Thursday, November 11, 2004

Carter's 'Living Faith'

From two Republican veterans (Eisenhower and Hagel), I move to a Democratic one: Jimmy Carter. Carter was a graduate of the US Naval Academy and a Navy nuclear submarine officer. According to his wonderful book, Living Faith, the thirty-ninth President gained much in the way of discipline and a sense of honor from his time in military service.

I've been reading this book lately and today came to Carter's discussion of reaching out to others as part of one's faith in Jesus Christ. In this chapter, Carter begins by talking about one of the low points in his life: his loss in the 1966 Georgia Democratic gubernatorial primary election to arch-segregationist Lester Maddox. Carter thought for certain that this spelled the end of his political career and was angry that God could have let such an evil person win the primary.

In the midst of this bleakness, Carter's sister, the evangelist Ruth, came to visit him. She quoted the words of Jesus' earthly brother, James, found here.

Carter shares that initially, he found James' words nearly impossible to accept, that in spite of his sister's words to the contrary, he couldn't possibly hope to build anything positive from his humiliating defeat.

But Ruth assured Carter:

"With faith, we can make the right choices---measured not by our peers or by societal standards but by unchanging priorities. In adversity, Christ can give us enough courage to take a chance on something new. We are not to be discouraged or selfish, not to exclude opportunities for adventure and excitement but to live constantly expanding lives." (p.203)
Ruth urged her brother to tackle something out of the ordinary, "unrelated to my business or politics," Carter reports. Within a short time, Carter went on a witnessing mission in Pennsylvania. It would be the first of many such faith ventures taken by Carter and wife Rosalynn.

While admitting that "a living Christian faith is both demanding and rewarding," our most overtly Christian President also asserts that, "a lukewarm faith is easy to practice but worth little."

Lest you think Carter is self-righteous, he honestly and rather critically assesses his failings as a person of faith---indicting himself for everything from being self-righteous to failing to connect with poor people in his community.

This is a terrific and inspiring book, the memoir of a man with a first-rate intellect and an incredible work ethic who has been sustained and strengthened by his relationship with Jesus Christ!

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