Our Endangered Values:
America's Moral Crisis,
by Jimmy Carter
(Click for Amazon book review)
BOOK REVIEW by OnTheIssues.org:
This book is former President Carter's statement on faith in government. He explicitly states that he writes the book as a private citizen, since several of his statements defend the separation of church and state (p. 2, p. 30, p. 49). Despite that unambiguous separation in terms of policy, Carter describes how each of his policy stances is influenced by his Christian faith. These include helping gay AIDS victims (since Jesus similarly helped lepers, whose disease was considered sinful; p. 66), to his well-known Habitat for Humanity (where homes are built for poor families and, as per Biblical rules, no interest is charged; p. 185).
Carter wrote this book in 2006, with the purpose of differentiating Carter's form of faith-based policy stances from Bush's form of faith-based "fundamentalism." That's Carter's choice of terms -- he considers religious fundamentalism in the U.S. to be just as bad as religious fundamentalism abroad -- and devotes much space to decrying the evils of charismatic male authoritative leadership and its negative effects on American politics (focused in chapter 3). Evidently Carter's own church, the Southern Baptist Convention, fell into that category, and Carter severed ties with that church in 2000 -- the history of that schism is described from the period of Carter's presidency, but is difficult to follow for mainstream outsiders. The evils of fundamentalism are characterized as "rigidity, domination, and exclusion" (p. 35) which Carter applies to his own church; to President Bush's policies; and to terrorist groups abroad.
Carter addresses in detail President Bush's policies, or more generally, the influence of faith-based neoconservatives and direct influence on Bush policy from fundamentalist churches. Carter attributes those sources as the reason that American politics has become so divisive ("us-versus-them" thinking is part of fundamentalism, p. 34). Carter, presumably out of respect for the presidency, usually does not cite President Bush by name. For example, Carter writes that "under the tax cuts pushed through Congress since 2000" the rich have benefited at the expense of the poor (p. 192). Bush's name is never mentioned; but of course that was Bush's signature policy. And Carter applies the same unnamed criticism to Bush's Iraq policy, calling it an "unjust war" under standard Christian criteria (pp. 152-4). All of Bush's policies are critiqued from a Christian perspective, and most are found greatly wanting.
This book might serve as a handbook for the religious left. Unfortunately for President Carter, the religious left has little influence on the Democratic Party (consider your own reaction to the term "religious left" -- it feels like a typographical error because the "religious right" is so dominant these days). If the religious left ever does rise in influence, this book clearly outlines its policy prescriptions, including those that differ from the mainstream left. Those include only weak support for abortion rights (p. 72); a call for massive decreases in military spending (p. 198) in favor of diplomatic intervention abroad; and a pro-Palestinian stance that even most Democrats would consider anti-Israel (p. 114).
The most important relevance of this book to current politics is that Hillary Clinton is a member of the religious left, as described in God and Hillary by Paul Kengor. President Carter does not discuss Hillary's faith nor her issue stances in this book, but astute readers might apply Carter's lessons to Hillary for a fuller understanding of her issue stances. Hillary is careful about never mentioning faith, but for example, she indeed matches Carter on hedging her support for abortion rights (yes, Hillary is pro-choice, but she, like Carter, greatly prefers to avoid abortions). Paul Kengor's thesis that Hillary is a full-blooded member of the religious left is substantiated unambiguously by Carter's book.
-- Jesse Gordon, jesse@OnTheIssues.org, July 2013
| OnTheIssues.org excerpts: (click on issues for details)
Jimmy Carter: No federal funding for abortions.
Jimmy Carter: Jesus helped sinful lepers; so let's help those with HIV.
Jimmy Carter: Jesus treated women as equal to men.
New Testament: Jesus treated women as equals, unlike "chattel" of His time.
Jimmy Carter: CEO salaries increased from 40 to 400 times average worker's.
Jimmy Carter: We've abandoned rehabilitation in favor of punishment.
Jimmy Carter: Christians supporting death penalty misinterpret Scriptures.
Old Testament: OpEd: "An eye for an eye" LIMITS punishment, not ALLOWS it.
Jimmy Carter: No place for religion in the science classroom.
