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Calling all Christians: former President Jimmy Carter attempts to beguile Christians into adopting the most extreme liberal political viewpoints.

Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis, by Jimmy Carter (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005), 212 pages, hard cover, $25.00.

Since leaving office, former President Jimmy Carter has cultivated his image as a humanitarian. He has built homes with Habitat for Humanity, worked through his organization The Carter Center to reduce diseases in poor countries, and monitored elections in fledgling democracies. He has also written multiple books. His latest book, Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis, is his first to emphasize politics.

The professed purpose of this book is to warn Americans about the present course of the Republicans controlling the government; to explain the cause behind the extremely antagonistic attitude that Republicans and Democrats hold toward each other; and to point out the direction that Carter, as a pious man with political experience, believes that our country should go.

Carter's views about what's causing the divisiveness between Democrats and Republicans can be summed up simply: religious fundamentalism has flourished in recent times, and fundamentalists have bridged "the formerly respected separation of church and state." He says the fundamentalists draw lines in the sand on issues and make "debate into black-and-white rigidities and the personal derogation of those who dare disagree." In the same vein, he complains about religious groups--such as Baptists associated with the Moral Majority and the Southern Baptist Convention--who have become involved in politics, essentially saying that such activity is irreligious.

Flimsy Evidence

In addition to devoting an entire chapter, "The Entwining of Church and State," to the topic of Christians in politics, he reiterates time and time again that the breakdown in the separation of church and state is to blame for present political problems. But the evidence that he gives to verify his point is extremely flimsy. Carter's "best" evidence lies in the fact that there seems to be a chronological overlap between when churches became heavily involved in politics and when politics became contentious.

Yet even this evidence is extremely weak: church groups may, in fact, have gotten involved in politics in response to actions by liberals--homosexual radicals, abortionists, and welfare advocates--who had entrenched themselves in politics and had begun demeaning through verbal attacks anyone who disagreed with their havoc-raising agenda. Or the animosity and divisiveness in politics may have evolved because the increased federalization of state powers has nurtured corruption in politics and the "buying" of politics, causing Republicans and Democrats to kowtow to ideologically opposed entities that won't allow the politicians to take anything other than very rigid political stances on issues. Carter's explanation of events doesn't offer any proof that would lead one to believe otherwise.

The remainder of the "proof" that Carter uses to show that fundamentalists and the removal of the separation of church and state are to blame for the present political animus consists of a quote he took from one of his own speeches--"Thomas Jefferson, in the original days of our country, said he was fearful that the church might influence the state to take away human liberty. Roger Williams ... was afraid that the church might be corrupted by the state"--and of mockery of those who disagree with him. After implying that the First Amendment requires completely removing religion from public life, he disparaged former U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist for writing in a minority opinion that "the 'wall of separation between church and state' is a metaphor based on bad history, a metaphor that has proved useless as a guide to judging. It should be frankly and explicitly abandoned."

Of course, Carter never gives any proof that Rehnquist is incorrect. That's likely because Rehnquist is correct. As it pertains to religion, the First Amendment was intended strictly to keep the federal government from interfering with the free practice of religion, not to prohibit public religious expression. Only a fairly recent twisted interpretation of the 14th Amendment by the Supreme Court has allowed it to be applied in that fashion.

Following the same line of thought, Carter then tries to convince those of his readers who have a religious bent that policies commonly associated with radical liberal Democrats are indeed the morally and politically correct policies that our country should be following. For instance, in referring to homosexuality, he argues that proper Christians should love all people despite their behavior. Moreover, he tells readers that all people sin; therefore, homosexuals are essentially people who merely have different sins than the bulk of the population. He also says, "Jesus Christ never included homosexuality among his very strict reminders of deviations from a perfect life," but "Christ himself strongly condemned both adultery and divorce." He tries to make homosexuality okay by equating it with other more socially acceptable sins and even implies that both divorce and adultery should be more repugnant to Christians than homosexuality. He concludes his argument by claiming, "There are many reasons for [the] threat to the sanctity of matrimonial vows, but few would regard homosexuality as a significant factor," and so we should let "governments define and protect equal rights for citizens, including those of 'civil unions,' and [let] church congregations define 'holy matrimony.'"

Though Carter does at least give reasons for why he believes as he does on this issue, he once again omits glaringly important details. Biblically, he omits any reference to the fact that God destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah because of the homosexual activities taking place there; politically, he omits the fact that, constitutionally, each state has the right to make laws reflecting the morals of its populace, and that liberals are trying to negate this right by getting activist judges to make law, instead of following the law like they should. (Case in point--In Lawrence v. Texas, the Supreme Court illegally overturned Texas laws against sodomy.)

Likewise, Carter defends the practice of abortion, while agreeing with the "general consensus within our Christian churches that a developing fetus is a human life and should be protected." He writes: "As president, I accepted my obligation to enforce the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling," hinting none-too-subtly that everyone else should follow his lead. At the same time, he bashes pro-life people, saying, "Many fervent pro-life activists do not extend their concern to the baby who is born [to a mother who is not able to care for the child], and are least likely to support benevolent programs that they consider 'socialistic,'" adding, "two-thirds of women who have abortions claim their primary reason is that they cannot afford a child."

Vague Assertions

Of course, Carter once again has glaring omissions of fact. First, his implication that most women who get abortions must do so because they are poor overlooks the fact that adoption services in the United States is big business and is in such dire need of infants that adoption companies go all around the world to get enough infants to fill demand. Second, after he implies that pro-life people don't care about infants, only fetuses, he gives no proof to back up this slap in the face. His stance on abortion also brings out evidence of the self-contradictory nature of Carter's arguments. He asserts that though abortion is against his beliefs, he had to allow it because the Constitution allows it--according to a Supreme Court decision. Pages later, however, he chastises those who are against sending federal foreign aid to the poor in other countries--though foreign aid is completely unconstitutional.

From Carter's views on gun control to those on nuclear proliferation, environmentalism, taxation, and to his claim that fundamentalists are trying to get all of the non-Jews out of Israel to speed the coming of the biblical Rapture, this book is a compendium of assertions backed by weak, faulty, or no facts; devoid of much resembling logic or an understanding of the idea of cause and effect. It shows a poor grasp of the Constitution, a view of Christianity that is shaped to meet Carter's political beliefs, and a perspective on politics that is based on emotion rather than statistics and adherence to past government policies that have succeeded. The only chapter that gives specific sources, quotes, and credible examples is the one covering the decline of civil rights in our country.

In short, this book is only important because it will likely define the parameters of the liberal talking points in the next national elections as liberal Democrats try to win back faith-based voters from the Republican Party.
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Author:Williamsen, Kurt
Publication:The New American
Date:Jan 9, 2006
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