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Rev. Raphael Warnock – progressive Christians' own Donald Trump

Tearful claims of marital misconduct.
Gaslighting voters by casting doubt on the results of a free and fair election.
A cadre of unscrupulous pals.
Distorting scripture to support partisan political aims.

No, I’m not talking about President Donald Trump, though the description certainly fits, but rather Georgia Democrats’ nominee for U.S. Senate, Rev. Raphael Warnock.

Courtesy of Jonathan Frank
Courtesy of Jonathan Frank

The Atlanta minister may offer progressive believers in the Peach State their very own Donald Trump. Like most of their evangelical kin in the last two presidential elections, this cohort of voters appears willing to look past their chosen candidate’s character in order to advance the policies he promises to help secure.

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Trump had abhorrent hush money payments to an adult film star, Warnock has police footage of his then-wife and mother of his two children – until recently a top aide for the Atlanta mayor – calling the Senate candidate “a great actor” and warning that she “'tried to keep the way that he acts under wraps for a long time.” The police footage of Warnock’s altercation with his wife comes after the Senate candidate was separately arrested in 2002 for obstructing a child abuse investigation. The charges were later dropped.

Irony is dead for the shameless contingency of progressive voters who adopted a “believe women” mantra for the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh only to drop it when it threatened their political goals.  

Trump insists, in defiance of reality, that he won the November 3rd presidential election, while Warnock supports former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams’ refusal to concede in her 2018 race. Warnock also gave his seal of approval to Abrams by leading her nonprofit, the New Georgia Project, until January of 2020 – long after Abrams’ lobbed her sour grapes claims of a faulty election. The organization is now under a state investigation.

Trump has surrounded himself with a cast of characters that includes Steve Bannon, Paul Manafort, and Roger Stone. Warnock’s connections include the anti-Semetic Rev. Jeremiah Wright, whom he has hosted as a guest speaker at his church and whose now infamous “G-d d-mn America” sermon he called “Christian preaching at its best.” Warnock also served as youth pastor at a church that hosted the brutal Cuban dictator Fidel Castro as a speaker. When Castro died, Warnock reflected on his reign – during which the country was listed as a state sponsor of terrorism – saying, “His legacy is complex, kind of like America’s legacy is complex.”

And, of course, Trump bungled an attempt to quote “two Corinthians” while campaigning for the votes of students at Liberty University with nationalistic promises to “protect Christianity.” Warnock, for his part, has used the cover of faith to malign Israel as akin to “apartheid South Africa” and peddles a distorted gospel as a “pro-choice pastor”; masking the violence of abortion – which disproportionately targets Black women and their preborn children – as “reproductive justice.”

If character mattered then (it did), it matters today.

If we call out Republican members of Congress who provide safe quarters for President Trump’s election conspiracies (we should), we must likewise have no patience for Democrats who aid and abet this same behavior.

And if Trump’s refusal to heed scripture’s call to “show hospitality to strangers” or a host of other commands merits admonishment from people of faith (it does), so too does Warnock’s skirting of the Good Book’s affirmation of preborn children’s humanity and worth.

We will not end the transactional, self-serving ways of politics within the church that flourished under President Trump if no one is willing to jump first and if the tests we apply to our candidates are not applied consistently, irrespective of what policy “wins” a given contender might throw our way.

That evangelicals failed this test by nominating, electing, and reflexively supporting Donald Trump does not mean their more progressively inclined siblings in the faith need to repeat the same mistakes by granting a free pass to Warnock today. Voting often involves weighing complicated decisions but holding political candidates to a uniformly high standard and asking Warnock to answer for his record should not.

Jonathan Frank is a freelance opinion writer residing in Washington, D.C. His writings have been published in National Review, The Washington Examiner, RELEVANT Magazine, Spectator USA, The Federalist, The Tennessean, and others.

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