As controversy grows about comments by Southern Baptist pastors comparing Vice President Kamala Harris to the biblical character Jezebel, a leader in Founders Ministries, a group pushing Calvinism within Southern Baptist life, claimed critics of the pastors follow a false religion. The attacks on Harris continue even after her pastor, civil rights icon Amos C. Brown, penned a Word&Way column responding to the ‘Jezebel’ rhetoric.
Although Tom Buck, pastor of First Baptist Church in Lindale, Texas, first tweeted out the comparison on Jan. 22, news coverage of the rhetoric continued in recent days. Steve Swofford, pastor of First Baptist Church of Rockwall, Texas, and a member of the Southern Baptist Convention’s executive committee, also made the comparison in a sermon in January.
As Baptist News Global and Religion News Service both reported last month, the “Jezebel” label has a long history as a racist trope used against Black women. More recently, other publications have also noted this, including The Lily (a publication of the Washington Post).
The latter publication drew a response column from Jared Longshore, vice president of Founders Ministries, which has fought against the use of Critical Race Theory, a decades-old broad social science perspective that scholars use in analyzing issues of race, power, and society. The group also last year published defenses of the practice of slavery by early Southern Baptist leaders.
In a column Friday (Feb. 12), Longshore complained about the coverage of Buck’s tweet, and argued the comparison between Harris and Jezebel is accurate.
But Longshore also argued that Anne Branigin, who wrote The Lily piece, is also like Jezebel. Longshore had argued the comparison worked with Harris because Jezebel was “a woman with civil power who used it to murder.” He didn’t explain how Branigin — who he repeatedly misidentified as Branigan — fit that description.
“Pastor Buck received all sorts of criticism from those who are of the same spirit as the historic Jezebel. Anne Branigan wrote a confused and yet revealing piece,” Longshore wrote. “Branigan’s article is a real lesson on the new religion.”
Longshore claimed that Branigin wrote about “experts” calling the ‘Jezebel’ rhetoric as dangerous without naming any experts.
“These unsubstantiated references to ‘experts’ reveal a commitment to a divine word. Branigan does not cite chapter and verse of the experts, but what they say is gospel. The experts are not identified, they operate as mysterious oracles that are to be believed because, well, they are experts,” Longshore wrote. “We have a divine Word. And so does the new religion. The ‘experts’ are beginning to function as deity.”
However, despite Longshore’s claim, Branigin’s piece actually names and quotes three experts. Those experts, all women and two of them Black, include Jessica Johnson, an assistant professor of religious studies at the College of William & Mary; Tamura Lomax, an associate professor at Michigan State University and author of the book Jezebel Unhinged; and Candice Benbow, a theologian and writer.
In his piece, Longshore actually included two excerpts from Branigin’s piece that name Lomax and another that mentions Johnson — thus showing experts cited in Branigin’s article.
Longshore also attacked Southern Baptists who criticized Buck and Swofford for the ‘Jezebel’ rhetoric. He specifically named Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary President Danny Akin, and SBC First Vice President Marshal Ausberry (who also leads the SBC’s National African American Fellowship).
Longshore argued those individuals “evidence the same instincts here as the Washington Post and the foundational commitments of Anne Branigan.” And he blasted Harris, Branigan, “and many others” for “blindness and lostness” of “the false religion that preaches a false gospel, leaving people in despair.”
While Longshore defended the rhetoric used by Buck and Swofford about Harris, her pastor recently explained the problems with the ‘Jezebel’ attacks. Brown, a well-known civil rights leader and theologian, called the comments about Harris “profoundly anti-Christian.”
“Such vile tropes have no place in our society or political discourse,” Brown wrote in a Feb. 9 Word&Way column. “For a White man to use that word to describe any Black woman is demeaning in the extreme. For a White man who fashions himself a Christian to use it as a label for the Vice President of the United States is unforgivable.”