It took him 37 years, but Jimmy Carter now has job security at Emory University.
Here is CNN:
Former President Jimmy Carter has become a tenured faculty member of Emory University after teaching at the Atlanta-based private university for more than three decades, the Georgia school announced on Monday.
“With this honor, he becomes the first tenured faculty member at Emory to hold a Nobel Prize and the first tenured faculty member to have been a US president,” Emory University said in a statement. “The principle undergirding tenure — which essentially means a continuous post as a professor — is to preserve academic freedom for those who teach and pursue research in higher education.”
The former one-term Democratic president and Georgia governor has had an extended public service career since the end of his presidency, and Monday’s announcement said he has been a distinguished professor at Emory for the past 37 years.
Carter, 94, and his wife, former first lady Rosalynn Carter, established the Carter Center in Atlanta as well in a partnership with Emory.
Read the rest here. I am glad to know that Carter can now speak his mind without worrying about getting fired for his views. 🙂
Carter invited Buttigieg to read scripture, but so far I have not seen anything on the what specific passage he asked the South Bend mayor to read.
Buttigieg showed-up unannounced. Carter, perhaps in an attempt to avoid playing favorites, told the members of the class that Cory Booker and Amy Klobuchar, both Democratic presidential candidates, have also visited his class.
Read all about it here.
Frankly, I am not a fan of this. As I have said multiple times at this blog in the context of conservative evangelical political activity, I don’t like bringing politics into the church in this way. Call me a skeptic, but this move by Buttigieg looks like an attempt to win the support of progressive Christians.
As Gillian Brockell notes at The Washington Post, the last time we had a very large Democratic primary field we got Jimmy Carter. The Plains, Georgia peanut farmer emerged as the primary winner over Birch Bayh, Lloyd Bentsen, Jerry Brown, Henry “Scoop” Jackson, Sargent Shriver, Morris Udall, and George Wallace, to name a few.
Here is a taste of Brockell’s piece.
As the primaries approached, one Democrat after another announced campaigns for president. Most were senators. Some were governors. One came from a university town in Indiana. They spoke of a need to clean up an executive branch they said was riddled with corruption.
No, this isn’t a description of the 2020 campaign. It was 1976 — the most crowded Democratic presidential field in modern American history, until the current election cycle, which boasts 21.
And, despite worries about a bruising intraparty battle, the little-known peanut farmer who won the primaries also won the White House. His name was Jimmy Carter.
How many Democratic candidates were there in 1976? One historian put the number at 17, though it depends on how you count them. Let’s just say the race was remarkably fluid right up until the last primary.
Read the rest here.
Jimmy Carter appeared on radio show of conservative pundit Laura Ingraham recently. Here is what he said about the Democratic Party’s position on abortion:
“I never have believed that Jesus Christ would approve of abortions and that was one of the problems I had when I was president having to uphold Roe v. Wade and I did everything I could to minimize the need for abortions. I made it easy to adopt children for instance who were unwanted and also initiated the program called Women and Infant Children or WIC program that’s still in existence now. But except for the times when a mother’s life is in danger or when a pregnancy is caused by rape or incest I would certainly not or never have approved of any abortions.”
“I’ve signed a public letter calling for the Democratic Party at the next convention to espouse my position on abortion which is to minimize the need, requirement for abortion and limit it only to women whose life are in danger or who are pregnant as a result of rape or incest. I think if the Democratic Party would adopt that policy that would be acceptable to a lot of people who are now estranged from our party because of the abortion issue.”
Life News has context.
I think there are a lot of pro-life Democrats out there who would agree with Carter, but they do not make their voices heard for several reasons:
- They do not want to be ostracized by the Democratic Party.
- They are afraid that if they defend the unborn they will be accused of not caring about women’s rights. (This, I believe, is a false dichotomy).
- They do not want to be associated with the divisive and unhelpful “baby-killing” culture war rhetoric of the Right.
