Christian Faith is Not Necessary to Motivate Social Justice

Sen. Raphael Warnock

Shortly after his win in Georgia, Sen. Raphael Warnock thanked some sort of god. And why wouldn't he? Professional athletes, such as his opponent, have been doing this sort of thing for as long as I can remember.

Democratic observers were happy with his win. Given the failure of imagination that plagues many Democratic pundits, what we heard was not surprising. Rachel Maddow suggested "that perhaps Democrats should elect more Baptist ministers..."

Sen. Warnock seems like a decent guy. In this post from Religion News Service, he's described as representing "a particular brand of social justice-focused Christianity that favors voting rights and prioritizes the poor." This doesn't sound bad, though Christianity doesn't seem necessary.

The point of the post was to contrast Sen. Warnock's pro-faith approach with stereotypes of godless Democrats. That's fair. Many on the left are religious, and the right does like to deny that reality. Pointing that out every now and then is fine.

Where we need to be more careful is in continuing to prop up the harmful notion that moral goodness is somehow derived from Christianity. It isn't. Someone can work for social justice and voting rights without Christian beliefs. Someone can work to end poverty without being a Christian. Many secular humanists do this sort of thing. Maybe Democrats should elect more secular humanists.

But what about racial justice? Believe it or not, it is possible to work for racial justice without belonging to a Black church in the South. I realize this runs contrary to a popular narrative pushed by our mainstream news media, but it is true. And this is not a new phenomenon. It was true during the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s too.

I'm not trying to take anything away from Sen. Warnock here. I'm glad he won, as the alternative outcome was unthinkable. But I'm not crazy about the idea that the only way for Democrats to win is by "out-faithing" the Republicans. This has not been a winning strategy in general elections. It also seems like a slap in the face to all the secular activists working on similar causes.

Photo: U.S. Senate Photographic Studio, Rebecca Hammel, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons