Rev. Raphael G. Warnock, leader of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, memorialized the late Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) during Thursday’s funeral service by inserting the civil rights figure into a Bible verse which Christians almost universally consider a reference to Jesus Christ.
“President Lyndon B. Johnson picked up his pen to sign the voting rights bill into law. What he etched in ink has already by sanctioned by blood. The blood of the martyrs,” Warnock said, listing activists and their sacrifices, including “the blood of John Lewis.”
“We celebrate John Lewis,” he said, before modifying a scripture out of Isaiah and applying it to Lewis.
“He was wounded for America’s transgressions. Bruised for our iniquities. The chastisement of our peace was upon him. And by his stripes, we are healed,” he said to an agreeing crowd:
Rev. Dr. Raphael G. Warnock honors John Lewis.
"He was wounded for America's transgressions.
Bruised for our inequities.
The chastisement of our peace was upon him.
— ABC News (@ABC) July 30, 2020
The original scripture, found in Isaiah 53, is interpreted by the apostles of Jesus (e.g. Acts 8:26-34, 1 Peter 2:12-25) as a messianic prophecy about his crucifixion, atoning for mankind’s sins.
Isaiah 53: 4-6, which Warnock partially quoted, reads (emphasis added):
Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
Warnock, after referencing the scripture, encouraged the crowd to “recommit” to “standing together and fighting together and voting together and standing up on behalf of truth and righteousness together.”
Former President Barack Obama also spoke at the funeral and ushered in a political flavor, suggesting that Republicans “had imitated Jim Crow-era restrictions on voting rights, which Lewis marched against, by passing state voter ID laws and other measures that conservatives argue prevent voter fraud,” as Breitbart News’s Joel Pollak detailed.
“You want to honor John? Let’s honor him by revitalizing the law that he was willing to die for,” Obama said as part of a call to pass a new version of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
As Breitbart News reported:
Obama said Democrats should go beyond that legislation and also enact laws making voter registration automatic, granting the vote to ex-convicts, and making Election Day a national holiday, among other changes.
“And if all this takes is ending the filibuster, another Jim Crow relic, in order to secure the God-given rights of every American, then that’s what we should do.”
Without mentioning Donald Trump by name, Obama likened the president to segregationist Democrat Gov. George Wallace of Alabama, and compared federal law enforcement officers to the police who beat civil rights marchers across the South.
Obama’s political eulogy drew heavy criticism from conservatives, including Fox News’s Tucker Carlson, who said on Thursday:
But take three steps back — imagine if some greasy politician showed up at your loved one’s funeral and started throwing around stupid partisan talking points about Senate procedure. Can you imagine that? You would be shocked if that happened. You’d probably walk out. Desecrating a funeral with campaign slogans — what kind of person would do that? But Democrats in the audience didn’t seem offended. They didn’t blink. They cheered. It all seemed normal to them. And why wouldn’t it? Political power is their religion. It’s not out of place in a church. It’s what they worship.
“People who will politicize a funeral will do anything, and they’re trying to,” he added.