Carter’S Background

The Man From Plains: The Mind and Spirit of Jimmy Carter, by David Kucharsky (Harper & Row, 1976, 150 pp., $4.95), is reviewed by Wesley Pippert, principal United Press International correspondent covering Jimmy Carter, Washington, D.C.

This is more a book about the American religious mood and milieu out of which Jimmy Carter emerged than it is a biography of him. And that is its great value. Of the seven or more books about the Democratic presidential nominee, most are mini-biographies or campaign puffery, or both. Only Kucharsky’s attempts to put Carter in context.

Kucharsky provides short essays on the Southern Baptists, of which Carter is a member; fundamentalism and evangelicalism, with which Southern Baptists are identified; the social gospel; and neo-orthodoxy and Reinhold Niebuhr, whose statement, “the sad duty of politics is to establish justice in a sinful world,” Carter frequently quotes.

Kucharsky’s credentials for speaking authoritatively on these things can be summed up simply: he is senior editor of CHRISTIANITY TODAY.

In many ways, The Man From Plains can be far more useful to the non-Christian who has little knowledge about such matters as being “born again” and who may tend to think of fundamentalism in terms of “holy rollers” and hellfire and brimstone. I know from personal experience of the attempts of many members of the national media to write with insight about Carter’s religion; the result is usually distortion, a matter of the blind leading the blind.

My own guess is that the need to understand Carter lies in three areas:

1. His relationship with Christ.

2. His being a product of the rural South. He comes from a “black belt” county that was a hotbed of resistance to the civil-rights movement. ...

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