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.
It's been over 30 years since he's been President ...get over it.
The Founding Fathers rightly thought the Middle Ages were a waste of time. Those of you who disagree can live there.
@LinCA – Skepticism: In philosophy, the position that what cannot be proved by reason should not be believed. One of the main tasks of epistemology is to find an answer to the charge of some extreme skeptics that no knowledge is possible.
http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/skepticism?s=t (see bottom of page for my quote).
"no knowledge is possible". Now I see the fly in the atheists' ointment!
the atheists' newest fantasy discussed.
The difference between religious people and atheists (realists) is that religious people start with an idea or conclusion and then try to make the facts conform to it. Realists start form the evidence and arrive at the most likely conclusion. This is why religious people constantly pick and choose information, reject other evidences and cite "context" as their fallback position. Realists are comfortable with questions and are uncomfortable with finite answers. Religious people will always fall back on comfortable answers in place of uncomfortable questions. Doubt is a tool that helps the realist observe the universe around him. Faith is the opiate of the religious person.
@Ashrakay "The difference between religious people and atheists (realists) is that religious people start with an idea or conclusion and then try to make the facts conform to it. Realists start form the evidence and arrive at the most likely conclusion. This is why religious people constantly pick and choose information, reject other evidences and cite "context" as their fallback position. Realists are comfortable with questions and are uncomfortable with finite answers. Religious people will always fall back on comfortable answers in place of uncomfortable questions. Doubt is a tool that helps the realist observe the universe around him. Faith is the opiate of the religious person."
Creationist: "How did the universe originate"
Atheists "we dont know, the only thing we do know for sure is that God didnt do it"
Creationist: "ah.. well, how did life on earth develop?"
Atheists "we dont know, the only thing we do know for sure is that God didnt do it"
Creationist "ah.. ok, why are there laws governing the universe, laws upon which by definition science is based on."
Atheists "we dont know, the only thing we do know for sure is that God didnt do it"
It is oft said that religious people have faith.
Atheists however have much, much more faith. They have an unshakable faith that that which can not be proved as true (that God does not exist), actually is true.
In fact, Christianity defines faith as "substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." – Hebrews 11
I still see you are claiming that atheists have more confidence in science than believers like you have in your faith. Maybe you're right? All we are saying is that there is nothing to imply that the universe and life on this planet didn't arise naturally, without having been "made" by some being that, ironically, creationists claim was never itself made. Tell me, do creationists ever debate which god supposedly created the universe, or do they claim special gnosis in knowing it was God? Thousands of different creations stories have been part of primitive cultures, after all, so why does the Jewish one merit special consideration?
"In fact, Christianity defines faith as "substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." – Hebrews 11"
But what if both the "substance" and "evidence" are actually zero, as we atheists suspect? You can't manufacture evidence out of thin air just by stringing a few words together into a sentence, right?
President George H W Bush said an atheist is not a patriot and should not be a citizen of the USA. We are one nation under God, with more than enough "evidence" to get the job done.
"President George H W Bush said an atheist is not a patriot and should not be a citizen of the USA. We are one nation under God, with more than enough "evidence" to get the job done."
It was because of Bush this country was ran into the ground, we got into a false war because he lied about it. Only an idiot would listen to a Bush. What a joke. Oh, that's right you're a LIAR so no wonder you support another LIAR!
Depends on if you still believe we're getting the job done, or always had gotten it done, because of people's religious beliefs, or was it our overwhelming industrial capacity, or one of our other enormous advantages that put us on top?
Besides, it was just the opinion of one elected official, and not even a second term president either. Who cares what he said? I know that I don't!
@Chad, Like your imaginary religion, your imaginary conversation has holes in it. First of all, you'll have to look hard to find an atheist that says they know with complete certainty that god didn't create the universe. In fact, in the beginning god has as much weight as any other theory. However, as time goes on and evidence is gathered, the idea that god created the universe or even exists becomes less probable than other possibilities. We see a trend line developing. The more we know, the less likely god becomes.
Yes, the universe is governed by laws. This means only that they are. It's that simple. To imply a god, supreme alien or magical leprechaun all have equal weight, as none can be disproven. This is why we don't rush to conclusions about the governing laws. Should we find evidence one day that a magical leprechaun set up the laws of the universe, every scientist and atheist would except it as reality, otherwise would be guilty of subscribing to the same delusional behavior they claim religious people partake in. However, this does not in turn mean that one has to worship the magical leprechaun.
Lastly, as I believe I've said to you before, resistance requires faith. Realists don't resist. They accept. All we do is sit back and wait for evidence to come into our lives and accept it. It's very simple and requires no blind faith. If you provide verifiable evidence of your god, we will accept it. It's that simple. It is in fact because you don't have evidence that you require faith to believe in something. Non-believe is a non-action. I don't have to reject zeus when I don't believe in him. How tiring would that be if I had to reject everything I didn't believe in!? There's an endless amount of things i don't believe in. You don't believe the sky is green. Do you need faith to accept that it is blue? No, you verify it with your eyes and consensus. Religious folk always take it personally and feel rejected if someone doesn't buy into their theory of existence. But that doesn't mean that the other person is actually rejecting them or god. It's merely that the evidence is obvious to us and points to there being no god. So we accept that.
