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An Open Letter to Raphael Warnock

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Dear Mr. Warnock,

I truly wish I did not need to write this letter, but the faith in Jesus as Risen Lord that was given to me leaves me no other alternative.  I take as my Scriptural inspiration for this letter 1Tim 5:20, as unpleasant as that task may be. The recent Martin Luther King Holiday got me to reflecting on the legacy of Reverend King.  Most important to that legacy was Reverend King’s complete commitment to total nonviolence, as befitting a follower of Jesus. 

Reverend King demanded that the Civil Rights movement that he led be one based upon nonviolence and peaceful protest and peaceful noncooperation with a racist power structure.  He was just as adamant, at the end of his life, in his opposition to the US war in Vietnam.  Reverend King stood publicly and openly in defiance of an act of violence against an innocent people that represented a complete repudiation to all that God, and His Son would wish for His children.  Reverend King’s stance against a war perpetuated by the most powerful government on the planet stands as a remarkable and uplifting act of Christian witness that should still give all the faithful hope and strength.

That incredible witness stands in stark contrast to your unwavering support for the US war machine, both globally (by your support for the military budget) and specifically for your unstinting support for the US proxy war in Ukraine.  All this support can be seen in your statement of support for the war as well as the votes you made to continue US funding and management for this war.

I will not waste time pointing out the egregious human rights abuses perpetuated by both sides in this (and every) conflict.  Reverend King knew to not be fooled by the sophistry of the apologists of war.  I will also, in advance, reject any response that support for an end to hostilities means a support of Putin.  It does not any more than the demand by Martin Luther King Jr. for an end to the Vietnam war meant support for Ho Chi Ming. 

Instead I will point you to the reality that Reverend King knew so well; that the only acceptable response for the Christian conscience is to demand an end to each and every war.  To that end it is incumbent upon all Christians to demand an immediate ceasefire and a negotiated settlement of all outstanding issues in Ukraine.  This is not a perfect solution, there is no perfection to be found this side of eternity.  This will however result in the ending of the slaughter of innocents and reduce the risk of a nuclear exchange, which threatens all of Creation that God has given us in stewardship. 

In your role as both an agent of the US war machine, and as “Pastor” of Ebenezer Baptist Church you have conflated the message of our Lord and Savior with that of the values of this world.  You have shamefully covered the altar of the Lord with the blood of the innocents, preached a message of hate, death and violence, which contains no Good News and zero Grace.  In so doing you have turned your back on the Cross and completely stepped out of its shadow. 

I recognize that many so-called Christians have taken a stand in defense of the US proxy war in Ukraine.  I disagree with them as much as with you, and am willing to tell them so directly.  I am specifically calling you out, as I said, because of reflection brought on by the MLK Holiday, and your position as occupying the same pulpit he did, in addition to your role as an agent of the US war machine.  As for those other pastors, it should give you and your congregation pause when you find yourself taking the same warlike stance as the extreme fundamentalist right wing of the Christian movement.

That you have steadfastly shirked leading your congregation (and the broader Christian community) in waging peace in the name of the Prince of Peace, I must now ask you to make a choice.  Either you cease being an agent of a warmongering government or vacate the pulpit that you are presently disgracing.  If you are unwilling to make such a choice, then I implore the leadership of Ebenezer Baptist Church to remove you from this position of leadership, and seek someone who embodies the values of the Lord we have all pledged to serve.

I am not naïve.  I doubt you, or the leadership of your church will take any such action.  I write this as a part of what God calls me to do to further His message of hope and peace to His people.  I do, however, hold you and the congregation at Ebenezer Baptist in my prayers.  My deepest prayer is that God will soften your heart and turn you once again toward the Cross of His Son.  I pray that you will again join all of His followers in responding to God’s gifts of Grace upon Grace by proclaiming the love and peace that Jesus the Christ wants for all His children.

May God’s peace be with you.

Tom Cleary

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