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.
Prayer changes things.
Thanks to prayer, my cat is once again healthy.
I prayed for my sunday newspaper to be on my porch this morning. It worked. Praise the lord!!!!
I think tonight I'll pray for my alarm clock to go off tomorrow morning so I can go to work.
every night I pray there will be sunlight the next day and God provides it because of my prayers...you guys don't even appreciate me.
His religion is phony nonsense. Its just left wing ideology portrayed as religion. I have read some of the crap he wrote. He thinks he knows better than god what is right and wrong just like all the other liberals.
joe, joe, joe………….YOU are a piece of work, aren't you.
Take a look in the mirror once in a while……………….or are you afraid it will crack?
Write something that has some meaning. Thats a typical liberal response. Either name calling or just fluff.
Well, he is and always has been a cold blooded hypocrite.
He's not a nice, decent human being.
But he has fooled a lot of people, including me at one point.
Personally, I detest the guy.
Jimmy Carter has traveled the world and wherever he has gone he has tried to promote peace. He has never harmed anyone with his ideas and efforts to help the poor whether it was building homes with Habitat for Humanity or promoting good sanitation and farming practices. He has done whatever has been asked of him as a loyal American and former President. He is a good and humble man who lives what he believes. He deserves our love and respect in his final years. I am not a believer but I know decency when I see it.
Carter doesn't shove his beliefs in your face at every opportunity like many Christians do. He lets his actions show you what his faith is. That IS being a great Christian.
And the big mouthed twerps who call him a bad President sure don't look at his record with a fair and honest eye. Yeah – he wasn't a great President, but he was far from being a bad President.
There is absolutely nothing whatsoever humble about Jimmy Carter.
In fact he is one of the most arrogant men to ever B.S. his way into the White House and the one Secret Service agents disliked the most.
He is playing a game and as usual has fooled a lot of people.
He's a self centered, arrogant jerk.
i still like him. i would ask a lot of questions if i could talk to presidents. not sure they would tell the truth though.
Jimmy Carter: Good Man, Bad President...
@Observer: An agnostic? Hey that's what i was, so i see where u r coming from.
Oh btw, sorry if u thought i was meaning you when i said we, i meant we in the id community.
Gotta go 4 the nite, but chat w/ya later!
Thanks for the apology. Few people have the integrity to do that here. Kudos.
No question: within 100 years, Jimmy Carter will be celebrated as the equivalent of a protestant/evangelical saint. History will recognize his genuine accomplishment of delicately balancing the imperatives of faith with public policy. In time we will realize that the tenor of our present partisan comments is a simply symptom of a passing affliction of hyper-polarized acrimony. Events will surely arise that will cause much more of us to behave like adults. In time, much more of us will honor real human progress rather than ingrained biases and cherished political ideologies.
President Carter has true character and dignity,and treats people with respect. The current candidates in the 2012 election could learn a thing or two from him.
Bobby: "ID questions don't make us uncomfortable, they're just a waste of time because every one of them has been answered a million times already..."
What Bobby shoudl've said: "ID questions don't make us uncomfortable, they're just a waste of time because every one of them has been side-stepped and or answered *poorly* a million times already..."
Every lame idea that pops into this man's head gets written down and sold as the next book. He was an unprepared, naive, and incompetent President who has also set the standard for what it means to be a bad ex-President. He embarasses the US every time he leaves this country; he pokes around where he doesn't belong when he stays home. The only good thing about JC is that as soon as he states his views on any given topic, it is pretty clear that the opposite opinion must have real merit.
Listen you war mongering fascist monkey. President Carter was an excellent president. You just don't agree with him because you and these fascist rethugs and teabaggers want is for the US to invade every country. This man is a decent Christain, a real Christian. The one who listens to Christ and turns the other cheek. A real Christian not the peice of crap that has invaded the GOP.
How come he isnt portrayed as a religious extremist lunatic. Hmmm because he is a democrat. The hypocrisy is just incredible. His religious views have nothing to do with the bible and everything to do with spouting left wing ideology. He is a phony as a christian just like he was a phony as a president.
To everyone who is slamming the Democrats because of Carters affiliation with that Party. I would ask that you evaluate the economic climate within the United States before GWB took office and it's condition when he left. Compare the delta of the date range from prior to January 20, 2001 and when he left on January 20, 2009. These dates are his terms in office. Carefully take a look at the Index's of December, 2000 before he took Office. And the economic climate when he left in 2009. I've voted Republican for 30 years....NEVER again. He should be tried for Treason Against Common Sense.
