Through the years we Alabamians have often said, “Thank God for Mississippi.” Well, yesterday it was our turn. I am sure Mississippi and a host of others must have said, “Thank God for Alabama.” Why? Our barely sworn-in Governor moved over to the Dexter Avenue Church of Martin Luther King fame and dropped a bombshell. Are you sitting down?
This is what he said, “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 you brother.”
Reaction was swift in coming. Just a few hours before Governor Bentley had placed his hand on the Bible and declared, “I’m going to be the Governor of all Alabamians.” Then a media storm descended. Jewish folk, Muslims, Christians who know better. Atheists and every other stripe of faith were in an uproar. Do you have to be a Christian to be recognized as a first-class citizen in Alabama?
This Baptist was shame-faced with the new Governor’s first response, “I was speaking as an evangelical Christian who is as Baptist to other Baptists. We use some terminology that other people of other religions may not at all times understand.” Well, this Baptist preacher is ashamed of such a statement. In a state and world as divided as ours we need leaders to learn to say all distinctly. Government should recognize everyone is to be on the same footing. Oh, I know this is idealism—but it is our standard and goal. Governor, not all Baptists would dare use that terminology.
Well, thank goodness that is not the end of the story. As the phones started ringing in Montgomery and the pundits started speaking and writing across the county, Governor Bentley had his eyes opened. Not everybody in Alabama is Baptist, and not everybody is a Christian. Some of our folk don’t believe anything and others believe it all.
This was his response, “What I would like to do is apologize. I would like to say to anyone who heard those words and felt disenfranchised; I want to say I’m sorry. If you’re not a person who can say that you are sorry, you’re not a very good leader." He continued, “I want to tell people I am sorry if I offended anyone in any way."
It takes a mighty big man to scrape the egg off his face. And our new Governor has done just that. Maybe this is a teachable moment when he realizes he is to be Governor of all and not part. Maybe in the long run this will be good for our state. We usually only talk to our own kind. That circle is never big enough for any of us. Governor, I appreciate the apology and I hope every body will drop this issue and move on. We didn’t elect a Pastor when we chose Governor Bentley—we elected a Governor. We don’t need evangelizing from the State House—we can do that in the church. But we do need somebody to work hard on a new Constitution and finally put to bed that old threadbare 1901 moth-eaten document. And we need somebody as Governor that will do something about the corruption that is only a stone’s throw from the place Governor Bentley was inaugurated.
As I read that apology I could not help but think of Sarah Palin and if...
(You might want to read Joey Kennedy's good article about Governor Bentley. He's Op Ed Editor on Sunday for The Birmingham News.)