The Southern Baptist Convention already had a problem with Black pastors because its six seminary presidents have launched a battle against Critical Race Theory. Then an East Texas SBC pastor added to the consternation Jan. 22 by calling Vice President Kamala Harris a “Jezebel.”
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.
That didn’t stop Tom Buck, pastor of First Baptist Church of Lindale, Texas, from lobbing the epithet at Harris two days after her inauguration as the nation’s first Black vice president. He took to Twitter with this: “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.”
His tweet came in the midst of women across the nation celebrating 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 tweet drew immediate and harsh response — especially from women and persons of color. Despite that, the next day he doubled down: “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 most radical LGBT advocate. She performed one of the first Lesbian ‘marriages.’ Pray for her, but don’t praise her!”
The original Jezebel was a ninth century BCE character who features prominently in the Hebrew Scriptures in the books of Kings. She was married to King Ahab, who ruled the kingdom of Israel, and led him to kill the Hebrew prophets and worship idols. Because of her evil deeds, Encyclopedia Britannica notes, “she has come to be known as an archetype of the wicked woman.”
Buck’s original tweet was condemned by another SBC pastor in Texas, Dwight McKissic, who has been leading the charge against the seminary presidents’ statement and other racist legacies within the SBC.
While explaining that he considers Buck a friend, McKissic took extreme exception to this particular statement in a series of tweets over several days. Among those: “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. 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.”
While a few praised Buck’s position on Twitter, many others took him to task. Some noted his hypocrisy for eagerly supporting Donald Trump; others castigated him for advancing a racist trope.
One commenter wrote: “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.”
“Pretty rich coming from a party that still worships Donald Trump — of all people — like he’s the fourth member of the Holy Trinity.”
And another on that theme: “Pretty rich coming from a party that still worships Donald Trump — of all people — like he’s the fourth member of the Holy Trinity.”
Another comment drew a comparison between the way the SBC fawned over former Vice President Mike Pence and this treatment of Harris: “It took 2 days in office for a Southern Baptist pastor to call VP Kamala Harris Jezebel. I’m going to guess she’s not getting an invitation to speak at the convention as former VP Mike Pence did in 2018.”
Buck earned a bachelor’s degree from Moody Bible Institute, a master’s degree from Dallas Theological Seminary and doctoral degree from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is affiliated with Founders Ministries, a group dedicated to advancing Calvinist theology within the SBC. Founders Ministries is one of two far-right groups within the SBC reportedly pushing the seminary presidents to take a hard line against Critical Race Theory.
Lindale is part of the Tyler, Texas, metro area, which has a population of about 200,000 and is a deeply conservative region both politically and religiously. First Baptist Church is affiliated with the SBC and the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, a conservative breakaway group from the Baptist General Convention of Texas.