Well said Bruce. Sadly most republican faithful will not take your advice because they "feel" right about it being Obama and the democrats fault, and that's what matters most to them, how they feel. They do not really care for their fellow man, especially if he is not the same color or faith, so the numbers that show the financial decline during the republican administration don't matter as much as making sure they don't pay half a penny for contraceptives or poor peoples health care. And they can shirk all the guilt by claiming it's what God wants. Their bible says to throw their burdens on God's shoulders but instead they just pile him up with the guilt they should feel about how they treat their fellow man, all in his name of course...
Carter was and is so anti-Jewish and anti-Israel... anyone with faith should keep FAR away from him.
I've been to his Sunday school teaching in Plains, Ga. Jimmy is nice but Rosalynn is a total beach.
The comment that he is anti-Semitic is so ignorant and without foundation that I am really at a loss to properly address it. Seriously. Good luck with issues in life.
Did you say people of faith need to stay away from him? This is a man of faith!! Go back up into your trailer and stay there. ignorant!!!
I agree with you totally. Carter hates Jews and Israel. Strange he hates the Jewish People but bows down and worships a Jewish Rabbi. GO FIGURE!
If anti-Semitic means not believing Jews are "God's" chosen people and should be allowed to incarcerate an entire nation of Palestinians holding clean water and food as rewards for good behavior as they push forward to some end of the world Apocalypse happening on the plains of Megiddo, then yes, Carter and many many more people must be anti-Semitic...
To allow for no criticism is Israel is profoundly anti-Semitic. The first stage of ending bigotry is to accept that those who are different you can be good people worthy of respect. But to stop there is to still be bigoted. Equality isn't reached until you know without even thinking about it "that group of people can be as good as any other, OR as bad". And far too many Americans simply haven't reached that point. Criticism of the Israeli government is more acceptable WITHIN the Israeli government than it is in America, for pity's sake.
Jimmy Carter is the most thoroughly honest, decent, and hard working former president the America has ever seen. He has never tried to cash in on his status as a former US president unlike most of the others once they are out of office.
Most others? Oh, you must mean Clinton. I can't think of any others who cashed in or had their wife cash in but the Clintons. GW Bush has totally disappeared; he's an even better example of not leveraging his Presidency for personal gain.
Yes, Bush has pretty much disappeared while former Democratic presidents like Carter and Clinton have worked to try to make the world better when they were finished.
I met Jimmy Carter. I wiped him of my shoe before I went inside. A truly horrid piece of ..
Let's see, the Bushes went back to laze in the family oil wealth, Reagan died after it was revealed he was mentally incompetent during his last few years of his presidency, Nixon was forced to resign in disgrace, Ford continued to be invisible and ineffectual. Clinton and Carter have continued their working careers and continue to use their leadership positions and energy to fight poverty and increase world peace. The record seems pretty clear regarding conservative vs liberal Presidential legacies. I suspect it reflects conservative vs liberal values as well.
Ronald Reagan was a professional actor, and not very good at that. He played you wingnuts like a fiddle and laughed all the way to the whitehouse. he could not hold water for Jimmy Carter as a man.
Are you for real? Get Serious. No Liberal Democrat has ever been a good leader or great President. They fail by definition because the Liberal mindset is naive and out of touch with reality.
Reagan is the poster child for Republican HYPOCRISY.
Republicans love to trash Hollywood, but as soon as they can find Hollywood ACTORS who are Republicans, they love to vote for them. Look at they incredible hypocrisy for Ronald Reagan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Fred Thompson, Clint Eastwood, etc.
LOL is right: your comments. A Liberal Democrat talking about hypocrisy. Where shall we start? How about the way liberals call Republicans racists, then turn around and condescendingly pat minorities on the head and tell them they can't make it like "big" people on their own, but have to have government help. The GOP was the party of Lincoln, and Democrats fought to save slavery. How soon we forget... You naive Liberals are going down in November, your "Annointed One" is one and done, and you'd better realize that the Dems were doomed when they let the Left Wing take over.
No argument from you about Republicans being such HYPOCRITES when it comes to Hollywood. Got that right.
Speaking of HYPOCRISY, please tell us about the Republican "family values, moral majority" man Newt Gingrich.
Speaking of HYPOCRISY, please tell us about the Republican "law and order" man Haley Barbour.
Let me help you ignoramous. Ronald Reagen has left a legacy and changed the world. "He was an actor"...WHat was Barack Obama? Nothing. Thank you. What is Joe Biden? He was a twice caught plagerizer, who was the second dumbest human in the Senate.
