Monday, June 18, 2007

Our Endangered Values by Jimmy Carter

I read this a couple years ago, and it is as relevant today as it was then. I'm reposting my review of it, because my opinion hasn't changed one iota since I originally read this book, and it's too good not to mention it again. If you haven't read any of Carter's books, you really should.

Jimmy Carter has to be one of the most amazing, underappreciated, underrated men our country has been privileged to have as a public servant. Yes, his presidency was plagued with the energy/gas crisis, the Iran Hostage crisis, etc, but in the years since his presidency, he has earned himself an even bigger, brighter place in not just American history, but world history.

This book focuses on history and, to a large extent, on the current administration's subservience to the fundamentalist conservative right. Although parts of the book are a scathing criticism of the current administration, he backs up his positions with biblical scripture and historical events and perspectives. He is, by his own admission, a devout evangelical "born again" Christian. Yet he passionately defends the separation of church and state and defended the Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade, although it went against his own personal beliefs.

He devotes chapters in this book to civil rights, homosexuality, the death penalty, abortion, science and religion, divorce, women's rights, and environmental issues including drilling for oil in Alaska, preserving America's national parks and global warming, and the US policies on decreasing emissions in relation to the rest of the industrialized world. There are chapters on our global image, the growing gap between rich and poor both in the US and globally, North Korea, Cuba, nuclear proliferation/disarmament, humane treatment of POWs, government-sanctioned torture, and war (globally and specifically in Iraq).

This is not a "democrat" vs "republican" issue, he is quick to point out, and the book backs up this assertion. Instead, he concentrates on the increasingly strong influence of religion into politics, which, he contends, should be separate. He puts every chapter into perspective relative to his own strong religious convictions and beliefs. He contends that religion has its place in politics in the same way that it has its place in everyday life - by guiding our hand toward being valuable, moral and compassionate human beings - not by guiding public policy and law.

As a Jew, I found this a fascinating read, given his self-admitted evangelical bent. Although we have different religious beliefs, it is clear to me that he respects every human being's right to believe passionately in their own religion, but not at the expense of others. As an American, I found it equally as fascinating, although a bit demoralizing to read about some of the positions taken by our country's leadership (and by default, the country's citizenry), and as a human being, I am equally captivated and appalled by the lack of far-sightedness he portrays by current and past leadership of our country, and its lasting ramifications.

A fascinating read, and I recommend it highly, along with any of his other twenty-odd books, including his poetry.


  1. I don't read much (none) non-fiction, but you've piqued my interest with this. I'm going to look for it. I'm a fan of his, and admired him. I've read articles he's done for magazines and LA Times so I'm familiar with his voice. He's so readable and reasonable in his position and arguments.


Have you read it? What do you think?

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