezebel spirit to be the primary spirit that attacks churches and church leaders in an attempt to control and take over, while a lesser “Absalom spirit” acts as a sort of chief lieutenant.
The spirit of Jezebel is called “a spirit of witchcraft.” This is fitting because this entire set of spiritual warfare teachings is teetering on the edge of a witch hunt.
And, as most witch hunts do, it is primed to target primarily women.
Looking more closely at the faithsite.com article linked above, here is how the Jezebel spirit is defined:
Jezebel is not just a principality or power. It is a stronghold of the second highest classification of demons listed in Ephesians Chapter 6. It is a “ruler of the darkness of this world” holed up in a strong and unbroken woman. . . Jezebel exists to undermine the authority and anointing of the man of God.
No scriptural authority is given for the existence of the Jezebel spirit or for linking it with the “principalities and powers” described in Ephesians 6. But though the article gives the following caveats:
All strong females are NOT Jezebels . . . All of the above is NOT to say that women should not be in positions of authority and influence in the local church. Priscilla is always mentioned alongside her husband Aquilla in the New Testament and appears to be the primary pastoral figure between the two,
it goes on to say:
Jezebel is a woman with issues in her heart concerning male authority. She has probably been wounded by a male authority figure(s) in her past, and hasn’t allowed God to heal those inner wounds. A Jezebel is often a woman who has great disrespect for her father, either because he abused her, ignored her, or because he spoiled her by never confronting her immaturities as a child, and who let her run over him. Regardless of the why, she has nursed a deep disrespect for manhood inside her heart. . .
Sometimes a Jezebel is a Jezebel because, by default, she had no example but her mother… who was a Jezebel herself… in the home. Men ought to wear the pants in their marriages. Some have a quieter personality than the wife, but they should still assert themselves enough to clearly demarcate who is the head of the family unit. . .
A foolish woman will just take over the husband’s role because she senses he is unsure of himself and she has the stronger personality. But this is unscriptural!
This is very much in line with standard charismatic doctrine, which (unlike in most other evangelical groups) allows women to have authority in the church, but which (as in most other evangelical groups) maintains that the man has “headship” over the wife in the marriage and the home. But notice what has happened here. Though women are granted leadership positions in the church, if a woman is perceived in any way as “having issues concerning male authority,” the next logical step is to conclude that she has a Jezebel spirit “holed up inside her.” It may be that it is not she who has issues with a man or men in authority in the church, but the male authority who has issues with her. No matter. By default, suspicion rests on the woman, while any issues that the man or men might have are easily overlooked.
It may be that problems in this hypothetical woman’s marriage are due to an overbearing husband who disrespects and belittles her, and she feels the need to resist him. No matter. If she has “a problem with male authority” or asserts herself so that she is perceived as not letting him “wear the pants,” she is suspected of having a Jezebel spirit. And this is where the demarcation of this supposed evil spirit as “a stronghold of the second highest classification” becomes deadly. Here is how the church is advised to deal with a Jezebel spirit:
There can be no détente with Jezebel.
Jezebel has to be dealt with.
Jezebel does not have it within herself to change.
Jezebel will strike again.
Jezebel must be run off.
Once a group of church leaders decides a woman has a Jezebel spirit, there is no appeal. There is no argument. And there is no mercy.
Many of these websites do say that it’s possible for a man also to have a Jezebel spirit. This, of course, simply subjects men to the same Catch-22 situation that church women may find themselves in. But the deck is already stacked for women to be far more easily and frequently colored with the Jezebel spirit brush (sadly apropos, I suppose, since the woman Jezebel in the Bible is known for “painting her face!”). A man who challenges authority may simply be considered forceful. A woman who does so is much more likely to be viewed as under the influence or possession of a demon of Satan’s first echelon.This is even more clear when viewing the Jezebelspirit.net website. On its Introduction page it equates the Jezebel spirit with what psychologists call “narcissistic personality disorder”:
The worldly term for the spirit of Jezebel is ‘malignant narcissism’ for which there is no cure. Some traits of narcissism include: excessive self-love; firm conviction that he or she is better, smarter, or more talented than other people; becomes irritated when other people don’t automatically do what he or she wants them to do; thinks most criticisms of him or her are motivated by jealousy; regards anything short of worship to be rejection; often complains of being mistreated or misunderstood; has fantasies of doing something great or being famous, and often expects to be treated as if these fantasies had already come true.
