Evangelical Press Slimes Jimmy Carter

The headline of The Christian Post reads, “Jimmy Carter Says He Doesn't Know If Gandhi Is in Hell for Not Being a Christian” (here). When asked whether he thought Gandhi was in hell, Carter said, “I do not feel qualified to make a judgment. I am inclined to give him (or others) the benefit of any doubt.” The clear implication is that President Carter does not believe Gandhi is in hell. That’s what “the benefit of the doubt” means.

The Christian Post does not include the “right” answer to the question, but all conservative Christians, including the Catholic Church, believe that there is no salvation apart from Jesus Christ. That’s what the Gospel of John says. I assume that is also the paper’s position. I do not recall that The Christian Post objected when Franklin Graham called Islam – the world’s second largest religion - an evil religion, the work of the devil.

Evangelicals were largely responsible for making Jimmy Carter president. But after he supported the Equal Rights Amendment for women, evangelical leaders denounced him as unchristian, and were largely responsible for his defeat. While other presidents have reached out to evangelicals, Carter was the only president – and one of the few evangelicals – who actually evangelized. Evangelical religion tends to prioritize right-wing politics over theological issues and religious practices. Witness their huge support for Donald Trump, a serial adulterer, liar, and fraudster (Trump University, Trump Steaks, etc.).

Jimmy Carter is among the most reasonable of evangelicals, but he has his shortcomings. He is more reasonable than many in rejecting a literal interpretation of the Bible: “Having a scientific background, I do not believe in a six-day creation of the world that occurred in 4004 B.C., stars falling on the earth, that kind of thing. I accept the overall message of the Bible as true, and also accept miracles described in the New Testament, including the virgin birth and the Resurrection.” That is, his scientific background leads him to reject parts of the Hebrew Bible, but it doesn’t interfere with his belief in the Christian Bible’s claims of virgin birth, resurrection of the dead, etc. His scientific beliefs have been partially baptized.

It’s also noteworthy that his views of Jesus derive from Paul’s private resurrected Christ: “I try to absorb the essence and meaning of the teachings of Jesus Christ, primarily as explained in the letters written by Paul to the early churches.” Evangelicals, and many other Christians, prefer the teachings of Paul to those of the historical Jesus. That’s a real problem.