Jimmy Carter was born and raised in Plains, Georgia.

Carter is often described as the most religious man to grace the office of the presidency.12 He was raised a Southern Baptist,3 attends church everywhere he travels, teaches Sunday school, prays every day, performed missionary work as an adult4 . . . the list goes on.

In his 1976 campaign for the presidency, Jimmy Carter revealed to the world that he was an evangelical born-again Christian. Although most of us are familiar with that term now, at the time he had reporters scrambling for their dictionaries trying to figure out what it meant.5

But Carter hasn’t always agreed wholeheartedly with his Baptist brethren. Although he continues to practice in that denomination, he left the Southern Baptist Convention in 2000 because he disagreed with several issues including the idea that “women have to be subservient to men.”6 He said,

At its most repugnant, the belief that women must be subjugated to the wishes of men excuses slavery, violence, forced prostitution, genital mutilation and national laws that omit rape as a crime. But it also costs many millions of girls and women control over their own bodies and lives, and continues to deny them fair access to education, health, employment and influence within their own communities.7

But he also believed vehemently in the separation of church and state–a concept he believes is supported by the Bible itself.8 So although he did not believe Jesus would approve of abortion, he felt it his duty to enforce its legality because the Supreme Court upheld it as the law of the land.9

Carter’s religious faith guides every aspect of his life, and was intimately entwined with his duty as president. He said,

We have a responsibility to try to shape government so that it does exemplify the teaching of God.10

Waging Peace, A Peanut Farmer in Washington

It was that Christian morality that guided his political action, and some say, contributed to his naivete in the harsh world of Washington politics.11

Carter, a Democrat, championed energy independence and conservation while president, expanded the national parks system, created the Department of Education, and appointed more minorities and women than anyone before him.12 He also negotiated the Panama Canal Treaty, handing over control of the waterway to that country,13 successfully negotiated an arms treaty with the Soviet Union, and helped broker an unprecedented peace agreement between Israel and Egypt.14

But his presidency ultimately became defined by a struggling economy, increased inflation and interest rates, an energy crisis, and the Iran hostage crisis which lasted over one year and only ended the day Carter left office.15

Despite his overwhelming defeat to Ronald Reagan in 1980, Carter became one of the most active former presidents his country has known. In 1982 he established The Carter Center, an organization dedicated to “waging peace” throughout the world through conflict resolution and the promotion of human rights issues. He has gone on diplomatic missions for every post-Reagan administration, and has published several books on how to achieve peace in the Middle East.16 In 2002 he won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work.17

Carter’s insistence on doing the right thing without regard to political nuance hampered his ability to be a greatly successful president, and probably cost him a second term. But his life as a presidential veteran has proved greatly influential and perhaps the role in which his Christian spirit of love for one’s brothers and sisters across the globe could truly be realized. If you’re interesting in learning more about Carter, his Wikipedia profile is a good place to start.

  1. Most religious president: Jimmy Carter, James Garfield, or John Quincy Adams? Slate Magazine. []
  2. President And His Faith – Religion In The White House – Then And Now. PBS. []
  3. The Religion of President Jimmy Carter. Adherents. []
  4. Most religious president: Jimmy Carter, James Garfield, or John Quincy Adams? Slate Magazine. []
  5. President And His Faith – Religion In The White House – Then And Now. PBS. []
  6. Jimmy Carter Interviewed by Albert Mohler. Institute on Religion and Democracy. []
  7. Losing my religion for equality. The Age. []
  8. The Role of Faith in President Jimmy Carter’s Life. Fox News. []
  9. The Role of Faith in President Jimmy Carter’s Life. Fox News. []
  10. Religion in the White House. News21. []
  11. Complete Program Transcript. Jimmy Carter. WGBH American Experience. PBS. []
  12. James Carter. The White House. []
  13. Panama Canal Treaties: Jimmy Carter. Bill of Rights Institute. []
  14. Peace Talks at Camp David, September 1978. Jimmy Carter. WGBH American Experience. PBS. []
  15. The Iran Hostage Crisis. Jimmy Carter. WGBH American Experience. PBS. []
  16. Jimmy Carter writes new book on Middle East. USAToday. []
  17. Jimmy Carter’s Post-Presidency. Jimmy Carter. WGBH American Experience. PBS. []