Wednesday, January 19, 2011

And who is my brother?

I suspect that Alabama Governor Bob Bentley should discuss his religion in the way the Savior advised his followers to pray: in secret. He has told his fellow Christians what they already believed and thrown secular America into a panic, convinced that new Salem Witch Trials are just around the corner.

At a black church in Birmingham, the not-so-subtle Bob announced that those who did not profess faith in Christ were not his brothers and sisters and, from the reaction I'm seeing online, skeptics everywhere are ready to begin impeachment proceedings.

Everyone take a deep breath.

I'm a lot more alarmed, frankly, by reports that have come out of the Air Force Academy in the last few years about cadets being pressured to be "soldiers of Christ."

The governor's remarks took place, not in the legislative chamber, but in a church. Does he somehow forfeit the right to speak of his faith for no reason than that he holds public office?

The remarks seems to have been made in the course of a clumsy attempt to portray himself as more tolerant (racially). He wanted to make the point that color made no difference to him as to Christian brotherhood, but faith in Jesus did.

In the context of Christian theology, what he said was precisely correct. The sort of Christian who believes in the necessity of being "born again" reserves the terms "brother" and "sister" for those who also profess that experience; they are not meant as expressions of general approbation, as they are for much of society at large.

A poster on one message board speculated on what would have happened had a non-Christian said this, and I agree it's worth examining. If an Orthodox Jewish Mayor had stood in an Orthodox synagogue and said "Anyone who doesn't keep Kosher is not truly my fellow Jew," narrow-minded as that might have been, would anyone conclude from that, that the Mayor was about to impose Kosher dietary laws on the entire city or appoint only fellow Orthodox Jews to important posts?

If a Sunni Muslim city councilman stood in a mosque and said "Only my fellow Sunnis are true servants of the prophet; Shia is a perversion of the faith," would anyone believe he was proclaiming jihad in America?

This was a Christian, speaking in a church, using a term to which his kind of Christian attaches a very precise meaning. He specifically said that those who did not have faith in Jesus were not his brother and sister, meaning that in the theology of what he believes, the matter of their salvation is not settled as he believes his is. And are those of us who wouldn't care to join his club in the first place going to gripe because, though we have no interest in being born again, he doesn't speak of us as if we were?


© Michael Huggins, 2011. All rights reserved.

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