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Jimmy Carter publishes study Bible, discusses faith-filled life
President Jimmy Carter's speaks at an interfaith service in New York in 1991.
March 17th, 2012
06:45 AM ET

Jimmy Carter publishes study Bible, discusses faith-filled life

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN) – Jimmy Carter, peanut farmer turned president turned globe-trotting humanitarian, now has another line to add to his business card: Bible commentator. Last week Carter published a Lessons from Life Study Bible, with the subtitle Personal Reflections with Jimmy Carter.

With many Democrats embracing the language of faith in recent years in an attempt to win back so-called values voters from the Republican column, Carter's intense faith life is a good reminder that hardly all Democrats are new to the pew.

Since he returned to Plains, Georgia, from Washington after losing his re-election bid to Ronald Reagan in 1980, Carter has taught Sunday school at the local Maranatha Baptist Church, “about 685 times so far,” he says.

His notes in the new study Bible pull from years of Sunday school lessons. “Like the disciples, we should not be proud, seek an ascendant position or argue about who’s the greatest among us,” he notes in reflecting on a passage from the Gospel of Mark in which Jesus' followers are debating who among them is the greatest.

In a phone interview from his home in Plains, he said politics is one area in need of redemption, bemoaning the influx of vitriol and money into politics.

“I always referred to incumbent President Gerald Ford as ‘my distinguished opponent’ and that’s the way he referred to me. When I later ran against Gov. [Ronald] Reagan, it was the same thing, ‘my distinguished opponent,’” Carter said of his runs for president.

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Carter’s 1976 bid for the White House was cast in the shadow of President Nixon’s resignation following the Watergate scandal. Carter was a seemingly squeaky clean and relatively unknown one-term governor, a Baptist churchgoer who became a darling of evangelical Christian voters.

On the campaign trail, Carter proudly advertised that he had been “born again.” Historian Randall Balmer dubbed him the “Redeemer President” in his book "God in the White House," largely crediting Carter with bringing the vocabulary of evangelicalism into national politics.

President Carter works in the Oval Office in February 1977.

But any notion Carter would govern as he taught Sunday school was dispelled when he took office. "I was taught to believe in the complete separation of church and state,” he said.

Carter says he's a disciple of President Jefferson, who famously wrote in a letter that the First Amendment established "a wall of separation between Church & State.”

Carter’s embrace of that idea did not always go over well at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

“I got into some trouble for that because, for instance, I didn’t want Billy Graham, who was my friend, to come and have worship services inside the White House, as had been done in previous presidencies both Democrat and Republican,” he said.

Graham, Carter said, was not happy but later came to understand it.

Carter's presidential daily diaries, compiled by the White House staff to record the movement, conversations and meetings of the president, show Graham and Carter communicated often via telephone and over meals.

President Carter and President Bush pray with the Rev. Billy Graham in 2007.

Indeed, Carter said it was impossible to separate his Christian faith from his daily life in the White House.

Long before he worked out of the Oval Office, he and his wife Rosalynn developed the habit of reading a passage of scripture aloud every night: “She would take a turn one night and I would take the next.”

It was a practice they kept up in the White House and continue to this day, reading through the Bible and then starting again at the beginning. Carter said he and Rosalynn have recently been reading a Spanish translation of the Bible to keep up their language skills.

“I tried to put into my services as president the teachings of Christ,” he said. To Carter that meant policies that pushed for peace around the globe and cared for the needy.

“I was very careful to keep religious practice out of my decisions as president except for moral values,” he said.

In the White House, Carter still found time to quietly teach Sunday school on 14 occasions. He attended services at various churches, including worshipping at Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland.

The Carter presidential diaries note Carter and his wife attending services in Washington at First Baptist Church. "The President and the First Lady attended the adult Sunday School class," reads an entry from December 18, 1977. "The class was conducted by the President."

A similar entry is written for March 4, 1979.

“I’ve taught Sunday school for almost my entire life, beginning when I was a Midshipman in the Navy at 18 years old,” Carter said.