So Carter is super-hero because of his "religious beliefs", but Santorum is a freakshow. More double standards and bias from the propagandists at CNN. The Media Machine has no credibility.
Santorum is a freak show because his faith directs him to take away people's civil liberties, while Carter's directs him to help expand people's civil liberties. It's the difference between fascism and actual democracy.
Carter should be considered a criminal!!!!!!! His presidnecy gave rise to islamic power in ME because of his miscalc ...... He was and is a disaster ...... and only and only he knows id
The question is when he is going to write his commentary on Quran, since he is the man who brought Khomein, Muslim brotherhood and Benladin to power.
Jimmy Carter is the father of Islamic Iran.
In my view Jimmy Carter is a shining example of a good human being and a great leader. People who still blame him have consumed the Rethug Coolaid. He was cheated out of a second term by Reagan the saint of Republicans who acted as the US President. He also struck a deal with the Iranians and helped smuggle weapons into Iran violating US laws and LIED TO THE CONGRESS. Let's not forget that his partner in crime was Papa Bush.
I used to at least think highly of him because he at least did not totally cave in to the Zionist state. He also did good with the Habitat. As a President he was a disaster. His recent acceptance of gay marriage makes me dismiss him as a screwed up old man.
Oh I get it. It's OK to be a Christian if you're a Democrat. It's OK to be a 1 percenter, murderer, liar, and wall street thief. It's OK to bankrupt 5 countries. It's OK to be anything if you are a Democrat. Where are the punks who call people who believe in God stupid? Afraid to speak up??????
People that believe in god, whether democrat or republican are either ignorant or willfully ignorant. If willfully ignorant, they are stupid. Not sure what your tirade is about, but rest assured, I don't care about race, culture, finance or political disposition. If you believe in god, you are deluding yourself. Satisfied?
Well Said!!! Just more lies from the Left. One day they will not be laughing, because they will find out that everyone is smarter than they think!
Maybe it's because the religious folks who vote Democrat are moderate in their zeal and actually respect the separation between church and state. Few nonbelievers seriously believe that all the faithful will see the light anytime soon. So, if we're going to coexist with believers, better they be moderate, and at least fairly reasonable. Usually, it's only the hyper-zealous, super-conservative types that want to set up Christian Sharia law in America that we feel must be challenged.
The greatest environmental president by for.Bless you president Carter
Jimmy Carter in my book, should have been a two term president. Thank you Jimmy Carter.
Really? Double Digit inflation and unemployment when Carter was in office. Read an objective history of his failed term in office. Don't vote until you educate yourself.
How much better America would have been if Jimmy had won in 1980 and beaten that absurd empty-headed posturing cowboy, Reagan.
A missed opportunity to make us a better country.
Yeah, we would of been stuck with double digit unemployment....
Double -digit unemployment, double-digit inflation, no spine to deal with the Iranian loonies who gav us Ah-mah-nut-job. Now Carter is anti-Israel, pro-Arab muzzies, and pretends to be a "good guy". What a piece of krap!
Double -digit unemployment, double-digit inflation, no spine to deal with the Iranian loonies who gave us Ah-mah-nut-job. Now Carter is anti-Israel, pro-Arab muz zies, and pretends to be a "good guy". What a piece of krap of a man!
He meant "wood off bean stock."
President Carter is a clear and unwavering Anti-Semite and hater of Israel. I can not imagine anyone looking up to this evil man after the lies and distortions he dared to write in his books. As the saying goes "Those who Bless Israel will be Blessed and those who Curse Israel will be Cursed!". I hate this man!
@Danny, I'm probably one of the only people on this comment section that actually met and had lunch at Jimmy Carter's house. I can assure you that he is not antisemitic. But, why let facts get in the way of making yourself feel special by believing otherwise? I suspect you don't with religion, so why start with humans.
Rubbish. No one believes anymore that someone who criticizes the apartheid racist policies of Israel is an anti-semite. That whole charade is over and done with, despite the best efforts of AIPAC and Dershowitz to keep the game going.
Carter is recognized the world over as a first-class statesman who has rightly condemned the racist Zionist regime for its policies.
Danny, ""Those who Bless Israel will be Blessed and those who Curse Israel will be Cursed!"
The words of an ancient ethnocentric desert warlord trying to rally his troops (and people)... Get over it.
Carter's arab spring actions were clearly anti-Jewist. Carter is a Jew hater and a religious buffoon
I think Jimmy Carter is probably the most decent man that has ever been in public service. He may not of been the best president ever. But he was the best real Christian I have ever seen in my 50+ years. He not only talks the talk, like some "Christians". He walks the walk. You can tell a good man by his works, and his is extensive.