- They do not endorse the Christian Right/GOP playbook that teaches the only way to reduce abortions is to overturn Roe. v. Wade.
David Siders thinks so. Here is a taste of his recent piece at Politico:
“Carter almost takes us out of the entire realm of what our politics has become,” said Paul Maslin, a top Democratic pollster who worked on the presidential campaigns of Carter and Howard Dean. “He’s the anti-Trump … I mean, we have almost the polar opposite as president, somebody who is so an affront to everything that’s good and kind and decent.”
Maslin said, “I have felt for some time that a candidate who is not just good on the issues but can marshal a moral clarity about what our politics ought to be, in contrast to what it has become, that person … that could be the currency of 2020.”
In fact, Carter has become a constant point of reference early in the campaign for Democrats polling outside of the top tier. John Delaney, the little-known former Maryland congressman who by August 2018 had already campaigned in all 99 counties in Iowa, has likened his focus on the first-in-the-nation caucus state to Carter’s.
And after her pilgrimage to see Carter this year, Klobuchar wrote on social media, “Wonderful lunch with Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter today at their home in Plains. Tomato soup and pimento cheese sandwiches! Got some good advice and helpful to hear about their grassroots presidential campaign (when no one thought they could win but they did)!”
Read the entire piece here.
I still think Carter’s 1979 “malaise speech” is one of the best presidential speeches I have heard in my lifetime.
- Notice that Carter used the phrase “I feel your pain” before Bill Clinton popularized it.
- The speech has a streak of populism in it.
- It is deeply honest and humble. Can you imagine a president today reading criticism of his presidency before a national audience?
- Carter identifies the loss of national purpose and a “crisis of confidence” as a “fundamental threat to American democracy.” It is a forward-looking message of hope and progress. Carter speaks with conviction, often raising his fist to strengthen his points.
- Carter says that self-indulgence, consumption, and materialism undermines citizenship. According to historian Kevin Mattson, this comes directly from historian and cultural critic Christopher Lasch and his best-selling The Culture of Narcissism.
- Carter points to the many ways the country has gone astray–Vietnam and Watergate and economic dependence on Middle East oil.
- Carter offers “honest answers” not “easy answers.” Of course no one wants to work hard and make sacrifices, they want individualism and freedom instead. A little over a year after this speech Ronald Reagan defeated Carter with just such a message of individualism and freedom.
- Carter warns us about the path of self-interest and fragmentation. This is what America got with Reagan. See Daniel T. Rodgers’s The Age of Fracture.
- Carter sees the national discussion of energy as way of bringing a divided nation together. This seems more relevant than ever today. Green New Deal aside, a green solution to energy would create jobs and strengthen the economy.
- When Carter talks about foreign oil and America’s dependence upon it, he is invoking founding fathers such as Alexander Hamilton who worked tirelessly to make the nation economically independent.
- Interesting that in the 1970s Democrats still saw coal as a vital energy source. He also champions pipelines and refineries.
- Carter calls for a strengthening of public transportation and local acts of conservation. This kind of self-sacrifice, Carter says, “is an act of patriotism.” This reminds me of the non-importation agreements during the American Revolution. To stop drinking tea or buying British goods was seen as a similar act of patriotism. See T.H. Breen, The Marketplace of Revolution. Carter says “there is no way to avoid sacrifice.”
- As I have noted above, this speech hurt Carter politically. But it is deeply honest and, in my opinion, true.
Fillmore, Pierce, and Johnson were sitting presidents seeking reelection who failed to win the nomination of their political party. And it almost happened in 1980 as Ted Kennedy challenged Jimmy Carter for the Democratic Party nomination.
Could it happen in the GOP in 2020?
