The Lessons Jimmy Carter Can Teach Christian Conservatives


This isn’t an attempt to defend Carter’s Presidency. He may be my favorite ex-President, but he was not a good President. Neither is this about the good he has done since he left the Presidency. The lesson is in the misconception of why Carter was a weak President.

The common narrative about Carter is just that: that he was weak, even being called a wimp. As a kid, I watched the Iran hostage crisis on the nightly news every day for over a year of Carter’s Presidency, and that was certainly the impression I had.

I was surprised when I finally studied Carter to find that the problem was not that he was weak. Jimmy Carter is a devout evangelical southern Baptist. In truth, much of the things he is blamed for being “weak” for, he was being incredibly strong. He was holding to his faith, above politics, and above what he needed to do as leader of our country.

I am not saying that is good. It is a problem. Yes, we want leaders with morals and convictions, but Carter’s tightly held religious convictions interfered with him governing effectively.

That is the lesson for Christian Conservatives: of course, they want leaders who are compatible with their values, but demanding devout evangelicals for politicians is not necessarily giving us people who are effective politicians. I would also add that some of the politicians elected under the Christian conservative banner seem like awful people, and maybe it would be better to consider if someone acts like a good person (or a good Christian), not whether the say they wear their Christianity like a banner.

Religion and government do not mix well. America is a free and innovative system because we separated church and state. The religious litmus test makes us weaker as a nation.