We Are Two Preachers. Herschel Walker Is No Choice for the Faithful

Since news broke that Herschel Walker allegedly paid for an abortion, Republicans in Georgia have turned to the gospel of Jesus for damage control. In a new ad that does not deny the allegations, Walker talks about his personal struggle with mental health and claims victory “by the grace of God.”

We have no doubt that God’s grace is big enough for Herschel Walker on a personal level. But Walker has a bigger problem: He has embraced a policy agenda that has no mercy for the people Jesus talked about the most.

When critics point out that Walker is an anti-abortion candidate who allegedly paid for an abortion, they often describe him with a word that Jesus uses in the Gospels: They call him a hypocrite. What most critics mean, of course, is that there is a basic contradiction in saying you want to outlaw a form of reproductive healthcare that you have used yourself. But Jesus uses the word hypocrite in a more precise way.

“Woe unto you hypocrites,” he says in Matthew’s Gospel, “for you tithe mint, dill, and cumin and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith.”

In the tradition of the Hebrew prophets, Jesus focused his condemnation not on people who didn’t live up to their own commitments, but on those who misused religion to whitewash evil deeds while missing the point of mercy and justice for all.

We are preachers who believe that when it comes to complex personal health care decisions, a pregnant woman should be able to choose the health care that’s best for her and her family. Of course, not every Christian agrees on this point. But Christians do agree that broken people in a broken world often do not live up to the standards we set for ourselves. It’s as true of us as it is of Herschel Walker.

The gospel of Jesus has plenty of mercy for everyone, but that same mercy must shape how we treat our neighbors in public life.

For far too long, Christian nationalists in America have claimed “biblical values” as justification for a political agenda that has undermined democracy, gutted public institutions, and blamed poor and vulnerable people for their suffering. Walker is running on an agenda that calls itself “pro-life,” but his Republican colleagues have promised if they regain control of Congress, they will cut taxes for corporations and the wealthy, roll back efforts to address the climate crisis, and deny the American people policies like an expanded child tax credit, which reduced child poverty dramatically during the first year of the current Congress.

Herschel Walker
CARROLLTON, GA – OCTOBER 11: Georgia Republican Senatorial candidate Herschel Walker is seen at a campaign event on October 11, 2022 in Carrollton, Georgia. Walker is running for election against Senator Rev. Raphael Warnock (D-GA).
Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images

Jesus said that nations will be judged by how we treat the homeless, the hungry, the sick and the imprisoned. While candidates like Walker use the name of Jesus to whitewash the misdeeds of greedy politicians and the corporate sponsors, Senator Raphael Warnock, his opponent in the Georgia Senate race, is a preacher and a theologian who has worked to expand access to healthcare, pass tax credits and paid leave for families, raise wages, and protect the voting rights of every American.

No doubt, Senator Warnock needs God’s mercy as much as any of us. But the basic question of faith in public life isn’t whether any of us are deserving of God’s mercy, but rather, which policies can make justice and mercy real for people who are struggling to get by.

We make a mistake if we shame so-called “conservative Christian” candidates for personal decisions they have tried to hide instead of confronting the hypocrisy that they practice in the open, continuing to associate Christian faith with an extreme agenda that hurts the very people the Bible calls us to care about.

Herschel Walker’s relational secrets are his problem, and we pray he finds the healing he needs. But Republicans’ misuse of our faith to rally voters for their reactionary agenda is hurting us all and threatening American democracy.

That’s the hypocrisy we should be talking about.

Rev. William J. Barber, II is President of Repairers of the Breach and co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign. Rev. Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove is the author of Revolution of Values: Reclaiming Public Faith for the Common Good.

The views expressed in this article are the writers’ own.

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