Brothers & Sisters

January 27, 2011

Last week, the new governor of Alabama sparked a controversy when he claimed that only Christians were his brothers and sisters. Speaking at an event commemorating Martin Luther King, Jr. (at a Baptist church King pastored), Republican Robert Bentley declared:

There may be some people here today who do not have living within them the Holy Spirit. ... But if you have been adopted in God's family like I have, and like you have if you're a Christian and if you're saved, and the Holy Spirit lives within you just like the Holy Spirit lives within me, then you know what that makes? It makes you and me brothers. And it makes you and me brother and sister. ... Now I will have to say that, if we don't have the same daddy, we're not brothers and sisters. So 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.
Although fitting with his role as a Baptist deacon, the comments were highly inappropriate for a governor who is supposed to serve all people. Ironically, Bentley even said during the same speech that he was the "governor of all the people" and uttered the remarks while celebrating King's movement that united people of various faiths to march arm-in-arm. In addition to excommunicating many in his state from his family, Bentley also issued an altar call, which would be appropriate for a religious leader but not a governor. This should not be too surprising since Bentley won the office in part by leveling attacks on his main Republican primary opponent in which Bentley suggested the other candidate did not truly believe the Bible.

To his credit, Bentley quickly apologized for the remarks. In particular, he apologized to those who "felt disenfranchised" by his comments. Hopefully, he will think more carefully about his role as the governor of all the people. Perhaps he will even back away a little from engaging in this type of confessional politics. Maybe he will even take the advice of Martin Luther King, Jr.: "We've learned to fly the air as birds, we've learned to swim the seas as fish, yet we haven't learned to walk the Earth as brothers and sisters."