Back to Reagen-he wrote much. It defies your idiotic narrative. His writings are eloquent and will stand the test of time. So slander away, laud the great Obama -the man who can barely speak, has done nothing in his life, can't speak without lying and is at war with America's wealth , private sector and onsumer (or hadn't you noticed. He said "$5.00 gas when he came in and so did Stephen Chu"...THey said, "It has to get there slowly so people don't notice"...Hush up about Reagen and pay attnetion to the topic at hand Junior.
"Obama -the man who can barely speak"
Congratulations! Probably the most ignorant statement of the day. Obama's national popularity really started with the keynote address he gave at the DNC in 2004. He is a best selling author and polls showed that he won all 3 debates against McCain.
Get serious. Are you really that clueless?
Ayup, Reagan changed the world all right. Gave guns to a bunch of tribes in Afghanistan to try and destabilize the country and embarrass the USSR. It worked too! And then we just sorta ignored Afghanistan figuring, hey, those tribes with guns will figure something out. There was also the whole High Treason thing selling weapons to Iran to fund the Noriegan Contras... which of course only top Reagan officials knew about, but not him, oh my no. Right. The man either knew and committed high treason or didn't know in which case something incredibly illegal went on right under his nose without his knowledge. How in the world this man ended up the Saint of the Republican party is baffling.
ONLY FOR THE NEWCOMERS:
For your next Sunday school lesson (and your last obviously if you recite the prayer in class), a prayer:
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
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.
(references used are available upon request)
I truly feel sorry for you.
Your sources sound a lot like Bart Ehrman and the Jesus Seminar. You should watch Dr. Ehrman's debate with William Lane Craig; I think you'll find that his arguments are pretty thin when challenged. The quest for the historical Jesus ended up in failure, primarily because the historical Jesus was available in the Gospels all along. Another good source is N.T. Wright's Resurrection of the Son of God. Finally, you can see what Gary Habermas has to say about the subject, especially in several debates with the late Antony Flew.
I, like you, am not a believer but I respect anyone who lives their beliefs. I have always admired President Jimmy Carter's quiet, humble dignity and his efforts to make the world more forgiving and loving. What this man believes is beautiful and true for him. I will never disparage someone who shows such deep abiding regard for others and I wish you would respect that.
A "must read" for all those interested in contemporary historical Jesus studies: earlychristianwritings.com/theories.html
Some conclusions from said "must read"
::Jesus the Myth: Heavenly Christ
Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy
Jesus the Myth: Man of the Indefinite Past
G. A. Wells
Jesus the Hellenistic Hero
Jesus the Revolutionary
Jesus the Wisdom Sage
John Dominic Crossan
Stephen J. Patterson
Jesus the Man of the Spirit
Jesus the Prophet of Social Change
Jesus the Apocalyptic Prophet
John P. Meier
E. P. Sanders
Jesus the Savior
Luke Timothy Johnson
Robert H. Stein
N. T. Wright
Father Raymond Brown would be included with the last grouping.
I do a lot of work in the mid east and also Arab countries. The majority of people that I discuss foreign policy with consider Carter "Carter the Coward" for not taking our hostages back. They say all the problems we deal with now are due to that coward. Not my opinion as such, but there it is.
Carter did try to take them back, but Operation Eagle Claw (April 24, 1980) didn't succeed due to helicopter mechanical errors and an accident. Just bad luck.
What he tried to do or not is not the point. This is what is he is considered by the mid east and arabic countries.
I can imagine the type of foreign policy you talk about from the dumb things you have written.
This moron is the only president that's as bad as Obama. Under Peanut-head Jimmy we had 20% interest rates, 18% inflation, and a dead economy. The idiot gave away the Panama Canal that was paid for with American lives and American dollars, and it wasn't his to give away. He was just another liberal piece of crap!
Republicans had George W. Bush.
What great endeavors are you responsible for and what have you ever done for your fellow man. You are a typical right wing, Hitler loving, Republican and may you rot in hell.
Carter was doing pretty good for the first couple of years, and then the energy crisis hit. That's what did in his economic policy.
Barrie, I am going to assume (perhaps incorrectly but a gut feeling) that you were not of legal age when Carter was President. Rather, I think what you allege to imply as knowledge borne of experience is instead what you have read and / or been told. For my part, I was in fact starting a family when Carter was in office and had to contend with astronomical interest rates. No question, it was a tough time. However and having said that, to slam one man for it is a clear revelation to me that you are void of knowledge with respect to economics. It's far more than one person, more than one Country. If one had to encapsulate it then I'd have to say Global Economics if anything. Read your history before shooting off at the mouth.
