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 • Georgia • Politics

soundoff (1,124 Responses)
  1. SJ

    Carter was a true Christian in every sense of the word.

    March 17, 2012 at 10:43 pm |
    • Pipe-Dreamer

      Kind Uv like Mother Theresa but in drag?

      March 17, 2012 at 10:49 pm |
    • El Flaco

      No, pipe-dreamer. Carter is kind of like you, except the opposite in every way.

      March 17, 2012 at 10:54 pm |
  2. Juan Perez

    Although I do not lean too much into any religion, I cannot but recognize that president Carter is the greatest human being that our country has produced in the XX century. His advice is always look after by friendly and non friendly governments around the globe. As a matter of fact without doubt is the only american politician and citizen invited by friendly and non friendly governments. What a difference this man is from others like President Nixon, President Bush (son), Mr. Kissinger, Mr. Rush Limbaugh and Mr. Glenn Beck.
    President Carter, in the pure sense of the word, represents all the values and morals our country was created off. He is a person that any American, without any doubt, can be proud off.
    May your God bless you president Carter.

    March 17, 2012 at 10:40 pm |
    • SJ

      amen to that!

      March 17, 2012 at 10:44 pm |
    • Pipe-Dreamer

      I don Juan any ting to due wit ur 'May God Bless" innuendoes" God does not rule here upon this state of existence but people do!

      March 17, 2012 at 10:47 pm |
    • Martin

      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.

      March 17, 2012 at 10:47 pm |
  3. TJ

    Jimmy Carter represents his faith eloquently. He is indeed what he portends to be and what every Christian should be. Agree or disagree Carter is authentic.

    March 17, 2012 at 10:40 pm |
  4. Great

    Jimmy Carter,
    Great Man. Great President.

    His book "Peace Not Apartheid" is very, very mild. But since in this country, it is taboo and politically incorrect to say anything against Israël, some people call him anti-semite (the usual weapon).

    March 17, 2012 at 10:23 pm |
    • Pipe-Dreamer

      Jimmy is amn just like any other man. He is no different than the rest of manhood. Deeds are not done, They are earned. Ifor one have no deed or land or house for that matter. Never will. I patiently await my Godly Given Deed for a mansion/home/abode wherein I will live but a meger existence much the same way I live now. I need little and aspire to want little. The rich and wealthy are but this world's anti-poor,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, 🙁

      March 17, 2012 at 10:41 pm |
  5. Observer

    Jimmy Carter may have been our most truly religious president.

    His presidency is a great example of why one's religion should NOT be an important consideration when picking a president.

    March 17, 2012 at 10:22 pm |
  6. Leroy Washington

    Obama likes to talk big but he has been the worse thing to the black community since slavery. Please just retire, you are making it worse for us.

    March 17, 2012 at 10:19 pm |
    • Pipe-Dreamer

      LEEEEEROY,,,, U'v sum splainin to do! 🙂

      March 17, 2012 at 10:21 pm |
  7. EdR

    I'm fine with his house-building, but it seems that he always makes sure that he has a camera focused on him. Jesus taught that true charity is done secretly (let not thy left hand know what thy right is doing). Those who seek public praise for their contributions receive their reward in this world, but not in the world to come.

    Perhaps Jimmy would also like to explain how he squares his anti-Semitism with his faith and how his dim-witted negotiating with criminal dictators in Haiti, North Korea, and Syria played into their hands.

    March 17, 2012 at 10:18 pm |
    • Pipe-Dreamer

      Habitat for Humanity may be justa not-for-profit corporation and just exactly how many people does it take to be monetarily employed in such a corporation? 1,00? 2,00 Maybe 55,000? SOMEBODY GET ME THE FACTS,,,,,,,,,,, 🙁

      March 17, 2012 at 10:29 pm |
  8. David

    "Can't we all just get along ?!"

    March 17, 2012 at 10:15 pm |
  9. Pipe-Dreamer

    People,,,, "PLEASE" refrain from saying here or there is the problem with Jimmy C! It seems to be a human frailty wherewith Time advances the storyboard along and many tin drums bang genorocities in the retrobate aloofness and continue in verbalized written chantings that tend to bemoan the authors' retributional enunciations. The games are awash with the differentialisms of vieled integrities' attempts to spurry along the base-root generalisms in order to ignite the fulcrum to swing pendisciously to and fro. 🙂

    March 17, 2012 at 10:12 pm |
  10. Israel's security wall is made out of people!


    March 17, 2012 at 10:09 pm |
  11. telrider

    He is a wonderful man with a great heart. Maybe Bushy and Cheney could have learned something from him.

    March 17, 2012 at 10:07 pm |
    • Joe S

      Incompetence cant be learned it is a gift

      March 17, 2012 at 10:09 pm |
  12. Descarado

    Jimmy Carter's "Peace Not Apartheid" is a malicious collection of lies that has become the favorite of anti-semites around the world and a worthy supplement to "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion."

    Jimmy Carter will be remembered as a senile, frothing-at-the-mouth anti-semite in diapers and the worst President in American history.

    March 17, 2012 at 10:06 pm |
    • Joe S

      THe present President is trying to steal that crown

      March 17, 2012 at 10:08 pm |
  13. AMN

    I have to say that President Carter is the single most embarrassing national figure in my time. He really failed in his duty as a President and I am ashamed for his actions and words after his presidency concerning domestic and international affairs. He really should have always stayed a local advocate as maybe his actions would have been looked upon with respect. But as a leader he failed in every category. He really is a national disgrace and I am a democrat.

