LISTEN: Senator Reverend Warnock on The New Yorker Radio Hour: “My faith is not a weapon used to beat other people down, it’s a bridge that I use to try to build the beloved community”

Speaking with The New Yorker Radio Hour’s David Remnick, Senator Reverend Warnock discussed how he models his faith in the public square, how it informs his service in the U.S. Senate for all Georgians, and the role of religion in politics

Senator Reverend Warnock also shared his thoughts on the latest regarding voting rights, foreign affairs and more in the wide-ranging discussion

 Senator Reverend Warnock to The New Yorker Radio Hour: “What being a pastor has taught me is how to walk with people, even as I work for them”

***Listen to the episode HERE***

Washington, D.C. — In a new interview released Friday on National Public Radio’s The New Yorker Radio Hour, U.S. Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-GA) spoke with The New Yorker’s Editor-in-Chief David Remnick about his deep-rooted faith and life of service, and how it informs his policymaking in the Senate to benefit Georgians and Americans. During their conversation Senator Warnock also shared his thoughts on the role of religion in American politics, the 2024 election, and discussed his continued work to protect our democracy and access to the ballot box for all eligible Americans.  

Listen to the interview on the New Yorker Radio Hour websiteHERE on Spotify, and HERE on Apple Podcasts. 

Read key excerpts from Senator Reverend Warnock’s interview on The New Yorker Radio Hour below:

On religion and politics in America:

David Remnick (DR): “You are the child of pastors; you spent your life in the pulpit. When you decided to run for the Senate in 2020; you moved to the more earthly realm, the political realm. How are those two jobs the same or different? And what was that decision like for you?”

Senator Reverend Warnock (SRW): “My faith and my understanding of the gospel, and of the Hebrew prophets, and the ethic of Jesus has meant that my ministry has always been very much grounded in worldly affairs.

“You know, Jesus had an agenda, he said, he came to preach good news to the poor. He singled out the poor to open the eyes of the blind to set the captives free. And I have long tried to make that come alive in my ministry. That’s why back, you know, more than a decade ago, I was fighting for Medicaid expansion in our state. I preach every Sunday, in memory of one who spent much of his ministry healing the sick, even those with pre-existing conditions, that’s what Leprosy was, a preexisting condition. He healed them and he never billed them for his services.

“If you go back and listen to my sermons long before I even knew I’d be running for office, I was talking about the same things I’m talking about. In that sense for me my work in the Senate, while not pressing my particular faith tradition on anybody, I represent all the people of Georgia, regardless of their faith tradition, or if they claim no faith at all, but my work is an extension of my ministry.”

DR“But you must have thought at some level, that by shifting your emphasis, shifting your efforts from the pulpit – and I know you continue to preach – to a senator, that you could make a greater impact on human beings in Georgia and in the nation. Were you right or were you wrong?”

SRW“I’m the senior pastor of Ebenzer Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King Jr. served alongside his father. I come from a tradition where we believe that one’s faith ought to come alive in the public square.

“For me, these roles, pastor who was also senator, senator who returns every Sunday morning to preach in my pulpit; those roles aren’t in conflict, they are complementary. I think having been a pastor before, has made me a better senator. Because there are long stretches of time in this work in the Senate, in politics, where you don’t get to do exactly what you’d like to do, you’ve got a vision for how you want to help people, but change is very slow.

“And by the same token, serving every day in Washington in the Senate has given me a great deal of preaching material! If I never understood the Senate before, I understand it now. Human pride and arrogance, the obsession with power.”

DR“Right now, there’s a big movement of people in this country who said they want to live in a Christian nation with laws instituting Christian principles. […] What do you make of that?”

SRW“There were a number of Christians, a whole lot of Christians, who were pro-slavery. And there are a whole lot of Christians who were pro-segregation. There’s a recurring line by Martin Luther King, Jr. In his letter from the Birmingham jail, he says it a few times in his speeches, he says, ‘I am so disappointed in the American church.’ I’m paraphrasing here, I can’t channel the eloquence of Dr. King, but he said as I travel through the South, and I see its massive churches with its massive religious education buildings, and its spires pointing heavenward. I asked myself, what kind of people worship there? Who really is their God?

“That’s the question for this moment, who really is their God? Particularly, when we’ve been told by a lot of folks on the far right for years, that their focus is family values. When we’ve raised issues that we think also matter, that people like me think are also central to the Gospel, like how you treat the poor? They have narrowed the religious discussion to matters of private morality, one’s conduct around issues of human sexuality, marriage, and the like.

On voting rights:

DR“We recently talked with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, there was a lot of talk about, among Democrats, about voter suppression in Georgia, the photo ID laws for example, the photo ID laws for absentee voting. In reality, voter turnout for your 2022 races was much higher than a typical midterm election. So how would you explain that?”

SRW“Listen, the fact that our people showed up, doesn’t mean that voter suppression doesn’t exist in Georgia.

“Even at record voter turnout in Georgia and across our country, it’s not where it ought to be. We ought to be making voting easier and not harder. I don’t think the onus is on me to explain why it’s unnecessary to create barriers and make it harder for people to vote. The onus is on the Secretary of State, the onus is on the Georgia Legislature to explain why you would create a provision in the law so that any average citizen can literally challenge the electoral legitimacy of your neighbors and say, ‘this person is not legitimate’, and then they’ve got to go and respond to someone they don’t even know. I think there were like 100,000 such cases filed in one instance. And as it turns out, about 89,000 of those 100,000 cases came from sixth right-wing activists.”