Jimmy Carter is at war with those he claims to be part of. How one does that and still seems to think he is part of them is quite curious. In the most recent edition of GQ magazine, the former president fired shots across the bow of those he disagrees with, declaring his own credentials to enter the fray and then warning of the dire consequences of not taking his side on the matter:
"I'm one of the few people who have the Christian credentials to debate other Christians, and the political credentials of having been in the White House," he said. "I think it's incumbent upon me to speak out ..."
That, Mr. Carter, depends entirely upon the manner in which you speak. How exactly does one earn "Christian credentials" anyway? (And a bit of help here – let's not bring up your White House years – most Americans have tried to forget them.)
The former president is an angry man, and while he speaks convincingly of his ability to teach Sunday school at his Plains, Ga., church, an examination of the substance of his message is what actually needs to be considered.
In the interview, he spent the first two-thirds discussing his disgust with what he terms "fundamentalists." He went on to describe them like this:
I define fundamentalism as a group of invariably male leaders who consider themselves superior to other believers. The fundamentalists believe they have a special relationship with God. Therefore their beliefs are inherently correct, being those of God, and anyone who disagrees with them are first of all wrong, and second inferior, and in extreme cases even subhuman. Also, fundamentalists don't relish any challenge to their positions ... It makes a great exhibition of rigidity and superiority and exclusion.
Funny, that's not how the vast majority of evangelical Christians (the fundamentalists you're seething with rage over) identify themselves. In fact, the fundamentals of the Christian faith may in fact be the most ecumenically binding aspect of conservative Christians today.
Carter went on to say:
Paul established three little churches in Galatia on a supple but profound belief that we are saved by the grace of God through our faith in Jesus Christ. That was his basic message, and Peter and other disciples did the same thing.
But even in this answer, Carter begins to unwind on his own lack of logic. In order for "Paul's (good thing he wasn't 'male') supple belief" to have any teeth to it – and thus make it strong for he and others to believe in – there had to be truth in it. If the apostle Paul himself did not believe he had a relationship with God, then whom did he place his "saving faith" in? And if there is no need for anything like an absolute standard of righteousness, then what difference does it make if one is saved by the "grace of God"?
This leads us to the actual problem for the liberal gospel according to Jimmy.
Though he may attend church on a regular basis, though he may read stories from the Bible to Sunday school classes of third graders, though he may do wonderful things in building homes for those in need with Habitat for Humanity – none of that gives you a relationship with God in the "Christian" sense.
Former President Carter is angry that evangelicals in large numbers continue to reject his political party's approach to morality in our nation. In large numbers, evangelicals believed that the War on Terror is absolutely necessary not just to fight, but to win. True Christians want to see the biblical description of marriage and families continue to reflect the moral framework which God designed it of. Honest believers in Jesus Christ believe in the authority of God's word – the scriptures – and they hold their own lives in respectful submission to the authority of that inspired text.
Carter's fuzzy thinking is evident in his inability to say that Christianity holds the value of an unborn person's right to life. (Carter believes Christianity can leave ambiguity on the matter.) In the same interview, he goes on to say that supposes that he would have been comfortable in the Muslim faith, and that he can not say affirmatively that Christianity would rule out the teachings of Muhammad and Allah.
Even a preliminary investigation of biblical Christianity reveals that Christ made the absolute claim: "I am THE way, THE truth, and THE life. No man comes to the Father except through me."
Former President Carter claimed that evangelicals (whom he refers to as fundamentalists) are afraid to have their beliefs challenged. Well I'll call his bluff. Beginning two days ago, my producers from WMCA in New York are aggressively seeking to invite Mr. Carter on my daily broadcast to allow him to challenge the content of this column and any other aspect of fundamentalist evangelical Christianity that he would like. We promise to be fair and polite. We also promise to allow him all the time necessary to make his point. We in return will expect a fair dialogue to rebut his "gospel."
Former President Carter touted his own credentials in this month's issue of GQ. He established himself as a "Christian who could debate other Christians." He then went on the attack of those he claims to be one of. He demonstrated his own complete lack of the belief in absolute truth in connecting the "supple message" of grace, with touchy feely relevancy.
With this incredible amount of substance, with this deafening defense of the intellectual aspects of the faith, was it any wonder that his interviewer then turned the discussion to Carter's spotting of a UFO?
And what are his credentials on that?