New Governor Gets MLK Exactly Wrong

Governor-elect of Alabama Robert Bentley, speaking Monday on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in none other than Dexter Avenue Baptist Church where King himself was once pastor, said the following, less than one hour after taking office:

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.

Not surprisingly, news headlines almost immediately exploded. MSNBC’s website posted in bold:

New governor: Non-Christians ‘not my brother,’ ‘not my sister’ Anti-Defamation League says remarks ‘raise serious questions as to whether non-Christians can expect to receive equal treatment’

However, Bentley wasn’t finished. Seemingly unable to let the irony of delivering his words in one of King’s home pulpits on MLK Day remain implicit, he continued to say explicitly ”I think that Dr. Martin Luther King was one of the greatest men that has ever lived.”

As in my recent blog in response to Department of Defense General Counsel Jeh Johnson’s claim that King would have supported the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, I know of no other recourse but to say, “Please read Dr. King’s writings before claiming authority about him!”

Accordingly, let me allow the words of King himself to refute the governor’s wrongheaded and unChristian notion that only Christians are one’s “brothers and sisters.” I will highlight the essential parts in bold.

First, from Dr. King’s 1958 sermon, “An Experiment in Love”:

In the final analysis, agape [Christian love] means a recognition of the fact that all life is interrelated. All humanity is involved in a single process, and all men are brothers.

Second, from Dr. King’s 1967 “A Christmas Sermon on Peace”:

One day somebody should remind us that, even though there may be political and ideological differences between us, the Vietnamese are our brothers, the Russians are our brothers, the Chinese are our brothers; and one day we’ve got to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

The best favor anyone could do for Bentley and for the state of Alabama is to buy him a copy of A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. and not let him out of the governor’s mansion until he’s read it.

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About Carl Gregg

The Rev. Dr. Carl Gregg is a trained spiritual director, a D.Min. graduate of San Francisco Theological Seminary, and the minister of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Frederick, Maryland. Follow him on Facebook facebook.com/carlgregg and Twitter @carlgregg.


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