Marjorie Taylor Greene, having, in my imagination, matriculated at the All-American Nationalist Theological Institute in Dalton, Ga., has set up shop in the halls of Congress to make declarations about people being Christian or not being Christian.
Greene, no shrinking violet, spreads her divine gift promiscuously. Her latest pronouncement is that Raphael Warnock is not a Christian.
Greene questioned the Christian faith of Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) during a podcast conversation with Charlie Kirk. She said, “We’re going to defeat Raphael Warnock, who calls himself a Christian.”
Let’s roll this incredulous piece of accusation around in our heads for a few moments. Warnock grew up in public housing as the 11th of 12 children born to Verlene and Jonathan Warnock, both Pentecostal pastors. He accepted Jesus as his Savior, was baptized and then called to preach. He wanted to follow in the footsteps of Martin Luther King Jr. He graduated from Morehouse College cum laude in 1991. He received his master of divinity, master of philosophy and doctor of philosophy degrees from Union Seminary. He was a youth pastor and assistant pastor at Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York City. He was then called to be senior pastor at Douglas Memorial Community Church in Baltimore. In 2005, Warnock became senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, the former church of King. Warnock still serves in that position while serving as a U.S. senator.
I have worshiped at Ebenezer and listened to Warnock preach. I have watched his sermons on the web. I never have heard him preach any gospel other than the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“Preachers who live on the progressive side of Christian Boulevard are often questioned about their beliefs and sermons.”
Preachers who live on the progressive side of Christian Boulevard are often questioned about their beliefs and sermons. People will say, “You may be a Baptist, but you are not my kind of Baptist.” Or they will say, “What kind of preacher are you?” But most of the time, people refrain from saying a pastor is not a Christian.
Fred Phelps, the infamous gay-hating preacher from Topeka, Kan., was fond of declaring that preachers he detested were in hell after they died. Phelps did a short video in which he said, “Jerry Falwell is in hell tonight.” But even hard-core evangelicals distance themselves from Phelps and his little band of anti-gay protesters. “At least we are not haters like Fred Phelps,” is a go-to argument for less virulent anti-gay preachers.
I emailed Rep. Greene’s headquarters and told her I was glad she had such a strong interest in whether or not people were Christians. I wondered if she thought Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis or Josh Hawley were Christians. And how about Gen. Michael Flynn? Then I asked if she had a list of criteria she used to help her make the final determination about whether or not a person was a Christian. I have received no reply from Greene’s office.
In her attack on Warnock, she said the senator “calls himself a Christian, calls himself a pastor, but preaches abortion from the pulpit.” There’s no evidence that he “preaches abortion from the pulpit,” but a majority of Americans who identify as Christian are pro-choice Christians.
“Abortion is not a criterion for determining if a person is a Christian.”
Abortion is not a criterion for determining if a person is a Christian. There are, of course, arguments about how one becomes a Christian. The Catholics and Protestants turned the question into centuries of hatred, misinformation and violence. Churches have long disagreed over the role of baptism in faith, the nature of the sacraments and the instruction necessary to become a Christian. The Catholics practice infant baptism; the Baptists espouse believer’s baptism by immersion.
Yet none of the theological debates about the meaning of Christianity are involved in the current business of judging who is and who is not a Christian. Rep. Greene says Sen. Warnock is not a Christian because he is “pro-choice.” Any biblical literalist would admit there’s nothing about abortion in the New Testament and being Christian.
St. Peter, on the day of Pentecost, laid out the basic requirement for being Christian: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” St. Paul put it like this: “If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.”
Fred Craddock, talking one day about the process of becoming a Christian at his church, said, “People who come to join this church are not asked a lot of questions. We do not ask about gender or race or background and family connections. But we insist on asking one question: ‘Do you believe in the God who is revealed in Jesus?’”
In the Episcopal Church, a candidate for baptism is asked several questions, but one in particular stands out: “Do you turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as your Savior?” Candidates for baptism in the Episcopal and United Methodist Churches are asked to renounce sin and profess faith in Jesus. The question in the UMC: “Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior, put your whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as your Lord, in union with the Church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations and races?”
If Marjorie Taylor Greene and her fellow Christian nationalists had an examination for persons wishing to become Christians and be baptized into the faith, what questions would be asked?
Based on Greene’s own public statements, the first question would have to be, “On behalf of the whole church, I ask you: Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject murder of babies in the womb and renounce abortion?”
Other questions would surely follow:
- Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to renounce all manner of evil committed by liberals, socialists and feminists?
- Do you swear your allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and will you be a committed patriot promising to maintain our freedom all the days of your life, up to and including death?
- Do you proclaim your commitment to voting for those who will rule America in accordance with the laws of God found in the book of Leviticus?
- Do you promise to do all in your power to destroy the wall of separation between church and state?
- Do you swear that the United States of America was founded by born-again Christians and is God’s chosen vessel for the evangelization of the world?
- Will you pray every day that our holy rulers will be covered by the blood of Jesus? Will you support them so that they can’t be taken out by evil forces?
- Will you give your loyal support to the marriage of the civil and the sacred?
Raise your right hand and repeat after me, “As a Patriot of faith, I attest my allegiance first and foremost to the kingdom of God and the Great Commission. Second, I agree to be a watchman over our nation concerning its people and their rights to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Marjorie Greene Taylor needs remedial instruction in what it means to be a Christian. I am not doubting her sincerity or her Christianity. I am questioning her credentials, her judgment, and, yes, probably her right to dismiss the faith of Sen. Warnock.
Rodney W. Kennedy is a pastor in New York state and serves as a preaching instructor at Palmer Theological Seminary. He is the author of nine books, including the newly released The Immaculate Mistake, about how evangelical Christians gave birth to Donald Trump.
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