Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Distinguished gentleman

I will admit this up front: At the time he became US President, I didn’t much like Jimmy Carter. The 1976 election was before I was old enough to vote, but I worked for President Gerald R. Ford and in 1980 I voted for John Anderson (though I now regret that). In the years since I’ve developed a tremendous respect for the former president, and today I saw another example of why that is.

Carter was interviewed by the Huffington Post’s Senior Religion Editor, Paul Brandeis Raushenbush, because of Carter’s new book, NIV Lessons from Life Bible: Personal Reflections with Jimmy Carter. Carter said:
Homosexuality was well known in the ancient world, well before Christ was born and Jesus never said a word about homosexuality. In all of his teachings about multiple things—he never said that gay people should be condemned. I personally think it is very fine for gay people to be married in civil ceremonies

I draw the line, maybe arbitrarily, in requiring by law that churches must marry people. I’m a Baptist, and I believe that each congregation is autonomous and can govern its own affairs. So if a local Baptist church wants to accept gay members on an equal basis, which my church does by the way, then that is fine. If a church decides not to, then government laws shouldn’t require them to.
He’s absolutely right, and says what I’ve always said. It’s a well-reasoned, theologically sound position from a very religious person. In that interview, he also talks about his break with the Southern Baptist Convention over their “discriminatory attitude,” as he put it, toward women, an attitude that I recently criticised.

Given all this, it’s kind of clear how a non-theist like me can respect the religious positions of a person like Jimmy Carter. That’s ironic, actually, because my initial suspicion of him was over his overt religiosity (and that was in 1976, well before the “Reagan Revolution” filled the halls of US power with far right religious zealots).

What first turned my opinion of Carter was that upon leaving office, he set about doing good works, including building homes for the poor through Habitat for Humanity. Other ex-presidents played golf. I took to calling Carter probably America’s best ex-president.

In the years since, Carter has worked tirelessly for peace and justice through his Carter Center, and that’s to be admired in itself. To this day, the rightwing still hates him, which to me is just another reason to like him. Personally, I wish all ex-presidents could be as distinguished and positive as Carter has proven to be—and I wish I’d voted for him in 1980.


Roger Owen Green said...

I was worse. I voted (wrote in) Eugene McCarthy. This was a function of the Carter forces getting McCarthy knocked off the ballot in the NYS Dem primary.

And in 1980, I voted for Barry Commoner, an environmentalist. Frankly, I just didn't see RWR as much of a threat, even if he won. Wrong on that one.

cris said...

I am in favor of voting to environmentalists
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