First Servant of the Nation
Jimmy Carter’s faith played a major role in both the 1976 and 1980 presidential campaigns and his presidency. This is evident in his speeches, relationship with religious constituencies, approach to politics, and many of his domestic and foreign policies. Three major factors shaped Carter’s ideology: Southern evangelicalism, Baptists’ views of the separation of church and state, and the Christian realism of Reinhold Niebuhr. In most ways, Carter’s personal faith was typical of Southern Baptists and most other evangelicals. He believed in the need to be born again, the importance of evangelism, the sinfulness of human beings, and the authority of the Bible. Carter insisted that his faith should play an important role in his political decisions. He strongly stressed morality, virtue, justice, forgiveness, humility, peace, human rights, concern for the poor, and stewardship. Carter’s faith also helped to inspire his efforts to promote peace throughout the world. Motivated by Christ’s example, Carter strove as president to adopt the attitude and approach of a servant. His positions on several issues, most notably abortion, school prayer, and tuition tax credits, were at odds with those of many evangelicals and Catholics. Carter’s Christian commitment is especially evident in his efforts to strengthen families, reduce poverty, reform welfare, combat the nation’s energy crisis, and slow world population growth.
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