A Real Crossroads: The Jezebelian Intersection of a Texas Buck and The Washington Post
God writes the best stories. Like when you have a Super Bowl full of torpid cardboard “people,” with some real humans spaced about in masks, and a halftime show that includes singing, “I can’t feel my face when I’m with you, but I love it.” If you watch providence with your eyes open, you can’t help but laugh (and cry) at God’s great wisdom on display.
Something like this occurred recently when a Christian pastor tweeted and the Washington Post responded. It was a crossroads named Jezebel where the Washington Post intersected with a Texas Buck. As you might imagine, the Post got the news all wrong, thinking they saw what was not there and missing entirely what really was. But, the confused analysis of the Post, the real nature of the intersection, and the fall out is all quite instructive for us that we would know the times and know what Israel ought to do.
Tom Buck, pastor of First Baptist Church of Lindale, Texas was walking around one day with Biblical thoughts and access to Twitter. He was aware of the present temptation, downstream as we are from the rise of feminism and the sexual revolution, to idolize a woman simply because she has power regardless her morality. He saw many doing just that to Vice President Kamala Harris. So, faithful shepherd of the flock he is, he tweeted the following:
Now many Christians see that the comparison is undeniably apt. Jezebel was a woman with civil power who used it to murder (1 Kings 18:4, 21:11). Kamala Harris is a woman with civil power who uses it to murder—she supports the bloodthirsty, systemic slaughter of children that has taken over sixty million lives in our country. God-fearers back then and now would not and do not view such people as role models.
But 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 about Buck’s tweet entitled, “Southern Baptist Leaders called Kamala Harris a ‘Jezebel’: That’s not just insulting, it’s dangerous, experts say.”
The Washington Post (Lily) Article
Branigan’s article is a real lesson on the new religion. The Branigan/Buck crossroads is a collision of two faiths. (So it really matters how Christians and Christian leaders respond to these kinds of situations—more on this toward the end). I don’t analyze Branigan’s article to vindicate Buck (most people will see the article is slanderous), but to highlight some of the tenants of her thought which are increasingly common. Such thoughts border on religious dogma that informs religious practice.
Branigan strangely references “experts” throughout her article:
- “That’s not just insulting, it’s dangerous, experts say,”
- “While it may be easy to dismiss these Texas pastors as isolated examples, experts warn that these messages are far more prevalent in congregations across America — particularly in White evangelical churches — than many may realize,”
- “Ultimately, experts agreed that Buck and Swofford were aware of the cultural connotations of referring to Harris as a Jezebel, as well its ability to stoke rage and fear among their followers.”
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. An objection might come, “But, you Christians do the same thing! You say God and His Word are to be trusted, full stop.” And that is just the point. You are exactly right. We do believe that. We have a divine Word. And so does the new religion. The “experts” are beginning to function as deity.
Branigan evidences an unChristian and erroneous anthropology. She charges Buck with dehumanizing Kamala Harris—”Calling Harris a Jezebel accomplishes multiple things: It delegitimizes her power and dehumanizes her.” The charge is strange for Jezebel was, of course, human. To compare someone to her cannot be dehumanizing. But Branigan’s anthropology requires something more than being created in the image of God if one is to be fully human. According to the new religion, power and, what’s more, the recognition of that power are closely associated with what it means to be human. This close association is why you can murder the babies—they do not have power so they are less than human. This association is also why some modern people believe your failure to recognize an individual’s chosen identity (male/female) is a denial of their very humanity. You disregard their innate power to control their nature.
The article betrays notions of order, power, violence, and danger that are contrary to the Christian tradition but nonetheless tremor with religious fervor. Branigan seems unaware of the long-standing Christian concept of God’s created order, which concerns both male/female relationships and the structure of society itself. Human, particularly female, power plays a preeminent role in her thought. Buck and others are charged with riding roughshod over this idol:
- “‘In each of these examples, the concern is ostensibly about promiscuity and irresponsibility, but is in fact a repudiation of women’s power and autonomy,’ Lomax explained.”