    March 17, 2012 at 10:02 pm |
  14. valerie

    I have been in America for just over 50 years and President Carter is the one president I have the most respect for, and I am not a religous persone. He knew that one should get the Middle Eastern countries talking. Not telling them what to do.
    He put solar panels on the whitehouse and Ronald Reagan took them down .Now who was right there? Grants were isued under his presidency for solar research but the big oil republicans came in and did away with all that good work .We now have another president that can think long term and people again don'.t want to give him a second term.What a pity

    March 17, 2012 at 9:51 pm |
    • Bo

      I'd vote for Jimmy if he would run against Obama and I bet a lot of other people would too. I think he would have the whole hill shaking in their boots because of his integrity.

      March 17, 2012 at 10:02 pm |
    • Joe S

      Carters legacy: Tehran ( which gave birth to the current mess in the MIddle East, high interest and mortgage rates, the neutering of the American military. Gee, its happening again.

      March 17, 2012 at 10:05 pm |
    • Joe S

      His integrity equates to incompetence.

      March 17, 2012 at 10:07 pm |
  15. bigfoot


    March 17, 2012 at 9:49 pm |
  16. SquareRootOfMinusOne

    Put the Carter Study Bible at the top of the garbage heap of Evangelical Bibles that need to be burned.

    March 17, 2012 at 9:45 pm |
    • 1:1

      Please square your i to produce a positive

      March 17, 2012 at 9:50 pm |
    • BatterUp

      Baptists give Christianity a vary bad name. They are anti-Abrahamic and therefore a radical anti-Biblical group.

      March 17, 2012 at 9:52 pm |
    • Burned Again

      The world does not need another Evangelical holier-than-thou view of the bible.

      March 17, 2012 at 9:58 pm |
    • gospel truth

      As many baptists there are in the room there will be that many bible interpretations, if not more. The Carter Bible is just one more baptist bible in the cast of thousand baptist study bible. What a disaster!

      March 17, 2012 at 10:08 pm |
  17. brown

    Carter has warned Americans about the ZIONISTS ongoing plot to control our governement. He would know since he's been
    in the highest office of the land.

    March 17, 2012 at 9:40 pm |
    • MCR

      Carter has been outed as an antisemite...kinda like you.

      March 17, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
    • BK

      @MCR – anti-zionist does not equal anti-jew.
      Zionist = Jewish supremist You know, like Nazi = white supremist

      So basically a Zionist is a Nazi that is a different race. Both groups hate all other races that aren't 'like them' and consider them inferior. What makes you think Zionists are okay when Nazis clearly aren't?

      March 17, 2012 at 10:02 pm |
  18. Pipe-Dreamer

    Bill P wrote on March 17, 2012 at 9:06 pm to Mary, "This is what President Carter might have shared with you, or should have, had he been so convicted to do so....so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:10,11)

    While you might have comforted yourself with the notion that there is no God and therefore no afterlife and certainly no Judgment, the Bible says otherwise. While God has chosen not to reveal Himself in a test tube or under a microscope for your inspection and demand for proof, He has declared that He is not satisfied with anything other than faith: "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him." (Hebrew 11:6) And, whether or not you profess faith in Him during your earthly lifetime, you will nevertheless confess Him as Lord, with undesirable consequences to follow. The article is about Jimmy Carter who speaks much about love, but He distorts the message of the Bible that it is ALL about love and not about a commandment to faith and obedience and profession of faith. The failure to do so has eternal consequences of separation from God. This life. One life. One opportunity. No dice to roll after death."

    I will add the following

    Mat 6:33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

    Where exactly if the Kingdom of God to be found?

    uk 17:21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is inside you

    How therefore is it that the Kingdom of God is inside us?

    1Cr 3:9 For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, [ye are] God's building.

    Because we labor together with God and we are but "BUILDINGS" is it not clear enough to believe that God and God's subjects abound inside of our body-like Buildings?

    March 17, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
    • *frank*

      Go to sleep, Richard, it's past your bed-time.

      March 17, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
    • Pipe-Dreamer

      Hello Frankie Poo,,,,,, Been awhile,,,,,,, R U takin up with the sandman tryin to deflate the virtues of my thought-progressives? 🙂

      March 17, 2012 at 9:51 pm |
    • Pheadrus

      Ah... the 'no true Scotsman' fallacy. Ho hum.

      Mathew 6:5 – 7

      March 17, 2012 at 10:01 pm |
    • Pipe-Dreamer

      Poor poor pitifulg Pheadrus, from your ho-humming me thinks you are in need of a sleeping pill,,,,as for me, I'll wait a spell and hope the sandman brings me a powderful sandscript for me to snort upon,,,, 🙂

      March 17, 2012 at 10:19 pm |
  19. iceaxdave

    Carter evolved from the worst President in history into the best ex-President in history then into the worst ex- President in history. What a joke!

    March 17, 2012 at 9:30 pm |
    • Andrew

      Thanks for the stupidity, bias and inaccuracy.

      March 17, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
    • Johnny

      Andrew, Morons are everywhere nowdays.

      March 17, 2012 at 9:43 pm |
  20. Tony

    Yes, he is so religious–the anti-semite.

    March 17, 2012 at 9:29 pm |
    • scatheist

      Right anyone who criticizes the ethnic cleansing nation is an anti-Semite.

      March 17, 2012 at 9:32 pm |
    • Andrew

      Anyone who questions the genocide Israel committed and commits with our weapons is antisemitic. Got it.

      March 17, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
    • Observer

      Andrew-What genocide are you talking about you moron.

      March 17, 2012 at 9:42 pm |
    • MCR

      Carter has spread blood libels against Israel including calling it an "apartheid" state while ignoring the atrocities committed by Palestinian terrorists.

      March 17, 2012 at 9:50 pm |
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About this blog

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.