Jon Ward of Yahoo News discusses Kennedy’s challenge to Carter in his piece “Ted Kennedy, Jimmy Carter and a lesson from history for President Trump.” Here is a taste:
The heightened anxiety of the time—from gas lines, to rising costs for basic goods, to unemployment—was reflected in the public’s desire for a stronger form of leadership in the White House. More than half of the country—55 percent—still thought Carter was honest in a June CBS News/New York Times poll. But 66 percent said they wanted someone “who would step on some toes and bend some rules to get things done.” Democrats in the poll overwhelmingly said they wanted Kennedy to be their nominee in 1980, with 52 percent for Kennedy to 23 percent for Carter, and 8 percent for California Gov. Jerry Brown.
Beyond economics, Americans were worried that their country was “in deep and serious trouble” because of “moral threats which cut right through the social fabric,” according to one survey by Democratic pollster Peter Hart in Wisconsin. Hart’s results showed widespread concern over “a lack of morality and religion and the breakdown of the family structure.” People said they were “afraid that people have become too selfish and greedy, that the people are apathetic and just don’t care.”
Hart’s survey in Wisconsin showed a desire for “a reemergence of the more traditional approach to life and a turning away from the more publicized free-wheeling attitudes of the 1960’s and 70’s.” This should have given the Carter White House some reassurance that Kennedy, whose life bore all the hallmarks of excess and privilege, might not be as formidable a foe as the polls showed. But when things are going badly and you’re getting blamed, it’s hard to think clearly, and the Carter White House was spooked.
The New York Times columnist Tom Wicker noted that many of those polled about Kennedy supported him despite holding less liberal views than he did on health care and government spending. “He is a glamorous figure with a great name,” Wicker wrote. “Those who are trying to draft him are looking for a winner.”
Carter remained publicly defiant about his political future, despite his tanking popularity. One day after the June numbers appeared, he hosted several dozen congressmen at the White House for a briefing on the Panama Canal treaty, which was struggling to gain support. The House members were seated at round tables, in groups of ten or so. Carter went from table to table. While he spoke to one group, he was asked by Representative Toby Moffett of Connecticut how he felt about the 1980 election. Carter claims that Moffett asked him if he was even going to run for reelection, “which was kind of an insult to an incumbent president.”
“Of course I am,” Carter told Moffett.
Moffett persisted. “What about Ted Kennedy?” he asked.
“I’m going to whip his ass,” Carter said.
Representative William Brodhead, a Michigan Democrat, was taken aback.
“Excuse me, what did you say?” he said.
Moffett cut him off. “I don’t think the president wants to repeat what he said,” he told Brodhead.
Read the entire piece here. And check out Ward’s new book Camelot’s End: Kennedy vs. Carter and the Fight That Broke the Democratic Party
This is your “Christian” evangelical president. pic.twitter.com/u0478FoSyR
— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) December 5, 2018
When the Barack, Michelle, Bill, Hillary, Jimmy, and Rosalyn started reciting it, perhaps he thought the Apostles Creed was some kind of loyalty oath for the Democratic Party.
I am happy to contribute to this video posted today at The New York Times.
Retro Report spent over an hour interviewing me at Messiah College back in August. I was apparently not as engaging as Cal Thomas, Jerry Falwell Jr. and Randall Balmer since I only got a quick soundbite. (They even made me go home and change my shirt because it had too many stripes and did not look good on the camera!)
Whatever the case, it is a nice piece:
Bill Leonard, the southern Baptist church historian, reflects on evangelicals in the White House and the current state of evangelical politics. Here is a taste of his piece at Baptist News Global titled “Birthrights and Bibles“:
In Living Faith (1996) former President Jimmy Carter recalls this White House encounter: “A high official of the Southern Baptist Convention [SBC] came into the Oval Office to visit me when I was president. As he and his wife were leaving, he said, ‘We are praying, Mr. President, that you will abandon secular humanism as your religion.’ This was a shock to me. I didn’t know what he meant. I am still not sure.” Carter, who taught Sunday school at Washington’s First Baptist Church while president, also remembers that in his 1976 run for the White House, “the evangelist Jerry Falwell condemned me because I ‘claimed’ to be a Christian.”