On this page the same basic idea is reiterated:
Those who are “infected” with the Jezebel Spirit are evil, and practice evil. Their character traits are well described and categorized in the secular world who classify these people as Narcissists or Psychopaths for whom there is no healing treatment or cure. [Emphasis in original]
Based on this, the website then warns:
When it comes to Jezebel, you can forget about praying for her to come to truth and repentance. You will be wasting your precious time. Also, you must never sympathize with her. You must be 100% against her, and stop having hopes for her recovery and well-being! She is not your sister or brother in the Lord. She is living in the strength of demonic soul power, absolutely sold out to doing evil, and completely out of the will of God and obedience to God. She is her own master, and ultimately she serves Satan. Yes, you are dealing with a human being behind the Jezebel spirit, but don’t be weak. This is a pure spiritual battle. You might ask: “Isn’t she just a poor deceived person herself?” Yes, she is deceived, but don’t you also be deceived to have any weakness for this person. If you love the person, cut soul ties immediately, and surrender her completely to God, for Him to determine her destiny. Remember again the book of Revelation where God gives her time to repent, but she refuses to do so. Do not try to save her, or you will go down with her. You need to alienate yourself completely, and have no patience and tolerance for her actions.
All these seemingly controversial points for a typical Christian mindset need to be dealt with before you are ready to fight Jezebel. Anything less than these attitudes will cause you to doubt, and fall prey to her. [Emphasis in original]
Though there is truth in the idea that a person with narcissistic personality disorder cannot be trusted, and that churches should be aware of this disorder, recognize the traits and warning signs, and not let such a person destroy their congregations, the equation of this disorder with the Jezebel spirit is dangerous. Narcissistic personality disorder is in fact quite rare. False identification of church members as having this disorder and then shunning them as pure evil, is a real possibility. This is particularly true since readers are encouraged to see the influence of the Jezebel spirit everywhere:
The Spirit of Jezebel is a dominating factor over the entire earth today. Jezebel hovers over the Television and Film Industry, causing most TV shows to portray a demonic, twisted, and perverted outlook on life. It cleverly teaches people to strive for material wealth, monetary success, and anything that has to do with instant gratification. . . The Jezebel Spirit is found in the church. Spirits like jealously, controlling submit-to-me pastoring, greed, possessive leadership, erroneous doctrine, focus on outward appearance, and self-promoting ambition all derive from the Spirit of Jezebel. . . The Spirit of Jezebel manifests in politics through narcissistic leadership, officials who love power and choose to steer a nation away from God through immoral legislation. The media is full of corruption, greed, desire for power, hunger for approval and attention, lies and deception, overindulgence, and money-hunger.
And then, even though none of these things are exclusive or even primarily found in women– even though recognized medical websites like the Mayo Clinic state that narcissistic personality disorder affects more men than women, Jezebelspirit.net equates the Jezebel spirit almost exclusively with women:
The reason we believe the Jezebel spirit only pertains to women is because of the fact that men have been given natural authority from God, it’s not something they would need to fight to get, they already have it! Women, on the other hand, have not been given that same authority, and they would need tools to try to take that position of leadership that the man has. This is where the Jezebel spirit comes in. A demon will come to a woman presenting different tools she can use to regain power over the man. These tools are, among many others: manipulation, control, domination and seduction. For a wounded or scorned woman, these tools come as a temptation she cannot resist, and she grabs them, and starts using them. This is the moment she opens the door to become possessed by the demonic spirit that promises to provide her with everything she needs to accomplish her goal. She may or may not even be aware of what a devastating spirit she has just welcomed into her life. . .
At the other hand, when a man seems to be using some of the same tools as the Jezebel woman does, it is usually not a Jezebel spirit, but a power hungry spirit that comes from being an extremely wounded individual who has most likely been abused in one way or another, and need to control and manipulate his circumstances out of fear of being hurt again.
