By Julianne Malveaux
The right Reverend Raphael Warnock, the senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church, Dr. Martin Luther King’s church, is running for the United States Senate from Georgia. Warnock is a man of God, a humble man, with one of these both booming and melodious voices that pull us up from our feet and inspire choruses of “Amen,” “Tell it, brother,” and “No, you didn’t.” Some of them will stand up and wave their handkerchiefs. Others may sit quietly to take in his words.
Warnock, who weaves his biblical reflections with a message of social justice, preaches in the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Warnock also reminds me of Rev. William Barber, Rev. Freddy Haynes, and my own pastor, Rev. William Lamar of Metropolitan AME Church in DC. These men don’t think the Bible is a book we should put on a shelf and cherry-pick. Instead, they claim the Bible as a guide to Christian living and Christian obligation.
Warnock and Jon Osoff are Democrats running in Georgia’s runoff election, and both are in tight races. The rhetoric that has bandied about is laden with untruths. These two races are so important that the candidates are expected spend $150 million on them. Why? Because the current Senate composition is 50 Republicans and 48 Democrats. If both Warnock and Osoff win their races, Democrats will control the Senate, with VP-elect Harris as the tie-breaker.
Kelly Loffler, a multimillionaire Barbie look-alike who uses her hair as punctuation, seems to have had her Republican operatives comb through several of Warnock’s sermons. Without evidence, she describes him as anti-police; anti-Israel; anti-Semitic (it is possible to be critical of Israel without being anti-Semitic); anti-jobs (what Black pastor do you know who is anti-jobs); pro socialized medicine; pro-communist. These words come directly from one of Loffler’s ads, most of which are out of context and amount to only incendiary lies.
Indeed, her condemnations illustrate how out of step she is with many of the African Americans she hopes to represent and her insular reality and cultural disconnect. She partly owns Atlanta’s Women’s National Basketball Association team but has been openly critical when the players on that team wear Black Lives Matter t-shirts. She has said she thinks the Black Lives Matter movement has Marxist roots. I don’t believe Loeffler knows a Marxist from a telephone pole.
Republicans bandy about terms they believe will alienate voters. To let them tell it, President-elect Joe Biden is a “socialist” (not), Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris is a “far-left liberal,” and Rev. Raphael is “pro-communist.” Joe Biden is about as moderate as they come. He has not yet said that he supports “Medicare for All,” but he supports protections for those with pre-existing conditions, just like 70 percent of all Americans do.
VP-elect Harris has been so frequently mischaracterized that refuting baseless claims is futile. Here is what we know – she is a savvy attorney who has increasing responsibility in the Democratic Party. She brings enthusiasm and energy (not to mention diversity) to the ticket. The attempts to disparage her are at best mean-spirited and anti-black (attack her on the issues, don’t call her a “monster”).
Warnock has described Loeffler’s attacks on him as “division and distraction.” I might add “delusional” to the alliteration. Extracting a passage from a sermon in which Warnock reminded us that God comes first, Loeffler attempted to spin his sermon into an attack on the military. The Bible verse Warnock was quoting, Matthew 6:24, remind us that God comes first and should gain our allegiance above money or the military. This is basic Christian doctrine. Many of us believe in the omnipotence of God. Warnock did not attack the military; he asserted that our primary obligation is to God.
But words like “socialist” and “left-wing radical” are inflammatory terms, even if those who use them don’t know quite what they mean. If feeding the hungry is socialist, then so was Jesus. If clothing the naked is socialist, so is our Lord. If healing the ill is a socialist initiative, then, of course, Warnock seems like a socialist to the woman who is worth at least $520 million and has all the health care she can afford. Warnock advocates for expanding the Affordable Care Act, a move anathema to conservatives who want to maximize the profit they can extract from sick people.
Warnock, like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is a Morehouse man. There is an adage – you can always tell a Morehouse man, but you can’t tell him much. Warnock would like us to tell him that we have his back in a pivotal race that may determine how effective President-elect Biden can be. Ignore the racist rhetoric and check out this powerful preacher and civic leader.
Dr. Julianne Malveaux is an economist, author and President, Economic Education.