The run-off Senate race in Georgia is going back in time to a sermon Democratic candidate Rev. Raphael Warnock gave in 2011, when he told congregants they can’t “serve God and the military.”
Warnock was delivering a sermon on Matthew 6:24, the New Testament passage in which Jesus said: “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.”
Though the military reference is at best odd, it appears Warnock was, within context, attempting to make a biblical case against idolatry.
“America, nobody can serve God and the military,” he said. “You can’t serve God and money. You cannot serve God and mammon at the same time. America, choose ye this day who you will serve. Choose ye this day.”
Since the comment resurfaced, Warnock has faced consistent criticism from his political adversaries.
His Republican opponent, incumbent Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), described Warnock’s comment as “disgraceful” and “disparaging” of the men and women in the U.S. military.
Military members have also rebuked Warnock for his words.
Retired Navy SEAL Eli Crane described the preacher’s message as “problematic” for “many of us who are veterans and also call ourselves Christians.”
“It’s also problematic when you compare it with the Word of God,” he said, adding God used people like Gideon, Joshua, David, and other warriors “to remove and wipe wickedness and evil from the earth.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) also condemned Warnock’s years-old message.
“These [and] even crazier things is what the radicals who control the Democratic Party’s activist [and] small dollar donor base believe,” he said.
Some, however, defended Warnock, arguing the preacher’s words — within the proper context — were not problematic.
Tyler Huckabee, an executive editor for Relevant magazine, said Warnock was simply preaching a sermon on the sinfulness of serving two masters.
What is Warnock saying?
The Democratic candidate responded Wednesday to the criticism.
In a statement, he called the attacks against his words “shameful” and “unfortunate.”
“What I was expressing was the fact that, as a person of faith, my ultimate allegiance is to God,” Warnock explained. “Therefore, whatever else that I may commit myself to has to be built on a spiritual foundation.”
“The folks in my congregation, many of whom are veterans, weren’t confused at all about the message that day,” he continued. “That when you commit yourself to something larger than yourself you become better at that — whether that is serving in the military or serving in the U.S. Senate.”