The Common Good

She Said, He Said: On the Misogyny of the Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson

FOX NewsChannel host Sean Hannity calls the Rev. Jesse Lee  Peterson, "the most courageous, outspoken critic of the liberal left and the so-called 'black leadership' in America today."

He also calls him pastor.

Peterson, 62, is president and founder of The Brotherhood Organization of A New Destiny (BOND) — an organization dedicated to promoting the conservative agenda in the African American community. Host of his own radio and television programs, Peterson also is a member of Choose Black American, which stridently opposes illegal immigration in the United States and a former member of the California Christian Coalition.

Hannity has hosted Peterson as a guest on his Fox show numerous times and sits on the board of BOND, which he lauds for having, "played an instrumental role in helping young men and women build lives which will help inspire the next generation. BOND continues to fight the good fight standing for the values of God, family, and country, and are deserving of our support."

On March 5, Peterson took to the airways on his "Exploring Your Destiny with Jesse Lee Peterson" program and delivered a message/sermon titled, "How Most Women Are Building a Shameless Society." The video clip came to our attention Thursday afternoon, when Fox and Daily Beast contributor Kirsten Powers, a Democtrat who also happens to be an evangelical Christian, began posting a litany of tweets on Twitter castigating Peterson for his blatant misogyny.

Powers tweeted to her more than 24,00 followers:

  • Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson invokes God to justify hateful misogyny: "How Most Women are Building a Shameless Society:" http://bit.ly/y3FScV.
  • Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson: "Not all, not all, not all, but most (women) turned into little whores. "http://bit.ly/y3FScV #misogyny
  • Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson (who Heritage Foundation has feted): "We leave a woman to herself in the home, she destroys the family."
  • Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson: It's a mistake to put women in powerful businesses. (Interesting he thinks men 'put' women in their positions)
  • He says hes conservative & goes to Heritage events RT @HZ4FREEDOM: @kirstenpowers10 If this man says he's conservative, then we reject him.
  • Here is the clip of Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson giving his misogynist 'message' in the name of god: http://bit.ly/y3FScV

Here is that Peterson clip to which Powers' refers:
 

See video
needs to take away this guy's mic. His voice is one that should neither be promoted nor affirmed as Christian or Conservative. Whether he's speaking about women, African Americans victims of Hurricane Katrina, immigrants or the Rev. Jesse Jackson (who is a favorite target of his vitriol and on one occasion of a frivolous lawsuit), Peterson's rhetoric is wrongheaded and hateful.

When the current class of Sojourners one-year interns watched some of Peterson's videos, we were outraged and decided we needed to speak out publicly and strongly.

Below are two responses to Peterson's diatribe against women from two of our members, Nicole Higgins and James Colten.

Nicole Higgins, Sojourners staff writer

Lord Jesus Christ, son of God
Have mercy on me, a sinner.


Have mercy on me for assuming that the Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson was a white man. When I read of your regret that this country gave women the right to vote, I asked myself “isn’t this exactly what they said about people with my skin tone?” It was not that long ago when both Peterson and I were not given such a platform and others said the same things of us. My response can only emerge from an acknowledgment of my own shortcomings as a person who continually seeks grace.

Have mercy on me for expecting strong and outspoken women to be the first to respond. My silence is not a sign of acquiescence to people who I think are more qualified/trained/ready to speak on these issues. In Christ, all are heirs and qualified to speak truth to light in this instance. Peterson uses toxic language, he blames women for the reason why ‘America is gone’, and his message is divisive rather than building the body of believers. We are all responsible to uplift one another, to enter the difficult conversations and speak out when our brothers and sisters are attacked, especially when that attack is on the nature of women, the image of our Creator.

Have mercy on me for my pride. I did not scream at the computer or pull my hair out or run to my nearest co-worker saying “oh my word, can you believe this?!” Truth be told, I do not believe that something so incendiary is worth my time, and I refuse to give an ounce of a foothold to such demoralizing rhetoric. As I listened again to Peterson’s message, though, my heart became increasingly heavy. This man has a platform. There is an audience of listeners. Peterson believes his words to be sound and true and free of any blind spots. Is he surrounded by people holding him accountable? Am I?

Lord Jesus Christ, son of God
Have mercy on me, a sinner.


Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent and praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

James Colten, Sojourners staff writer

I love strong women. I love women who wield power with responsibility and authority. So naturally, what the Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson said a few weeks ago really shocked me. Peterson, on a radio show, opened up by saying, “One thing I know for sure, without a doubt, women cannot handle power. It’s not in them to handle power in the right way. They don’t know what to do with it.”

This is absolutely not true, and it is certainly not biblical (Fun fact: Mary, who gave birth to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, was, in fact, a woman).

A biblical understanding of power is that God is all-powerful, and humans (of all sexes, genders, and orientations) have mishandled power.

One of my favorite documentaries is, ironically, Pray the Devil Back to Hell. It’s about a group of Liberian women — Christian and Muslim, mind you — who prayed for peace outside of the Presidential palace amidst the Liberian Civil War. Women brought war lords (men) and government officials (also men) to the negotiating table, forcing them to come to a peace agreement. One of those women, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, is now the president.  And she’s doing a mighty fine job — she won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011.

The problem is not with women who can’t handle power. It’s with men who can’t handle power (and blame the lack of “good ol’ days” on the women).

I once heard author and women’s right activist Jackson Katz pose the question: “Why do we ask for the statistics of how many women have been domestically abused this year? How many women have been raped this year? When we could be asking: How many men domestically abused women this year? How many men raped women this year?”

It’s a dramatic difference, and it illuminates the male privilege in this country. No woman asks to be abused or raped. These things are an abuse of male power, and from 10,000 feet up reflect humankind’s broken state.

Back to Peterson: While we were college students, I asked a good friend of mine: “Does loving your girlfriend help you love God more? Or does loving God help you love your girlfriend more?” And he thought about for a second and said, “Both.” They’re now married.

Ultimately, it’s not just a man’s job to lead a woman. Paul wrote numerous times telling people that being single was okay. And we see throughout the Bible that women, like men, are critical to understanding the message of the Gospel. It’s up to us as Christians to lift up the voices of both women and men, as both have equally valuable things to offer to the church.

Lastly from a political perspective: the right to vote is a function of democracy, not theology, church, or religion. Democracy, by definition, is rule by the people. So in order to have democracy, the ability to vote cannot and should not exclude people because of their race, sex, or sexual orientation.

Here’s the deal: I love strong women. I love my mom and my girlfriend and my grandmothers, my girlfriend’s mom and grandmother, my teachers, professors, co-workers, and friends. Even as a man, I respect their authority and power where it is due, and when they give me power, I will do my best to use it responsibly and with humility.

Nicole Higgins is an adminitrative assistant at Sojourners. Nicole was born in Jamaica but grew up in the central Florida area, and later studied psychology at Mercer University in Georgia. Most recently, she completed her master's degree from Fuller Theological Seminary, studying urban work and international development. Follow Nicole on Twitter @RareBlackBirds.

James Colten is a campaigns assistant at Sojourners. Born and raised in Wheaton, Ill., James is a recent graduate of Hope College in Holland, Mich., where he studied political science and sociology.

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