Jimmy Carter, Sunday School Teacher

The former president on why he believes Jesus will save everyone, and how his faith complicated--and sustained--his presidency.

Continued from page 2

Whether that person could be elected if he or she professed to be an atheist would be another very serious question. And I doubt that that would be possible, at least in the foreseeable future.

You have said agape love is the highest calling of Christianity but that you felt constrained in exercising it asPresident. Is that right?

The highest call of a Christian, obviously, is agape love or a sacrificial love, love for people who are not lovable, who don't love you back, a love without any thought or expectation that it will be recognized and receive accolades for your being a lovable person.

So, that's a very difficult thing to do. And it's obviously out of the question, the agape love, for a President to exercise because you have to protect your country.

But, at the same time, the other teachings of Christ were very important to me. And although I've tried to separate church and state in the most vivid way, the way my father taught me when I was in his Sunday School class a child, I tried to impose other Christian beliefs, but also, by the way, the beliefs of Islam and Hinduism and Judaism and Buddhism, and that is peace.


I would say particularly with Christians, we worship the Prince of Peace. And we are reminded of that all the way through the teachings of Christ.

And Christ exemplified humility. He exalted people who were servants of others and He emphasized forgiveness of those who hurt you.

In the Sermon on the Mount, He said "Love the ones who hate you" and so forth. And then, we've already discussed agape love. Those are the kind of things that I tried to exemplify without sacrificing the best interests of our people.

Is there one Bible passage that is your favorite?

There's a strange passage in 2 Corinthians that I use every now and then where the Corinthians came to Paul and said, you know, "What is important?  What is permanent?"  And Paul said, "The things you cannot see."  And they were critical about what that meant.

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