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GA-Sen B: The Atlantic, “Can the Religious Left Flip the Bible Belt?”

3 min read

Emma Green at The Atlantic has a great piece out profiling U.S. Senate candidate, Reverend Raphael Warnock (D. GA) and how Warnock being a major voice of the Religious Left can flip this Senate seat and win the Democrats a Senate Majority:

Warnock wants to help Democrats remake the country. The pastor is hoping his association with King and other civil-rights leaders will come in handy during his campaign for one of Georgia’s two United States Senate seats on the ballot in November. Polling experts consider Warnock’s race competitive, and if he wins, he could be the first Democratic senator elected from Georgia in two decades, and the first Black senator from Georgia ever. His pitch, modeled after his close ally Stacey Abrams’s 2018 gubernatorial bid, is based on math, motivation, and morality. Georgia’s voter base has transformed in recent years, with a surge in registrations among young people and racial minorities. Democrats are betting on high turnout, driven by anger about racist violence, outrage over Trump, and frustration with how the state has handled COVID-19. And Warnock’s supporters believe his identity as a progressive pastor and activist will help him win in Georgia, a state where three-quarters of the population attend religious services at least somewhat regularly.

Transforming a pastor into a politician can be complicated, however. On a Sunday afternoon a few weeks ago, I drove down to Georgia and met Warnock on the patio of a bougie cafe not far from his church. It had been more than a dozen weeks since he last preached for a crowd at a regular service in Ebenezer’s sanctuary. “It would be a shame if the pastor got used to not going to church on Sunday,” he told me, laughing. Even away from the pulpit, he sported the formal look of a stylish celebrity preacher: a well-pressed suit in 80-degree weather; rimless glasses that were one click short of “Silicon Valley executive.” Purple-striped socks peeked out from his trousers as he settled in for conversation, crossing his legs at the knee and sipping glass-bottled Coca-Cola from a Styrofoam cup. Before taking MLK’s former pulpit, Warnock had spent his life in the civil-rights leader’s shadow: His mentor, Lawrence Edward Carter Sr., is the chief steward of King’s legacy at Morehouse College, and the reverend who ordained Warnock served under King. As a favored son of Atlanta’s elite, who carefully cultivate the mythology around MLK, Warnock is adept at invoking King to make the most broadly appealing version of his pitch.“What we’re really talking about is a renaissance of the Kingian tradition, which is really bigger than the left or the right, and red and blue,” he said. “It’s a deep human-rights tradition that is … informed by Christian tradition, but is not limited to it.” A fundamental part of Warnock’s worldview, like King’s, is that the gospel should inform politics, and politics are essential to the work of the church.

But Warnock, like MLK, is more complex than ad-ready mantras. Progressive religious leaders such as Warnock have long hoped to see their vision of justice explicitly reflected in politics, looking back nostalgically on 19th-century abolitionism and the civil-rights movement as moments of cultural victory. In the years since King assembled a coalition of clergy to protest segregation, however, the left has failed to build a religion-based political machine that can truly oppose the religious right—movements such as Moral Mondays, the weekly protests at the North Carolina legislature led by the Reverend William Barber, are important, but do not match the might of their conservative counterparts. To some extent, this is because the Democratic Party is too religiously diverse and too secular to base its policy prescriptions primarily on religion. But it’s also because the Kingian tradition Warnock admires is radical and activist, calling for a massive overhaul of the economic, racial, and social structures that make American society so unequal. Most Americans in King’s time, and especially white Americans, were not ready to embrace such a vision.

Give the whole piece a read and when you’re done, lets help Warnock flip Georgia Blue. Click below to donate and get involved with Warnock, Ossoff, Biden and their fellow Georgia Democrats campaigns:

Joe Biden


Jon Ossoff

Raphael Warnock

Lucy McBath

Carolyn Bourdeaux

Georgia Democratic Party

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