Our Endangered Values | Jimmy Carter

Summary of: Our Endangered Values: America’s Moral Crisis
By: Jimmy Carter


In the book ‘Our Endangered Values: America’s Moral Crisis,’ former US President Jimmy Carter delves into the ongoing conflicts affecting modern American society and politics, primarily the role of Christian fundamentalism in shaping policies and driving division. Carter shares insights from his journey as a devout Southern Baptist while addressing key concerns in American society, such as church and state relations, the sanctity of life, gender equality, environmental protection, and social justice. Poignantly, Carter serves as a trustworthy lens through which readers can grasp the importance of reconciling moral values with political pragmatism.

The Growing Political Divide

The political divide in the US has intensified in recent years, with party lines becoming increasingly difficult to bridge. While Republicans favor military action and view environmental legislation as economically damaging, Democrats strongly prefer diplomacy. However, a small group of Christian fundamentalist activists promoting extreme causes such as outlawing abortions or unlimited gun ownership has seized control of the government. Despite citizens’ fundamental beliefs remaining unchanged, policymakers have become increasingly polarized.

The Rise of Extreme Fundamentalism

President Carter, a devout Baptist, reflects on how extreme fundamentalism has taken control of his denomination and influenced the Republican political party. In his book, he describes the traits of this movement, including authoritarian leadership, a preference for the past, and a narrowness that leaves no room for negotiation. Carter argues that these policies are a direct attack on American moral values and have fueled divisive political issues. He believes that a return to a more tolerant and accepting form of Christianity is needed to bridge the growing divide in American politics.

The Intersection of Science and Religion

For President Jimmy Carter, science and religion do not conflict. As he sees it, they are separate domains – one material, the other natural – and neither should impose on the other. Although his faith is important to him, he opposes government funding of social programs through “faith-based initiatives.” In his view, Christian fundamentalists who breach the wall between church and state risk violating a crucial national value. As President, Carter obeyed the Supreme Court and upheld a woman’s right to choose, despite his personal opposition to abortion. He disputes current religious fundamentalists’ efforts to use tax money to fund “faith-based initiatives” and attack judges whose decisions they find objectionable.

President Carter’s Insight on Homosexuality

In his book, President Carter discusses the issue of homosexuality through the concept of sin and forgiveness. He criticizes fundamentalists for ignoring Jesus’ teachings on not judging others, especially with regards to homosexuality. Carter highlights the hypocrisy in promoting a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage while turning a blind eye to divorce and adultery, which Jesus condemned. He also mentions how some fundamentalists go as far as to view HIV/AIDS as God’s punishment for homosexuality. Carter’s views encourage a more compassionate and tolerant approach towards the LGBTQ+ community.

The Irreparable Gap on Abortion

The gap between people who oppose abortion and those who defend a woman’s right to choose seems irreparable. Carter supported the Supreme Court’s decision on Roe v. Wade and emphasized sex education and birth control access. He believed that pro-lifers overlooked the economic pressures that force women, often poor, to have abortions. Meanwhile, some Christian fundamentalists heavily influence US policy in the Middle East and advocate for sex education without contraception. They forbid using tax dollars for contraceptives or family planning data, oppose stem cell research, and support the death penalty. Carter finds Catholics more consistent than Protestants, who deny women equal rights based on their misinterpretation of the Bible.

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