The majority of those lessons were given at Maranatha Baptist Church, which now has around 30 members. When Carter teaches Sunday school there today, attendance can grow to 800 – passing the population total for the tiny town of Plains, home to 650 residents.

Carter walks through his family peanut farm in an undated campaign photo.

Busloads of tourists regularly pull into the parking lot for a chance to hear the former leader of the free world teach from Scripture. At times, visitors spill into an overflow room with a television monitor, subject to security sweeps by the Secret Service, Carter said.

The church’s answering machine recording begins with the times Carter will be teaching and suggests visitors arrive early, noting the doors open at 8:30 a.m. and that there are no reservations.

Carter’s presence on Sundays is a one-man economic engine for the tiny town. “It really is a huge impact,” said Ruth Sanders, director of the Plains Better Homes Committee, a local tourism office.

She said the seven-room Plains Historic Inn is booked months in advance and that its country diner is jammed. She also notes that Sunday school is the only time people are guaranteed a photo with the former president, who with his wife poses for a picture with everyone who asks after services.

“One of the main things I try to do is to connect the very ancient Scriptures with modern day life," he said. "Either experiences I’ve had or that I believe are things that are interesting to people who come to hear me teach.”

Christian publishing house Zondervan compiled the study Bible, which combines Carter’s teachings and notes with the New International Bible Study Bible.

The NIV translation is one of the best selling English translations of the Bible of all time. Verne Kenney, executive vice president for Zondervan, which published the Carter Bible, expects it to sell 250,000 copies over several years.

“We believe we can find some people we haven’t engaged with the product, with who has written the notes,” Kenney said.

Carter brings some serious credentials to those notes. He served just one term as Georgia governor and one term as president, but is working on his seventh decade as a Sunday school teacher.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Bible • Church and state • Faith Now • Georgia • Politics

soundoff (1,124 Responses)
  1. Net&yahu

    Thhis SOB carter is an antisemite...to hell with him! Only CNN chooses to post comments about this SOB blackguard!

    March 17, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • Thomas

      Huh?

      March 17, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • Sparky

      According to you, anyone who doesn't bow down to the Israeli right wing is an anti-Semite. If a Jew like Joe Klein agrees with Carter, you call him a "self-hating Jew".

      No, there just happen to be a lot of people who don't agree with you. They don't have to. Get used to it.

      March 17, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • Me

      Anyone who criticizes Israelis policy is anti semite, right?!!!

      March 17, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
  2. Thomas

    Love the story. Amazed by the man. Disappointed by the comments that follow.

    March 17, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • GB

      Thanks Thomas. Simple and succinct, truthful comment.

      March 19, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
  3. Brian Smith

    The man stands for American ideals. He worked to protect us from the hubris that the greatness of our country engendered. He stands for basic goodness. He has always worked for the rule of law. He did not take the easy paths. Cheers my friends!

    March 17, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
  4. cgs

    Did Carter ever decide if Jesus would be in favor of abortion or not?

    March 17, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
  5. Faxon

    Obama's main accomplishment has been unseat Jimmy Carter as the worst President since Grant.

    March 17, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • crazyvermont

      sorry but last person I want giving me spiritual advice

      March 17, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
    • Jean

      Interesting that thoughtful, intelligent men who work for the good of the environment and for the health and safety of citizens are called bad presidents.

      March 17, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
    • SPA Knight

      I would agree on his ability as the President but the one thing Carter has that Obama doesn't is a strong faith, compassion and a love for America. Unfortunately for him, he was too trusting of other leaders around the world who played him like a violin because they knew he would never that forceful action. Obama on the other hand will take every action necessary to accomplish the destruction of America and the Catholic Church because in the end he hates America and has no compassion.