Some four decades later certain conservative Christian leaders, including Jerry Falwell Jr. and J.D. Greear, president of the SBC, paid another visit to the White House for a “state dinner” hosted by Donald Trump, a president whose politics they strongly support, but whose life of secular hedonism they seem willing to overlook. Indeed, some 100 of the ministers in attendance signed a Bible that they presented to the president, with an inscription that reads: “History will record the greatness that you have brought for generations.” (Greear later released a statement defending his decision to attend the dinner, reaffirming his desire to depoliticize the SBC, and noting that he did not sign the Bible.)
Read the entire piece here.
Check out Kevin Sullivan’s and Mary Jordan’s Washington Post piece on Jimmy Carter’s simple life in Plains, Georgia. A taste:
Carter costs U.S. taxpayers less than any other ex-president, according to the General Services Administration, with a total bill for him in the current fiscal year of $456,000, covering pensions, an office, staff and other expenses. That’s less than half the $952,000 budgeted for George H.W. Bush; the three other living ex-presidents — Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama — cost taxpayers more than $1 million each per year.
Carter doesn’t even have federal retirement health benefits because he worked for the government for four years — less than the five years needed to qualify, according to the GSA. He says he receives health benefits through Emory University, where he has taught for 36 years.
The federal government pays for an office for each ex-president. Carter’s, in the Carter Center in Atlanta, is the least expensive, at $115,000 this year. The Carters could have built a more elaborate office with living quarters, but for years they slept on a pullout couch for a week each month. Recently, they had a Murphy bed installed.
Carter’s office costs a fraction of Obama’s, which is $536,000 a year. Clinton’s costs $518,000, George W. Bush’s is $497,000 and George H.W. Bush’s is $286,000, according to the GSA.
Read the entire piece here. Carter calls Trump “a disaster.”
It was a penetrating cultural critique that reflected Carter’s spiritual values. Like the writers of the New Testament, he called out sin. Like the prophets of the Old Testament, he confessed to personal and national pride.
In the mode of theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, he noted the limits of human power and righteousness. In this moment of national chastening, he committed himself and the nation to rebirth and renewal.
As a scholar of American religious history, this so-called “malaise speech” (though Carter never actually used the word “malaise”) was, in my opinion, the most theologically profound speech by an American president since Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address.
Read the entire piece here.
I have long been a fan of Carter’s speech. Back in 2009, I called it “one of the best presidential speeches in American history.”
It was not unheard of for politicians to address the SBC annual meeting. In 1967, U.S. Senator Mark Hatfield, a liberal Republican and devout Conservative Baptist, addressed the annual meeting on the topic of poverty and the need for effective welfare policy.
The SBC made a significant turn in 1972 when it invited Nixon to address the annual meeting. With Graham’s assistance, Nixon had continued to cultivate support from the SBC, especially as Americans became disenchanted with the war in Vietnam. SBC officials extended a formal invitation to Nixon, who assured them that he would come if his schedule allowed. Some SBC leaders were outraged at the prospect of Nixon’s appearance, and Nixon thought better of it and decided to withdraw, citing scheduling problems. But a key precedent had been set: the SBC became a destination for major politicians in election years.
In 1976 Gerald Ford became the first sitting president to address the annual meeting. Jimmy Carter did likewise in 1978—in a sense, his was the most expected appearance since Carter was, at the time, still a Southern Baptist. But after his appearance, Democrats at the SBC annual meeting would become an endangered species.
Read the entire piece here.
Here is a taste:
Last year Donald Trump delivered the commencement address at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of the university, said that Trump’s speech “will go down in history as one of the greatest commencement speeches ever.”
This year’s speaker was Jimmy Carter, the 39th president of the United States. On Saturday the Liberty University community heard a commencement address from an evangelical Christian who disagrees with Trump and Falwell Jr. on almost every major policy issue of the age.
