A Way Out of No Way review: Raphael Warnock, symbol of hope for America | Books

Oe live in a time of miracles, but we spend very little time realizing it. After four years of Donald Trump, two years of Covid and four months of vicious war in Ukraine, it’s no surprise that many feel overwhelmed by seemingly relentless bad news.

Raphael Warnock’s inspiring memoir comes just in time to remind us that even in our darkest days, America offers at least as much hope as it does despair.

Warnock was at the center of the latest round of miracles, which happened in large part because of black voter registration and activism in key states in 2020. In Georgia, it started when a former State House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams identified 800,000 eligible but unregistered voters and formed the New Georgia Project to get as many on the rolls as possible.

Warnock joined Abrams’ campaign. Despite the outrageous efforts of then-Secretary of State (now Governor) Brian Kemp, who falsely accused them of voter fraud, by 2019 they had registered 500,000 voters. It made three miracles possible: Joe Biden became the first Democratic presidential candidate to carry Georgia in 28 years and Warnock and Jon Ossoff became the state’s first elected black and Jewish senators, miraculously giving Democrats control (tenure) of the Senate.

Nothing is more hopeful than the trajectory of Warnock’s life. He was the 11th of 12 children. Her father made a living collecting scrap metal and preaching while her mother was a homemaker until she became the family preacher.

Warnock’s life is proof that the feds have done important things to level the playing field in crucial ways. Warnock got its first boost through Head Start, one of Lyndon Johnson’s greatest Great Society legacies. Then he enrolled in Upward Bound, a federally funded summer college preparatory program that boosted his confidence “and paved the way for chasing my dreams.” For a kid growing up in a neighborhood where no one had a high school diploma, it “demystified the idea of ​​college and gave me a clear vision of what was possible.”

But the benefits he started with were even greater, especially a mother who is “a preacher with a God-given sense of spiritual discernment,” who “could read people and situations better than anyone I have ever known”. Warnock grew up in a housing estate devastated by crack and AIDS, “but in a place where there were too many missing fathers, I had two devoted parents at home, and they kept the church at the center of our lives “.

His parents never let him forget that as long as we live in a nation “in need of moral surgery”, with “hope, hard work and people on our side, anything is possible”.

The college he chose was Morehouse, a vital black institution with alumni justly famous for their “world-changing accomplishments,” including former Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson, civil rights leader Julian Bond, Spike Lee, theologian Howard Thurman and of course Martin Luther King Jr.

Although Warnock was born a year after King’s assassination, “more than anyone or anything else”, it was King who “recruited” him to Morehouse.

Warnock takes particular pride in being able to trace his own development directly to America’s greatest civil rights leader of the 20th century. In college, he did an internship at Sixth Avenue Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, where he was mentored by the Reverend John Thomas Porter, who had served as a pulpit assistant to Martin Luther King Jr and his father.

Civil rights pioneer Jesse Jackson was another role model, one of many “brave souls” who laid “the groundwork for candidates of color and women to run and win high political office deemed out of reach.” These trailblazers showed Warnock “that to be effective, you have to be willing to put your body in the game – show up, give what you have (your time, your money, your skills) and do what you ask people to do.” others. “.

Morehouse was the beginning of Warnock’s introduction into the elite black establishment nurtured by historically black colleges and universities and black churches. While greedy, racist born-again Christians capture most of our attention, this book reminds us that there is another religious network that has been hugely important to America’s progress, strengthening and nurturing the black community.

Warnock and Jon Ossoff, his fellow senator from Georgia, speak at a congressional hearing. Photography: Rex/Shutterstock

A brilliant natural preacher who delivered his first sermon at age 11, a sincere servant of God, Warlock enjoyed a meteoric rise from Morehouse to Union Theological Seminary in New York and then to Manhattan’s most famous black house of worship. , the Abyssinian Baptist Church, where he quickly became a trainee minister. There he had another crucial mentor, the Reverend Dr Calvin O Butts III, an alumnus of the two schools Warnock attended.

At 31, Warnock became senior pastor of Douglas Memorial Community Church in Baltimore, where he showed remarkable courage in beginning an attack on the church’s homophobia. He built his installation ceremony around activities designed to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS, “to signal to my church…the kind of ministry we would build together.”

A few years later, in 2005, he got the highest honor of all when King’s Ebenezer Baptist Church elected him senior pastor, by the vote of 90% of the congregation. Sixteen years later, he was a United States senator.

Let Warnock’s improbable success and irrepressible optimism be enough to remind us all that the only thing needed to save our beleaguered democracy is a genuine will from the enlightened citizens who are still in the majority to put our bodies back in the game. ‘between us can be half as brave as Warnock, he reminds us, we can still ‘build a future that honors the sacrifices of those who came before us and is worthy of the promise that lives in all our children’ .

James V. Hayes