      March 19, 2012 at 10:00 am |
  6. 21k

    jimmy carter's forefathers in the southern colonies on sunday: " dear ja-sus, help me to keep my slaves in line, for they seem to think they are people, and therefore should not be treated like livestock. help me beat them mercifully, so that i instill fear in them, but not to the point that i lose productivity in the fields 12 hours a day. help me to teach my children my ways, so that they too can live a righteous life, while keeping other people in chains in their barns. amen"

    March 17, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • Don Camp

      Have you been to Plains? Read anything about Carter's convictions regarding race? Probably not. If you had you would know that he left one church in Plains because of racial prejudice and that he worked seriously and still does for equality for all. In fact, that may be why so many on this forum hate him. Could it be their latent racism?

      March 17, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
  7. Joink

    You left off clown and imbecile from his accomplishments. Also, anti-Semitic termite.

    March 17, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
  8. vinobianco

    still waiting for the day we elect an atheist...it will be a wonderful day

    March 17, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • 21k

      never going to happen. even the dems are beholden to crazy xtians , and an atheist would never make it thru the primary. unless they lied, since there is no god to fear in reality. hmnn, could work.

      March 17, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • ironranger

      yup, atheist Stalin and Mao have killed over 80 million people between them......ya got to love an atheist......boy you just can't fix STUPID!!!!!!!

      March 17, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Stalin was an atheist. He killed millions. Therefore, he must have done so BECAUSE he was an atheist and therefore ALL atheists are mass murderers.

      You're a real genius, aren't you?

      March 17, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
    • 21k

      iron, talk about stupid. xtians killed each other in ireland for centuries; xtians killed who knows how many in the inquisition; branch davidians, :witches" drowned by puritans, slaves murdered by xtian owners here; kkk murdering others in the name of ja-sus. you're a f#$%^&* d.b.

      March 17, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • Pinewalker

      Maybe for you but nit the 82% of Anericans that believe I'm some sort if higher power or being.

      March 17, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • ropeadope

      We already have one in the office. His name is Obama! ;-) (He's not stupid, he knows how to play the religious game).

      March 17, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
  9. Jim

    I have so much respect for this man..he walked the talk his whole life even when it hurt him..i love the fact that our most christian president and the one who after he left office has dedicated his life to living his faith is hated by right wing evangelical nazis It is astounding

    March 17, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • ironranger

      Jim,
      Put down the Crack pipe.....Clinton wouldn't let Carter anywhere near the whitehouse..........another idiot blogger that couldn't find his rear end with boy hands....... liberals never let the facts interfer with their feeeeeeeeeeeeelings..

      March 17, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
    • crazyvermont

      walked the walk when convenient.....this was first in line of political correct christians. His motto....when in Rome, do as the Romans do..

      March 17, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
  10. Scott

    Secong worse President, After the current.

    March 17, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • ironranger

      you nailed it ! Carter was a collasal embarrassment and did a lot of damage to the USA.....Carter could only dream of doing the damage that Obama has gotten away with...... A plotted plant would beat and be better then Obama!

      March 17, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
  11. unowhoitsme

    A true godly man doesn't last long in the corrupt political world. He realizes that there are other "gods" controlling this country, which he has no control over. We have become a godless nation.

    March 17, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
  12. .

    So CNN's definition of a good Christian is somebody who created 10 percent unemployment, 18 percent inflation and double digit interest rates - all in the name of social justice.

    I'm voting a straight Republican ticket in November.

    March 17, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • Anthony

      figures, all your retort has to do with the physical $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

      March 17, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • Brud

      Name one Carter policy that caused any increase in unemployment or increase in interest rates. If you're honest, you will agree that both of these problems were the direct result of Fed Chairman Volker's attempts to control inflation caused by the long war in Vietnam and the run-up in oil prices by OPEC. Nevertheless, Volker's action set the stage for the economic recovery of the 1980s, which Reagan unjustly took credit for.

      March 17, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
  13. Dave

    He's the antiChrist.

    March 17, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • .

      He's a liberal idiot. The only Democrat I have ever voted for. Never again.

      March 17, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • Anthony

      And I suppose Santorum is the savior?????????????????? Please....

