Immediately after he was installed in office, Governor Robert Bentley of Alabama expressed his belief that fellow Christians are his brothers and sisters, but non-Christians (including those who voted for him) are not. It remains to be seen how serious a problem this statement will be for the new governor.
Robert Bentley is a former doctor, a businessman, a former member of the Alabama House of Representatives, an active member of Tuscaloosa’s First Baptist Church, and a 2009 recipient of the Statesmanship Award given by the Christian Coalition of Alabama. His resume is not too surprising for an Alabama governor. [Source: Robert J. Bentley – Wikipedia. Downloaded 1/19/2011 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_J._Bentley.]
Shortly after his January 17, 2011 inauguration as governor, however, Bentley made a statement that was quite surprising to some listeners: “Anybody here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, I’m telling you, you’re not my brother and you’re not my sister, and I want to be your brother.” [Source: Reeves, Jay. New governor: Non-Christians ‘not my brother,’ ‘not my sister,’ MSNBC, 1/19/2011. Downloaded from: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/41149562/ns/politics-more_politics/]
What are we to make of Bentley’s religious pronouncement? Here are the two primary interpretations:
1. The statement was meaningless. Bear in mind that Bentley was speaking in a Christian church to a group of Christians. Had he been speaking to Republicans, he would have stated or implied that he represented them (as opposed to Democrats). Had he spoken to a group of doctors, he would have tried to convince them that he was one of them. In this case, he was speaking at a church and believed he was speaking to the choir (i.e., that virtually everyone in attendance was a fellow Christian), so he said that he has a special allegiance to Christians.
2. Bentley is biased against non-Christians. The reason Bentley’s statement is grabbing headlines today is that it could easily be perceived as a threat by non-Christians (i.e., implying that Christians in Alabama will receive favorable treatment or greater attention from the governor). Given the U.S. belief in separation of church and state, this is a problem. While Governor Bentley has a right to freedom of speech, when he speaks as governor he needs to be careful to respect the religious minorities living in his state.
Which interpretation is correct? The truth could be a combination of the two. But whatever the truth is, the statement was careless, and Bentley will be known for a long time as a Christian governor who is potentially hostile to non-Christians.
Reeves, Jay. New governor: Non-Christians ‘not my brother,’ ‘not my sister,’ MSNBC, 1/19/2011. Downloaded from: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/41149562/ns/politics-more_politics/
Robert J. Bentley – Wikipedia. Downloaded 1/19/2011 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_J._Bentley.