Carter and the Falwell family have had an uneasy relationship over the years. Both Carter and Jerry Falwell Sr. (the founder of Liberty University and the father of the current university president) claim(ed) to be born-again Christians. But during the Carter administration, Falwell Sr. was a staunch critic of the president’s position on a host of social issues. Carter supported the Equal Rights Amendment. Falwell Sr. did not. Carter opposed prayer in schools and a constitutional amendment banning abortion (although he opposed abortion personally). Falwell Sr. championed both issues. Carter believed that government had a major role to play in promoting justice. Falwell thought government was an intrusion on individual liberties.
Falwell Sr. also criticized Jimmy Carter for his infamous 1976 interview with Playboy magazine in which the Georgia governor and presidential candidate confessed that he had “committed adultery in my heart many times.” Falwell Sr. said that Carter’s decision to give an interview to Playboy “was lending the credence and the dignity of the highest office in the land to a salacious, vulgar magazine that did not even deserve the time of his day.”
Read the rest at Religion Dispatches.
Yesterday I wrote a post on what I thought Jimmy Carter could teach Jerry Falwell Jr. at today’s Liberty University commencement.
Today Carter delivered his address. In his introduction of Carter, Falwell Jr. could not help but try to compare the former president to Donald Trump. Falwell Jr. politicizes everything. Hey Jerry, Liberty University’s commencement is for the graduates, it is not about your court evangelicalism. Here is what Falwell Jr. said:
Becky and I attended the opening of the Billy Graham Library in 2007 about one month after my father’s death. And I remember commenting to Becky then, that of the four former presidents speaking that day, Jimmy Carter sounded more like one of us than the rest…President Trump has called me and spoken to me about his appreciation for the former president’s friendship and support…Both Presidents Carter and Trump entered the White House as outsiders to the Washington establishment, and I hope that many more outsiders will follow. The longer I live the more I want to…give my political support to a person. Policies are important, but candidates lie about their policies all the time in order to get elected. The same elite establishment that Jesus condemned remains the real enemy today.
After this, Falwell Jr. praised Carter for his 1976 Playboy interview because Carter followed the teachings of Jesus in Matthew 5:27-28: “You have heard it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery. But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to list for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Of course Falwell Jr.’s father, Jerry Falwell Sr., was one of the strongest critics of Carter’s Playboy interview. This is why it is kind of shocking that Falwell Jr. would go on to say: “It saddens me today to think that so many conservative Christians attacked and demeaned Jimmy Carter in the 1970s for quoting Jesus Christ to a secular magazine.”
So what did Jimmy Carter say to the Liberty University graduates?
- Carter began with a jab at Trump: “This is a wonderful crowd. Jerry told me before we came here that it’s even bigger, I hate to say this, than it was last year. I don’t know if President Trump will admit that or not.”
- Carter admits that “he was surprised he was invited to Liberty to speak.” He recalls that he received a lot of negative letters from Liberty students when he was in the White House. “Most of them were about my giving away the Panama Canal or forming what they believed to be an unnecessary Department of Education or normalizing diplomatic relations with the communist government of China.” (I am sure some of these letters looked like this). Carter adds: “Those critical letters…ended with the 1980 election which brought my involuntary retirement from the White House. After that I didn’t get very many letters from Liberty.” .
- While Falwell tried to paint Carter as a politician who is on Liberty’s side in the culture wars, Carter told a slightly different story about his life. Carter did not define his life in terms of politics. Instead, he talked about his work at sharing the Gospel (“winning souls to Christ”) as a young man, his Sunday School teaching, his championing of peace and human rights, his efforts to end global disease, and his volunteer work with Habitat for Humanity.
- Carter reminds the Liberty graduates and their families about the great disparities of wealth around the world. Here he sounds like Bernie Sanders (who he supported for POTUS in the 2016 election).
- Carter said that he believes the greatest moral challenge we face right now is “discrimination against women and girls in the world.”
- Carter talked about his attempt in the early 1980s to bring leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention together to prevent a split in the denomination. He said the meeting failed largely because many of the leaders present, some of them who would go on to become presidents of the denomination, were unwilling to compromise on the status of women in the church. (One can’t think about these comments without reflecting on the recent controversial remarks of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary president Paige Patterson).
