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.
A politician's take on the Bible is like a cat's take on the local dog.
Nah, the cat and the dog are rivals. Politics and religion are partners. A politician's take on the Bible is more like a carpenter's take on a hammer – the Bible is a politician's tool for manipulating the public.
That said, I don't get that sense from Carter. He is one of the few who seems sincere.
Wow, I didn't know that about Jfk...I mean Jimmy
President Carter did not sit back and feel sorry for himself when he lost his bid for reelection. He and Mrs. Carter moved to help people across the globe. You may or may not agree with their politics but you can respect them for what they have done since leaving the White House.
Those who feel it is necessary to write unflattering remarks about Mr. Carter and every other President need to step back and consider what every President must do during his term in office. Disagree with his politics – yes. It is not necessary to use such derogatory language.
President Carter has impeccable class, a true gentleman, scholar, and a great American. He doesn't just preach the gospel, he lives it. Extraordinary example of a good Samaritan. He certainly has lived life with faith, quite admirable.
This is the reason why many people are soon coming here to Washington, D.C. to worship and praise president Obama because he will be God on October 21st of this year. Obama will rule the world and will work with Christ in the rapture of the christian church. This is the good news gospel of Obama and Christ.
You can come off the ledge now, it's ok.
don't listen to jeff....don't come down from the ledge...jump
Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things
Religion, or lack thereof, is a purely personal decision and should not be handled in a hateful or close-minded manner, such as the way you just chose to conduct yourself.
Stereotyping is pretty mindless. Intolerance of the beliefs of others is small-minded. Grow up.
"Prayer changes things"
You've been proven a liar over and over again on this blog. A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested Friday morning...
An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.
Plus don't forget. 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!! .. .. .. ...
5th Ape, you appear to be angry toward anyone that claims to pray to a deity. The bible I read says all men have fallen short of the Glory of God, being human means we are going to make mistakes. It is our redeemer that has not forsaken us, forgives us and calls us to learn, to listen, gain wisdom, and seek his guidance. Where else can you get a moral compass, a manual for life that has endured the ages. There are plenty of stories told and untold where faith was instrumental in peoples lives. Presidents, business owners, celebrities, generals, soldiers, people of all walks of life have prayed to Jesus. It has been the bedrock for moral values. I respect your views and I am not condemning your views, I hope we can all show tolerance of one another s beliefs.
Mr Carter is also one of the not so many who has seen a flying saucer or was it just an UFO? And he has experience in fighting off attacking rabbits that seek safety in row boats he might be safely paddling.
He also has little time for triviality which you seem to be fixated on.
Jimmy C's education continues:
ONLY FOR THE NEWBIES:
THE INFAMOUS ANGELIC CONS CONTINUE TO WREAK STUPIDITY UPON THE WORLD
Joseph Smith had his Moroni.
"Latter-day Saints also believe that Michael the Archangel was Adam (the first man) when he was mortal, and Gabriel lived on the earth as Noah."
Jehovah Witnesses have their Jesus /Michael the archangel, the first angelic being created by God;
Mohammed had his Gabriel (this "tin-kerbell" got around).
Jesus and his family had Michael, Gabriel, and Satan, the latter being a modern day dem-on of the de-mented.
The Abraham-Moses myths had their Angel of Death and other "no-namers" to do their dirty work or other assorted duties.
Contemporary biblical and religious scholars have relegated these "pretty wingie thingies" to the myth pile. We should do the same to include deleting all references to them in our religious operating manuals. Doing this will eliminate the prophet/profit/prophecy status of these founders and put them where they belong as simple humans just like the rest of us.
Some added references to "tink-erbells".
"The belief in guardian angels can be traced throughout all antiquity; pagans, like Menander and Plutarch (cf. Euseb., "Praep. Evang.", xii), and Neo-Platonists, like Plotinus, held it. It was also the belief of the Babylonians and As-syrians, as their monuments testify, for a figure of a guardian angel now in the British Museum once decorated an As-syrian palace, and might well serve for a modern representation; while Nabopolassar, father of Nebuchadnezzar the Great, says: "He (Marduk) sent a tutelary deity (cherub) of grace to go at my side; in everything that I did, he made my work to succeed."
Catholic monks and Dark Age theologians also did their share of hallu-cinating:
"TUBUAS-A member of the group of angels who were removed from the ranks of officially recognized celestial hierarchy in 745 by a council in Rome under Pope Zachary. He was joined by Uriel, Adimus, Sabaoth, Simiel, and Raguel."
