When Pastor Jeremiah Wright became notorious across America for his “God damn America” sermon, then-presidential candidate Barack Obama had the good sense to distance himself from the firebrand pastor. Yet Raphael Warnock, now a candidate for U.S. Senate in the Georgia runoffs on January 5, defended Wright at the time. Warnock, senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church, even invited Wright to speak at his church in 2014.
A spokesman for Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), Warnock’s election rival, condemned the Democrat for hosting Wright.
“Not only did Raphael Warnock praise Jeremiah Wright’s ‘God Damn America’ sermon, he thought it was so great that he invited him to Ebenezer Baptist to deliver it,” Loeffler’s communications director, Stephen Lawson, told Fox News. “Does Georgia really want a U.S. senator who thinks God should damn America?”
Wright became infamous in 2008 for his association with Obama. That year, Wright’s remarks in a 2003 sermon resurfaced. Wright’s sermon “Confusing God and Government,” responded to the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
“Not God bless America; God damn America,” Wright said in the sermon. “That’s in the Bible, for killing innocent people. God damn America, for treating her citizens as less than human. God damn America as long as she tries to act like she is God and she is supreme.”
Wright went on to blame Jews for preventing him from talking with Obama in 2009.
Warnock has repeatedly defended Wright’s sermon. In 2008, Warnock praised the “social transformation that’s been the hallmark of Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s ministry” and suggested the sermon was an example of the “truth-telling tradition of the Black church.”
“I think the country has been done a disservice by this constant playing over and over again of the same soundbites outside of context,” Warnock said. He described Wright as a “preacher and a prophet.”
In a 2013 speech at Yale Divinity School, Warnock again praised the sermon as a “very fine homily.”
In March, Warnock again stood by his defense of Wright. “Any fair-thinking person would recognize that everything a government does, even the American government, is not consistent with God’s dream for the world,” Warnock said. “And preaching at its best points out those contradictions but then shows us the path forward.”
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.