“All men are brothers” is an assertion of our common humanity. So it seemed like a rejection of it for Alabama’s newly elected governor to restrict his own brotherhood to fellow Christians–or, more accurately, to fellow evangelicals. When you say, as Gov. Robert Bentley did, “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,” you’re talking the evangelical talk.
Now if Bentley had just said, “…you’re not my brother in Christ and you’re not my sister in Christ, and I want to be your brother in Christ,” it would have been a bit redundant, but innocuous. No Jew or Muslim wants to be someone’s brother (or sister) in Christ.
So why was Bentley denying the common humanity of his non-Christian brethren and sistren? He wasn’t. The Southern Baptist deacon was just expressing the wish–declaring his Great Commission hope–that he could be the brother (in Christ) of all those non-Christians, if only they’d hit the sawdust trail. Really, though, as a white Southerner of a certain age, he was cuddling up to his African-American audience at Dexter Avenue King Memorial Church, assuring them that he considered himself more their brother than, say, some white person who hadn’t accepted Jesus.
And so he had to be educated. After receiving a shot from the ADL and meeting with local Jewish leaders, he delivered one of those quasi-apologies: “Should anyone who heard those words and felt disenfranchised, I want to say, ‘I’m sorry.'” Not only did he pledge that he would be the governor of all Alabamians and uphold the constitutional principle of religious freedom, but also, when asked asked at a press conference after the meeting whether he considered those in attendance to be his brothers and sisters, he replied, “Yes, yes I do.”
Well, I’m glad that’s settled.