Book Review: Our Endangered Values

I always felt sorry for Jimmy Carter. He was giving the right message (conservation, compassion, honesty) at a time when the American ego was most bruised by the twin stains of Watergate and Vietnam. Add to that 444 days of American hostages in Iran, and there you have one flawed Presidency. (Whereas Ronald Reagan could send troops to Grenada- less than two days after we lost over 200 troops in Lebanon – and show it was indeed “morning in America” – we CAN kick butt after all.)

Many have commented, and I tend to agree, that he has been one of our best ex-Presidents. Recently, I read his book, Our Endangered Values: America’s Moral Crisis (Simon & Schuster, 2005).

In his chapter, “The Rise of Religious Fundamentalism,” he quotes his letter to the magazine Christianity Today: “Increasingly, true believers inclined to…decide ‘Since I am aligned with God, I am superior and my beliefs should prevail, and anyone who disagrees with me is inherently wrong.'” Then later, “Those Christians who resist the inclination toward fundamentalism and who truly follow the nature, actions, and words of Jesus Christ should encompass people who are different from us with our care, generosity, forgiveness, compassion, and unselfish love.”

The self-described evangelical Christian believes there is no conflict between science and religion. He notes that the entwining of church and state is a rejection of “Jesus’ admonition to ‘render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s…'”
He also has some good thoughts about abortion, the death penalty, women’s role in the church, foreign policy, just war, and the environment.

The former President notes that the average income per person “in the 20 richest nation was $27,591, and in the poorest nations only $211, a ratio of 131:1!” He believes the divide between rich and poor, throughout the word, and even within this country, is the single biggest issue we must face.

I recommend this book, especially the first half, to those with a Christian point-of view, and especially to those who have an antipathy towards Christianity as it is often practiced in this country.
THREE QUESTIONS for you, if you please:

1. I’m curious who you think are the best ex-Presidents. I’m no history scholar, but JQ Adams’ return to the House of Representatives and Taft’s ascension to the Supreme Court as Chief Justice ought to rank. I’d be inclined to give kudos to Clinton and poppa Bush, but there hasn’t been enough time to judge fully. Oh, yeah, a Nobel Peace Prize ought to count for SOMETHING.
Of course, there have only been 33 ex-Presidents. W is Prez #43, so 42 -1 for Cleveland (he may have been President twice, but I’m counting him as an ex only once) -8 (the four assassinated and the four who died of natural causes- I’m putting Zachary Taylor in the latter category, FWIW.)

2. I find myself agreeing with the current “leader of the free world” – these things happen – when he apologized for his cowboy rhetoric after 9/11 – he specifically mentioned the “wanted dead or alive” stuff. It wasn’t a “mistakes were made” non-apology, but (seemingly) a true act of contrition. I’ve chosen to believe it’s a sincere apology. Do you? Do you recall any other REAL Presidential apologies? I recall Clinton said something post-Monica, but details are sketchy in my mind.

3. I saw about 24 minutes of the show “24” this past season. I did catch David Palmer’s casket on the tarmac during the last show. I found it oddly moving. I’m going to miss knowing that strong guy’s around. My favorite fictional POTUS is J. Bartlett on The West Wing, because he was so complex, so believable. Though I do have some affection for Dave in the movie of the same name, a much nicer guy than his doppelganger. Who are your favorite faux Presidents, and why?
A review of the documentary about global warming An Inconvenient Truth, featuring “he coulda/shoulda been President”, Al Gore.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

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