God went down to Georgia: Dem Warnock brings religion into Senate runoff campaign against conservative Walker

Two days before Election Day, a Baptist pastor in Georgia celebrated the Lord’s Supper with his congregation on Sunday, Nov. 6 before urging them all to vote in the midterms — where he was on the ballot.

“It’s not only our civic responsibility, I believe it’s our sacred obligation. We’re using the voice that God has given us so that God’s values of love and justice might reign in the world,” said the lead pastor, Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock.

As the senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta and the incumbent Democrat in the Georgia Senate runoff, Warnock for months has worked religion into his campaign speeches and brought politics into his Sunday sermons as he faced off against Republican opponent Herschel Walker, an outspoken conservative Christian, in the midterm elections and the runoff election Tuesday, Dec. 6.

Mixing of politics and religion is expected on the conservative right, particularly in red-leaning “bible belt” of the southeast, but Warnock is a staunch Democrat, who has made his faith a major part of his campaign.

HERSCHEL WALKER SAYS GEORGIA’S RECORD SENATE RUNOFF VOTER TURNOUT ‘LOOKS GOOD FOR ME’

Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock offers a benediction to close the funeral service of the late Rep. John Lewis at Ebenezer Baptist Church on July 30, 2020 in Atlanta.
(Alyssa Pointer-Pool/Getty Images)

On the Christian conservative right, religious rhetoric is expected. Walker — who launched a Republican bid for Senate at the urging of former President Trump — embodies the common political trope of being on a mission from God.

At a mid-November rally, Walker said he was a “warrior for God” and promised to lead the state to the “promised land” if elected, the Gainesville Times reported. He speaks about being “washed in the blood of Jesus” following his well-documented mental health struggles.

In half a dozen sermons over the past several months reviewed by Fox News, Warnock has used his campaign to illustrate the spiritual life of the Christian, and thematically connecting his political fight to civil rights movement, abolition, the spread of the Gospel in the first century and the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt under Moses. 

During his Nov. 13 Sunday message, Warnock said he believes he was for Senate by the “unction of the spirit.” He condemned those who attacked the “church of Jesus Christ,” particularly Ebenezer, where the late Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. used to preach.

Supporters pray over U.S. Senate candidate and former football player Herschel Walker following a campaign rally in Rome, Georgia, Nov. 30, 2022. 

Supporters pray over U.S. Senate candidate and former football player Herschel Walker following a campaign rally in Rome, Georgia, Nov. 30, 2022. 
(REUTERS/Cheney Orr)

Ahead of the Nov. 8 midterm elections, reports surfaced that Ebenezer was involved in evicting tenants from a property the church owned for small unpaid fees, and the church came under scrutiny for providing Warnock a housing stipend during his time in the Senate.

‘SEC CHAMPION’: WARNOCK RALLIES AT WALKER’S ALMA MATER, TOUTS RECORD ON ABORTION

However, attacks on Ebenezer, Warnock said, were akin to attacking Christianity itself. In fact, Warnock argued the civil rights and social justice movement Ebenezer was a part of saved Christianity from itself.

“We converted the Christianity that was given to us… and saved not just Black people, but the whole religion, and America itself from its worst self,” Warnock said.

While politics on the right and left are charged with sacral imagery and rhetoric, it is far more common on the conservative Christian right. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has spoken about the Capitol being “sacred ground,” while the White House retorts that President Biden is a “devout Catholic” whenever asked about his departure from Roman Catholic teaching on abortion.

However, conservative Christians are often accused of blurring — or outright working against — the notion of a separation between church and state under the First Amendment, and Warnock is unlikely to face the same charge despite being the leader of a church while serving in the Senate as a Democrat. Warnock’s campaign did not respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment on this story.

There is a double standard, according to Timothy Head, executive director for the Faith & Freedom Coalition, a powerful nexus of Evangelical Christians engaged in conservative politics.

“The Democratic Party has become absolutely hostile to faith, especially Christian faith,” Head told Fox News Digital in an interview.

MIDTERMS RECONFIRM EVANGELICAL VOTERS’ CONNECTION TO GOP

However, Head, whose organization has rounded up volunteers to knock on millions of doors ahead of the November midterm elections and expects to contact over 350,000 voters in Georgia in support of Walker before Tuesday’s runoff, said Warnock’s combining of Christian faith with politics is a good thing.

“I actually defend Warnock’s infusion of faith in his own politics, because I find the bifurcation — the desire to bifurcate faith from any kind of political dialogue — basically impractical. The reality is that worldview is inextricably intertwined with people’s political positions and opinions,” Head said.

Republican U.S. Senate candidate and former football player Herschel Walker speaks during an event ahead of the runoff election against Senator Raphael Warnock in Warner Robins, Georgia, Dec. 2, 2022.

Republican U.S. Senate candidate and former football player Herschel Walker speaks during an event ahead of the runoff election against Senator Raphael Warnock in Warner Robins, Georgia, Dec. 2, 2022.
(REUTERS/Alyssa Pointer)

“I would emphatically not only defend his ability to do that, but celebrate his infusion of faith in politics,” Head added — though he also said the Democrat is “only accentuating a part of biblical scripture as he infuses that into his political opinions, and I would exhort him to include all of scripture, not just a few select passages.”

Nowhere is Warnock’s religion more at odds with other Christians of the political right than on the issue of abortion. He describes himself as a “pro-choice pastor” and defends “reproductive justice,” a position that is out of step with many Christians. 

PRO-CHOICE ACTIVISTS SEE ABORTION AS ‘WINNING ISSUE’ IN GA SENATE RUNOFF DESPITE PRO-LIFE GOV’S LANDSLIDE WIN

However, Head said the issue of abortion has more nuance than the national debate sometimes allows.

“Even a lot of people who identify as being pro-choice, it’s almost a reluctant, ambivalent pro-choice. There are some that celebrate it, but there are a lot in that choice community see it as the lesser of two evils in their own decision-making path,” Head said. 

Additionally, Walker’s own position on the issue of abortion — that he is staunchly pro-life — is at odds with accusations that he paid for a former girlfriend to have an abortion. Walker received major backlash after the abortion accusation, but claimed the reports were false.

The Georgia runoff will likely come down to who turns up to vote. Many conservative voters are skeptical of Walker due to the allegations about the abortion, as well as the frequent ad from Warnock’s side that focused on Walker’s threatening of his ex-wife. 

However, “the more people are around Herschel Walker and the more they hear him speak, the more comfortable they get,” Head told Fox.

Despite winning nearly 37,000 more votes than Walker in the Nov. 8 election, Warnock failed to clear the 50% threshold required under Georgia law, and the race goes to a runoff with Tuesday being the final day to cast a ballot.

Ahead of the Georgia runoff election Tuesday, Warnock delivered the Sunday sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where he said he would not presume to tell his congregants who to vote for (though he joked that they should vote for a candidate whose name begins with a “W”).

CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP

However, Warnock again tied voting to the divine mandate to spread the Christian gospel in the world.

“A vote is a way to pray, and to prophesy about God’s vision for the world,” he said.

Source link