As was widely reported in the news media, on October 1 Jimmy Carter celebrated his 95th birthday, becoming the first U.S. President to reach that age. But has Jimmy lost his religion? In the last few months, I have repeatedly seen Facebook friends post the link to Carter’s article titled “Losing My Religion for Equality.”
The linked-to piece with that title was, in fact, published on July 15, 2009, under Carter’s name by The Age, a daily newspaper that had been published in Melbourne, Australia, since 1854—and that article is still available online.
In April 2015, The Age reported that Jimmy’s article has been the highest rating story ever published on theage.com.au, having been viewed more than 1.9 million times—and it has been viewed many more times since then.
The Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation even published Carter’s article on their website in April 2017, erroneously indicating that it was a newly published piece.
Carter’s article has been viewed so many times on the Internet this year that in July Snopes.com reported on its veracity. Snopes correctly explained that even though “the letter is often shared along with the claim that Carter renounced his faith,” that “isn’t the case.”
Snopes continues, “While Carter rejected the notion that women were subservient and severed ties with the Southern Baptist Convention [SBC], he never turned his back on his own religion.” And he certainly didn’t lose his faith in God.
Accordingly, I think that surely the title of Jimmy’s article was written by the newspaper, not by him.
Back in 2000 Carter severed ties with the SBC—a matter that was widely reported (such as in the Oct. 21, 2000, article in the WaPo.) Nine years later in his article published in The Age, he said that severing those ties “was painful and difficult.”
In January 2008, I talked briefly with Jimmy at the New Baptist Covenant meeting in Atlanta—and I gave him a copy of my recently published book Fed Up with Fundamentalism. As introduced in my 9/25 blog posting, the eighth chapter dealt with the issue that he wrote about in his 2009 article.
(I would like to think that that chapter in my book was of help to him.)
Thus, I fully agree with him and the main point he made in The Age article: “Women and girls have been discriminated against for too long in a twisted interpretation of the word of God.”
Carter later wrote a whole book about this matter: A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power (2014). The third chapter of that important book is “The Bible and Gender Equality,” and he explains his disagreement with the SBC—as well as his ongoing Christian faith.
Among most of us moderate/progressive Christians, Jimmy Carter is held in high regard. And even if some of us may think that he was not a great President, almost everyone agrees that he is the best ex-President the country has ever had.
I have been somewhat amazed, though, at how he is still criticized by conservative evangelical Christians (among others on the right, I assume). I sometimes see “friends” of my Facebook friends saying very negative things about Jimmy.
The two most cited reasons for criticism of Carter are his position on LGBTQ rights and his position on Israel. For those reasons, and perhaps others, his reputation among the Religious Right is not good—but for most of the rest of us, it is stellar.
Five years ago I posted a blog article wishing Jimmy a happy 90th birthday, and I am very glad that I can wish him a (belated) Happy Birthday again now.