Having earned my undergraduate degree in journalism and having spent much of my college years and those immediately following in a newspaper office, I consider myself a journalist. It's part of who I am, playing a role in how I process and discuss information. There is something about journalists that work differently from other people. We share a distinctiveness in how we operate. Therefore, there is a type of kinship between fellow media scribes. One could even say that despite all the varying styles and opinions, there exists a brother and sisterhood in the profession. Most journalist understand this.
Yet for some reason many cannot fathom how other groups could share this type of fellowship or bond, even those with more connectedness and history. For them it is noteworthy and seemingly shocking for a Christian man, even if he is governor of Alabama, to refer to fellow Christians as his brothers and sisters and to further clarify, in that context, that only fellow Christians are his brothers and sisters.
From the text, it sounds as if Gov. Robert Bentley were giving an old-fashioned invitation, which anyone who has set foot in most evangelical church within the last 100 years would have recognized. He is not claiming that he only represents Christians as governor. He is making a plea to those in attendance to join him in following Christ using familial language, which virtually any organization, religious or not, uses in appeals to potential members.
Despite this common use of language, the media and various interest groups are using the phraseology to attack the governor. ABC News uses this lede: "Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley offended some of his new constituents this week when he told a church crowd that he would only accept as his brothers and sisters those who had accepted Jesus Christ as their savior."
That is most definitely not what he said according to the transcript. He never said that he would only accept someone as a brother or sister if they were a Christian, but rather the governor stated a Christian belief that all Christians have been adopted into the same spiritual family. He wasn't giving his opinion, but repeating a standard, orthodox Christian teaching.
And of course seeing the opportunity to attack someone with which they disagree, interest groups pounced on Bentley's words.
Bill Nigut of the Anti-Defamation League said, "It is stunning to me that he'd make those remarks. It's distressing because of the suggestion that he feels that people who aren't Christian are not entitled to love and respect." Where exactly did the governor say that?
Not to be outdone, David Silverman of American Atheists summarized Bentley's comments as such: "The governor basically said: 'If you're not like me, you're second class.' This is a man puts the Bible above the Constitution and his preacher above the president. His words are disgusting and bigoted and reinforce Alabama's reputation for being backward and bigoted."Again, at what part of the governor's speech/sermon did he communicate any of what Silverman said?
Does anyone else not find it completely ironic, if not hypocritical, for two men who belong to groups defined by a certain religious characteristic to criticize the governor on this subject? Obviously, Nigut feels he has a special bond with fellow Jews based on the fact that he is a director of a group that claims to speak on behalf of Jewish Americans. Surely, Silverman believes that he shares more in common with other atheists or he would not lead a national organization on their behalf.
The media, ADL and American Atheists all are exclusive in their membership to one extent or another. They all use language which speaks of "us" and "them." There is nothing inherently wrong with that. If it were, then the interest groups should be disbanded and the media should allow anyone and everyone to write for their outlet.
Gov. Bentley did not do or say anything wrong. If members of the media actually "got religion" or if those groups understood other religions and were concerned with actual discrimination, they would understand this. However all of them saw the comments as a way to further their own agenda and goals, instead of as a way to foster and encourage understanding or report actual news.
Can I get an "amen," my brothers and sisters?