Dr. Robert Bentley, Alabama’s newly-inaugurated Governor, has already become controversial (http://blog NULL.al NULL.com/spotnews/2011/01/gov-elect_robert_bentley_inten NULL.html#incart_mce).
On Inauguration Day, Bentley spoke for an audience at Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, where Dr. Martin Luther King once served as pastor. He said he wanted to be Governor of all Alabamians and all who know Jesus Christ are his brothers and sisters, but then he 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 you to be my brother.”
The attacks came fast and furious. Bill Nigut of the Anti-Defamation League said Bentley’s comments were “offensive” (http://blog NULL.al NULL.com/breaking/2011/01/anti-defamation_league_critici NULL.html) and “raise serious questions as to whether non-Christians can expect to receive equal treatment during his tenure as governor,” even though Bentley clearly said he wanted to be governor of all Alabamians. He said it sounded like Bentley was using his office to promote Christianity and that he was “dancing dangerously close to a violation of the First Amendment.”
Ashfaq Taufique, president of the Birmingham Islamic Society, asked (http://blog NULL.al NULL.com/spotnews/2011/01/gov_bentleys_comments_on_relig NULL.html), “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.”
The following day, Bentley met with leaders of various religions and assured them he wanted inter-faith dialogue and said he had used some language that people in the church understood but that other may not understand.
I will withhold judgment on whether Gov. Bentley should have used the words he spoke, but I will make the following observations:
1. This was not an official government speech; it was a speech by a Baptist governor at a Baptist crowd to those who came to honor Dr. Martin Luther King. Are the critics saying Bentley cannot express his personal religious convictions even at an unofficial gathering in a church? Chief Justice Roy Moore’s sharpest critics said he was free to acknowledge God in his private capacity but not on behalf of the state. Gov. Bentley’s critics will not accord him even that right.
2. Like it or not, Bentley simply said what Jesus said and what the Bible says and what the Church has said for nearly 2,000 years:
“I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father but by me” (John 14:6).
“For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him may be saved. He that believeth on him, is not condemned: but he that believeth not, is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God” (John 3:17-18).
“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
Those who find this concept offensive should address their complaints to the Author.
3. Bentley singled out no one person or denomination or religion. Rather, his statement was an invitation to all persons to come to Christ. If you have something as wonderful as eternal salvation, why wouldn’t you want to share it with others?
4. Is there not some irony in being lectured on tolerance by the president of an Islamic organization that promotes the most intolerant religion on the face of the earth? Mr. Taufique, no one is suggesting that nonChristians are less important than Christians or that they should not have the same civil rights as everyone else. That’s the practice of Muslim countries, and it’s called “dhimmitude” — meaning that nonMuslims must pay higher taxes (tribute), may not proselytize, may not criticize Islam, must ride donkeys instead of horses, must wear inferior clothes, must give up their seats to Muslims, and must get out of the way when a Muslim passes by. In various degrees, this remains the practice in many Muslim countries even today.
No one is more intolerant than those who, in the name of tolerance, would cry “intolerance!” to silence the expression of ideas they dislike.