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.

BY: Interview by Elizabeth Sams

 

Continued from page 2

He had no money. He didn't have any ostentatious house. He didn't even have a donkey to ride on permanently. He was abandoned by his friends. His fame dissipated at the time of his trial and execution. He only lived to be 33 years old.



But, he exemplifies all the things that are important in the eyes of God. And that's kind of a provocative, you know, part of the Bible that I like to think about often.



But, I think everybody likes John 3:16, and everybody likes the statements of Paul's that we are saved through the grace of God through our faith in Jesus Christ, and the first verse of the eighth chapter of Romans where Paul has described all of his own sins and failures and he knows about what he ought to do, but he never does do it, and then, the first verse says that "there is therefore now no condemnation of those in Jesus Christ."



And so, those are some of my favorites just off the top of my head.



Has your faith ever led you to do or say things that have hurt you personally or professionally?

Well, I've had a few times in my public life when my faith was incompatible with my sworn duty. The one that troubles me is abortion. It did when I was President.



I'm against abortion. I've done everything I could, as Governor, as President, to minimize abortions through improved adoption procedures and through education for young people so that girls won't get pregnant without desiring to do so.



'I've had a few times in my public life when my faith was incompatible with my sworn duty. The one that troubles me is abortion.'

And once a person learns that she has a baby coming that's unwanted, to reassure her, the prospective mother, that she will have adequate care for her and her child. This is done in some foreign countries where their abortion rate is a third of ours, but where they have no rules against abortion.



But, because--let's say in the Scandinavian countries...every mother knows that when her baby's born, she's going to get full healthcare and so forth. So, I tried to do those things.



But, to uphold the Roe vs. Wade ruling of the Supreme Court, which is my duty to uphold the Constitution as interpreted by the Supreme Court, was something that I had to do as President. But, within that framework, rather than encouraging abortions in the first trimester, which is legal, I tried to do everything I could to minimize abortions. That was a problem.



And I would say, another time when I was kind of faced with a difficult choice was when our hostages were held by the Iranians for a long period of time - more than a year. And all of my advisors just about, a vast majority of them said, 'We need to launch a military attack against Iran if they don't release the hostages.'



And I felt that that was not the proper thing to do and I resisted. I had an ability to destroy Iran and to utilize America's military power. But, I decided to try to seek a peaceful resolution of that issue. And, eventually, every hostage came home safe and free and I didn't betray the principles of my country.



'I had an ability to destroy Iran and to utilize America's military power. But I decided to try to seek a peaceful resolution of that issue.'

That's the year, by the way, that I prayed more frequently and more fervently than ever in my life to let me weather that particular crisis. So, there were some times when I think my religious faith was a strong factor in the ultimate decisions that I made.



Your recent book has been a topic of lively debate on Beliefnet...

Yes, that's good. I think the last book I wrote, "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid," has precipitated an almost non-existent, certainly unprecedented, level of debate about how we can find peace for the Israelis and justice and respect for the human rights of the Palestinians.



Continued on page 4: 'What is perpetrated against the Palestinians now is apartheid....' »

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