And tin-ker- bells go way, way back:
"In Zoroastrianism there are different angel like creatures. For example each person has a guardian angel called Fravashi. They patronize human being and other creatures and also manifest god’s energy. Also, the Amesha Spentas have often been regarded as angels, but they don't convey messages, but are rather emanations of Ahura Mazda ("Wise Lord", God); they appear in an abstract fashion in the religious thought of Zarathustra and then later (during the Achaemenid period of Zoroastrianism) became personalized, associated with an aspect of the divine creation (fire, plants, water...)."
"The beginnings of the biblical belief in angels must be sought in very early folklore. The gods of the Hitti-tes and Canaanites had their supernatural messengers, and parallels to the Old Testament stories of angels are found in Near Eastern literature. "
"The 'Magic Papyri' contain many spells to secure just such help and protection of angels. From magic traditions arose the concept of the guardian angel. "
For added information see the review at:
Just keep that "Christians are to dumb to vote" mantra. All you progressives saying that anyone who is religious is dumb. The Democrats are the elite party now....you progressives have no contact whatsoever with mainstream America.
"to dumb" or "too dumb"????? Hmmm??
Oh no, we *know* you'll vote. You'll be shuttled out to the polling sites via church bus after rousing anti-Democrat, anti-woman, anti-Gay, anti-whatever-is-not-you sermon from your pastor. We saw it in the 2008 election, and again in the 2010 election.
"Christians are to dumb to vote." How ironic, Christian.
It is "too dumb."
O-Ozymandias? other people are nerds too :D
I'm a follower of Christ and I intelligently vote – usually Democratic
Jimmy Carter one of the honest presidents we had and one of the worst.
So are we (humanity) just worm meat, or just an cosmic accident? I suggest y'all read the Proofs of St. Thomas Aquinas. He answered Atheism far better than I ever could.
"So are we (humanity) just worm meat, or just an cosmic accident?"
If you mean we are evolved from simpler organisms over time on a planet that luckily was not totally destroyed over the past few billion years. And that there could be other planets in the universe with similar or further developed intelligence, then yes!
If you also are assuming there is a God just because we don't have the full set of answers right now, then you are what we call a "god of the gap"er. This is someone that inserts god wherever knowledge is lacking.
@SouthernCelt, The key to peace and joy is a shift in perspective. If you think life is empty and "worm food" just because there's no deity to comfort you and and a magical retirement home after you die, then you miss out on the wonder and magnificence that is life. It is made all the more brilliant because of its brevity. We know that every atom in our body was once a part of a stars. It's possible that atoms in me are from the same star that you are from. From the death of stars, planets were born and over billions of years life evolved to such a state that we can actually build machines to fly and communicate instantly over great distances. We have evolved consciousness to the level of "knowing" ourselves. Yet, this is not extraordinary enough for people. They need to create some imaginary god on top of it... otherwise, life is meaningless. In the face of such grandeur, that people would still think life is "worm food" is laughable at best as it exposes the lack of maturity and imagination humans are capable of.
Those are not proofs in any sense. They are rhetorical exercises. Proofs come from math and science, not theology.
...and if you think the average atheist is not familiar with Aquinas, you have no idea who you are addressing. The average atheist is far better versed in religious history and knowledge than most Christians. (that's not just an assertion, that's backed up by actual survey data). It's just that Aquinas' "proofs" don't amount to anything very convincing.
southern: how does the possibility of a creator imply a being that judges human interaction? if we are just "worm meat", so what?
ahrakay: well put.
JC is a crewl excuse and I don't mean Jesus Christ. Just because a person has the same initials does not make him a deity to be pandored to let alone awarded salutations just because he writes a take on his say so and this and that ares,,,,
Scriptures atstes that "THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS INSIDE US ALL" It also says that we are together with God as laborers and our bodies are but buildings for God and His subjects. I find it very shameful that all so-called Christians seek emotionalisms of religious pleasurabilities thru so-called clerics/pastors and the likenesses thereof!
Shame on Christiandom for not seeking first the Kingdom of God and what scripture does so say about it!
atstes,,, sorry bout this,,, I meant states,,,,,,,,,,,, :-)
Explain how your opinion is any more valid than Mr Carter's.
The problem with a blog about religion is it's all talk. You have extremists on all sides who talk and talk about what they believe, but it all amounts to a bunch of hot air. Jesus said, "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." A Christian will show you that he or she is true by his or her love. That's not to say that Christians can't say that certain behavior is wrong, because Christ's standards are his disciples' standards. But a Christian will show their love to everyone regardless of that person's actions. So we can talk and talk about what a believer is, but one thing you can say about President Carter is that he did show many times what a Christian really is by his actions.
Jimmy Carter was elected in 1976 on the strength of the evangelical vote. Alas, the party of Carter no longer supports traditional values and has, thereby, alienated the evangelical community.
