The former President, now 61, remains a dedicated Sunday school teacher and an active observer of the political scene.

Jimmy Carter’s election as President in 1976 symbolized America’s longing for purity in the wake of the Watergate scandal. He was an outsider to Washington politics, a southern farmer with impressive credentials as governor of Georgia, and a former naval officer.

During Carter’s term in the Oval Office, the sleeping giant of religious conservatism awoke. And in the 1980 presidential election, it supported not the Southern Baptist Sunday school teacher, but the divorced former governor of California who had made a name for himself in the movies.

Conservative Christians by and large opposed Carter’s policies on abortion, gay rights, and spoken prayer in public schools. In contrast, many felt his philosophy of servant leadership and his bold stands for peace in the Middle East and human rights around the world exemplified the highest ideals of Christian leadership.

Last month, Messiah College in Grantham, Pennsylvania, conferred on the former President its highest honor, the Distinguished Public Service Citation. The citation reads, in part: “As President, you taught us that a great nation can be both powerful and compassionate.”

Carter was the inaugural speaker for the Messiah College Annual Lectures on Religion and Society. He spoke to students, faculty, and journalists on a variety of issues. A summary of his statements follows.

• Abortion. Carter identified abortion as the only issue “where I had to modify my own Christian beliefs to carry out the duties of President.… It’s impossible for me to imagine Jesus Christ approving abortion.” However, ...

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