Two White Southern Baptist pastors in Texas are being criticized for referring to vice-president Kamala Harris as “Jezebel” – a racial stereotype term that was used against Black women during slavery.
According to Baptist News, pastor Steve Swofford of the First Baptist Church of Rockwall was the first man of God to call Harris that name. Swofford, who is also a member of the Southern Baptist Convention – the largest Protestant denomination in the United States – used the term during a sermon on January 3.
During his sermon, Swofford first referred to Joe Biden as a “cognitively dysfunctional president” before asking: “What if something happens to him and Jezebel has to take over? Jezebel Harris, isn’t that her name?”
Swofford also reportedly went ahead to say the new-elected government would possibly not be “doing things our way of doing things” and told the congregants to continue upholding their “convictions of being pure and honest and having convictions for Christ.”
About two weeks later on January 22 (two days after Biden and Harris were sworn in), pastor Tom Buck of the First Baptist Church of Lindale, reportedly took to Twitter to use the same word against Harris, posting: “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.”
Buck’s tweet was met with rebuke from a section of people who called him out for his double standards and hypocrisy. “It’s funny how willing the SBC was to overlook Trump’s divorces, his affairs, his sexual assault allegations, the dishonesty, and the constant cruelty, but it is a woman whose politics they disagree with who draws their contempt,” one user replied.
Another user wrote: “Pretty rich coming from a party that still worships Donald Trump — of all people — like he’s the fourth member of the Holy Trinity.”
Despite the criticism, Buck remained adamant and reiterated his stance in a follow-up tweet on January 23.
“For those torn up over my tweet, I stand by it 100%,” he tweeted. “My problem is her godless character. She not only is the most radical pro-abortion VP ever, but also most radical LGBT advocate. She performed one of the first Lesbian ‘marriages’. Pray for her, but don’t praise her!”
Buck’s comments were also criticized by fellow Southern Baptist Convention pastor Dwight McKissic, Baptist News reported. In a series of tweets on January 23, McKissic, who is Black, said that though he considers Buck as a friend, he’s going to cease ties with him.
“I find his comment regarding Madam Vice President Kamala Harris extremely un-Christ like, unjustifiable & inconsistent with how he’s treated other female public figures,” he shared. “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 & mouth of an SBC pastor. Consequently, I choose not to engage in any further fellowship with Tom Buck.”
In the Bible, Jezebel was a 9th-century princess who married then king of Israel, Ahab. During their reign, she perpetuated the worship of the god Baal and defied Yahweh’s prophets, Elijah and Elisha. Together with Ahab, they also committed atrocities against their local people. Jezebel was ultimately killed years after Ahab’s death.
“She has come to be known as an archetype of the wicked woman,” Britannica writes in reference to her.
During slavery, the term “Jezebel” was used to refer to unchaste and promiscuous Black women, and also with the notion that White women were the complete opposite of that. The Ferris State University’s Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia explains:
The Jezebel stereotype was used during slavery as a rationalization for sexual relations between white men and black women, especially sexual unions involving slavers and slaves. The Jezebel was depicted as a black woman with an insatiable appetite for sex. She was not satisfied with black men. The slavery-era Jezebel, it was claimed, desired sexual relations with white men; therefore, white men did not have to rape black women.