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Friday, November 4, 2005

Jimmy Carter on Southern Baptist Convention and US politics.

I woke up this morning hearing Jimmy Carter discussing his break with the Southern Baptist Convention on NPR's "Morning Edition." There's no link to the "Morning Edition" interview yet, but here's an excerpt from Carter's new book and a link to an interview with Terry Gross. Carter's new book is Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis.

("A Former President Warns of 'Endangered Values,'" Terry Gross and Steve Inskeep, 11.4.05)

Copyright © 2005 by Philocrites | Posted 4 November 2005 at 7:16 AM

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November 4, 2005 11:21 AM | Permalink for this comment

Thanks for alerting me to this interview (BTW, there is now an active link at the NPR website to the interview). I am the son of a Southern Baptist pastor, and was to follow my father's footsteps into ministry. I was educated at a Southern Baptist college and a Southern Baptist seminary. At both institutions, I was introduced to the best in liberal biblical studies, and given a firm grounding in the historical-critical approach to understanding and interpreting the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. My instructors had degrees not only from the flagship Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, but also from Harvard, Yale, Duke, Princeton, Chicago, Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh and Tubingen. There were not only extremely competent bibical and theological scholars, but they were also deeply committed to the core Baptist ideals of soul liberty and the separation of church and state.

My misfortune was that I began my seminary training in the midst of the fundamentalist takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention. At graduation, I discovered that finding a place to minister in Southern Baptist life was complicated because I was on the losing side of the then-current debate. This was startling to me, as I had previously served Southern Baptist congregations in a variety of capacities during my college and seminary years, in Alabama, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Virginia. My only post-seminary Southern Baptist ministry was as Minister of Music (my avocation, not my "calling") with a M.Div. serving as staff to a pastor with a Bible institute diploma and who was favorably disposed toward "ousting the liberals".

Needless to say, I found that I could no longer find a home within Southern Baptist life and (after a brief sojourn as a minister in the Presbyterian Church USA) now find myself as a member (and past President) of a UU congregation. My co-parishoners give me the great honor of preaching several times a year, and I am currently facilitating a Sunday morning class utilizing John Buehren's latest book ("Understanding the Bible"), during which I find ample opportunity to share my knowledge and understanding of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures and am finding a great hunger among those in the class for a "different" way of reading the Bible from that which is prevalent in our surrounding culture.

While at times I experience great sadness over my inability to minister in the denomination of my youth, I find that the local UU congregation which has become my spiritual home gives me the chance to be who I really am and offers me the possibility of expanding my understanding of what it means to be a "faithful" person from a liberal, religious humanist perspective. It also provided the setting in which I met and married the love of my life, and she and I have created and are creating a happy life together.

The Jimmy Carter whom I listened to this morning (thanks to your "heads-up") is the kind of Southern Baptist I grew up with, a person with a firmly-rooted faith who found ways to make this world a better place. He is emblematic of my parents, my professors and many of the folks in the pews of churches I've served. They also make wonderful UUs!

Thanks again for alerting me to the interview.


November 4, 2005 02:01 PM | Permalink for this comment

I too heard the NPR broadcast this morning, on the heels of Wednesday's interview w/ Terry Gross which followed Tuesday's (pre-empted) appearance on Charlie Rose. Tonight (11/4) Jimmy Carter will be on NPR's NOW with David Brancaccio. Talk about turning 'round "Faith without works..."

On an entirely unrelated note: are you familiar with the Belief-O-Matic? It states "Even if YOU don't know what faith you are, Belief-O-Matic™ knows. Answer 20 questions about your concept of God, the afterlife, human nature, and more, and Belief-O-Matic™ will tell you what religion (if any) you practice...or ought to consider practicing."
Entertainment value aside, it is revelatory, though I disagree with some of the black-and-white categorizations. You can find it at
Thank you for your provocative thoughts, inspirations and newslinks. I appreciate them all.

Dudley M. Jones:

November 4, 2005 08:57 PM | Permalink for this comment

This comment is about the page layout, not the Jimmy Carter story. I saw a link at the top of the page to

I clicked on it to see what was going on and got a computer error - looks like a bad link. Philocrites might want to delete or move this comment since it is not about the culture war our Baptist neighbors are having. My first wife was an Evangelical (Christian and Missionary Alliance) , and I have spent many hours with them - some of them are really neat people. Anyhow, good luck with the link to the Ministers Council. (I am running Internet Explorer 6.0)

Bill Baar:

November 5, 2005 06:27 AM | Permalink for this comment

Chicago's Tom Roeser posts on Carter and links him back to the first really Modern Progressive Democrat --William Jennings Bryan-- to inject a heavy dose of fundamentalist religion into politics.

Roeser goes on to talk about Carter's manipulation of the pro-lifers in Georgia and then concludes this about him,

Carter is adding to a current popular myth: that somehow it is extreme to believe that public policy should be put to service of certain moral values. To disdain such convictions is to cause politics to tumble into nihilism. Positive change has always come from the linkage of moral issues to politics, and no one should know that better than Jimmy Carter who saw first-hand the dramatic and salutary changes that came first in the South through civil rights which was indissolubly tied to moral conviction in the black churches. What Carter objects to is the application of moral values involving abortion to the political order which would mean that the same energy that drove civil rights progress would be applied to the origin of life.

I like to see Religion and Politics more seperated then mixed and was never comfortable with Carters "born again" talk. As a Chicago Democrat who voted for the man twice, I just pretended it wasn't there.

I wish he wasn't here now. He's getting tiresome and doesn't serve the left or his party well.


November 5, 2005 07:49 AM | Permalink for this comment

Notice the sleight of hand in Tom Roeser's response, Bill: Look at that phrase, "certain moral values." Every liberal I've known believes public policy should serve "moral values" -- like fairness, for example, and human rights. And, if you just skip blithely over the word that precedes "moral values," you sure come away with the impression that here we have Jimmy Carter arguing that values should be banished from politics.

But that's not what Carter is criticizing -- nor is it what a portion of the Republican base is actually championing. It's that other word: certain. Republican moralizers believe there is only one kind of "moral values" -- absolutely certain, unquestionable, uncriticizable, divinely mandated values that they know and other people must obey. It's the certainty of the fundamentalists that Carter is criticizing.

Meanwhile, I'm sure people have noticed that no Democrat who isn't a born-again Christian has won the White House since Lyndon Johnson. Unless the culture shifts -- or unless the Democratic base learns to make alliances beyond the 22% of the population that identifies as liberal -- no "secular" candidate is going to win for the Democrats. Despite the particular weaknesses of Carter and Clinton as presidents, each one linked traditional liberal values to Christian themes that mattered to them personally, and voters responded warmly to that.

Confidence and conviction are necessary elements of social change, but certainty -- my idea cannot be wrong -- is a dangerously illiberal value.


November 5, 2005 07:52 AM | Permalink for this comment

Dudley, that link is an advertisement paid for by someone else and placed on my site by Google AdSense.

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