Read more: http://christiandiarist.com/2012/03/19/jimmy-carter-reminds-us-of-his-evangelical-roots/
Maybe it was the evangelical community that did the detour away from the values they shared with Carter back in the day? They may not think so, but from my long life's experience the evangelicals are the ones who have changed. They weren't nearly as political back then, or willing to call others damned.
I agree, the evangelicals moved away from the original values. When I was growing up (and going to church) the lessons were about helping the poor, loving all people, and making sacrifices to help others. The current message I hear is one of intolerance, anti-education, and contempt for the needy. Those increasingly nasty att.itudes are one of the things that led me away from belief in the first place.
There are still people who believe those things. No need to move away from those core beliefs, just move away from the destructive circle that is enclosed in the fist of politics and just follow Christ.
Every morning I dance with my hands in the air with tears in my eyes when I hear God's voice. Praise Jesus!
Stealing a name is the best way to get noticed, you are so special, precious. Too bad mommy and daddy never noticed you. Sympathy extended . God bless
I am dancing right now. Praise Jesus!
Well, if that's what you want to do... I have no problem with that.
Just don't get the federal government to force everyone to dance like you do.
Right on, President Carter! You have given so much positive contribution to this world, and your current project of writing commentary to the Bible based on your work in Sunday School teaching is very admirable. I have a lot of respect for you. And one of my greatest memories, is that your PEACE meeting with the late Anwar Sadat of Egypt at Camp David, had so moved me as I viewed the TV feature of that meeting, that the next two hours, I was able to finish my song, THERE WILL COME A TIME, ( which ic a Peace song, that has been plyaed by some radio stations in the Philippines over decades). The vision of the Prophet Isaiah , in chapter 2:2-4, came very much alive to me that time, as you discussed the Peace agreements with the Egyptian leader. The newest performance in a cd of that song is FOR LOVE ALONE, which came out just 3 months ago. This cd is designed with Charity organizations in mind, as I hope to contribute to their projects as best as I can. So, my most heartfelt congratulations to you for your positive and compassionate contributions.
Georgette M. Beltran
You are like Stephen Colbert when hilariously puts his fingers in his ears and makes that vibrating yelp so that he doesn't have to hear what the other guy is saying.
3 year olds do that too. And oh yeah, you do it too!
You have a lot of experience with three year olds don't you precious? Did mommy and daddy leave you all alone with the keyboard? Sympathy extended. God bless
I pray that you hear his voice and dance around with tears in your eyes and hands in the air.
Prayer changes things. .
Religion is Satan's perfect storm. At least Atheists don't use Jesus, God and the Bible to legitimize their personal, social and political agendas they stand on their own accord, right or wrong. Peace over religion!
Without God there is no peace.
When we decide to live on faith, hope and prayer we never get anywhere, did you ever notice?
Which god? There are many.
As for the christian god, yes the follwoers have demonstrated throughout history how peaceful they are. How about joining reality lol
just sayin: God and religion are two very different things. We need to separate God from religion. God does not belong to ANY religion, should you?
It is a sad pathetic little person who feels that they must steal a name on an anonymous blog. Deepest sympathy extended. God bless
I do hear God's voice every day. He speaks to me.
"I do hear God's voice every day. He speaks to me."
Really, what does Zeus say?
Repeat of sympathy, impersonation is spreading. God bless
It is amazing to hear his voice. I pray that you hear someday.
If you are on a bus and the guy next to you says he's hearing god talk to him, do you move closer or further away? Thought so.... :-)
5thape, why would I move away. God talking to him/her is their business.
Look... How about this analogy... Go into the IBM HR department and interview for a job. Start off by telling them that God spoke to you this morning.. Maybe even tell them what God said.
Now, do you honestly expect to get that job?
@just sayin, For the record, I do not have god, but I still have peace. As a matter of fact, after I recovered from being a christian, I found a peace and joy that was permanent and not dependent on some external factor that needed to be constantly fed to be maintained. It's a deep inner peace and joy that comes with acceptance of what is. No god, no religion required.
To an atheist thievery, lying and murder are life qualities, the same values we find in Satan.
I am a Jesus Warrior and strike down Demons in their path with the power of Jesus!
"To an atheist thievery, lying and murder are life qualities, the same values we find in Satan."
Satan is imaginary as well. He does not exist except in your mind.
You are like Stephen Colbert when hilariously puts his fingers in his ears and makes that vibrating yelp so that he doesn't have to hear what the other guy is saying.
3 year olds do that too. And oh yeah, you do it too!
Non-believers are so foolish and delusional. They have no idea that evil awaits them.
"I am a Jesus Warrior and strike down Demons in their path with the power of Jesus!"
