Georgia Democratic Senate candidate Rev. Raphael Warnock has praised his religious mentor, Dr. James Hal Cone, as a "poignant and powerful voice" of high "spiritual magnitude."
Cone, however, was a controversial theologian who argued that white Christians are "satanic" and advocated for the "destruction of everything white" in society.
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Warnock has described Cone, who served as his academic adviser at the Union Theological Seminary, as his "mentor."
The candidate's ties to radical theologians, including Rev. Jeremiah Wright, now threaten to complicate his candidacy in a hotly contested Senate race that could tip the balance of the upper chamber. Cone’s divisive rhetoric, and Warnock’s subsequent praise for him, may pose new challenges for Warnock, a political unknown until earlier this year. Warnock's public defense of Wright's "God Damn America" speech in 2008—which President Obama denounced as offensive after his own ties to Wright came to light—has also come under scrutiny. Wright has also credited Cone's work for inspiring his own religious philosophy.
First in his 2013 book and later in a 2018 eulogy, Warnock lavished praise on Cone. "How blessed we are that someone of the spiritual magnitude and power and commitment of Dr. James Hal Cone passed our way," Warnock said in the eulogy.
Warnock's campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
Cone, who is widely considered the "father of black theology," outlined his controversial views in his 1970 book A Black Theology of Liberation.
There, he argues that "American white theology is a theology of the Antichrist" and advocates for a new "black theology" that will usher in a revolution to eradicate whiteness from society.
"There will be no peace in America until white people begin to hate their whiteness, asking from the depths of their being: ‘How can we become black?'" Cone wrote.
Warnock cited the work over a dozen times in the chapters and footnotes of his own 2013 book The Divided Mind of the Black Church.
One of Cone’s central arguments is that whites worship a false "white God" and follow an anti-Christian "white theology." In reality, he wrote, "God is black" and "has nothing to do with the God worshiped in white churches."
"The white God is an idol created by racists, and we blacks must perform the iconoclastic task of smashing false idols," wrote Cone. "White religionists are not capable of perceiving the blackness of God, because their satanic whiteness is a denial of the very essence of divinity."
The book argued that the purpose of black theology is the "destruction of everything white."
"If there is one brutal fact that the centuries of white oppression have taught blacks, it is that whites are incapable of making any valid judgements about human existence," wrote Cone. "The goal of black theology is the destruction of everything white, so that blacks can be liberated from alien gods."
In order for any theology to be truly Christian, Cone said, it must "[deny] whiteness as a proper form of human existence and [affirm] blackness as God’s intention for humanity."
Cone also argued that black people should use any means, including violence, to overthrow American society, which he described as systemically racist.
"With the assurance that God is on our side, we can begin to make ready for the inevitable—the decisive encounter between white and black existence. White appeals to ‘wait and talk it over' are irrelevant when children are dying and men and women are being tortured," he wrote. "We will not let whitey cool this one with his pious love ethic but will seek to enhance our hostility, bringing it to its full manifestation."
In another part of the book, he wrote: "We have reached our limit of tolerance, and if it means death with dignity, or life with humiliation, we choose the former. And if that is the choice, we will take out some honkies with us."