- “‘She [the Biblical Jezebel] never did anything sexual. They hated her for her power,’ Lomax said. It was Jezebel’s breach of the social order that led followers of Christianity to accuse her of being immoral.”
The notion of power operates as an analytical tool that not only leaves the author confused about Scripture, but muddled about the English language. It is impossible to read the stories of Jezebel in 1 and 2 Kings and conclude that “the followers of Christianity” falsely accused her of being immoral due to her breach of the social order. She is presented as a villain in the text plain and simple. Branigan’s foundational commitments result in her alleging Buck and other Southern Baptists to be dangerous and violent, “‘It’s not just un-PC. It’s far beyond that,’ Johnson said. ‘It’s an incitement to violence.'” From the vantage point of the author, Buck’s tweet simply cannot be a Christian pastoral warning about modeling your life after an immoral civil leader. It is an attack on a divine word, humanity itself, and the egalitarian order and power that is foundational to safety and well-being.
The Christian Response
Tom Buck’s tweet and the Washington Post signal a collision of worldviews. Christians have a divine Word, an anthropology, a doctrinally informed sense of order, power, danger, and violence. But so do people like Branigan, CNN’s Jake Tapper who commended the Post piece, and many others. We shouldn’t be surprised by this. The real problem with Jezebel, Branigan’s analysis notwithstanding, was that she worshiped Baal. Her prophets cut themselves to get her god to act, without success. She did not believe humans to bear the image of Yahweh so she slaughtered them. She disregarded the order of creation, seeing wickedness and danger where they were not—and failing to see them where they were. She trusted in idols and idols don’t save.
And here is where the rubber meets the road for my fellow Christians, pastors, and leaders. We need to get on with loving people. But many of our leaders don’t see what is going on, and their instincts align more with the spirit of the age than the Spirit of the Son. The president of the Southern Baptist Convention J. D. Greear, for example, charged Buck with being unwise, not honoring Scripture, and even sinning. Notice that these are similar charges implied in Branigan’s article, the article that smells of a pagan religion. Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, likewise denounced Buck’s tweet, calling it disappointing and uncalled for. Marshal Ausberry, the first Vice President of the Southern Baptist Convention, accused Pastor Buck of demeaning Kamala Harris. I don’t claim that these Southern Baptist leaders are being disingenuous. I wish they were. Rather, they evidence the same instincts here as the Washington Post and the foundational commitments of Anne Branigan. There is a religious fault line at the bottom of all of this. One wonders if these Southern Baptist leaders would rebuke the apostle John (and our Lord) for once shepherding the flock by referring to that woman Jezebel—”But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols” (Revelation 2:20). Surely there were women who were treated poorly in Thyatira; I can’t believe the apostle and our Christ were so insensitive. Perhaps they should have just addressed the policy and teaching without making it personal.
When you see the blindness and lostness of the Washington Post, Kamala Harris, Jake Tapper, Anne Branigan, and many others, then you will have the appropriate kind of sympathy, real compassion, and you will know why Tom Buck didn’t apologize. When you see the false religion that preaches a false gospel, leaving people in despair, then you will be willing to be maligned with Jesus. And you will do it cheerfully—“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12).
Since there may be some non-Christians who find their way to this post, here is the good news. What occurred at the Jezebelian crossroads had nothing to do with some strange, backwoods Southern Baptists who are still racists and far worse than you. The good news is that the experts are not always right, you are not divine, human power is not ultimate, and salvation does not come from man, or woman. There is a God and you are not Him. A perfect Word has come down from heaven. There is salvation and forgiveness for wretched Jezebel sinners like you, and me. His name is Jesus Christ the Son of God. He was born of the Virgin Mary. He lived the only righteous life this earth has seen. He hung impaled on a cross suffering the punishment due for sin. He died, and three days later rose from the grave. There is salvation in no other name. Trust Him and your Creator will wash away all of your sins. Trust Him and you will live.