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SBC President J.D. Greear Condemns, Uh, Calling Vice President Kamala Harris a ‘Jezebel’

Whew. Some days, even just writing the headline is exhausting. Look, everyone’s got different ideas about politics but, statistically speaking, most Southern Baptists in the United States are on roughly the same page. The Religious Right’s marriage to white evangelicalism is a committed one, which means most (not all) members of the SBC vote Republican. There are a lot of reasons for that but none of them, as SBC President J.D. Greear pointed out on Tuesday, justify calling Vice President Kamala Harris a “Jezebel.”

“I realize that some pastors are likely unaware of the history of certain racial stereotypes in calling or comparing our Vice President to Jezebel, but that doesn’t make such statements any less unwise,” Greear tweeted. “There are times we will critique policies, but that should not include personal attacks on a newly elected official God has told us to honor and pray for. Let us speak clearly and boldly for righteousness, but in a way that honors what the Scriptures say about honoring our leaders. We don’t correct one sin through another.”

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Greear spoke out about this because it’s something several prominent Southern Baptists have been doing over the last few weeks. Tom Buck, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Lindale, Texas, called Harris a “Jezebel” shortly after the inauguration. But even before the inauguration, Steve Swofford, pastor of First Baptist Church of Rockwall, Texas, referred to the now Vice President as “Jezebel Harris” in a Sunday morning Sermon. Swofford sits on the influential SBC Executive Committee.

Calling a woman a “Jezebel” is the sort of “bold” take you post when you’ve got nothing whatsoever to say. The “Jezebel” label is a well-worn racist trope. The Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia at Ferris State University documents the long, horrible history of calling Black women “Jezebels,” which “began in slavery, extended through the Jim Crow period and continues today.” While the original Jezebel of the Bible is portrayed as an evil queen in the Old Testament, the Book of Revelation talks about a spirit of Jezebel that “misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols.” In the U.S., the term became associated the racist notion of a promiscuous Black woman as a way to justify White slavers raping their Black slaves.

Did Swofford and Buck know about the “Jezebel” trope’s long history of racism? We don’t know. But we do know that it has since been pointed out to them numerous times and neither man has backed down. Pastor Dwight McKissic — himself making headlines for a horrifyingly racist letter he received last week — took to Twitter to educate them about the history of the “Jezebel” slur, to no avail. “I 100% stand by it,” Buck tweeted in response to criticism. In other words, Buck and Swofford reached deep into moral conviction, found a historically racist stereotype instead, and just went with it anyway.

Obviously, most Southern Baptists are going to have serious problems with the policies of Harris, President Joe Biden and most of the Democrats. That’s to be expected. But if these men can’t disagree with those policies without relying on personal attacks with a long history of racism, they can’t complain when others assume their takes aren’t rooted in principled disagreement, but knee-jerk, anti-Black misogyny.

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