Energy & Oil|
Bill Clinton: Helped negotiate Kyoto Treaty on climate change.
George Bush Sr.: Helped negotiate Kyoto Treaty on climate change.
George W. Bush: No mandatory greenhouse gas reductions.
Jimmy Carter: Boycott oil supplied from ANWR.
John McCain: Utility lobbyists influence White House climate policy.
Dwight Eisenhower: Protect 9 million acres on northern shore of Alaska.
Jimmy Carter: God gave Man dominion to care for nature.
Jimmy Carter: Agricultural subsidies for families now go to rich farmers.
Old Testament: God gave Man dominion over nature to manage, not to waste.
Families & Children|
Bill Frist: Diagnosis of Terry Schiavo disproven by autopsy.
Jimmy Carter: Sex ed should mention contraception.
Alberto Gonzales: Post-9-11 paradigm renders Geneva Convention obsolete.
Bill Clinton: Approved expanding Israeli settlements in West Bank.
Dwight Eisenhower: Opposed Israeli settlements in disputed areas.
George W. Bush: OpEd: obsessed with subverting ICC international authority.
George W. Bush: Opposed expanding Israeli settlements in West Bank.
George W. Bush: $1.2B for 5-year campaign against malaria in Africa.
Jimmy Carter: We have neglected alliances and international organizations.
Jimmy Carter: Got Chinese leader to allow Bibles and religious freedom.
Jimmy Carter: Cuban embargo only punishes suffering Cuban people.
Jimmy Carter: Religious Right wants Mideast war to hasten The Rapture.
Jimmy Carter: People believe foreign aid is 15% but it's actually under 1%.
John F. Kennedy: Travel restraints after Cuban missile crisis kept until 1977.
New Testament: Bibles banned in China from 1949 until 1979.
Sam Brownback: Cut in half the anti-malaria budget for Africa.
Jimmy Carter: Ban semiautomatic assault weapons; they're only for killing.
Alberto Gonzales: High premium on quick info from captured terrorists.
Bill Clinton: Signed Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.
Democratic Party: Excessive use of our military breeds more terrorists.
Dick Cheney: Don't prohibit US military forces from degrading detainees.
Dwight Eisenhower: 1957: ban nuclear testing.
George W. Bush: OpEd: permanent Patriot Act legalizes abuse of civil liberty.
George W. Bush: No nuclear restrictions on India, even though NPT rejected.
Jimmy Carter: Even conservatives deplore parts of the Patriot Act.
Jimmy Carter: Military budget of $400B is more than rest of world combined.
John McCain: Abusing prisoners hurts America's cause in War on Terror.
John Warner: Strenuous opposition to prohibiting prisoner harsh treatment.
Republican Party: Few Republicans prefer diplomacy to military action.
Jimmy Carter: US minimum wage $5.15, while England $9.20 & Germany $12.74.
Principles & Values|
Jimmy Carter: Fundamentalist politicians divide our country.
Jimmy Carter: Challenging times for those shaped by religious faith.
George W. Bush: OpEd: Middle class get $54 from tax cut; top 1% get $191.
War & Peace|
Colin Powell: OpEd: conglomerate of inaccurate statements to UN on Iraq.
Condoleezza Rice: OpEd: References to mushroom clouds incited Iraq War.
Dick Cheney: OpEd: Chose Iraq as first target & permanent military base.
Dick Cheney: OpEd: repeatedly made false statements to incite Iraq War.
Jimmy Carter: Iraq does not meet Christian standard of Just War.
Jimmy Carter: Iraqi War did not reduce the threat of terrorism.
New Testament: Revelations: Mideast war precedes The Rapture.
Porter Goss: Islamic extremists use Iraq War to recruit new jihadists.
Welfare & Poverty|
Jimmy Carter: Faith-based initiative channels tax funds to churches.
Jimmy Carter: 2000: Greatest challenge is growing chasm of rich vs. poor.
Jimmy Carter: Habitat for Humanity: build homes for poor, without interest.
William Rehnquist: "Separation of church and state" is metaphor & bad history.
The above quotations are from Our Endangered Values:
America's Moral Crisis,
by Jimmy Carter.