The late, great Bob Bartley won a Pulitzer Prize for his Wall Street Journal editorials deconstructing the hapless presidency of Jimmy Carter.
During a conversation I had with Bartley, some years after Ronald Reagan denied Carter a second term in the Oval Office, the WSJ editor told me he really had no animus toward the Democrat.
It’s just that he thought Carter would have made a much better missionary than leader of the free world.
I’m reminded of that conversation with news that the former president has just released a study Bible. It draws upon the 685 or so Sunday School lessons the Southern Baptist reckons he has taught over the years. It also includes his “personal reflections.”
With the media’s paranoia about the political influence of the evangelical community – particularly within the Republican party – it is often forgotten that Carter’s 1976 run for the White House was the impetus that got the evangelical community to take its Christian values from the church to the voting booth.
Carter, the Plains, Ga.peanut farmer who served one term as governor of the Peach Tree State, unabashedly campaigned as a “born-again Christian.” And, as he told CNN last week, he “tried to put into (his) services as president the teachings of Christ.”
Indeed, evangelicals might still be faithful to the party of Carter had it not strayed so far from the traditional values he represented when he was elected back in 1976.
Evangelicals didn’t leave the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party left them.
It supports abortion-on-demand. It supports repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as a union between a man and woman. It supports stem cell research involving destruction of human embryos.
It opposes sexual abstinence programs for under-age youth. It opposes public aid to faith-based social service providers. It opposes any mention of God or creation in public schools, while the exaltation of Darwin and evolution are perfectly acceptable. It opposes a crackdown on hard core pornography on the Internet.
Those are the kind of public policy positions for which the Democratic Party stands in 2012. And, in the minds of most evangelicals, they hardly represent the teachings of Christ of which Jimmy Carter spoke.