by mr dan
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Last Monday was the observation of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s birthday, the day when we pretend to honor the great civil rights leader but really we just want a three-day weekend. It was also inauguration day for Alabama’s new governor, Robert J. Bentley. It took Governor Bentley less than an hour in office to show the state and the world what kind of leader he intends to be.
Addressing an audience at Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church in Montgomery, Bentley said, “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.” He continued, ”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.”
Well, Governor, I suppose that means “you and me” ain’t brothers. Clearly Bentley’s grasp of civil rights, as well as Dr. King’s vision for a unified, peaceful nation, is as shaky as his grasp of the English language.
American Atheists’ communications director Blair Scott responded, “Alabama is entirely too religiously pluralistic and diverse to insult non-Christians by insinuating, even if unintentionally, that they are not viewed as equal. The irony of making such a statement on the day we celebrate the fight for civil rights in this country does not escape me.”
But he doesn’t believe in God so he doesn’t count. Rabbi Jonathan Miller, who represents a portion of the constituency one-sixth the size of atheism, wrote a letter to the governor, saying, “Our great nation, by law and tradition, provides us with religious freedom. And even though we do not believe exactly alike, we ought to see each other with brotherly affection, and as equals in conscience and human worth.”
Many other religious leaders from a variety of faiths vocalized their displeasure as well. Even some Christians took issue with Bentley’s exclusionary position. And even Fox News refused to whitewash it, stating on its website that his comments “condemned the beliefs of non-Christians.”
So what happens in politics when you anger enough people that Fox News can’t even find a way to make you look innocent? You issue, through your communications director, a cookie-cutter apology two days later.
“If anyone from other religions felt disenfranchised by the language,” the statement said, “I want to say I am sorry. I am sorry if I offended anyone in any way.”
First of all, Bentley apologized to “other religions” but not to people of no religion. Not really a surprise, and I doubt it was an accidental omission. Secondly, this is the standard political apology. “I’m sorry I offended anyone” is not the same as “What I said was insensitive and, more importantly, inaccurate.” Bentley still believes that only Christians are his brothers and sisters, he’s just sorry that people got mad at him for saying it out loud. It’s kind of like punching you in the face and then saying I’m sorry that you’re in pain. It’s not a sincere apology.
Listen, Bob, I’m okay with the fact that I’m not your brother. Do you know why? Because I know a lot about you. I know your positions on various issues, and I know how I feel about them. And to tell you the truth, I don’t like you, and not being your brother gives me a degree of pride you couldn’t possibly comprehend.
But the difference is that you don’t know anything about me. I mean, I realize you don’t know me personally, and that I’m not your constituent, but you’ve stated that I’m not a person you care about just because I don’t share your specific beliefs on talking snakes and preaching zombies.
Like racists, homophobes, sexists and other bigots, you think you know all you need to know about me just because I’m not a Christian. You’ve dismissed me without knowing anything about my views on any political issues, any social issues, whether I care about education or public service, whether I give money to charities or volunteer my time, whether I’ve served in the military or the Peace Corps, how I treat my friends and family, how I treat strangers, whether I’ll hold the door for someone or leave a penny in that little tray at the gas station. These are among the many things that can make someone a good person. Believing one particular myth out of the thousands that the human race has invented has nothing to do with it.
And yes, I realize that you’re a good, believing Christian who is only doing what the Bible tells you. It’s true. All these liberal Christians want to rewrite scripture and ignore the parts that they don’t like, including the part that’s obviously your favorite. The part that says you should turn away all non-Christians because they are the anti-Christ.
“…many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist.” (2 John 1:7-8, NIV)
“If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take them into your house or welcome them. Anyone who welcomes them shares in their wicked work.” (2 John 1:10-11, NIV)
So, you are without question a better Christian than someone who thinks the saved and the unsaved can be brothers and sisters. But you’re not a better person. In fact, you’re a very bad person. And being a good person is infinitely more important than being a good Christian. And the Christians who strive to be good people even when it means ignoring the unwholesome passages of the new and old testaments are better people for it, even though they’re doing Christianity all wrong. But you, Bob? Your ignorant position that faith is the only criterion by which to judge a person’s character is an embarrassment to this country.
I understand that some of you out there may think I’m being way too harsh on the governor. And now that I think about it, I want to apologize to him. Earlier in this blog I said something that seemed to imply that Governor Bentley has a poor grasp of the English language. And I’m sorry if that comment offended anyone.
He’s still not my brother, though.
mr dan is vice president of CVA. The views expressed in this post are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Connecticut Valley Atheists or its individual members.