Ben Carson has ranked as one of the top Republican presidential candidates in a field of over a dozen—a position that even the retired brain surgeon himself didn’t expect. At least, not without God leading the way, he said.
Even after a drop in a recent poll, Carson remains tied for third, behind Donald Trump and Marco Rubio.
A 64-year-old retiree with no political experience, Carson told Christianity Today that he never set out to run for president until supporters pushed him to consider politics. He said he heard from everyone from young parents concerned about their children to “elderly people who had given up on America and were just waiting to die” that they wanted him, an outsider, to lead.
“I finally just said, ‘Lord, all the pundits say that it’s impossible, that an outsider can’t do this, can’t raise money, can’t develop a national organization. If you want me to do this, you have to prove them wrong,’” said Carson, a Seventh-day Adventist who was featured in a 1991 issue of CT for his missional approach to medicine. “If you open the doors, I’ll walk through them. And if you don’t open the doors, I’ll sit out.”
Since then, the slow-spoken, squinting doctor has gone back and forth with another unlikely politician, billionaire mogul Donald Trump.
Days after his trip to visit refugee camps in Jordan, Ben Carson spoke to CT from the campaign trail in South Carolina.
What has your faith practice been like during these busy months of the campaign?
It hasn’t changed our routine. No matter where we are, we still start each day with prayer and Bible reading, and we end it the same way. I find myself praying a lot more these days. If you have strong Christian values in a secular progressive society, you’re going to be the subject of much attack. But the Lord gives you what you need to get through that.
How active are you in church? Would you attend an Adventist church as president?
I go to church whenever I can. I don’t get to go to my own church very often since I’m on the road a lot, but I do end up many Sundays being able to speak at a church. I love being in church. If the Lord puts me in the White House, I will definitely continue attending on a weekly basis.
What happened with the Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference this summer? Has that dust-up affected your relationship with the evangelical constituency?
I’ve talked with a lot of pastors in our country, including many Southern Baptist pastors, who were embarrassed by that. We have a tendency to focus on denominations, rather than talking more about Christianity and (whether) we accept Christ as our Savior—how the acceptance of him affects the kind of person we are and how we interact with other people. I think that that’s by far the most important issue.
One area where we’ve seen some evangelical leaders depart from many of the Republican candidates is resettling refugees from Syria. After having just visited Jordan, how does your faith inform your position on the refugee crisis?
We need to be people of compassion. When I look at the Syrian refugees, I see human beings who are distressed, and we should be doing something to help them. I wanted to see what was going on over there and what would be the humanitarian thing to do for them.
I asked a lot of the Syrians, “What would be your ultimate goal?” I got the same answer; obviously, they wanted to be resettled in their country. I asked what other countries like the United States could do. They were saying if countries like the United States would support the efforts of the Jordanians, it would vastly improve the quality of life for them. Some people say it’s our job to bring them here, but we’re talking about millions of people. Bringing 10,000 or 25,000 or 50,000 here doesn’t solve that problem in the slightest. It makes some people feel good and lets them pat themselves on the head.