Gov. Robert Bentley

Alabama governor's demise 'bitter blow' for Christians? Maybe, but New York Times doesn't prove it

Alabama governor's demise 'bitter blow' for Christians? Maybe, but New York Times doesn't prove it

Earlier this week, I lamented the religion-free media coverage as Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley resigned after a sex scandal.

I opined:

Honestly, I expected to see the phrase "Baptist deacon" up high in all the day-after political obits of Bentley.
After all, the hypocritical nature of his religious emphasis after his inauguration vs. how he actually behaved while serving in the state's highest office had sparked in-depth magazine pieces from publications such as GQ.

On my personal Facebook page, my friend Alan Cochrum, a former copy editor for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, commented:

On the other hand, if the governor's piety had been pointed out, the news sources would get lambasted for piling onto a Christian. I think this is one of those "damned if you do/don't" situations.

I replied:

I get your point, and it might be true in some cases. But in this case, you've got a former Baptist deacon in a state where Southern Baptists are 1 in 5 residents and whose sex scandal involved a woman from his church. Seems relevant to me.

The next day, I was pleased to see the New York Times do a follow-up story delving into the response of Alabama Christians to Bentley's downfall:

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Religion-free political obits as scandalized Alabama 'love gov' resigns? Believe it or not, yes

Religion-free political obits as scandalized Alabama 'love gov' resigns? Believe it or not, yes

Long before he became embroiled in a sex scandal and got dubbed the "Love Gov," Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley stirred controversy.

Freshly inaugurated in 2011, Bentley made national headlines for remarks he made at Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church in Montgomery — where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once preached. Bentley touted the need for Alabamians to love and care for each other, pledged to be the governor of all the state's residents and described himself as "color blind." Then came the part that sent shock waves across the media universe, as GetReligion noted at the time:

"There may be some people here today who do not have living within them the Holy Spirit," Bentley said.
"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."
Bentley added, "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."

Yes, from the start of Bentley's administration, his role as a Baptist deacon and Sunday school teacher — in a state with a million Southern Baptists — figured heavily in his political profile.

After fighting for months to save his job — if not his soul — Bentley finally resigned on Monday.

From the New York Times:

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Gov. Robert Bentley resigned Monday, his power and popularity diminished by a sex scandal that staggered the state, brought him to the brink of impeachment and prompted a series of criminal investigations.
Ellen Brooks, a special prosecutor, said Mr. Bentley quit in connection with a plea agreement on two misdemeanor charges: failing to file a major contribution report and knowingly converting campaign contributions to personal use. He pleaded guilty Monday afternoon.
It was a stunning downfall for the governor, a Republican who acknowledged in March 2016 that he had made sexually charged remarks to his senior political adviser, Rebekah Caldwell Mason.
“I have decided it is time for me to step down as Alabama’s governor,” Mr. Bentley said at the State Capitol. He did not mention the charges to which he pleaded guilty, or the deal with prosecutors that mandated his resignation.

Anything missing from that lede?

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That'll preach: GQ nails down the sins of Alabama's governor, but only in political terms

That'll preach: GQ nails down the sins of Alabama's governor, but only in political terms

Long ago, when I taught media and culture classes at Denver Seminary, I had a large bulletin board in the lobby outside the auditorium on which I pinned all kinds of items from the mainstream press.

This wasn't a current events board. Instead, my goal was to show the seminary community that all kinds of things were happening in the world around them that raised questions that were essentially moral and theological in nature.

There was, for example, a newsweekly cover about female anger and the movie "Thelma and Louise." I wasn't suggesting that pastors show video clips from this R-rated drama. My point was that the controversy swirling around it was important -- especially for people whose churches were involved in divorce-recovery ministry.

Mostly, I was trying to get seminary people to tune in, whenever the culture talks about ultimate questions. Hang on with me for a minute, because this is taking us into the pages of GQ and that feature story called, "The Love Song of Robert Bentley, Alabama's Horndog Governor."

Here is a piece of a book chapter from that time, explaining this "signal" concept:

I believe that our media are constantly sending out "signals" that can help the church go about its ministry and mission work in this post-Christian culture. Sadly, the church and our seminaries are ignoring both the content and social role of popular culture mass media, which are among the most powerful cultural forces in the modern world.
So what is a "signal?" I have defined this as a single piece of media or popular culture focusing on a subject that is of interest to the church. It can be a newspaper article, a single episode of a television show, a compact disc, a movie, a new video, a best-selling book or some other specific item.

Thus, a prime "signal" is when the mass media raise crucial questions, even if their proposed answers are less than adequate, from the church's point of view.

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Sex (talk) scandal involving Alabama's Baptist governor brings out Old Gray Lady's snark

Sex (talk) scandal involving Alabama's Baptist governor brings out Old Gray Lady's snark

Apparently, Alabama's devoted Baptist governor, Robert Bentley, was all talk.

Come to think of it, he claims he still is.

Maybe I should back up a bit: As longtime GetReligion readers may recall, we wrote about the controversy that erupted after Bentley's election in 2010. That furor involved the Baptist deacon and Sunday school teacher declaring — on the day of his January 2011 swearing-in — that non-Christians were not his brothers and sisters.

Here's what drew the media's attention:

"There may be some people here today who do not have living within them the Holy Spirit," Bentley said.
"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."
Bentley added, "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."

Fast-forward five years, and the governor — whose wife of 50 years filed for divorce last year — is making headlines for talk of a different kind.

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