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Apostasy and the Jezebel spirit

iStock/Getty Images Plus/Zastavkin
iStock/Getty Images Plus/Zastavkin

Can we talk about the term ”the Jezebel spirit” for a minute?

If you’re a mouthy Christian woman who vocally opposes chauvinism in the Church, it’s not a matter of if you’ll be accused of this; it’s a matter of when. It’s a popular silencing convention too often wielded by powerful men against godly women who reject corrupt authority. It’s so popular, in fact, that I’ve given it prime real estate on my “Christian” patriarchy Bingo card, designed for a little levity on a subject so fraught I might otherwise be tempted to despair, but that’s another blog for another day.

The fact of the matter is that the abusive placement of this label on women who do not deserve it is so commonplace that it’s become something of a dog whistle signaling misogyny – a hot-button term like “patriarchy” or “feminism” or “racist” that puts people so immediately on the defensive that it renders necessary conversation about the topic almost impossible. We’re almost better off using different terms entirely.


The grey area surfaces for me when we contend with the reality that (whatever term you want to give it), there are, in fact, a number of influential women claiming to speak for God who are guilty of everything implied by the Jezebel label. And this is a problem if you actually care at all about orthodoxy or about helping people encounter Jesus.

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So what does a “Jezebel spirit” really mean, and how can we tell the difference between the silencing convention and the legitimate rebuke?

There are two Jezebels in the Bible (See 1 Kings 16:3118:1321:25-262 Kings 9:30-37), both evil, both manipulative, and both fully committed to obtaining power through sexual sin. In the Old Testament, we see Jezebel as the murderous wife of King Ahab who uses her powers of seduction to lure her husband and all of Israel into idolatry and, ultimately, surrender to the pagan god Baal.

This is what Revelation has to say:

“Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds. Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets, ‘I will not impose any other burden on you, except to hold on to what you have until I come’” (Revelation 2:20-25).

The common denominator in both situations is a dishonest woman claiming authority that doesn’t belong to her, manipulating people into agreement with sexual sin and the worship of false gods. Sounds pretty extreme, right?

Here’s the tough part, and I say this with all fear and trembling, but it needs to be said; actual Jezebeling is still happening. There are still women claiming to speak for God while championing the bondage He hates. Their currency is personal power that’s not submitted to the lordship of Christ. I clicked on a popular female pastor’s Twitter profile the other day and was horrified to discover preferred pronouns and a tweet championing the aggressive self-hatred of the gender identity movement. She was framing gender delusion as created order or God’s idea as opposed to something that makes Him weep.

Church, if you’re following faith leaders who endorse rainbow-colored oppression, if you’re following faith leaders who pretend like the ritual child sacrifice known as abortion is sanctioned by God, I hate to tell you this, but you’ve ventured over into Jezebel territory. We cannot afford to reject the patriarchal oppression of one camp in favor of the patriarchal oppression of another. Gender identity hates and oppresses women.  Abortion hates and oppresses women. Both movements weaponize our bodies against us; they’re an assault on what is sacred about us as image-bearers. Could there be anything more misogynistic than telling a confused 13-year-old girl that the solution to her body image issues is to chop off her healthy breasts?

I have been so perplexed in my advocacy for women in the Church by the volume of overcorrection, so (especially female) Christian faith leaders, I say this to you: If our shared goal is to restore a healthy, truly biblical view of sexuality, then it would help a whole lot if you would (at least once in awhile) draw clear lines in the sand on things like transgender ideology, which is wreaking absolute havoc on women.

Your relative silence on this stuff is making it even easier for the theobros to distrust you. They think you tacitly support it.

I get you may feel you want to stay in your lane, but by your refusal to engage this much at all, all you're doing is lending credence to their suspicions, particularly given how apostate some denominations have gone with women leaders. If you reject the connection, then you need to say so boldly. We all do.

The only safe space is the space surrendered to King Jesus, who says, “Come as you are,” but who loves you too much to leave you that way. Jesus was revolutionary in His regard for women. We need to follow His lead by aggressively rejecting the ideologies that harm us; both inside and outside the Church. We must “rightly divide the Word of truth” if we have any desire whatsoever to actually liberate people from the ties that bind them.

This article was originally posted on Honest to Goodness and is reprinted here with permission from the author. 

Kaeley Harms, co-founder of Hands Across the Aisle Women’s Coalition, is a Christian feminist who rarely fits into boxes. She is a truth teller, envelope pusher, Jesus follower, abuse survivor, writer, wife, mom, and lover of words aptly spoken.

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