AP: 'Bama Christians only Baptists

I'll admit that I'm a bit ignorant about some of the things that go on in the corners of this country. But there is no way that the inference created by this AP story can be correct.

You can spot a Baptist church from almost any hilltop in Alabama, so it's not hard to find people who agreed with their new governor this week when he said only Christians are his brothers and sisters.

Even so, some of his brothers and sisters thought he could have found a nicer way to say it.

It's unlikely that Republican Gov. Robert Bentley will suffer politically from his inauguration day remarks, which he made from a church pulpit at a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday service Monday.

The article then goes on to give the impression that in Alabama there are no Christians but Baptists. Missing from an otherwise good story that moves the AP's coverage of Bentley's comments beyond the predictable knee-jerk response from day one -- my colleague Bobby already noted that many of the early stories were missing any context -- the AP mentions only one Christian who isn't Baptist.

Sure, the overwhelming majority of Alabaman Christians -- maybe Alabamans in general -- are Baptist. But the state is full of Christians who aren't. There are Methodists and pentecostals and I imagine a smattering of members of other denominations. According to the Encyclopedia of Alabama, there also are about 93,000 members of the Church of Christ; as someone who grew up in that denomination, I know that more than a few of them would prefer to not call a Baptist their brother.

That being said, this story was a nice attempt to help folks from outside Alabama understand the cultural context within which the states new governor would give an inaugural address that bordered on altar call. This story does that by missing man-on-the-street with some of the state's religious history.

Baptist churches are a fixture in every tiny corner of the state, many of them Southern Baptist, the same denomination Bentley follows. ...

A lifelong Baptist who works at a two-pump gas station in rural Rock Creek, Angel Byram said Thursday she understands what Bentley meant with his original comments.

"I get what he was saying. It didn't bother me," said Byram, who was selling a soft drink and headache powders to a coal miner at the small store on Warrior River Road.

"But being in a public office like that (Bentley) should have thought of others," she said. "If I wasn't Baptist and didn't believe that way I would have been offended."

Again, there are plenty of non-Baptist Christians out there who understood and even supported what Bentley said. But Byram's point is an important one that I imagine the AP reporter was using to help reveal why some people were offended by Bentley's comments.

I just wish the reporter had included more than just one non-Baptist perspective. What did pentecostals think? What about Catholics? Orthodox Christians?

I'm also now curious about whether the governor would consider all Christians his brothers and sisters or whether he would take the narrow road. After Bentley's lesson this past week, I suspect that's a question no reporter could get honestly answered.

PHOTO: The handiwork of Jenkins Signs

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