By Angela Wills
Jimmy Carter’s diagnosis of cancer has inspired an amicable reassessment of his legacy from Democrats who spent a large portion of the past two decades separating themselves from his observed liberal idealism. His intimate integrity, dedication to human rights and peacemaking as the country’s leader and ex-leaser have all been respectfully magnified.
In spite of all of the above, there is yet one quality that Carter held highly public that remains off-subject for those in his party: his upfront and public position on religion.
For a very large portion of the 20th century, leaders of America typically adjured the Supreme Power in only the mildest form.
During Carter’s candidacy in 1976, he changed this position deliberately. He was very outspoken and upfront regarding his Christianity and referred often to himself as a born-again Christian, which only a handful of Americans could truly relate.
Carter’s faith, past and present, without a doubt, allows him to have a “deeper sense of inner peace”, according to him. It has also fueled his complete political mission. He’s always migrated in the direction of the liberal fibers of his Baptist faith, fibers that concentrate on care for the less fortunate, racial tolerance and abhorrence to violence.
Following his unexpected victory, Carter’s faith was always reflected in his presidency. He would later write the following of his fervor to acquire a permanent peace for Israel, “I considered this homeland for the Jews to be compatible with the teachings of the Bible, hence ordained by God. These moral religious beliefs made my commitment to the security of Israel unshakable.”
Carter’s religious references weren’t always received favorably by Americans. He would deliver what became known as the “Malaise Speech” in 1979 on July 5th. He said that America’s economic woes, stemmed from “a moral and a spiritual crisis.”
Critics rushed to identify this as pessimism instead of leadership and Ronald Reagan moved into the White House the following year with a more trusting message.
Demographics are consistently clear. Although, religiosity is decreasing in the United States, according to reports from the Pew Center, greater than 70 percent of Americans still identify themselves as Christian. Religious voters have been adamantly pursued by Republicans since Carter’s reign as president.
If Democrats have any hope of changing the hearts and minds of Middle America next year, it would help to acknowledge the strength of sincere religious conviction similar to that of Carter’s.