Welcome to the world of political warfare, Rev. Raphael Warnock, pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta and Democratic candidate for United States Senate. You are now experiencing mudslinging first-hand, the close-in kind of knife-fighting that characterizes political discourse these days. Not that you haven’t dealt with skullduggery heretofore; we church people — in our own arena — have been known to turn the knife while softly saying, “Bless his heart.”
People of the Book are not only warned to identify wolves in sheep’s clothing; if we’re honest, we must confess we have been those wolves ourselves. In these early weeks of Advent, I can’t help but hear John the Baptist demanding I repent of my own sin.
And so — because Rev. Warnock is the pastor of a church who is running for political office — his sermons and associations and lessons are fair game for examination, as long as they are presented fairly. It is the unethical nature of many of these attack ads I decry.
The calumny Warnock is now experiencing cannot have come as a complete surprise. Every pastor has had plenty of people mis-hear sermons, Sunday School lessons, even prayers, although mostly this comes because people are only half-listening or the preacher is communicating poorly.
The current attack ads, however, do not arise from innocent mistakes. They are willful twisting of another person’s words or intent. A multimillion-dollar onslaught of deceptive, grievous ads is portraying this clergyman as an anti-American monster. Have those 30-second spots been crafted by professing, faithful followers of the Prince of Peace who have stepped outside their own Christian call to do their dirty work? I wonder how a person can take such work.
This smear tactic is well-known in the political arena and employed with equal vengeance by Democrats and Republicans. In this case, Republicans have combed through Warnock’s sermons, career, associations, and ministry, taking a snippet here and 4-6 words there to create an unrecognizable, detestable, unstable person.
Warnock, like most pastors, has prayerfully, carefully constructed 30- to 60-minute sermons or lessons as befitting the leader of one of our state’s most esteemed congregations. His opponents, by contrast, have from a sermon’s womb ripped a few living words, aborting the complexity behind those remarks, the same people who abhor such murder in other circumstances.
Is it too much to hope for honesty in our political discourse, or must we continue to worship at the altar of the Author of Lies and Prince of Deceit? I’m steeling myself for the next wave of attack ads about Warnock featuring disgruntled former church members (every pastor has them) equating him with the antichrist.
Georgia voters can have valid reasons to vote for either candidate in this race, and Sen. Kelly Loeffler also has been the target of attack ads that smear and trade in innuendo. No candidate should have to defend against lying defamation. I hope voters will recognize hypocrisy when and where they see it and vote accordingly.