BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP)–The U.S. Constitution prohibits state-sponsored religion, but that does not mean keeping God out of government. Recently, Bob Terry, editor of The Alabama Baptist newsjournal, sat down with Alabama Gov. Bob Riley, who is an active Christian and Baptist, for an interview about his faith.
Following is a transcript of the interview:
TERRY: Governor Riley, would you share with us your involvement in the church?
RILEY: You know, Bob, church is just an innate part of my life. I grew up in a little rural town over in Clay County, a little town called Ashland, and in a small Southern town it seems like all of your activities revolve around two things — the church and school.
So I grew up in a Christian home with great Christian parents, and I think one of the reasons that I have the belief system that I do today is because of growing up in a small Southern town, going to First Baptist Church, Ashland, and the people in that church that really influenced my life as I was growing up.
TERRY: Baptists believe in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. How’s that been expressed in your life?
RILEY: There is no other relationship other than a personal relationship. You know, there’ve been several things that have happened in my life, especially in the past two or three years, that really challenged my faith, and my wife and I have had a chance to talk about it on several occasions.
When things don’t go the way you want them, that’s when faith really is effective. I think that’s when you recognize that with the faith Jesus and our Father is going to do what’s best in our lives, all things do work together for good for those who believe in the Lord and are called to His purpose.
I think that kind of epitomizes my relationship with God. I absolutely believe that Jesus has to be an integral part of your daily life. Not on Sunday but I mean literally minute by minute, hour by hour, every day.
TERRY: Can you tell us more about how this faith has been a source of strength for you?
RILEY: No one really believes this, but I had a conversation with the president one time, and he said, “The reason I can be as bold in the decisions I make is I can really feel people praying for me every day.”
And it’s amazing — my wife and I talked about this a hundred times — there are times that we absolutely know our lives are being directed by a higher power than ours, and when you know that people all over Alabama are praying that God gives you the wisdom and the insight and the perception that you’re going to need, it does allow you to take a stance that is somewhat controversial at times.
TERRY: Are those ways your faith has enabled you to handle the varied responsibilities you carry?
RILEY: It really is. If you believe that ultimately God is in control, and as long as we ask for guidance, as long as we have an active prayer life and believe in intercessory prayer, then you honestly do believe that no matter what decisions you make, if you’re seeking God’s will, that literally gives you a sense of purpose and commitment and resolve that I’m not too sure I could have without that faith.
TERRY: What is it that you want to accomplish as governor that is impacted by your faith?
RILEY: There are so many things…. I still contend that this country was founded on godly principles. There are civilizations that go back thousands of years, and only in the last 200 years has this country become the greatest leader of any country in the world, I mean we are the most powerful country in the world by far.
I don’t think that was an accident. I think it was because we were founded on a rock, and that rock is a belief in Jesus Christ and a belief in Almighty God.
There’s a debate out there today about mixing politics or government and religion. This whole country was founded on biblical principles, and I think that’s one of the things we have to get back to. The reason we’re the greatest country in the world today is very simple to me — it’s because the foundation we’ve used is that rock. I think it was the blessing of God.