BunnyBunny, 50+ years old and you say, "He may not "of" been..."?! **sigh**
A nice man. Decent. But too naive to be President. Gullible. Thinking all those other leaders and countries just needed talking to and convincing. Yah, sure.
Sounds just like our current disaster-in-chief.
So, it boils down to either negotiating with our enemies, or starting wars that we can't really win. Which do you prefer?
the Carter plan was to buy land and strip the peanut base off, transfer to their land and resell the worthless land to some sucker. that's how they got so big in the peanut industry. I have no respect for this.
Martin wrote on March 17, 2012 at 10:47 pm stating, "JImmy is a great guy, but anyone who believes in life after death is just on an ego trip and were probably brainwashed in early childhood. Theism is just a mythical form of totalitarianism. I find it humorous that any American would be longing for the day when they are ruled by a King. Old ideas die slow."
Egomaniaics are dime a dozen outside of the religiously devoted folks. There are some religious egomaniacs in the ranks of this world's churched devotees but such does pale when one indulges to see outside the circles as to the many so many egomaniacs religion does not control. I fight for the USERS and not the ABUSERS!!!!!!!!!!!! :-).
Carter was a pretty good guy. Why did Ronald Reagan defeat Carter?
Reagan entered into a conspiracy with the Iranians who were holding Americans hostage. Reagan promised them weapons IF they would keep Americans prisoner until AFTER Reagan won the election.
America's enemies kept their promise and did not release American hostages until after the election.
Reagan kept his promise to America's enemies (the only promise he ever kept) and he delivered illegal weapons to them.
Never underestimate a Conservative. They are capable of the lowest form of treachery.
Why did Reagan defeat Carter? Because Carter was an incompetent, way out of his depth, with absurd ideas that might work on a peanut farm, but not on a global level. Maybe you think fondly of the days when mortgage rates were at 14% and the Iranians were laughing at us. I don't.
Was Reagan – or those who supported him – also responsible for the enrichment of the OPEC countries through increased gas prices and the destablization of the U.S.A., when Americans had to spend inordinate time in their cars just waiting for a gas pump?
Your name says it all.
And, I suppose that Reagan's supporters are also somehow responsible for the Egyptian-Libyan-Syrian-and (soon-to-be) Pakistani Spring? See some dots connected in this headline: Al Qaeda leader calls for revolt like Arab Spring in Pakistan updated 1 day ago
Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri is calling on Pakistanis to join the Arab Spring uprisings and revolt against their government, saying the country's leaders are "slaves of America," according to a recent video posted on jihadist forums Friday.
How refreshing it is to look back on a leader who recognized that his actions could be guided by his faith, without having to push that faith on the law or the public.
Carter was a good social worker...Stunk as President!!!!!!!
But he's been the best ex-president the nation has had in a very long time.
Jimmy Carter is the only great man to ever come out of Georgia. He was certainly the best Christian who has ever elected to the White House. If we had re-elected him instead of electing hopeless, hapless, helpless, clueless old Ronald Reagan, America would be a much happier and healthier nation than it is today.
Any mistake that Carter made can be attributed to his Christian faith. He earnestly believes the Christian description of human nature, which is unfortuntely false. Christianity assumes that goodness resides in every man and woman, which, alas, it does not.
El Flaco, if you believe that Christianity teaches that people are basically good, then I'd have to say that you got your Theological info from one of the liberal religious groups.
Whle it could be true that Carter believes this (he has been accused of being a liberal Christian), the fact is that the Bible, and Classical Christian Theology teaches that Man is NOT basically good – rather, we are desperately wicked at our core.
If you think "Christianity assumes that goodness resides in every man and woman", you are not well read on Christs teachings, however I would like you to pick up your Bible and read it. Start with the old testament and you'll see the battles and wars fought. From there, you can then read the New Testament and look at the apostles writings. Although it focuses on salvation, no where does it imply that goodness is in every man. On the contrary, evil resides in every man.
We are inherently good. Trouble is we're not being taught to thrive but to survive, which brings out the worst in us.
I guess Ray Charles, Ty Cobb, Martin Luther King, Jr, Ray Charles and Doc Holliday don't count as great men from Georgia.
Original Sin assumes that evil lies within every human being, not good. Nobody could ever be "good" enough, which is why Jesus supposedly died to redeem people.
Carters faith grew after God answered his prayers and made an even worse President… Obama.
Says the mentally impaired dweeb who doesn't comprehend the difference between the words "worse" and "worst" because his school didn't cover that until 8th grade.
Have you always been naturally stupid, or did you have to take lessons?
that's why Carter is all smiles, he could run for 2012 with the slogan 'hey, I can't be worse than Obama'.
You forgot the very worst. President Bush, he will go down in history as the man who nearly destroyed the United States.
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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.