Georgia Democratic Senate candidate Rev. Raphael Warnock is battling accusations that he has embraced socialism, something he has dismissed out of hand. "It would be funny if it weren't sad," Warnock told MSNBC's Joy Ann Reid on Thursday.
But Warnock's denials appear to conflict with a 2009 sermon in which he argued that socialism is supported by Scripture and compared socialized health care to such run-of-the-mill government services as police protection.
Warnock, who is locked in a tight Senate race against Republican incumbent Kelly Loeffler, argued that the New Testament says church members should have "all things in common."
"You don't solve the problem simply by calling something ‘socialism.' There are some things that we have in common," Warnock said. "We don't ask people to buy their own police protection, their own fire protection. We decided long ago that we ought to pool our resources and pick up everybody's garbage so that free enterprise can take place. There are some things we have in common."
Warnock added that during pandemics, such as the H1N1 outbreak that was going on at the time, people tend to forget their concerns about socialized health care. "They'll stand in a long line, they'll leave their gated community, they'll make their way to a free clinic in order to get an H1N1 vaccine," he said.
After publication of this article, a spokesman for Warnock said the sermon is consistent with his current views on health care.
"This sermon focused on the need for health care coverage, which Reverend Warnock said then is a human right, and something Kelly Loeffler has attacked throughout her short time in the Senate, where she's looked out only for herself," spokesman Terrence Clark said.
Warnock, the senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, expressed frustration that many want to keep an arm's length away from the "socialist" label and from socialist policies.
"I'm so sick and tired of all of these folk talking about ‘socialistic medicine,'" he said in the sermon. "And I really get upset when I hear Christians in the midst of this debate, talking about socialism. They ought to go back and read Acts Chapter Two, where the Bible says that the church had all things in common."
Warnock on Thursday seemed to do an about-face, brushing off the notion that he has embraced socialist policies and telling MSNBC's Reid that he was befuddled by the accusation.
"No, I don't know what they mean," Warnock said, referring to Republican attack ads that have painted him as a socialist. "They don't know, either. This would be funny if it weren't sad. And cynical."
Warnock is headed into a runoff election against Sen. Loeffler on January 5. National political organizations are expected to pour record-breaking funds and resources into the highly contested race, which is one of two runoff elections in Georgia that will determine party control of the U.S. Senate next year.
Warnock has recently faced scrutiny for calling Israel an "oppressive regime" that shoots unarmed Palestinians, praising Rev. Jeremiah Wright's "God Damn America" speech, and supporting his religious mentor James Hal Cone, who claimed that white Christians practice the "theology of the Antichrist" and described white people as "satanic."
UPDATE, Saturday, November 14: This piece was updated to incorporate comment from Warnock’s campaign.