      March 17, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • GB

      So many of those around these days for some people! It's Obama, it's Nixon, it's Kissinger, it's Clinton, now it's Carter? Tight there is why people won't recognize the Anti-Christ when the creature comes to power...beause they've screamed about it being so many who came before that they won't know it until it makes them bow.

      Everybody just needs to stop with it already.

      March 19, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
  14. Adam

    http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/

    March 17, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
  15. Peter E

    "Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they're sure trying to do so, it's going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can't and won't compromise. I know, I've tried to deal with them.
    .....
    The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom.... I'm frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in 'A,' 'B,' 'C,' and 'D.' Just who do they think they are?... I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of "conservatism." "

    - Barry Goldwater, (1909–1998), five-term US Senator, Republican Party nominee for President in 1964*, Maj. Gen., US Air Force Reserves, author of The Conscience of a Conservative.

    March 17, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
  16. giggity

    Great man like not many around.

    March 17, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • .

      Obama is just like Jimmy Carter.

      You'll see in November.

      March 17, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
  17. Reality

    Jimmy C,

    For your next Sunday school lesson (and your last obviously if you recite the prayer in class), a prayer:

    ONLY FOR THE NEWCOMERS:

    From The Apostles' Creed 2011: (updated by yours truly and based on the studies of historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

    Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
    and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
    human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven??

    I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
    preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
    named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
    girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

    Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
    the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

    He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
    a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of
    Jerusalem.

    Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
    many semi-fiction writers. A descent into Hell, a bodily resurrection
    and ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
    Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
    grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
    and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
    called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

    Amen
    (references used are available upon request)

    March 17, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
    • .....

      Copy paste bull sh it alert hit report abuse on it every time it appears

      March 17, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • Don Camp

      I wonder if you know that if Jesus was crucified as a criminal, as both biblical authors and extra-biblical authors of the first century acknowledge, he would not have been buried at all. His body would have been tossed on the dump and burned. That he was buried is both an interested attestation to the conflict between Pilate and the Jewish leaders and to fulfillment of prophecy – see Isaiah 53.

      March 17, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
    • Don Camp

      I wonder if you have really ever consider the evidence for the resurrection. Probably not, if your sources are primarily atheist websites. (It is sad that schools don't teach critical thinking anymore.)

      If you are interested you might check out "Evidence for the Resurrection" on the LeadershipU site.

      March 17, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
    • Reality

      Saving Christians from the Infamous Resurrection Con/:

      From that famous passage: In 1 Corinthians 15 St. Paul reasoned, "If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith."

      Even now Catholic/Christian professors of theology are questioning the bodily resurrection of the simple, preacher man aka Jesus.

      To wit;

      From a major Catholic university's theology professor’s grad school white-board notes:

      "Heaven is a Spirit state or spiritual reality of union with God in love, without earthly – earth bound distractions.
      Jesus and Mary's bodies are therefore not in Heaven.

      Most believe that it to mean that the personal spiritual self that survives death is in continuity with the self we were while living on earth as an embodied person.

      Again, the physical Resurrection (meaning a resuscitated corpse returning to life), Ascension (of Jesus' crucified corpse), and Assumption (Mary's corpse) into heaven did not take place.

      The Ascension symbolizes the end of Jesus' earthly ministry and the beginning of the Church.

      Only Luke records it. (Luke mentions it in his gospel and Acts, i.e. a single attestation and therefore historically untenable). The Assumption ties Jesus' mission to Pentecost and missionary activity of Jesus' followers The Assumption has multiple layers of symbolism, some are related to Mary's special role as "Christ bearer" (theotokos). It does not seem fitting that Mary, the body of Jesus' Virgin-Mother (another biblically based symbol found in Luke 1) would be derived by worms upon her death. Mary's assumption also shows God's positive regard, not only for Christ's male body, but also for female bodies." "

      "In three controversial Wednesday Audiences, Pope John Paul II pointed out that the essential characteristic of heaven, hell or purgatory is that they are states of being of a spirit (angel/demon) or human soul, rather than places, as commonly perceived and represented in human language. This language of place is, according to the Pope, inadequate to describe the realities involved, since it is tied to the temporal order in which this world and we exist. In this he is applying the philosophical categories used by the Church in her theology and saying what St. Thomas Aquinas said long before him."
      http://eternal-word.com/library/PAPALDOC/JP2HEAVN.HTM

      The Vatican quickly embellished this story with a lot CYAP.

