Wednesday, May 10, 2006


This is from a book Justin's reading called Jimmy Carter's Betrayal of the South, by Jeffrey St. John, who "characterizes himself as 'an independent conservative'" according to his bio. Publication info is missing, but it's clearly from about the fall of 1976, when I was a wee bald toddler and Justin was not yet born.

Former U.S. Senator Eugene McCarthy, a liberal Democrat from Minnesota, told this writer in an interview shortly before Carter was nominated that he feared the former Georgia governor "supported the somewhat aggressive and imperial presidency" and that his talk of marrying theology with presidential power in the name of reestablishing the national moral leadership was a throwback to the concept of the Divine Right of Kings doctrine....

Jimmy Carter is the first presidential candidate in modern times openly to advocate the marriage of his private religious convictions with the vast public powers of the presidency. In the past, the religious convictions of the President have always remained a private matter. Also, one of the great strengths of Christianity has been the doctrine of personal salvation for those who turned, not to the leadership of government for their moral values and guidance, but to a religious credo separate from the secular state. Carter clearly is espousing a doctrine of moral salvation through politics. Without realizing it, perhaps, this is also a form of idolatry.

A lot has changed since then. Heck, a lot changed between 1976 and 1980. This period has always interested me: how did Carter, who ran as a "born-again Christian," lose the support of fellow evangelicals so quickly, and lose them for the Democrats so permanently? That's the dissertation I would write, if I studied American religious history and not very dead sorta white guys.

1 comment:

Donald R. McClarey said...

In 1977 I was a sophmore at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana taking a poli-sci course taught by Professor Betty Glad who had studied Carter for years and was writing a bio of him. Glad was a moderate liberal and a Democrat, but she predicted that Carter would have a rocky term. While Governor of Georgia Carter had a bitter relationship with the Georgia legislature due to his inability to compromise despite the fact that the legislture was overwhelmingly Democrat. She also noted that Carter was a slave to details and had difficulty distinguishing important matters from minutae. Finally, she thought that Carter had displayed little ability to learn from his mistakes. At the time the country was still in a honeymoon period with the peanut farmer, so her opinions flew in the face of most of the common wisdom, although time proved her analysis to be on the money.