O Brother(s and Sisters), Where Art Thou?
Well, isn’t this nice? Newly elected (Montgomery Burns-resembling) Governor Robert Bentley wasted no time in getting yet another negative national news spotlight put on my home state of Alabama. On Monday, Bentley quickly got a lot of attention for saying the following to a Montgomery church crowd:
“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.”
This came after Bentley had said, “once I became governor … I became the governor of all the people. I intend to live up to that. I am color blind.” Blogger Ed Brayton beat me to making what I think is the key point about this little dust up. Note that Bentley made these remarks on MLK Day, in the very church where Martin Luther King once pastored. As Brayton writes:
Let me translate [Bentley's remarks] for you: “I know that Martin Luther King said that we had to do away with artificial divisions of race in order to have a healthy society, but I prefer to divide us up all over again based on religion.” Talk about missing the point.
Yes. Isn’t it ironic? Don’t ya think? Seriously, the governor going out of his way to make this distinction, on this particular day, in this particular location, in honor of this particular man, speaks sad, sad volumes. King often used the terms “brothers” and “sisters” and especially spoke of his hopes for “brotherhood.” Consider his ‘I Have a Dream Speech,’ where there are no less than 5 uses, and yet noticeably no mention of a personal faith requirement. A few examples:
- “Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.”
- “I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.”
- “I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor’s lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.”
Then, he went even further in that last famous line:
When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!” (emphasis mine)
Years later, King took his call for brotherhood still further in his ‘Beyond Vietnam’ speech I quoted from in the last post, when he said:
…I must be true to my conviction that I share with all men the calling to be a son of the living God. Beyond the calling of race or nation or creed is this vocation of sonship and brotherhood, and because I believe that the Father is deeply concerned especially for his suffering and helpless and outcast children, I come tonight to speak for them.
This I believe to be the privilege and the burden of all of us who deem ourselves bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than nationalism and which go beyond our nation’s self-defined goals and positions. We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for the victims of our nation and for those it calls “enemy,” for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers. (emphasis mine)
That sounds a lot to me as though the requirement for being seen as brother or sister and child of God in King’s eyes was simply being human. So Bentley may say that he is committed to serving all people of Alabama as their governor (but not necessarily as their brother), but if he really wanted to honor King’s memory, he should consider that King clearly believed we all, regardless of position or religious belief (or the lack thereof), have a far greater commitment to one another than that.