Dr. Warnock: Sure, I would embrace all of those things that you mentioned. We certainly need a spiritual awakening, but the true test of authentic spirituality is how it actualizes itself in community. So, the danger of talking about spirituality in abstract terms is that one can wax eloquently about it and live with deep contradictions. For centuries, the American church [went] through many revivals.....the First Great Awakening, the Second Great Awakening and Azusa Street Revival, which was the birth of neopentecostalism.....which is my roots, by the way. Through all of that, most of the white American churches embraced slavery and then segregation and did not see that the two were irreconcilable. So, what we need really is truth telling. We need bold truth telling, the kind of truth telling that alarms the public sometimes when they hear it spoken with such passion and power. But, if people will listen to all of the sermons of Dr. King, particularly toward the end of his life, we will hear again on this anniversary of his death that through his undying commitment to the beloved community he always called us to look beyond ourselves to resist the forces of xenophobia that emphasize the ways in which we are different rather than the ways in which we are very much alike. And, so I would lift up that kind of spirit. I would lift up the kind of selfless leadership that he embodied. He clearly was much more concerned about his calls than himself. He said it best: A man who has not found something that he's willing to die for isn't fit to live. I would say this not only to individual persons but even to a nation.....that a nation would allow itself to die as it were. I don't mean to die physically, but to die unto its imperialistic impulses so that as one beloved community here on the earth all of us can experience abundant life.
Greg: Powerful words, my friend. Like I said earlier, I know you are bombarded with calls today. And I certainly appreciate your taking the time to talk with me.
Dr. Warnock: Sure. It's been my pleasure.
Greg: And I look forward to sharing this with my readers.
Dr. Warnock: Thank you so very much.
Billy Graham, Just As I Am: The Autobiography of Billy Graham (San Francisco and Grand Rapids, Michigan: HarperSan Francisco and Zondervan, 1997).
"Ebenezer Baptist Church," New Georgia Encyclopedia. Retrieved April 1, 2008: http://www.newgeorgiaencyclopedia.org/
"Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968)," New Georgia Encyclopedia. Retrieved April 1, 2008: http://www.newgeorgiaencyclopedia.org/
Telephone conversation with Dr. Raphael Gamaliel Warnock, Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta, on April 4, 2008.
Author: Greg Freeman. Published April 19, 2008.
Author/Editor's Note, January 7, 2021: Since the publication of this article, United States Senator Barack Obama went on to become President Obama, becoming the first African American president in U. S. history, serving two terms. In January 2021, Dr. Raphael Warnock became U. S. Senator Warnock, defeating incumbent Kelly Loeffler in one of two hotly contested and global news-generating senate races, making him the first African-American from Georgia to serve in the United States Senate.