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Two white pastors from Texas are under fire for referring to Madam Vice President Kamala Harris as “Jezebel” during two separate sermons. Pastor Steve Swofford of the First Baptist Church of Rockwell and Pastor Tom Buck of First Baptist Church of Lindale have both hurled the epithet Harris. Some believe framing a powerful woman as hateful, wily, sexually promiscuous, ambitious, and ultimately irresistible is to say more about one’s powerlessness than her prowess. However, this type of rhetoric against the black community is not new to the organization. As it stands, six of the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) seminary presidents have launched a battle against Critical Race Theory.
Critical race theory CRT) is a framework in jurisprudence that examines society and culture as they relate to categorizations of race, law, and power in the United States of America. It is the view that the law and legal institutions are inherently racist and that race itself, instead of being biologically grounded and natural, is a socially constructed concept that is used by white people to further their economic and political interests at the expense of people of color. According to CRT, racial inequality emerges from the social, economic, and legal differences that white people create between “races” to maintain elite white interests in labor markets and politics, giving rise to poverty and criminality in many minority communities.
Calling a Black woman “Jezebel” is a racist trope documented by the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia at Ferris State University. It has roots in slavery and the perceived sexual promiscuity of Black women compared to white women. The portrayal of black women as lascivious by nature is an enduring stereotype. The descriptive words associated with this stereotype are singular in their focus: seductive, alluring, worldly, beguiling, tempting, and lewd. Historically, white women, as a category, were portrayed as models of self-respect, self-control, and modesty – even sexual purity, but black women were often portrayed as innately promiscuous, even predatory. This depiction of black women is signified by the name Jezebel.
The most infamous Jezebel was a Phoenician princess who married Ahab, king of Israel, in the ninth century B.C. As queen, she introduced the worship of Baal and sought to suppress the worship of Yahweh (Jehovah), the Hebrew God. She persecuted the prophets of Jehovah, many of whom she ordered to be killed. The name Jezebel came to signify a deceitful and immoral woman. Her story is told in First Kings, chapters 18 and 19, and in Second Kings, Chapter nine.
As women across the nation celebrated Harris as a role model for their daughters to believe they, too, could ascend to the top tier of elected leadership in America, Buck’s Twitter fingers were in full motion. He tweeted:
I can’t imagine any truly God-fearing Israelite who would’ve wanted their daughters to view Jezebel as an inspirational role model because she was a woman in power.
For those torn up over my tweet, I stand by it 100%. My problem is her godless character. She not only is the most radical pro-abortion VP ever but also the most radical LGBT advocate. She performed one of the first Lesbian ‘marriages.’ Pray for her, but don’t praise her!
Swofford spent time in his pulpit mixing politics, racist vitriol, and religion at the pulpit. He stated that President Biden would be a “cognitively dysfunctional president.” He then doubled down on his incendiary rhetoric by asking his parishioners an inflammatory question. He asked:
What if something happens to [President Biden] and Jezebel has to take over? Jezebel Harris? Isn’t that her name?”
Both pastors are under fire for their demagogic name-calling. Other pastors have called their behavior extremely un-Christlike, unjustifiable, and inconsistent with how they have treated other female public figures. Pastor Dwight McKissic of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas disclosed that he and Buck previously had a good relationship even though the white pastor was “radically” different from him. Buck’s disrespectful behavior toward Harris has seemingly changed his stance. He wrote:
To refer to the Madam Vice President in any context as ‘Jezebel’ is simply unwarranted & disrespectful & extremely harmful to the image of Southern Baptists when this label emanates from the heart and mouth of an SBC pastor. Consequently, I choose not to engage in any further fellowship with Tom Buck.
The historical racial divide in American churches is deeply rooted in the South, with racist ideology infiltrating congregations since the days of slavery. The Black Church, also historically known as the Negro Church, formed out of necessity for blacks to have a haven of worship as early as the 1780s. The ugliness of politics during the past four years greatly exposed the longstanding racial rifts within the church, placing evangelicals at the forefront, and it is something that both white and Black pastors can no longer ignore.
The SBC pastors are under fire. As the country is left reeling from extreme political discord and racial strife while battling through the coronavirus pandemic. In fact, too many people are suffering and on the brink of despair, so it is imperative that ministers not let ongoing political disputes take their attention away from the work of the Gospel. First, racial division needs to be addressed, and second, Christians need to refocus on the primary mission in ministry: to share the message of Christ and draw souls into the kingdom of God.
Opinion by Cherese Jackson (Virginia)
Black Enterprise: Texas Pastors Call Vice President Kamala Harris ‘Jezebel’ in the Name of ‘God’
Ferris State University: The Jezebel Stereotype
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