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Editorial: There you go again

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In an interview with HuffPost Live, former president Jimmy Carter said Jesus would approve of gay marriage. Screen grab from  Huffington Post In an interview with HuffPost Live, former President Jimmy Carter said Jesus would approve of gay marriage. Screen grab from Huffington Post

Former President Jimmy Carter always seems to have a comment or opinion about just about every issue that surfaces in the political and social spheres of life. Therefore the phrase “There you go again” is appropriate in referring to his frequent comments.

“There you go again” was a phrase used by presidential candidate Ronald Reagan in the 1980 United States presidential debate to disarm Carter and defuse his argumentative rhetoric.

So, Mr. Former President, there you go again, speaking out in favor of same-sex marriage and suggesting that Jesus would approve of such unions. Although you say you have no Scripture verse to back up your personal belief that Jesus would endorse a union between two men or two women, you seem fairly confident that He would. Let’s ponder that thought for a moment.

However, before I challenge the former president on this matter, let me share a word of commendation for the peanut farmer who became the president. I met Jimmy Carter in 1970 when I brought a church group from North Carolina to Georgia on a senior adult trip. It was a happenstance meeting on the steps of the state Capitol while we were visiting in Atlanta. His winsome smile and charming demeanor was most welcoming and gracious.

Carter’s meteoric rise from a peanut farmer to state senator, Georgia governor, and ultimately to the presidency of the United States is the kind of stuff that made Horatio Alger books so popular in the 19th century.

Carter is, of course, one of Georgia’s most notable Baptists. The former president and founder of the Carter Center in Atlanta is a member of Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, where he continues to teach Sunday School on a regular basis. His class attendance sometimes has as many of 500-600 guests.

I met Jimmy Carter in 1970 when I brought a church group from North Carolina to Georgia on a senior adult trip. ... His winsome smile and charming demeanor was most welcoming and gracious.

According to the Carter Center website the native of Plains has invested his life since his presidency in resolving conflict, promoting democracy, protecting human rights, and preventing disease and other afflictions.

Both Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn, his wife of 69 years, have invested one week a year for Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit organization that helps needy people in the United States and other countries renovate and build homes for themselves.

In December of 2002 President Carter was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for “his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development.”

A prolific writer, Carter has authored 28 books, his most recent being A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety. He continues to be frequently interviewed by local and national media. It was during a recent interview with the Huffington Post that liberal analyst Marc Lamont Hill asked Carter whether he believes in gay marriage.

The former president responded, “That is no problem with me. I think everybody should have a right to get married regardless of their sex. I wouldn’t be in favor of the government being able to force a local church congregation to perform gay marriages if they didn’t want to.”

When asked if Jesus would approve of gay marriage Carter replied, “I believe He would. I don’t have any verse in Scripture on that, but I believe He would – but that is my own personal belief. I believe He would encourage any love affair that was honest and sincere and not damage to anyone else. I don’t see that gay marriage damages anyone else.”

Quite honestly, the Bible is very clear about the fact that God instituted marriage with Adam and Eve. Genesis 2:24 states: ”Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.”

In Mathew 19:4-5 Jesus reaffirms this: “He answered, ‘Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one’?”

I do not believe anything could be clearer that Jesus’ words. Southern Baptists, who have affirmed the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message, believe “The Bible is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter – that all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy …. And the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tired.”

Therefore, not only are the words of Jesus true, but so are the words of Moses and Paul, because they are all given or “breathed out” by God. I believe that Leviticus 20:13 and Romans 1:24-32 are just as true as John 3:16 and I John 4:7-10.

Furthermore, the former president said, “I believe He (Jesus) would encourage any love affair that was honest and sincere and not damaging to anyone else.”

This statement is the epitome of the philosophy known as situational ethics, which insists that all actions should be motivated by one overarching tenet: love. For example, a person who is not a Spirit-led Christian might see nothing unloving about having sex with a woman to whom he is not married. After all, he thinks he is in love and so does she, so they engage in an affair, because they believe they are in love.

This is where the Christian and the non-Christian must part ways. God’s Word teaches the Christian what is right and wrong; it is not our prerogative to make our own moral judgments apart from the guidance of God’s Word and His Spirit. Christians are bound to the ethical standard given to us by God, in His Word. Instead of embracing something as wishy-washy as situational ethics, the follower of Jesus Christ should saturate himself or herself with the teaching of the Word of God.

When one conducts his or her life strictly by situation ethics, the logical result will be anarchy. People will be doing whatever feels right to them at the time: while they claim to be motivated by love … and excusing all kinds of behavior in love’s name.

Instead of embracing something as wishy-washy as situational ethics, the follower of Jesus Christ should saturate himself or herself with the teaching of the Word of God.

Interestingly, several years ago President Carter had his own “study Bible” published including some of his prayers, reflections, and study notes. At that time the former president stated, “Homosexuality was well known in the ancient world, well before Christ was born and Jesus never said a word about homosexuality.”

The 39th president also encouraged the military to end the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in 2007, and in 2010, he told the website Big Think it was time to elect “a gay person” as president.

He also stated, “The basic principles of the Bible are taught by God, but written down by human beings deprived of modern day knowledge. So, there is some fallibility in the writings of the Bible. But the basic principles are applicable to my life and I don’t find any conflict among them.”

Then Carter said, “There are many verses in the Bible that you could interpret very rigidly, and that makes you ultimately into a fundamentalist.”

Well, Mr. President call me a fundamentalist. Perhaps that is what he would call most Southern Baptists, because in 2000 he disassociated himself from the Southern Baptist Convention. He and former President Bill Clinton hosted a meeting in Atlanta in January of 2007 in an attempt to realign the Baptist Faith in a more liberal direction by calling for a new Baptist convention in 2008. The formation of this new Baptist body, he wrote, constituted an “historic event for the Baptists in this country and perhaps for Christianity.”

The new convention never materialized.

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