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20 January 2011

Alabama's New Governor Loves Jesus (and you don't?)

...and I'm proud that he isn't afraid to talk about it.

Many headlines have been issued, this one from FoxNews.com: "Alabama Gov: Non-Christians 'Not My Brother.'" Oddly, the CNN.com story seems to be a little more fair to the governor, putting his statements within better context.

A couple of bits from the FoxNews article:

"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," [brand-new governor Robert]Bentley said Monday, his inauguration day, according to The Birmingham News
...
"Does it mean that those who according to him are not saved are less important than those who are saved?" Taufique said. "Does he want those of us who do not belong to the Christian faith to adopt his faith? That should be toned down. That's not what we need. If he means that, I hope he changes it. We don't want evangelical politicians. They can be whatever in their private life."

I say, "Way to go, Governor Bentley! But..."

Gov. Bentley didn't misspeak. He spoke truth, and I commend him for coming right out of the gate as the new governor and leaving no doubt as to who he is. Much of the commentary I've seen on the event puts forth that Gov. Bentley shouldn't use his political office as a platform for speaking about his religious views. It's been said that he can do that on his own private time. It's also been opined that he shouldn't use his position in a way that will attempt to convert anyone to his faith.

My only issue is that the new governor talked about things in terms that people just aren't going to universally understand, and he surely knows that. He was saying things that followers of Christ should understand. But to the majority of people, his choice of words just said, "Only people who love Jesus are in my club. The rest aren't." And to most people, I'm sure the logical tag for that statement is, "...and club members always get preferential treatment." Did he mean that? Nope. I'll guarantee he didn't. In fact, though his statements may sound to some like they're exclusionary, they should tell people that he will be more than fair to everyone. (1 Peter 2:11-25, Luke 6:32-36, Romans 12:17-18, etc.) The Roman emperor Julian "the Apostate," said about Christians in his time (a little after 360 A.D.): "the impious Galileans [Christians] support not only their own poor but ours as well.". Their lives screamed, "We love Jesus and we love you. A lot."

(Interestingly, the fact that they were Christians virtually guaranteed that they would be more than fair to everyone. That's what Christians were like in those days. Is that what people think of the typical Christian today? I see political rhetoric that says, "This governer just can't be fair to everyone if he doesn't think they're his brother/sister." Is it really a biased media that says that Christians often don't do what they say they believe?)

In a Facebook comment about the article, an old friend of mine said that the governor should attempt to convert people to Christianity "by setting an example, not by telling people they are not his brother." I agree that such a glass of ice water in the face of every non-Christian person might not have been the best vehicle of sharing the Gospel in this particular scenario, and there may have been more gracious words for him to use to start his term as governor (I can't help thinking about how Paul addressed the philosophers on Mars Hill in Acts 17, and what he wrote in Colossians 4:5-6).

But that's small. He said what he said knowing that he would be roundly criticized in the press, and that people would likely call for his resignation. He spoke plainly in spite of the potential consequences.

I fully disagree that the governor should set aside his relationship with Jesus for observance only on his personal time, which is what many people have stated. That's one major difference between someone's religion and someone's relationship. It's simply not possible to "turn off" a relationship and save it for your personal time. Religion? Maybe so. But not an honest-to-goodness relationship with God.

I don't know if this is a perfect analogy or not, but my love for my wife goes with me everywhere I am, and I wouldn't stop talking about her at work if I happened to work with a gay guy and he found my relationship with her personally offensive (to use an extreme example). However, if I have a passion for preparing sushi, but my co-worker nearly vomits every time I bring it up because he hates sushi, I'm going to stop talking about it. That IS something I can partition off for another time. It's an activity or a hobby that I can decide to do or not to do, which is completely different from what we experience in a genuine relationship with someone.

Loving the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength (Lk. 10:26-28) does not allow a part-time commitment. And regarding politicians, honestly, would you believe that a politician is actually a Christian if you heard religious things from him in his "off" time, but never saw any indications of a relationship with Jesus Christ while he was serving in his official capacity? I'd think that he was using a religious fa├žade for his own personal and political gain.

But nobody ever does that, right? (Cough! Cough!)

So for my take on it all, though I'm not really convinced that Gov. Bentley used speech that was "with grace, as though seasoned with salt," (Col. 4:6), I'm proud of him! I'd love to see this kind of thing from all followers of Christ.

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