In the Name of God, the Kind, the Beautiful
This was published on the Washington Post’s Faith Divide blog. Thanks to my friend and brother Eboo Patel for posting it.
Barely half a week into his new term as Governor of Alabama, Robert Bentley immersed himself in controversy by uttering these words at Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church:
“There may be some people here today who do not have living within them the Holy Spirit. 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. 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.”
Naturally, these comments upset his non-Christian constituents, as the words intimate that he has no relationship with those who do not have Jesus Christ in their lives. And he later “apologized” by saying:
“If anyone from other religions felt disenfranchised by the language, I want to say I am sorry. I am sorry if I offended anyone in any way.”
Yet, it seems that he is not really sorry for feeling that way, but just sorry if his beliefs offended anyone, which is why I put the word “apologized’ in quotes. But to be fair to the Governor, he also said in his remarks:
“I was elected as a Republican candidate. But once I became governor … I became the governor of all the people. I intend to live up to that.”
Now, I understand that, on one level, I am not his brother because, as a Muslim, I neither believe Jesus Christ is God nor do I accept him as my personal savior.
Yet, there are many other levels on which Gov. Bentley and I share a common brotherhood. Although I do not worship Christ, that does not mean I do not love and believe in him. In fact, love for and belief in Christ is a central tenet of Islamic belief. Thus, on the level of common love for Jesus, Gov. Bentley and I are brothers.
As a Muslim, I worship the very same God as the One to which Christ himself called during his ministry on earth. In fact, I call Him by the very same name by which Christ called him as well.
Thus, on the level of our common belief in the God of Christ, Gov. Bentley and I are brothers. We are both sons of this great nation, and thus, on the level of our common nationality, Gov. Bentley and I are brothers. Moreover, we are both the sons of Prophet Adam, upon whom be peace, and thus, on the level of our common humanity, Gov. Bentley and I are brothers.
I take him at his word that Gov. Robert Bentley will be the governor of every citizen of Alabama, regardless of their faith or lack thereof. Yet, there are many ways that Gov. Bentley and his non-Christian constituents can be brothers and sisters, and I urge the governor to focus on these during his term.
Yes, I am a brother to my fellow American Muslims, but I am also a brother to the rest of my American compatriots of other faiths and traditions as well as to the rest of humanity all across the globe. There was a time in my life when I did not have this inclusive worldview, and I am so very grateful to the Lord that my views have changed. It has made me a better American and a better Muslim as well.
The sooner we see each other as brothers and sisters, members of one human family, the easier it will be to work together as a family and make our world a much better place for all. It is easy to separate and divide. Let us work hard to unite and come together.