- Carter wants to unify Christians in the world, especially Southern Baptists. (Falwell Jr. nods in agreement).
- Carter makes a subtle and indirect jab at Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement: “America has abandoned its leadership…as a champion of a clean and healthy environment.”
- Carter identifies himself as an “evangelical Christian.” He is not yet willing to abandon the label.
- Carter quotes Reinhold Niebuhr: “the sad duty of politics is to establish justice in a sinful world.” He asks Liberty students to go beyond mere justice and promote “agape love, self-sacrificial love among people.”
- Carter tells the Liberty graduates that Americans have always had a hard time embracing equality. He adds: “even now, some of us our still struggling to accept the fact that all people are equal in the eyes of God.” (Here Carter gets some tepid applause from the crowd). He adds, “our nation should be known as a champion of peace, our nation should be known as a champion of equality, our nation should be known as a champion of human rights.”
- He challenges the students “to live a completely successful life as judged by God.”
- Carter adds: “We decide whether we tell the truth, or benefit from telling lies. We decide, do I hate, or am I filled with love? We’re the ones who decide: do I think only about myself or do I care for others?”
Indeed, Jimmy Carter is an evangelical.
Compare Carter’s speech with last year’s speech by Donald Trump:
Last year Donald Trump delivered the commencement address at Liberty University. This year’s speaker is Jimmy Carter.
Carter and the Falwell family—the late Jerry Falwell Sr. founded the university in 1978 and Jerry Falwell Jr. is the current president—have not always seen eye-to-eye about how evangelicals should engage with public life.
Both Jimmy Carter and Jerry Falwell Sr. claimed to be born-again Christians, but during the Carter administration, Falwell Sr., the host of the popular “Old-Time Gospel Hour” television program, was a staunch critic of the president’s position on a host of social issues. Carter supported the Equal Rights Amendment. Falwell Sr. did not. Carter opposed prayer in schools and a constitutional amendment banning abortion (although he opposed abortion personally). Falwell Sr. championed both issues.
Falwell Sr. also criticized Jimmy Carter for his infamous 1976 interview with Playboy magazine in which the presidential candidate confessed that he has “committed adultery in my heart many times.” Falwell Sr. said that Carter’s decision to give an interview to Playboy “was lending the credence and the dignity of the highest office in the land to a salacious, vulgar magazine that did not even deserve the time of his day.”
By 1980, Falwell Sr. was leading a contingency of conservative evangelical ministers, a group that included Jim Bakker, Pat Robertson, James Robison, and Tim LaHaye, who rejected Carter in favor of Ronald Reagan.
Reagan was fond of talking about the Christian roots of American freedom, often mentioning the seventeenth-century Puritan belief that the United States was a “city upon a hill.” Reagan opposed abortion, promised to fight moral decay, and said he would keep the federal government from intruding on the lives and schools of ordinary evangelicals.
Even after Reagan defeated Carter in the 1980 presidential election, Falwell Sr. did not stop his criticism of the former president. When the Lynchburg minister questioned Carter’s faith, Carter fired back: “There is nothing any television evangelist can do to shake my faith…Jerry Falwell can–in a very Christian way–as far as I’m concerned, he can go to hell.”
Fast forward to 2016. When Donald Trump made a campaign stop at Liberty University, Jerry Falwell Jr., who would shortly thereafter endorse his candidacy, took his own shot at Carter: “My father was criticized in the early 1980s for supporting Ronald Reagan over Jimmy Carter…because Ronald Reagan was a Hollywood actor who’d been divorced and remarried and Jimmy Carter was a Southern Baptist Sunday school teacher….Jimmy Carter was a great Sunday school teacher, but look what happened to our nation with him in the presidency. Sorry.”
So why is Jimmy Carter giving the commencement address tomorrow at Liberty University?
