President Carter’s Mixed Feelings on Religion and Health

Yesterday I had the privilege to attend a lecture by President Jimmy Carter on religion, ethics and public health at Emory University. President Carter is a very devout man and his rise to the White House in 1976 has generally been interpreted as the moment when Evangelicalism emerged as a force in American politics. Of course, Evangelicals quickly became disillusioned with the one they thought was their man. In 1980 they turned out in droves for his opponent Ronald Reagan. From Carter’s lecture yesterday you can get a pretty good sense why they did so. Here is my report, published by the Institute on Religion and Democracy:

There is no denying that President Jimmy Carter has spent the years following his presidency admirably. A vocal advocate for human rights who is not afraid to criticize the foreign policy or military efforts of his heirs in the White House – whether Republican or Democrat – Carter has put his time and money where his mouth is, seeking justice and relief for the poor and the sick around the globe. Thanks in large part to his work through the Carter Center the world is on the verge of eradicating Guinea Worm Disease (it would be only the second disease to be completely eradicated, the first being small pox).

In a lecture sponsored by United Methodist affiliated Emory University’s Center for Ethics, Religion, and Public Health President Carter spoke about his service in the cause of health care and disease prevention. From his boyhood in Plains, Georgia, when Carter’s mother was a nurse who worked so hard her son hardly saw her, to the initiatives he pursued as the Governor of Georgia and in the White House, Carter has acted on the premise that a modicum of health care is a basic human right.

That effort did not stop with Carter’s defeat by Ronald Reagan in the 1980 presidential election. In 1982 the former president founded the Carter Center, an institution devoted to promoting peace and conflict resolution around the globe. The Carter Center has spent enormous resources seeking to help solve problems that are not being addressed by other institutions, such as the lack of basic health awareness in poor parts of the world. Efforts to eradicate Guinea Worm Disease are a case in point. Carter said his team has been to every single village in Africa where people are suffering from the disease, teaching and instructing tribes that are largely illiterate and for whom the necessary preventative steps often clash with religious values.

Read the rest here.


About Matthew J. Tuininga

Matthew J. Tuininga is the Assistant Professor of Moral Theology at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Posted on November 14, 2012, in Health Care, Religious Liberty and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on President Carter’s Mixed Feelings on Religion and Health.

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