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Former President Jimmy Carter has been called American's most famous Sunday school teacher for a reason. The former commander-in-chief just finished his 561st lesson at Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia. Carter recently condensed those lessons into a 366-day devotional, Through the Year with Jimmy Carter, and the NIV Lessons from Life Bible (Zondervan). The nation's 39th President spoke with Christianity Today about how his personal faith contributed to his time in office and beyond.

In what ways did faith impact your presidency?

I've always been fully committed to separation of church and state. I didn't permit worship services in the White House as had been done earlier. I was careful not ever to promote my own Christianity as superior in America to other religions, because I feel all religious believers should be treated carefully. At the same time, there's no way I could ever separate my Christian belief from my obligations as a naval officer, as a governor or as President, or from my work now. I can't say my commitments as President were free of my beliefs. We worship the Prince of Peace, and one of the key elements of my life as President in challenging times was to keep our country peaceful. I was able to deal with challenges without launching a missile or dropping a bomb. My commitment to peace was an aspect of my Christian faith. Also, basic human rights are obviously compatible with the teachings of Jesus Christ, and I made human rights a foundation of foreign policy.

You wrote that you made every effort to keep a pledge that you would not lie. "Still, I was not able to keep 100 percent of my campaign promises," you said. Did you have disappointments or regrets about your presidency?

When you're campaigning, ...

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January 2012

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