Calling All Christians: Former President Jimmy Carter Attempts to Beguile Christians into Adopting the Most Extreme Liberal Political Viewpoints
Williamsen, Kurt, The New American
Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis, by Jimmy Carter (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005), 212 pages, hard cover, $25.00.
Since leaving office, former President Jimmy Carter has cultivated his image as a humanitarian. He has built homes with Habitat for Humanity, worked through his organization The Carter Center to reduce diseases in poor countries, and monitored elections in fledgling democracies. He has also written multiple books. His latest book, Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis, is his first to emphasize politics.
The professed purpose of this book is to warn Americans about the present course of the Republicans controlling the government; to explain the cause behind the extremely antagonistic attitude that Republicans and Democrats hold toward each other; and to point out the direction that Carter, as a pious man with political experience, believes that our country should go.
Carter's views about what's causing the divisiveness between Democrats and Republicans can be summed up simply: religious fundamentalism has flourished in recent times, and fundamentalists have bridged "the formerly respected separation of church and state." He says the fundamentalists draw lines in the sand on issues and make "debate into black-and-white rigidities and the personal derogation of those who dare disagree." In the same vein, he complains about religious groups--such as Baptists associated with the Moral Majority and the Southern Baptist Convention--who have become involved in politics, essentially saying that such activity is irreligious.
In addition to devoting an entire chapter, "The Entwining of Church and State," to the topic of Christians in politics, he reiterates time and time again that the breakdown in the separation of church and state is to blame for present political problems. But the evidence that he gives to verify his point is extremely flimsy. Carter's "best" evidence lies in the fact that there seems to be a chronological overlap between when churches became heavily involved in politics and when politics became contentious.
Yet even this evidence is extremely weak: church groups may, in fact, have gotten involved in politics in response to actions by liberals--homosexual radicals, abortionists, and welfare advocates--who had entrenched themselves in politics and had begun demeaning through verbal attacks anyone who disagreed with their havoc-raising agenda. Or the animosity and divisiveness in politics may have evolved because the increased federalization of state powers has nurtured corruption in politics and the "buying" of politics, causing Republicans and Democrats to kowtow to ideologically opposed entities that won't allow the politicians to take anything other than very rigid political stances on issues. Carter's explanation of events doesn't offer any proof that would lead one to believe otherwise.
The remainder of the "proof" that Carter uses to show that fundamentalists and the removal of the separation of church and state are to blame for the present political animus consists of a quote he took from one of his own speeches--"Thomas Jefferson, in the original days of our country, said he was fearful that the church might influence the state to take away human liberty. Roger Williams ... was afraid that the church might be corrupted by the state"--and of mockery of those who disagree with him. After implying that the First Amendment requires completely removing religion from public life, he disparaged former U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist for writing in a minority opinion that "the 'wall of separation between church and state' is a metaphor based on bad history, a metaphor that has proved useless as a guide to judging. It should be frankly and explicitly abandoned."
Of course, Carter never gives any proof that Rehnquist is incorrect. That's likely because Rehnquist is correct. …