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Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis by Jimmy Carter

Jacket: Hardcover
Pages: 212 Pages
Publisher: Simon and Schuster, (2005)
Genre: Biography & Memoir
ISBN: 0743284577

Comments about the author: Carter is author of An Hour Before Daylight, Keeping Faith:Memoirs of a President, and other books. Carter was a state senator, Governor of Georgia, and President of the United States. He won a Nobel Peace Prize.   See http://www.cartercenter.org for additional information.


Review: And a nation without morality will soon lose its influence around the world." (pg.59)

In his most recent book, former President Jimmy Carter's makes a prediction that the worse is yet to come for Americans, if positive change doesn't happen. Ironically, an overly-religious group may be responsible for our country's problems. Carter sees religious conservatives in the Republican Party pushing America away from democracy, morality, and justice.

To illustrate his theme, Carter speaks with honesty and frankness. For instance, we learn that he had to disassociate himself from the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S. His main reason: Christian fundamentalists took over the Convention, advocating against Roe v. Wade and women holding high positions in government, while trying to gain more control over local churches.

Some readers may wonder why Carter labels conservative Christians as "fundamentalists." Carter explains why he chooses this label. "Fundamentalists are militant in fighting against any challenge to their beliefs" (pg. 34) and they see "change, cooperation, negotiation, and other efforts to resolve differences as signs of weakness," (pg.35) in Carter's opinion.

Most of us know Carter is a religious person, but now we learn that he taught Bible lessons while he was in the Oval Office. Carter admits his devotion to his faith, but reminds readers that he has respected other faiths and has always tried not to mix religion and politics.

Carter's book shows readers that today's conservative politicians try to force their beliefs into law. One example that Carter gives us concerns conservatives in Congress who want to appoint like-minded federal judges. Senator Bill Frist even spoke against Democrats who did not vote for conservative judges.

Foreign policy is another area where conservatives or Christian fundamentalists try to exert influence. Carter admits that certain situations call for war, but only as a last resort. During his presidency, the threat of a counter-attack was enough to keep the Soviet Union from starting a war; no blood-shed was necessary. Not so anymore. Our country now attacks preemptively, going against United Nations' laws, which only let a country attack in self-defense.

American policy no longer favors diplomacy, Carter says. He contrasts his open policy towards Cuba with the present practice of no contact. As Carter points out, average Americans suffer from the "with-us-or-against-us" policy. We learn about an American serviceman who can not visit his two sons in Cuba. "It is troubling to realize that American Sergeant Lazo could visit his sons if he were a citizen of any other nation in the world."(pg.104)

Carter also focuses on paradoxes. For instance, the fundamentalists are against abortion and also against welfare hand-outs. In other words, they expect poor women to keep their children, without government assistance!

We may find extreme views among Democrats as well, a point which Carter hints at. Nevertheless, his discussion of conservative fundamentalists may surprise readers. We learn a possible reason why fundamentalists so fervently support the state of Israel--because of a Biblical prophecy. The assumption is that, after the establishment of a Jewish homeland, the Messiah will arrive to force everyone to become Christians.

Carter discusses these foreign-policy issues at length, while shorter chapters on other topics don't give in-depth discussions. However, every page of Carter's book has ideas and information to make us ponder. At times, Carter clearly states his point, while some passages may make readers scratch their heads.

Take the story of Carter's evangelism work with Puerto Rican immigrants. We learn about an eloquent pastor of Cuban descent who can "reach people's hearts."(pg.22) But we have to guess why Carter includes this story. Perhaps Carter wants to show us that the pastor's gentleness towards the weak is a good model for everyone to follow. In any case, the vagueness gives readers more to ponder.

Readers will also appreciate Carter mentioning his wife every so often, since she has been his supporter. Rosalynn even builds houses for Habitat for Humanity, along with her husband and other volunteers.

Such work by individuals gives our country hope and shows the world that Americans care, Carter implies. "Our own well-being would be enhanced by restoring the trust, admiration, and friendship that our nation formerly enjoyed among other peoples." (pg.20)

— Reviewed by:
Syeda Hamdani Syeda Z. Hamdani

syeda@jps.net
Syeda works as a freelancer and writes on a variety of topics, including science and health. She is also a proofreader and copy editor, besides being an avid reader.

 
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