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Sunday, September 19, 2004

Jimmy Carter on Religious Right

Here is an interview Jimmy Carter gave to Prospect writing fellow Ayelish McGarvey. I believe Mr Carter to be a rather ineffective politician, but a true Christian. Here's what Mr Carter has to say on the nature of the right-wing Christian movement and its influence on the Republican party:

When I was younger, almost all Baptists were strongly committed on a theological basis to the separation of church and state. It was only 25 years ago when there began to be a melding of the Republican Party with fundamentalist Christianity, particularly with the Southern Baptist Convention. This is a fairly new development, and I think it was brought about by the abandonment of some of the basic principles of Christianity.

First of all, we worship the prince of peace, not war. And those of us who have advocated for the resolution of international conflict in a peaceful fashion are looked upon as being unpatriotic, branded that way by right-wing religious groups, the Bush administration, and other Republicans.

Secondly, Christ was committed to compassion for the most destitute, poor, needy, and forgotten people in our society. Today there is a stark difference [between conservative ideology and Christian teaching] because most of the people most strongly committed to the Republican philosophy have adopted the proposition that help for the rich is the best way to help even poor people (by letting some of the financial benefits drip down to those most deeply in need). I would say there has been a schism drawn -- on theology and practical politics and economics between the two groups.

Here is another very telling question-answer pair.

How do you think the fundamentalist Christian right has misrepresented Christianity, as well as the democratic process?

Well, what do Christians stand for, based exclusively on the words and actions of Jesus Christ? We worship him as a prince of peace. And I think almost all Christians would conclude that whenever there is an inevitable altercation -- say, between a husband and a wife, or a father and a child, or within a given community, or between two nations (including our own) -- we should make every effort to resolve those differences which arise in life through peaceful means. Therein, we should not resort to war as a way to exalt the president as the commander in chief. A commitment to peace is certainly a Christian principle that even ultraconservatives would endorse, at least by worshipping the prince of peace.

And Christ reached out almost exclusively to the poor, suffering, abandoned, deprived -- the scorned, the condemned people -- including Samaritans and those who were diseased. The alleviation of suffering was a philosophy that was enhanced and emphasized by the life of Christ. Today the ultra-right wing, in both religion and politics, has abandoned that principle of Jesus Christ’s ministry.

Those are the two principal things in the practical sense that starkly separate the ultra-right Christian community from the rest of the Christian world: Do we endorse and support peace and support the alleviation of suffering among the poor and the outcast?

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