I'm calling troll now. This is too obvious.
5thape you spotted the liar. Everybody knows prayer defeats Satan and his Demons.
Do not listen to the liar. I am a Jesus Warrior.
"To an atheist thievery, lying and murder are life qualities,"
No, they are not.
You sound like I did in about the 8th grade, in the midst of severe religious indoctrination. Are you 13 years old?
If you cannot hear God's voice then how can you expect to be saved?
There is one doing it right now and no one is smart enough to notice. We are amused.
Plus don't forget. 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!! .. .. ..
@5thApe, Agree... @just sayin is a troll. Not a good one though... I demand more from my trolls.
I have had the opportunity to stop off at his church on 2 occasions to hear him teach Sunday school. Politics aside, it is a honor to be in his class. There are people from all over the world there on Sunday and he does a great job of asking people where they are from and conversing with them about their region of the country or world. I recommend a jaunt or trip or whatever to have this experience. I'm glad I did....as I said, politics aside.
What he should have wrote was a handbook for democrats on what NOT to do as president.
I wonder what his study bible says about Exodus 21, Numbers 31 etc etc. The bible is one of the most evil books in all fiction.
St. Lucy, is that you?
Have you ever read the New Testament, or do you just hate God?
SouthernCelt – read both. Reading the bible is the *best* way to become a non-believer. And I don't hate god (and this includes all versions invented by humans). You can't hate something that there is no evidence for.
So either you read the new testiment or you hate God? How did you come up with those two, and only two choices?
@SouthernCelt, I'm a recovered christian who spent 13 years in a christian school so yeah, I've read the WHOLE bible many times. You might be interested to know that there is plenty of home wrecking and misogyny in the new testament as well. Also, to hate god, you must believe god is real. How can someone hate a non-something? What we hate is the delusion that is infecting your brain, not you, not god, not leprechauns... We want to help your free yourself from this bondage. Don't be so sensitive, we're actually on your side.
I did read both. I also hear it read in Church every time I go. I apparently got a different message than you did. The Old Testament details the travels and life of the Jewish people and their relationship with their Creator. It also makes a lot of prophesies that are fulfilled in the New Testament. As for Mr/Ms. Closet, there are two forces in this world; one is all good, the other all evil. Every decision you make serves one or the other. The Jews are God's Chosen people. They (the Jews) may break their covenant with Him, but He never breaks a promise. For those of us who weren't born Jewish, He sent His Son. For Abraham's (or Abram's) other children He sent Mohammed. Many paths, one destination (or the other).
@1221. Interesting choice. For the less informed St. Lucy is the Patron Saint of the Blind.
You really think God (if I were to humor you and pretend that it exists) really cares whether you are born from Jewish parents or not? Especially since it has already been proven we have all descended from a single woman whom we named Mitochondrial Eve?
Think about this craziness you believe. That there is only good and evil, with no grey in the middle. That god sends a son down to earth (is god a male or female diety?). etc...
SouthernCelt: Abraham – the psycho that was willing to gut his own child to prove his love to a beast that would ask this. Now days we would lock a person up for this. Religions celebrate him. How sick is that.
The Old Testament has a lot more in it that you suggest. It shows the *mind* of a supposed god. Numbers 31 clearly shows that god is OK with ethnic cleansing. Even the baby boys put to the bronze sword while their virgin sisters kept, and at the end of it, god divides up the booty.
And this is just a start. I could go on all night.
5thApe, you seem like an atheist and you have a problem with ethnic cleansing? Why? Seems to me evolution may have taken some ethnicities further along than others, so why not cleanse them. And this whole thing about evil. Evil is only evil 'cause the theists say so. Quite talking like a theist, for cryin' out loud!
@ExtremeAtheist, Yes, we atheist are big fans of ethnic cleansing. Coherence much?
Jimmy the Jew hater...fanfreakintastic!
Except for Jesus and His Disciples, I didn't see any other Jews mentioned in the article so what makes you think Mr. Carter hates them or anyone else?
I agree with southern on this one cubby. It is true that Carter often expressed the plight of the Palastinian in somewhat sympothetic terms, but to the truely innnocent ones on that side, don't his points stand on there own merit?
Carter isn't (and never has been) anti-Jew. You can speak out against the atrocious behavior of the State of Israel, which has committed human rights violations left and right, and has stolen land from the indigent peoples (I think Israel has the right to exist, but only within the area granted in 1948 charter), yet NOT be anti Jew. I'm an American of Jewish descent, and even *I* am not a blind support of Israel. I'll support Israel, when they quite abusing their power, and when they come to the bargaining table with the Palestinians with HONEST intent.
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.