Redefining America: The Dream of Warnock and Ossoff

Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff on a campaign stop.

From now until January 5th, political commentators will focus on the US Senate election in Georgia and its implications on which party will ultimately control power in Washington, DC for the next two years.

However, the Georgia Senate election is a far deeper test of how far we’ve come as a nation since the Civil Rights era of the 1960s, and how far we’ve yet to go. Not since the elections of 1860 and 1968 has an election been so seminal, so predestined to the fulcrum of history.

In Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock, a native son of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church and a spiritual descendant of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Jon Ossoff, a young, energetic Jewish filmmaker, we have the very representation of what White nationalists have feared since their defeats in the 1960s.

The successes of the Civil Rights Movement created a terrible problem for White supremacist ideology. Following the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, White supremacists couldn’t conceive of a reality in which they’d been defeated by a Black-led movement, a movement of the “intellectually inferior”. So began the modern invention of the false, but heavily perpetuated narrative coupling anti-Semitism with anti-Blackness. As Eric Ward aptly points out, anti-Semitism now forms the theoretical core of White nationalism. It asserts that Jewish leaders (many of whom, they claim, control the mainstream media), have been recruiting people of color and immigrants to ascertain power and ultimately replace white men as the leaders of American society.

Like America, Georgia has become more diverse over the past few decades. Quickened demographic and economic changes have inspired many to a new moral imagination, but others feel forgotten or left behind. Amidst this change, white nationalists have found both new scapegoats for and new converts to their narrative and are poised to weaponize it in political discourse. As the research group Data and Society points out, the fictitious narrative is dangerously echoed through a sophisticated network of online “news” and digital influencers.

Accordingly, the ideology of White supremacy asserts that the election of people like Barack Obama, Kamala Harris, and the nominations of Warnock and Ossoff, are an illustration of just how far we’ve strayed from a Christian, male, land-owning social order. However, for those who believe in the American experiment that centers democratic pluralism, Obama, Harris, Warnock, and Ossoff are an illustration of a positive future. In this way, America isn’t simply divided, it has fundamentally divergent storylines involving the same characters. In Georgia, we see them all.

This economical, political, theological, and social narrative of the “American way,” was evident in Lee Atwater’s revised “Southern Strategy”, Jerry Falwell’s “Moral Majority”, Milton Friedman’s “Monetarism”, Ronald Reagan’s “War on Drugs”, Donald Trump’s “Birtherism”, and some of the media’s fixation with Barack Obama’s biracial identity (that is, until he became the “first Black president”). Furthermore, the results of this cultural narrative, are evident in acts of domestic terrorism like bombings, lynchings, and mass shootings in synagogues that support refugee agencies like the Hebrew Immigration Aid Society (HAIS) and prophetic Black churches like Charleston’s Mother Emanuel AME Church.

In this pivotal moment of the Georgia election, these historic and present realities of racial hostility, particularly against Black and Brown people, are on full display in the attacks by Loeffler (and her allies) against Rev. Dr. Warnock’s faith. Television ads, billboards, and social media postings are indicative of a deeply rooted cultural narrative that exists “in plain sight”, but often “hidden”, or rather ignored, during daily events like dinner, family conversations, and election cycles.

The dog-whistle, a signal to those well-trained by the “hidden” narrative, serves to remind all people that Rev. Dr. Warnock is Black. And that “their Christianity”, a Christianity rooted in Dr. King’s understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and freedom, is not “our Christianity”, a Christianity conceived in the theological embrace of slavery that gave rise to traditions like the Southern Baptist Convention. When Loeffler intimates that Warnock’s faith is “anti-American,” she is whistling to those who believe in White Christian Nationalism.

In April 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. addressed this reality in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail to White clergy, in Birmingham, Alabama, who called his activities (i.e., nonviolent direct action to racism) “unwise and untimely.” He wrote, in part,

“When I was suddenly catapulted into the leadership of the bus protest in Montgomery, Alabama, a few years ago, I felt we would be supported by the white church. I felt that the white ministers, priests and rabbis of the South would be among our strongest allies. Instead, some have been outright opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement and mis-representing its leaders; all too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained-glass windows…”

Some, through acts of courage, are speaking publicly against hardened attacks on the faith of Rev. Dr. Warnock and Jon Ossoff. In fact, nearly 800 faith leaders in Georgia and across the country have signed on to our letter endorsing Warnock and Ossoff in this historic race. Regrettably, however, various forms of American theology continue to deter individuals/communities from participating in the socio-political struggle for justice and equality.

This senatorial race forces to the surface a reckoning that no longer allows politicians to cheaply honor the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. without critically confronting the reality of their opposition to everything he lived, fought and died for. Loeffler attempted to do so by attending Ebenezer Baptist Church on MLK Day in January heaping praises on Rev. Dr. Warnock, only to now attack his faith.

From now until January 5th, this question makes Georgia center stage. And the narrative about how we ultimately define what it means to be an American will be on the ballot. Even if the conclusive vote tally doesn’t symbolize a political reckoning, it will inevitably be revealing. We’ll learn just how far we still have to go in our quest to achieve e pluribus unum…for all.

Is it possible for a pastor of the theological and professional pedigree of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and a young Jewish filmmaker, both of whom center their campaigns on unity, justice, and healing, to mount a historic upset against two wealthy politicians with deeply rooted familial names in one of the first four states to secede from the union? As a now-famous one-term President often proclaims, “we’ll see.”

Rev. Ryan Eller

Rev. Ryan M. Eller is the co-founder and Executive Director of New Moral Majority. A veteran organizer, he has led some of the nation’s most prominent organizations for narrative change.

Rev. Dr. Oliver Thomas

Rev. Dr. Oliver M. Thomas is a founding member of New Moral Majority, an associate pastor at Providence Baptist Church of Greensboro, and an adjunct instructor in the Department of History and Political Science at North Carolina A&T State University.



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New Moral Majority

We practice loving our neighbors by respecting human dignity and fighting for the common good. You can learn more at