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Jimmy Carter on Faith and Politics

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

This morning, I am on the Mike and Gina Spehn Show. You can click this link and listen.

They interviewed for President Jimmy Carter about how faith played into his decisions on politics.


JimmyCarterPromo from Michael And Gina on Vimeo.

Here is a tease.

I am not a fan of the policies of former President Carter. However, I am interested to learn how he thought faith played a part in his decisions. He was the first evangelical Christian to become President in the 20th Century. I have not heard the interview yet.

Other Presidents cited their faith as helping them through different times during their Presidency. Some we know of through their papers in libraries. Others we know because a reporter asked them. Some of it seems pretty phony or political.

Woodrow Wilson was the first President that used the church as a hammer to get what he wanted politically. In the late 1800's, the main line churches changed and became quasi political action committees. To this day, main line Protestant religion (think Presbyterian, Congregationalist, Episcopalian, Methodist et al) preach from the left. Evangelical religions (Nazarene, Southern Baptists) preach more from the right. The Jewish religion generally pitches from the left. Catholics have been mixed in my experience. On the right to life they are staunchly right wing. On other matters they are very left wing.


One thing is certain. Most churches despise capitalism.

As I thought about what I would say on the program, I thought about the origin of America. Most people think that America was formed on a bedrock of Judeo-Christian values. However, I dispute that notion. We were created on the principles of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, and modeled our government after the best parts of the Greek and Roman Republics. It just happens that in our system of laws, many of them can be traced to back to various commandments in the Bible. They can. But they also happen to be great ways to treat each other to have a livable society. Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal are good ways to live, even if you don’t believe in God.

During the Civil War, the Presbyterian church split over the question of slavery. It wasn’t reunited until the 1970's! How can one Christian find a biblical validation of slavery and one repudiate it at the same time? During WW2, the Germans were Christian. Somehow they found a way tie their cause to Christianity. I can’t think of anything more un-Christian.


Churches interpret the Bible in different ways. There is randomness in it. It’s just like determining “what’s fair?”. What’s fair for you might not be fair for me. The founders understood this. They knew they couldn’t make the judgements over what’s fair. What they did was recognize everyone has the same rights. Then they limited government’s ability to to infringe on those rights.

I would submit to anyone that if we got back to the core principles of Adam Smith, and brought government back to carrying out those core principles we would have a better society than we have today. Most of society’s ills can be solved through correct classical economic incentives.

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