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Since you've been able to write books like this, do you feel like you made a bigger difference as a Christian in your time as President or in your tenure as a former President?

One of the things that's a little bit embarrassing to me is the Bible that's going to come out with my comments. I'm not a theologian, I'm not a pastor, I'm just a layman. I think my influence on a global basis is probably greater since I left the White House. We've helped cure and prevent disease and promote freedom and human rights in an unrestricted way since I don't have political ties on me anymore. The last 25 years of my life have not only been the most enjoyable and gratifying, but where my influence has been greatest. Part of that is devoted to the little church in Plains where I'm able to teach.

Should evangelicals prioritize their time in areas other than politics, or does politics give them a platform to do other work?

I don't think there's any incompatibility. People who are religious should seek public office if they want to implement the teachings of their own religion and include that in secular life—that is peace, justice, equality, and the alleviation of suffering. The finest teachings of Mohammed, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Protestantism, or Catholicism are compatible where they advocate peace and sharing one's good fortune with those less fortunate. We can't equate democracy with Christianity because the largest democracy on earth is India, which is primarily Hindu. The third largest democracy is Indonesia, which is Islamic. Democracy and freedom are not dependent on Christian beliefs. As a Christian, I don't equate other religions with the impact or influence or supremacy or the Godship of Jesus Christ. Other believers promote similar beliefs in secular life. Our own individual Christian beliefs and the finest beliefs of Islam and Buddhism and Hinduism should be implemented in the promotion of peace, alleviation of suffering, and justice.


Related Elsewhere:

Through the Year with Jimmy Carter, and the NIV Lessons from Life Bible are available from ChristianBook.com and other book retailers.

Christianity Today also interviewed Gary Scott Smith on the faith of presidents. CT also has a new eBook, Faith and the American Presidency, available for Kindle and Nook.

Previous CT interviews with political figures include:

Michele Bachmann: 'It's High Time We Have a Mother in the White House' | Also, the GOP candidate from Minnesota tells CT about her new church. (November 22, 2011)
Q & A: Timothy Goeglein on Redemption After Plagiarism | The former aide to President George W. Bush explains ways to think theologically about repentance. (November 3, 2011)
Q & A: Ron Paul on Leaving the Episcopal Church, and Whether to Legislate Abortion, Narcotics, & Same-Sex Marriage | The congressman who won the Values Voters Summit straw poll tells CT that he believes marriage is a sacrament but laws cannot change morality. (October 10, 2011)
Q & A: Mitch Daniels on the Economy, His Quiet Faith, and a Social Issues Truce | Why the governor of Indiana is ambivalent about "compassionate conservatism," sees fiscal responsibility as a moral issue, and still wants a truce on social issues. (October 3, 2011)
Q & A: Rick Santorum on Muslims, Religious Freedom, and 'Walking' for President | The former senator from Pennsylvania talks about what he thinks Obama got right and becoming a target of the gay community. (April 5, 2011)
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Q & A: Jimmy Carter on his Faith-Filled Presidency