      With respect to rising from the dead, we also have this account:

      An added note: As per R.B. Stewart in his introduction to the recent book, The Resurrection of Jesus, Crossan and Wright in Dialogue,

      p.4

      "Reimarus (1774-1778) posits that Jesus became sidetracked by embracing a political position, sought to force God's hand and that he died alone deserted by his disciples. What began as a call for repentance ended up as a misguided attempt to usher in the earthly political kingdom of God. After Jesus' failure and death, his disciples stole his body and declared his resurrection in order to maintain their financial security and ensure themselves some standing."

      p.168. by Ted Peters:

      Even so, asking historical questions is our responsibility. Did Jesus really rise from the tomb? Is it necessary to have been raised from the tomb and to appear to his disciples in order to explain the rise of early church and the transcription of the bible? Crossan answers no, Wright answers, yes. "

      So where are the bones"? As per Professor Crossan's analyses in his many books, the body of Jesus would have ended up in the mass graves of the crucified, eaten by wild dogs, covered with lime in a shallow grave, or under a pile of stones.

      March 17, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
  18. Nii

    A little bit of prayers from Billy Graham in the White House would have given him a second term.

    March 17, 2012 at 10:02 am |
    • Nii

      The prayers of the righteous availeth much. One term President banned Billy Graham from praying in the White House.

      March 17, 2012 at 10:18 am |
  19. AGuest9

    Obviously, it doesn't, just sayin

    March 17, 2012 at 9:31 am |
  20. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    March 17, 2012 at 9:25 am |
    • Jesus

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!!!

      March 17, 2012 at 10:05 am |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer cures heart disease.

      Proven.

      March 17, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • EvolvedDNA

      Jesus...why waste time being rational to AINHFCAOLT..he or she has no idea of what an atheist is, and is most likely traumatized by a religious upbringing.

      March 17, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
    • Jesus

      "Prayer cures heart disease.

      Proven."

      You've been proven a LIAR over and over again on this blog. What has been proven is prayer doesn't work since Christians have been sent to jail because prayer didn't work in saving their child but modern medicine would have!

      March 17, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • just sayin

      The fool has said in its heart there is no God = atheist. Was not raised Christian, God met with me on a road to Damascus experience.

      March 17, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer changes things
      Proven

      March 17, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • Alley Loo Ya

      just sayin,

      "Road to Damascus" experience? Well, aren't you SPECIAL.

      "God", if it were real, could/would do this for everyone.

      All of your preaching is "a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

      March 17, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • Jesus

      "Prayer changes things
      Proven"

      What has been proven is prayer doesn't work since Christians have been sent to jail because prayer didn't work in saving their child but modern medicine would have!

      March 17, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • Don Camp

      I don't think those who pray have to have statistical evidence. They have personal evidence.

      There is a common misconception, both by skeptics and Christians, that prayer is a means of getting something. It is not. It is a means of connecting with the God of the universe. In that relationship we listen. Then we may be moved to ask. If we ask – and we are invited to ask – we ask in Jesus' name, meaning we ask for those things he would desire. Those prayers God hears and responds to. Those prayers make us partners with God in his purposes in the world.

      Prayer is not magic. It is communication with God.

      March 17, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • Commenter

      Don Camp – "Prayer ... is communication with God."

      It is talking to yourself. There is no evidence that any other being is listening or responding.

      March 17, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer changes things
      Prayer is talking with God
      Pray without ceasing in 2012
      Prayer really changes things

      March 17, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
    • edwardo

      Same idiotic post. Different day.

      March 17, 2012 at 8:07 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.