Back in pulpit after historic election, Warnock condemns Capitol violence

Credit: Ebenezer Baptist livestream

Credit: Ebenezer Baptist livestream

U.S. Sen.-elect Raphael Warnock returned to his famed pulpit Sunday, trying to reconcile his historic election last week with a mob’s violent assault on the U.S. Capitol one day later.

Warnock, senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, was one of the spiritual leaders across metro Atlanta who spoke Sunday about a bitter election season that culminated in victory and violence.

Warnock became the first Black candidate elected to the Senate from Georgia and only the 11th in U.S. history. At the same time, in Tuesday’s runoff election for the state’s other Senate seat, Jon Ossoff was chosen as Georgia’s first Jewish senator. Together, Warnock and Ossoff gave Democrats control of the Senate.

“Whoever would have thought that, in Georgia, we would see the people rise up and send an African American man who grew up in public housing … and a Jewish young man, the son of an immigrant, to the United States Senate?” Warnock said during a livestreamed sermon. The victories, he said, symbolized “the arc being bent a little closer to justice in the world.”

“Then, as we were basking in the glory of all that represented, it seemed like we could only have a few hours to celebrate,” Warnock said. “The ugly side of our story — our great and grand American story — began to emerge as the crude, the angry, the disrespectful and the violent broke their way into the people’s house, some carrying Confederate flags, signs and symbols of an old world order passing away.”

Supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol on Wednesday after he used a rally near the White House to urge them to stop Congress from certifying the election of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. Congressional Democrats are preparing articles of impeachment, charging Trump with “incitement to insurrection.”

ExploreTrump-supporting Christian leaders and their Sunday messages

Warnock referred to Trump only as “the current occupant of the White House.” Other pastors on Sunday more directly criticized Trump’s role in the Capitol assault, which left five people, including a police officer, dead.

In his livestreamed sermon, the Rev. Jamal Bryant, senior pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in DeKalb County, said Trump knew he could not win reelection, “so they employed evangelicals to use the power of religious manipulation. He triggered white supremacists to use the power of intimidation. He rallied local principalities to invoke the power of suppression. He galvanized the entire party to use the power of collusion. He hypnotized the conservative media with the power of saturated marketing.”

“And still, none of this worked,” Bryant said. “With all of that power, Joseph Biden and Kamala Harris will still be sworn in on January 20th.”

Credit: New Birth Missionary Baptist livestream

Credit: New Birth Missionary Baptist livestream

The Rev. Andy Stanley of Alpharetta-based North Point Ministries urged leaders, as well as his congregants, to put their faith ahead of their politics.

“The ‘Christians’ who stormed the U.S. Capitol building clearly failed to do that,” Stanley said. “And the pastors and Christian leaders who’ve joined with politicians on either side in the demonization of people on the other side or other party, regardless of which party they’re demonizing, they have failed that test as well.”

At Ebenezer, Warnock invoked the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who once stood in the same pulpit, as he called for an end to violence and hatred. The coronavirus pandemic, Warnock said, has shown the need for unity against a common enemy.

ExploreWarnock wants to keep preaching on Sundays; can he?

“We are all we’ve got,” he said. “We have to resist the language of violence and fear and bigotry.”

“Do we want to be a more hateful, divided nation, or do we want to build the ‘beloved community’?” Warnock said, referring to King’s vision of a society free of racism and poverty. “I vote for the beloved community.”

Staff writers Shelia Poole and Ron Sirmans contributed to this report.