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Who are my brothers and sisters?

Posted by on Jan 20, 2011 in community | 5 comments

Who are my brothers and sisters?

You’ve probably seen by now the brouhaha caused recently by Alabama’s new governor.

You see, just after being sworn into office, Robert Bentley made a speech in which he said that Christians are his brothers and sisters in a way that non-Christians are not.

Here is a portion of what he said:

“Now I will have to say that, if we don’t have the same daddy, we’re not brothers and sisters,” he told parishioners at a Baptist church in Montgomery Monday shortly after being sworn in. “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.”

“There may be some people here today who do not have living within them the Holy Spirit,” Bentley also said, according to the Birmingham News. “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.”

Bentley later apologized to those who were offended or felt disenfranchised by his words:

“The terminology that I used I believe seemed to disenfranchise other religions and it certainly was not meant to do that,” he said. “And what I would like to do is apologize. Anyone who heard those words and felt disenfranchised I want to say that I’m sorry. If you’re not a person who can say that you’re sorry than you’re not a very good leader.”

Now, I actually don’t want to discuss Bentley’s words. He was exactly right. As a child of God (assuming he is, of course), then he does have a different relationship with other believers than with unbelievers.

Here are the questions: Should Christian public officials make this distinction or not? Should Bentley have added something to his message to help those who are not Christians understand his beliefs better?


5 Comments

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  1. 1-20-2011

    I think he was in a Baptist church, talking to Baptists, and wanted to make a strong connection with them by being “evangelistic” and “unashamed.” The article says he was “just sworn in,” so perhaps he wasn’t aware of how what he says will be scrutinized by those to whom he was not speaking. I don’t think he expected the attentiveness from afar.

    I think we all make the same mistake in similar ways.

    So, yes, Bentley should have added something to his message to help those who are not Christians understand his beliefs better. So should we all be very careful about what we say and do. While we aren’t likely to be in the national news, we are in the workplaces, school halls, stores, restaurants–and we are observed–what we say and do matters a great deal.

  2. 1-20-2011

    I don’t think he should have stated anything about his religion. I know we are talking about a politician working in the “Bible belt”, and that I’m in Canada (so there is on this topic maybe a big cultural distance… and on top of that, I’m in Quebec, the most unreligious place in America… I guess. A politician in Canada who would say what he said would probably have to resign from his political career.)

    What is a politician doing in a church? And how can he use the fact that he his christian in order win the crowd… is in my view plainly inappropriate.

    It makes a “us vs them” mentality. Should we be “proud” of being christians ?
    I’m deeply convinced that this kind of relation between politic and religion is a major stumbling block to the propagation of the Gospel. Both in USA, and in the world (because those “christian” and “born-again” politicians acts outside their country as well).

    sorry if I’m to much controversial/political here…

  3. 1-20-2011

    Art and Tommy,

    I really appreciate your different responses! I think they show the differences in contexts.

    Art,

    I agree. The governor should have made it clear that his spiritual relationship (or lack of relationship) would not affect the way he treated people as governor.

    Tommy,

    In Alabama, it would have been difficult for the governor to get elected if he did not demonstrate his “religion.” It is interesting the big change between Southern USA and Quebec, Canada. We must understand our context. And, for the governor, his context changed drastically once he was elected.

    -Alan

  4. 1-22-2011

    Tennessee’s constitution would prevent any Christian from holding office – unless you believe in an unscriptural clergy/laity divide:

    § 1. Clergy; eligibility to serve in legislature

    Whereas Ministers of the Gospel are by their profession, dedicated to God and the care of souls, and ought not to be diverted from the great duties of their functions; therefore, no Minister of the Gospel, or priest of any denomination whatever, shall be eligible to a seat in either House of the Legislature.

    § 2. Atheists holding office

    No person who denies the being of God, or a future state of rewards and punishments, shall hold any office in the civil department of this State.

  5. 1-23-2011

    Eric,

    That is very interesting! Thanks!

    -Alan