Bentley told a big crowd at Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, where the late civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once was pastor, that he believed it was important for Alabamians ''that we love and care for each other."I'm pretty ambivalent about this. It sounds bad at first, but the "I want to be your brother" line is somewhat sympathetic. It's simultaneously inclusive and exclusive (but neither in a terribly good way).
''I was elected as a Republican candidate. But once I became governor ... I became the governor of all the people. I intend to live up to that. I am color blind," Bentley said in a short speech given about an hour after he took the oath of office as governor.
Then Bentley, who for years has been a deacon at First Baptist Church in Tuscaloosa, gave what sounded like an altar call.
"There may be some people here today who do not have living within them the Holy Spirit," Bentley said. ''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."
Bentley added, ''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 your brother."
Asked later if he meant to be insulting to people of other faiths, Bentley replied, ''We're not trying to insult anybody."
He's addressing his long-time church where he serves as a deacon, so this isn't something that he said in his capacity as a government official. However, this happened either just before or just after he assumed office as both occurred on the same day, and I don't like that timing.
It's not that I have a problem with religious politicians, per se. Religious or philosophical beliefs obviously inform our political leanings for good or bad. What I do have a problem with is politicians who are swayed by religious clannishness. Gov. Bentley is walking a thin line clumsily.