It is interesting how the website equates “controlling, submit-to-me pastorship” with the Jezebel spirit– even though even in charismatic churches which allow women some church leadership, the pastorate is still overwhelmingly male! — and then says that a man who acts like this probably has only a “power hungry spirit” that comes from being hurt and abused (the name seems to indicate that this is a spirit much lower on the totem pole and thus less dangerous than the Jezebel one). The stage is set for men in the church to be treated with far more sympathy and less fear, even if the men are controlling or manipulative.
The website also uses the threat of the Jezebel spirit to keep women in a subordinate place within marriage:
One of the saddest things is the Jezebel Spirit’s influence in Christian and non-Christian marriages, and the lack of understanding and effective arrest of these issues when they appear. . . Even if the woman possessed by the Jezebel Spirit is married, it will never be a marriage where she will acknowledge her God-given role in the marriage. She will have an attitude of wanting to be equal to the man in all matters — even try to prove to be a better leader than the husband.
One of the main purposes of this evil spirit of Jezebel is to have the wives in the marriage take over the spiritual headship from their husbands, teaching and controlling them, and in doing so, reversing God’s order for marriage. Unless the husband fights his wife for supremacy, he will ultimately end up assuming the second place in the marriage.
Thus a marriage in which the man and woman desire to share authority equally is turned into a demonically influenced marriage controlled by the spirit of Jezebel.
So what we have here, in terms of spiritual abuse, is the makings of a perfect storm.
Here are some of Jezebelspirit.net’s primary identifying marks of a person under the Jezebel spirit:
– Believes [themselves] to be right. Wants to win. Will argue till you drop.
– Has a blame/guilt mindset: Everything comes down to who is right and who is wrong.
– Is unwilling to compromise on priorities: Everything has to go the way they have planned it.
– Is strongly defensive when approached for criticism and correction, even guidance.
When ordinary human traits such as defensiveness under accusation become markers of demonic activity, it becomes impossible for an ordinary church member to deny she has one of these spirits, as denial would be perceived as one of the demon’s tactics. Accusation and conviction can easily become the same thing. And the worst thing is that it becomes easy to declare that simple disagreement that there is such a thing as a Jezebel spirit, is actually evidence of being under the influence of the Jezebel spirit. This makes it impossible to engage in any sort of rational conversation about the factuality or even the scripturality of these claims.
Even when my husband and I were young charismatic Christians, the criteria for identifying a Jezebel spirit were vague and self-contradictory. This is why a young man in Maranatha, years ago, could blithely decide that a woman he saw on television was possessed by a Jezebel spirit, simply because she sat at a desk where he was used to seeing a man sit, and spoke in a way he was used to hearing a man speak.
But now things have progressed even beyond that. And it’s far too late to nip this teaching in the bud; it came to full flower with the advent of the Internet and is now spreading its pollen on the wind.
My fellow Christians, my charismatic brothers and sisters, please: this sort of thing has to stop. For the sake of innocent Christian women who sit beside you in church, combat this teaching! Examine the passages in 1st and 2nd Kings and Revelation for yourselves, and search for any indication that they are talking about an evil spirit ranking first in Satan’s army. Examine the spiritual warfare passages such as Ephesians 6, and see if they give any warning of a Jezebel spirit, or of any spirit to beware of in one of the sexes over the other.
You won’t find it.
It’s extremely likely that even now, Christian women who do not have narcissistic personality disorder are being accused of having this spirit and are being disciplined or shunned by their churches, with no possibility of self-defense, simply because they have strong personalities or serious goals outside the home. A tendency to bossiness is sometimes a weakness of the stronger personality types, and though it’s a flaw in both sexes, it should not be mistaken for demonic influence when exhibited by a woman.
This is not what the family of God should be involved in. Ephesians 3:10 says that the wisdom of God made known through the church is “manifold” — meaning multi-faceted, varied and diverse. Christians, male and female alike, have a variety of personality types, gifts and talents. Let’s celebrate them and not be afraid of them just because they don’t fit gender stereotypes.
We can be careful of the possibility of mental disorders within our midst without setting ourselves up for witch hunts.
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