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Warnock, Sewell talk about ‘sacred’ voting rights — and whether or not God is Black

WASHINGTON (RNS) — U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock and U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, each Democrats and one an ordained minister, made the non secular case for shielding and increasing voting rights on Thursday (Nov. 18), championing the “sacred” proper to vote in a wide-ranging dialogue that additionally touched on whether or not God is Black.

The 2 lawmakers appeared at “Race, Faith and the Assault on Voting Rights,” the inaugural occasion at Georgetown College’s Middle on Religion and Justice, headed by the Rev. Jim Wallis, founding father of the liberal-leaning Christian group Sojourners.

“Voting rights should even be named as a religion concern — even a check of religion,” Wallis instructed the group.

Warnock expressed an identical sentiment all through the session, at one level describing the act of voting as “a type of prayer for the world we need, for ourselves and our kids.”

The Georgia senator’s views on voting, he mentioned, are linked to his beliefs surrounding salvation, which he sees as a “broadening of communal house.”

“I consider (voting) is sacred, as a result of at root the vote is about your voice, and your voice is about your human dignity,” he mentioned, including that voting is a “covenant that we now have with each other as American folks.”

RELATED: From the filibuster to DC statehood, clergy rally around a growing voting rights agenda

However he warned that the bevy of state-level voting payments backed by Republicans represent an existential menace to the correct to vote and, in the end, American democracy itself. It’s a place echoed by religion teams — many led by Black pastors — which have staged massive protests or threatened boycotts towards the legal guidelines handed all through 2021.

The Rev. Jim Wallis addresses the Middle on Religion and Justice launch occasion at Georgetown College, Nov. 17, 2021, in Washington. Picture by Phil Humnicky/Georgetown College

The demonstrators — including Warnock — have expressed explicit opposition to provisions corresponding to requiring voter ID, shortening voting hours, banning common residents from handing out meals and water to folks ready in line to vote and permitting extra partisan oversight on the voting process.

“As an alternative of individuals selecting their politicians, politicians are attempting to choose their folks,” Warnock mentioned.

As a treatment, the senator pointed to the Freedom to Vote Act, which might institute broad protections for voting rights. He referred to it as a “compromise invoice” developed after one other, extra wide-ranging invoice — the For the Folks Act — did not safe assist from social gathering moderates corresponding to West Virginia’s Sen. Joe Manchin.

Warnock voiced frustration with Republicans who proceed to dam the brand new invoice’s passage by utilizing the filibuster, a Senate rule that requires a 60-vote supermajority to cross many main items of laws.

“I’m a preacher — it’s by no means too late to get saved, to get faith,” Warnock mentioned of his Republican colleagues.

Sewell, who represents Alabama’s seventh Congressional District, urged passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Development Act, which she has repeatedly launched to Congress over the course of a number of years. The invoice, named after the late civil rights icon and Georgia congressman John Lewis, would restore and strengthen points of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was gutted by a pair of Supreme Court docket choices over the previous decade.

“On the finish of the day, our democracy, this Structure, this train in type of authorities, if you’ll — the bottom of that’s the proper to vote,” Sewell mentioned. “It’s basic — as John (Lewis) would say, ‘It’s virtually sacred.’”

Alabama congresswoman Terri Sewel speaks during the Center for Faith and Justice launch event at Gerogetown University, Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021, in Washington. Photo by Phil Humnicky/Georgetown Univ.

U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell of Alabama speaks in the course of the Middle on Religion and Justice launch occasion at Georgetown College, Nov. 17, 2021, in Washington. Picture by Phil Humnicky/Georgetown College

In a question-and-answer session, one scholar invoked late Black liberation theologian James Cone to ask if God, who “sides with the oppressed,” can be Black.

Joking that he wished to have a “longer theological dialog” with the scholar afterward, Warnock answered by interesting to a Christian religion that focuses on the poor and marginalized.

“I come out of a practice, the Black church … it’s the anti-slavery church. It’s the freedom church,” he mentioned. When different Christians tried to make use of the Bible to justify the establishment of slavery, he identified, the Black church “held vigil to a imaginative and prescient of humanity that embraces all of us — and it did that when, within the phrases of the previous religious, ‘We couldn’t hear no one pray.’”

RELATED: In Sunday sermon, Warnock, now senator and pastor, said he heard ‘echoes of the spirit’ in swearings-in

Requested how she navigates being the one Democrat, girl and individual of coloration within the Alabama delegation, Sewell quoted Eleanor Roosevelt, saying, “Nobody are you able to make you are feeling inferior except you give them permission.”

Having grown up in Selma, surrounded by the legacy of the civil rights motion, Sewell mentioned: “My job is to make use of my voice in that seat and to create extra chairs across the desk which can be full of people who find themselves ladies” and folks from numerous backgrounds.

“I sit in seats to make use of the voice that God gave me,” she added.

Warnock, for his half, signaled that his religion stays central to his life and work. “I’m not a senator who was a pastor. I’m a pastor who occurs to serve in america Senate,” he mentioned.

He recalled occasions when religion did not impress an ethical imaginative and prescient on society.

In Nazi Germany, he mentioned, “the church didn’t get up.”

“It retreated to a type of insular imaginative and prescient that claims, ‘That’s not our enterprise,’ or they gave over to a type of Christian nationalism,” he mentioned. “The reality is, slavery wouldn’t have lasted so lengthy, and segregation wouldn’t have been so intractable, have been it not for the cooperation of people that worship each weekend.”

A defining query of the second, he mentioned, is “I do know what you sing about in your hymns, however who — and what, actually — is your God?’”

Requested by Wallis to supply a “benediction” to shut out the occasion, Sewell offered attendees with an inventory of how to guard voting rights transferring ahead.

“I would like you to vote, volunteer, manage, prove and elect individuals who will do the correct factor,” she mentioned, sparking a standing ovation.

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