This week, ReadTheSpirit is proud to welcome former President Jimmy Carter, talking with Editor David Crumm about the vital importance of the Blble today. As a president from 1977 to 1981, Carter and his wife Rosalyn read the Bible nearly every night. For more than half a century, Carter has taught Sunday school at his church in Plains, Georgia. Thousands of Americans have traveled to Plains to sit in the large visitors’ seating area during his classes.
Now, as part of his current work around the world on behalf of peace and as a life-long Bible-study teacher, Carter is releasing a new devotional edition of the Bible packed with hundreds of excerpts from his own writings about inspiring and challenging passages of scripture. The book is called NIV Lessons from Life Bible: Personal Reflections with Jimmy Carter, and is available now from Amazon. David Crumm interviewed the former president last week and ReadTheSpirit will publish the interview in three parts.
Today, Part 1: How the Bible can help us find peace
Part 2: Why the Bible inspires millions of caregivers
Part 3: How a ‘Violent’ Bible Can Train Peacemakers Today
HIGHLIGHTS OF OUR INTERVIEW WITH JIMMY CARTER, PART 1
CRUMM: Your new Bible is a window into the depth of your personal faith. Your notations also show clearly how powerful these ancient scriptures are in our modern world—especially in a 2012 presidential campaign with as much angry feuding as we’ve seen this year. Tell us, when you were president, how did you read the Bible in those years?
CARTER: For more than 40 years, my wife and I have read the Bible aloud every night.
One night, she reads; the next night, I read. We go all the way through the Bible, then we go back and start over again. In the last 15 or 20 years, we have read the Bible aloud in Spanish, just to practice our second language.
When I was president, we did the same thing. I have to say that I really read it with much more deep attention and thoughtfulness when I was president, because I felt such great responsibility on me. And the most critical time was when the hostages were being held and I was being advised by all sides to go to war and to attack Iran because they were holding our hostages. But, I remembered that we worship the Prince of Peace and so I was able, during my term in office, through prayer and commitment, to preserve the peace. We never dropped a bomb. We never launched a missile at another country. And, we also tried to bring peace to other people, like Egypt and Israel, who had been at war four times in the previous 25 years.
Those kinds of applications of biblical teachings were important to me—and so were the ones calling for justice between rich and poor. The Bible teaches us that all people are created equal as Paul wrote to the Galatians: Whether we are rich or poor, male or female, black or white, it doesn’t matter—we are all equal in the eyes of God. So, those kinds of basic principles apply to my life not only as a president, but also when I was a submarine officer, a farmer, a governor—and to this day.
CRUMM: Let’s be honest, though! I spent a long time reading through your additions to this new edition of the Bible, including your prayers and your Bible-study lessons. Among the pages I marked: In Genesis, you remind us that leaders should be servants. You provide a prayer in those pages, asking us to set aside any sense of superiority and domination over others. In Deuteronomy, you single out for criticism people “who have an air of arrogance and who use their position to divide.” In James, you criticize anyone who would “speak ill of others” in order to “destroy or damage the reputation of others.” Honestly, now, in the savagery of the 2012 campaign, you must be quite disappointed!
CARTER: (Laughs, then says …) Well, this just shows us how applicable the teachings in the Old Testament and the New Testament are to everyday life!
When we depart from these basic principles that never change, despite the rapid changes in world politics and technology, we’re in error. I think it’s particularly applicable now to point out those basic facts. As you know, Jesus—the leader of the entire Christian world—always referred to himself as a servant and said that the greatest among you will be servants of all and he emphasized humility. These same principles apply in the Hebrew texts of the Bible. And they apply to everyday life today.
The teachings that readers will find added to the pages of this new Bible came from my many years of Bible teaching. Most of them were not written in the last few months for this edition. Every Sunday that I teach, we have about 30 members in our little church who come—and we also have several hundred visitors who quite often come to hear me teach. What I try to do is use the first 10 or 15 minutes of my 45-minute lesson for the headlines of the day, or things that have happened to me or I know have happened to someone in the audience. That’s how I bring the biblical teachings to life. It’s not an accident that we continue to see how these basic Bible principles, which I taught about for so many years, still apply today.
Go directly to …
Part 2: Why the Bible Inspires Millions of Caregivers
PHOTO CREDIT: The photograph of Jimmy Carter, at top today, was taken by Rick Diamond in 1993 and is used courtesy of The Carter Center.
Care to read more about devotional Bibles?
Stay tuned to ReadTheSpirit for ongoing reviews and news about special Bibles!
We recommend a new C.S. Lewis devotional Bible using the NRSV translation.
In January 2012, popular Bible scholar Eugene Peterson released a devotional Bible.
We also recommend two new editions of Thomas Jefferson’s Bible.
Care to read more about worldwide peacemakers?
Jimmy Carter is among the dozens of global peacemakers profiled in ReadTheSpirit’s “Blessed Are the Peacemakers” by Daniel Butty. The book is a collection of real-life stories about the men, women and children who are taking great risks around the world to counter violence with efforts to promote healthier, peaceful, diverse communities. Like Carter, Buttry is a Baptist who works on peacemaking projects around the world.
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Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online magazine covering religion and cultural diversity.