Because Carter is a grace-filled Christian. After Falwell Jr. read a Bible passage at a prayer service on the morning of the Trump inauguration, Carter, who was also in attendance, approached the Liberty University president and thanked him. As Falwell Jr. put it in a Liberty press release: “He stopped me afterward and told me he thought I did a good job…He said he saw my name on the program before I spoke, and he thought it was great that I’d be here to read Scripture. He was very kind.”
Carter did not need to do this, but his evangelical faith no doubt compelled him. He has a lot to teach Falwell Jr. and the students at Liberty University. Consider:
- Carter confessed his sin on the pages of Playboy magazine. Jerry Falwell Jr. supports a president who has been on the cover of Playboy multiple times and claims to have never had the need to confess his sins. In fact, Trump’s Playboy cover is prominently displayed in this picture of Trump and Falwell Jr.
- Jimmy Carter practices a Christianity defined by hope, not fear.
- Jimmy Carter is an advocate for peace in the Middle East and has long shown his solidarity with Palestinian Christians. Jerry Falwell Jr. supports the president responsible for this.
- Jimmy Carter understands that the Christian life is a life of humility, compassion, service, and self-sacrificial love, not a life in pursuit of political power.
- Jimmy Carter calls Christians to “work together in harmony and to forget about political differences and to pursue the principles of Jesus Christ.” Falwell Jr. seems more concerned about dividing the Christian church.
- Jimmy Carter called the nation to self-sacrifice and a sense of limits. He understood that American freedom also required a sense of duty and a commitment to the needs of others. Falwell Sr. chose a presidential candidate who defended a political philosophy that offered “the right to dream ‘heroic dreams’ without sacrifice.” Reagan promised “a combination of guttural self-interest mixed with a utopian vision of the future,” a vision “that Carter could never offer….”
I look forward to hearing Carter’s speech.
Jerry Falwell Jr. has chosen former president Jimmy Carter to deliver the 2018 commencement address at Liberty University. Read about it here.
Falwell Jr. and Carter do not see eye-to-eye politically, but Falwell Jr., despite his rabid support of Donald Trump, wants to show the world that he can tolerate those who differ with him on political matters. It is a shrewd move. I am sure Falwell Jr. will remind everyone about Carter’s commencement address the next time someone criticizes him for hosting one of Trump’s surrogates.
But at least one Liberty University graduate is not very happy about Falwell Jr.’s decision to invite Carter. Here is a taste of Randall Braley’s recent letter to the Lynchburg News & Advance:
As an alumnus of Liberty University, I am appalled that Jerry Falwell Jr. has chosen former President Jimmy Carter as commencement speaker. He recently called Carter a “true Christian,” but according to the Bible this is not possible. Rather Carter is an apostate, a false teacher and a deceiver because he denies fundamental teachings of the Word of God.
There’s a glaring contradiction between Carter and much of what LU and Thomas Road Baptist Church have stood for. Carter has no real godliness or wisdom to share with graduates, and in violation of scriptural admonitions like 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, Liberty is about to foolishly entangle and tarnish itself with his false and perverse version of the faith.
I have warned Falwell Jr. of how serious a mistake this is, but he has not even acknowledged my emails.
No real Christian is deceived about homosexuality, because the Holy Spirit leads us in truth (1 John 2, John 17) and the New Testament is very clear about homosexuality (1 Corinthians 6:9-11, Romans 1:24-32, 1 Timothy 1:8-11 etc). Carter is so deceived, he claimed in 2015 that Jesus would approve of same-sex marriage and even said America should elect an openly homosexual president.
It is blasphemous to suggest Jesus would endorse wicked behavior and a perversion of marriage. Jesus defined marriage as heterosexual-only, between one man and one woman, in his teaching about marriage and divorce in Matthew 19:1-12. He reaffirmed God’s plan from the beginning of creation in Genesis, and there is no other option given. The exception Jesus made for divorce condemns homosexuality — in the usage of those days, the Greek word “porneia” (commonly translated “sexual immorality” by modern translators) referred to all sexual sins outside of traditional marriage, including homosexuality.
