This is an excerpt from the chapter entitled "Raphael Warnock"
Pastor Raphael Warnock
Most Americans know that run-off elections in Georgia will decide the balance of power in the Senate. It’s being billed as a battle between Democrats and Republicans. The two Democrats are Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff. The two Republicans are Senator David Perdue and Senator Kelly Loeffler.
When I started writing this chapter, I knew very little about the candidates except what I had seen in a portion of a debate between Jon Ossoff and Senator Perdue. I want to give you two introductions to Raphael Warnock. The first introduction will be the way that Republicans are introducing him. Then I will introduce him via his resume.
Here’s a sample of the Republican introduction/characterization of Raphael Warnock:
o Republicans, likewise, see Warnock as a threat as well as a ripe target, unleashing a torrent of attacks designed to tarnish his appeal and mobilize GOP voters
o Loeffler outlined the Republican playbook against Warnock, calling him ‘the most radical Democrat on the ballot this year’ and listing several associations that have been featured in a stream of GOP attack ads
o “He welcomed Fidel Castro to his church in the ’90s,” she said. “He called the Rev. Jeremiah Wright a prophet”
o In mentioning Wright, Loeffler was referring to Warnock’s 2008 defense of Obama’s former pastor
o Loeffler has also attacked Warnock over a 2002 arrest on obstruction charges by authorities investigating an abuse case at a summer camp run by his church. The charges were dropped, and police said Warnock was cooperative. He has said that the charge resulted from an overzealous investigator and that he had insisted only that teenage camp counselors have access to a lawyer
o Vice President Pence told a crowd in Canton that the pastor had “demeaned our military and repeatedly defended the anti-Semitic rhetoric of Reverend Jeremiah Wright" (Wootson, 2020)
Here’s a characterization of Raphael Warnock based on his resume:
o He was the 11th of 12 children. His parents were both preachers, though his father also hauled old cars to a local scrap yard for money
o Like King, he attended Morehouse College, an historically Black school in Atlanta. In 2005, at age 35, Warnock became the youngest senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church, the spiritual home of King, which has for decades been at the symbolic center of activism in Atlanta
o The fiery 51-year-old preacher who leads the legendary Atlanta church associated with King
o “He is the charismatic pastor of the most important Black church in Georgia — a church of enormous historical importance,” said former House speaker Newt Gingrich
o Warnock was also arrested on the steps of the Georgia Capitol in 2014, protesting the then-governor’s decision to not expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act
o Under Warnock, the church has continued to exist at the intersection of piety and racial justice. Lewis’s funeral was held there in July. And from the same pulpit, Warnock eulogized Rayshard Brooks — a Black man shot by police who encountered him sleeping in the drive-through lane of an Atlanta Wendy’s (Wootson, 2020)
I’d also like to introduce Pastor Raphael Warnock by way of his own words, taken from the eulogy he gave for Rayshard Brooks. You can view a clip of the eulogy at this link: https://rebrand.ly/Pastor-Warnock I have also included an excerpt of it below:
“Rayshard Brooks is the latest high-profile casualty in the struggle for justice and a battle for the soul of America. This is about him, but it is so much bigger than him. A couple weeks ago a reporter asked me, “Pastor, what was it like to stand in the pulpit of the Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King, Jr. stood and preach following the tragic and unnecessary killing of George Floyd?” I said, “Well, it’s sort of like it was that Sunday I stood preaching in a hoodie following the killing of Trayvonn Martin. Then Michael Brown and 12 year old Tamir Rice playing on a playground. Oscar Grant, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Laquan McDonald, Freddie Gray, Rekia Boyd, Natasha McKenna, Botham Jean, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery before George Floyd.
And while we were addressing the death of George Floyd, in no time flat, we found ourselves here again. I hear somebody say, “Reverend, they are not the same. George Floyd complied. Rayshard Brooks ran.” Yes, that’s true. And they are both dead. And therein is the problem. Black parents do not really know what to tell their children in order to keep them alive. And that’s a problem! Not just a black problem although it’s happening to black people. That’s an American problem! Dr. King said, “We are tied in a single garment of destiny.”
Make no mistake. I think you should obey the law (unless it is an unjust law) and respect authority. But if your skin is the weapon and your complexion is the crime, what do you do to stay alive? Comply like George Floyd? Or run like Rayshard Brooks? I’m asking for myself and my nephews and my nieces and my children!
This country has become too accustomed and comfortable with black people dying. Black Lives Matter is just a way of saying see our humanity. We’re trying to stay alive and keep our families alive. That’s why we asked you to wear masks today inside the church and outside the church. That’s why we are socially distanced and had the choir to sing virtually rather than stand in the loft. We’re trying to stay alive. Don’t play with this virus. If Black Lives Matter, then we must do all we can to fight for our lives, fight this virus: COVID-19.
But we had to come together because there’s another virus in the land. And, it’s killing people. There’s COVID-19 and then there’s COVID-1619. They are both deadly. And in this land, we’ve been trying to beat back this virus since 1619 when about 20 slaves or so arrived in Jamestown, Virginia. Mass incarceration is the latest mutation of an old virus called racism.
And that’s not just a social issue or a political issue. That’s a moral issue. That’s a spiritual problem. “Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord: Let my people go, so that they may worship me.” (Exodus 8:1) Liberate them so that they may live lives of human flourishing, promise and possibility to the glory of God. They don’t belong to you! They don’t belong to private prison corporations. Thus says the Lord, “Let my people go!”
That’s why I’m grateful for this great coalition of conscience, pouring out into our streets in nonviolent protest. Let’s keep marching! Matter of fact, I’m here to announce another march. Please don’t miss it. It’s happening November 3, 2020 at a voting booth near you! March to the voting booth!” (NBC News, 2020)
I have never met Ralphael Warnock and had never heard him speak before listening to the eulogy he gave for Rayshard Brooks. The disparity between who the Republicans portrayed him to be and who he actually appeared to be was so compelling that I had to add a chapter to this book. It’s not just about the Republican Party’s characterization of a Democratic opponent as a “member of the radical left.” That’s been a consistent tactic from President Trump’s campaign on down.
What made Pastor Warnock’s story so compelling was two-fold. First, the irony that the party of the ‘religious right’ would “mobilize the GOP” and run “attack” ads on a Christian pastor. The second most compelling aspect was Pastor Warnock’s historical tie to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the fact that he presides over Dr. King’s church.
It is telling that in 2020 a born-again Christian pastor who opposes racism finds himself in opposition to the Republican party, which enjoys the staunch support of mostly white evangelical Christians. It is also telling, but not surprising, because I have heard both President Trump and Vice President Pence say that “systemic racism does not exist.”
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