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January 20, 2011

Who is My Brother? Alabama Governor Apologizes for Remarks

Robert Bentley served as governor of Alabama for only a few hours before he stepped into controversy. Bentley spoke to an audience at Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church following his inauguration Monday. He spoke on his responsibility as governor to serve all people in Alabama, regardless of race or party. Ironically, his comments resulted in misunderstanding and conflict, according to the Birmingham News:

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.

Shortly after making his remarks, Bentley clarified his statement. His office released a statement that said, “The governor clearly stated that he will be the governor of all Alabamians - Democrat, Republican and Independent, young, old, black and white, rich and poor.”

His statement was theologically correct, said Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.

"It shows a startling naivete," Land told Julia Duin. "If I were governor of a state, I'd never voluntarily say that."

Bentley did not retract his statement, but he did apologize if his words offended people of other faiths.

"I will never deny being a born-again Christian. I do have core beliefs and I will die with those core beliefs, but I do not want to be harmful to others. And I will die if I have to defend someone else's right to worship as they choose,” said Bentley.

Star Foster, who runs a Pagan blog at Patheos, took Bentley's side.

What Robert Bentley said at Dexter Avenue King Memorial Church on Monday was said after his inauguration in a Christian temple to a Christian audience. In a spiritual setting he affirmed his spiritual beliefs. He said all Christians were his kin. Regardless of race, age, gender or geographic location he embraces those who have accepted Christ as their savior as his family. It’s such a tribal statement and such a ringing endorsement of Christian values.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) objected to his comments and asked for an apology. "His comments are not only offensive, but also raise serious questions as to whether non-Christians can expect to receive equal treatment during his tenure as governor," said ADL's regional director Bill Nigut.

Bentley later held a press conference following a scheduled meeting with the Birmingham Jewish Federation. Bentley said, "As I have said before, I am the Governor of all of Alabama, regardless of race, socio-economic status or religion. I swore to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of Alabama, and that includes protecting our right to worship as we please. I will always defend our freedom of religion."

The press asked Bentley if he considered everyone in the room to be his brothers and sisters. "Yes, yes I do,” Bentley answered.


That was not a theologically correct statement. Yes, not everyone is a brother or sister in Christ. But he seemed to verge on more than that. Especially as the governor of a state. We are clearly all children of God and therefore responsible to and for one another. Christ did not call us to care for only other Christians. In fact, I think he said even pagans care for their own. And we are to do more than that. (Luke 6) He needs to retract the statement.

The governor is giving the impression that he knows exactly when everyone should be saved through Jesus. And if you are not saved yet, then you better get your act together.

But it is God who brings us to Jesus, no? Man is so sinful that we don't look for God on your own, right?

God brings people to him at different times in their lives. He touches some people earlier, and some people later.

It is up to God (and not the governor) to decide when He will awaken us to His Word.

Some are taking the statement out of context and location, as well as the intended audience. To me, he was only confirming his Christianity. That all who were Christians, regardless of race or church they belonged to was his brother and sister if they had accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

As a Christian, it is our duty to love everyone. The statement only confirms, as a Christian that he will treat people equally and do all he can do for each person in the state of Alabama. He showed his love for others by saying he wanted all that are not Christians to be his brothers.

It is love we have in us through the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ to be willing to share the true Gospel with all and to long for others to become Christians.

People who do not believe in Jesus may not be my brothers, but they are certainly my neighbours. I still love them, just as Jesus loves them.

Why is it sooo bad, when a Christian expresses his beliefs? I had more respect for the man before he punked out. Muslums can call us "kafirs", and pronounce our destiny on national TV. Are they ever attacked? If even a hint exists, it's labled as racist rethoric.