Carter worships a different Jesus, not the real one.
Even on a secular level, Carter was a failure as president, and as a result was soundly beaten by Ronald Reagan. Carter said he championed human rights, but was quite the hypocrite. He allowed communism to overrun many countries, and the Muslim extremists to overthrow Iran and then hold our people hostage. The U.S. economy was in shambles, and he did not have an answer to that either.
Read the rest here.
A taste of the interview:
In Faith, you write, “I have faith that God is slowly bending eternity toward redemption, and that someday . . . moral perfection based on love as expressed by Jesus Christ will prevail.” What gives you a basis for this kind of hopefulness?
The history of America gives me hope. We’ve been through some very trying times in the past, and the resilience of our country and the principles of our Constitution have always prevailed. I have confidence that in the future we’ll do the same thing, despite the difficulties we face today.
We went through a civil war to do away with slavery, and later we struggled to give women the right to vote in our democracy. In the 120 years since the “separate but equal” ruling of the Supreme Court, our judges have had to struggle with discrimination against African Americans. We’re still struggling with that. We’ve had a resurgence of discrimination in the last few years—and it’s against not only African Americans and other minorities but also immigrants. We have a great disparity in income, with people’s opportunities depending on how rich they are. There’s also a disparity of treatment within our judicial system. We have about seven and a half times as many people in prison now as we did when I left the White House, for instance, and we have the most prisons of any country on earth.
These problems have long existed, but they’ve been aggravated or brought to the attention of the public more recently, since the election. But in general, our country has proven able to deal with such struggles.
You note the divisions in our society that have increased sharply in recent decades—divisions rooted in political differences, racial tensions, economic inequality, and more. If you were president today, what would be your first steps toward mending those divisions?
I’d emphasize through public statements that I pledge to keep my country at peace and to be a champion of human rights. One of the things that America would like to be is a superpower, but there are more elements of being a superpower than just military strength. The United States of America ought to be seen by the rest of the world as a champion of peace, not war, a champion of human rights, a champion of equality, and a champion of generosity to help people in need. Those are the kind of values that need to be emphasized in the future of America, and I hope and pray that this will be the case.
If you had one final Sunday school class to teach, what would it be on? What Bible verses would you choose?
I change my Sunday school lesson every Sunday to accommodate modern-day headlines. But one of my favorite Bible verses is “Be ye kind one to another, as God through Jesus Christ has been kind to all of us” [Eph. 4:32]. And that’s a challenge. We now have the possibility of eliminating all living creatures on earth with the use of nuclear weapons. The next step in the evolution of human beings has to be learning how to live with each other in peace and with some degree of love. Jesus said we should not only love our neighbor but love our enemies [Matt. 5:43–44], which means loving those with whom we disagree. We have to learn how to get along with Russians and Muslims and North Koreans in a constructive spirit of care, instead of asking what’s the best excuse we have to go to war with them.
Read the entire interview here.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Falwell Jr. is on the Trump payroll.
Falwell Jr. quotes “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” Fair enough. Hey Liberty University students, did you hear that? I am sure the person in charge of student discipline at Liberty does not operate this way.
Falwell Jr. also says that only president who was “above reproach” was Jimmy Carter. I agree that Carter was above approach, but what about Barack Obama?
Last year it was Donald Trump. This year it is Jimmy Carter.
Here is what Jerry Falwell Jr. said about Jimmy Carter in 2016. (Fast-forward to the 4:35 mark):
And then this happened.
Jimmy Carter is a grace-filled Christian. But the antics of the Religious Right often put his Christian spirit to the test. At one point during the 1980 presidential election campaign Carter said, “Jerry Falwell can go straight to hell…and I mean that in a Christian way.”
I doubt Carter will repeat these words at the 2018 Liberty commencement, but he does have a message that the university’s student body and administration needs to hear. I hope he delivers it.
I should also add that Messiah College is well ahead of the curve here. Carter spoke on our campus in 1986.