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The Evangelical Faith of Jimmy Carter

MM: What advice do you have for church leaders today?

JC: Learn to live in harmony. You mentioned earlier the conservative and more liberal or progressive Christians and evangelicals, so called, and those not, those aligned with political parties and those not. I think we need to forgive each other and try to find ways to reach out to one another and live in peace and harmony and remember that we’re all saved by the grace of God through our faith in Jesus Christ. And I find that that’s slowly but surely progressing within the Baptist faith. I think we’ve come a long way since the 70s and 80s when we were at each other’s throats talking about who would control the Southern Baptist Convention.

For instance, I’ve been invited to speak at the graduation exercise for Liberty University by Jerry Falwell Jr. His father was the one that started the Moral Majority, as you know. I was kind of surprised to get the invitation. I was kind of surprised when my other Baptist friends advised me to accept it. But I’ll be going there next month and I’ll be speaking to the student body. I hope that my graduation speech will be another factor in bringing us back together…We’ve overcome those extreme person differences we had for a while.

MM: A few years ago you thought you were going to die. Hopefully, not anytime soon, what do you hope God will say to you when you get to heaven?

JC: I hope God will say I’m a sincere evangelical measured in his own standards. I hope that he will say that I promoted peace because we worship the Prince of Peace. I hope that God will say that in my own life and in my public life as President and so forth that I promoted basic human rights, that is equality among people and treating everyone fairly. I hope I’ll be able to thank God for the many blessings that he’s given to me.

When I thought I was going to die in a few weeks, I had four places in my brain that had cancer, I had part of my liver removed because I had cancer, I approached that prospect with a surprising degree of equanimity. I wasn’t afraid. I was not praying that God would let me live longer, I was mainly in an attitude of Thanksgiving for the many blessings that I had already received. I feel it as I get closer to the end of my life—I’m going on 94-years-old—I’ll approach that time with a great deal of Thanksgiving

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Maina Mwaura serves as Missions Pastor at West Ridge Church in Dallas, Georgia. Originally from Orlando, FL, Maina attended Liberty University and New Orleans Theological Seminary. Maina has served on staff at several churches. You can find more of Maina's written work at mainaspeaks.com.