Gov. Robert Bentley’s first couple of days in office have not been settling for the Republican from Tuscaloosa.
After delivering a speech to a Baptist church audience, the governor found himself in the position of needing to apologize for a statement he made. The remark: “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.”
As a Baptist deacon, Bentley was speaking to an audience that widely embraces the religious meaning of his word. As governor, and to many outside his denomination and the Christian faith, the words may have come across as puzzling, even alarming.
The comment by the governor has already spread across the national landscape, becoming talk-show blabber for a variety of the talking heads that fill up radio and television time. But the much circulated comment is really not worth weeks and weeks of debate.
Many politicians ascend to office carrying some type of religious faith. In Alabama and much of the country, the Christian faith is widespread. Politicians, beginning with the Founding Fathers, have expressed their faith in God or a higher power. And this is certainly not uncommon in the Republican Party since the emergency of the Christian right movement. Bentley, during his run for office, has not indicated that he stands against non-Christians or judges the character of others based on their faith. Nor has Bentley hinted in any way that he would show favor to Christians over anyone else in his role as governor. What Bentley’s comment at the Baptist church shows is that staunch declarations of religious faith can cause some unrest in the political forum. The governor’s standing as a public figure has grown tremendously since becoming governor. His words are carefully considered and reported widely.
Bentley is entitled to his faith and should in no way apologize for that. He should only keep in mind that not everyone shares his belief and that his role as governor is to serve a wide range of people based on public needs, not religious faith.