What ill effects has America suffered by giving the Panama Canal back to Panama? None.
Many of the intellectually challenged believe the President has some button in his office which can increase gas prices or unemployment or adjust the inflation rates, at least you would think they do when they try to lay blame. I guess you would need at least a high school education to understand that the oil cartels determine gas prices and the congress and senate hold the purse strings to funding infrastructure projects and oil subsidies as well as the regulation arm that is supposed to be making sure all the multi-nationals are playing fair.
Ashrakay: "Realists are comfortable with questions and are uncomfortable with finite answers."
Then "realists" should be more comfortable with the questions of Intelligent Design (which usually claims an infinite Designer) and uncomfortable with the finite answers coming from the atheist-materialist camp.
Even IF intelligent design was correct, it does NOT in any way prove that God exists. The intelligent design could have come from Moe, Larry, and Curly before they came to earth.
ID questions don't make us uncomfortable, they're just a waste of time because every one of them has been answered a million times already. Sometimes it feels like trying to explain that it's 2012 to a senior citizen who's been suffering severe dementia since about 1993.
Observer: "Even IF intelligent design was correct, it does NOT in any way prove that God exists. The intelligent design could have come from Moe, Larry, and Curly before they came to earth."
Nice to see you entertaining the possibility of ID! Also, if you entertain the possibility that the ID'er is the 3 stooges, then you've just placed yourself in the camp that your cohorts *attempt* to place ID'ers in, – that is, belief in the Tooth Fairy, etc.
So, we correctly deduce that the vast universe had to be created by a VERY powerful Designer!
"So, we correctly deduce that the vast universe had to be created by a VERY powerful Designer!"
I said NOTHING of the same. Stick with what I said instead of just MAKING THINGS UP.
I am an agnostic. Neither atheists nor believers can PROVE they are right and BOTH could be wrong.
great post! Wow.....You know how I know it's awesome? 99.8% of the people who work at CNN don't get it or are angered by it...
You said, "Then "realists" should be more comfortable with the questions of Intelligent Design (which usually claims an infinite Designer) and uncomfortable with the finite answers coming from the atheist-materialist camp."
The claims made by IDers are the ones that are (considered by them) to be finite. Even worse, they claim there to be something for which they have not a single solitary shred of evidence. They present their own ignorance as evidence and refuse to accept scientific evidence that conflicts with their beliefs.
Their only argument is: "I am too ignorant to explain *this* (whatever *this* is), it must therefor have been done by a creator. This creator happens to be exactly like the god that I believe in, but I won't claim that because than it would be creationism and religion. So, just to keep it sciency, I'll call it intelligent design."
The scientific community, and IDers are by their very definition not part of that, accepts that there are things that are yet unknown. They will postulate their hypotheses but will not accept any as valid until there is some supporting evidence.
Creationism/ID fails that very basic test miserably. It is therefor not science. It is religion. It has no place in a rational discussion (or a science class room) unless and until there is evidence to back up the notion of a creator. ID is equally valid as the theory of the Tooth Fairy.
It's like giving the most complex mathematical equation such as the Hodge conjecture to two people on an exam. One person sit's there continuing to work on the problem, brow furrowed, sweat dripping, hour after hour, day after day, but they are determined not to give up until they find the answer.. all while the second student giggles and relaxes after turning the exam in just a few moments after receiving it since he only wrote three little letters... G O D...
Theists are just too lazy to work hard at finding answers that might prove they got an "F" on the exam.
Yeah, I was going to chime in, but it looks like everyone pretty well covered it. :) Well I'll add this for @b4bigbang... You cannot arrive at "god" without using reductionist logic. Reductionist logic is the enemy of the realist. ID by its very name is reductionist as it presumes intelligence AND design. Please explain the intelligence to the unnecessary detour made by laryngeal nerve, the backward build of the eye which puts the nerve bundle in front of the lens creating a blind spot or the route of vas deferens from testis to pe.nis, which on one side of the body only travels over the ureter. There is clearly some poor design going on here if that's what we are to accept. This makes us uncomfortable with the conclusion "intelligent design." As I said, the finite answer... god.
Carter is a self-satisfied, conceited, smug IMBECILE. A life of "faith"?? What? Says who, your editor? A life of stupidity and delusion is more like it.
You are an Idiot pure and simple.
I am reporting you for abuse. You have denigrated imbeciles world wide. How dare you.
Sue – You clearly have no idea who and what Carter is.
Go find out before you spew your opinions.
dat hillbilly was da worstest president of all times until the anti christ came along (george bush 2) and took his place. ooooo weeeeee! child!
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.