Acton Institute Powerblog

Jimmy Carter, Liberation Theologian

Share this article:
Join the Discussion:

I came across this news story via Catholic World News. And this intriguing passage about President Carter’s disagreements with Pope John Paul II:

Carter wrote that he exchanged harsh words with the late Pope John Paul II during a state visit over what Carter classified as the Pope’s “perpetuation of the subservience of women.” He added, “there was more harshness when we turned to the subject of ‘liberation theology’.”

I haven’t read the book, so I’m awfully curious to know just how the former President of the United States of America, who was at the time in the middle of fighting the Cold War, defended liberation theology to the Polish Pontiff, who knew the evils of Marxism first-hand. I have little doubt who won the argument, however.

It’s also striking to read that Carter, widely considered the most religious President we’ve had in recent American history and a decent man of good works like Habitat for Humanity, supports same-sex “marriage,” artificial contraception, taxpayer funding of international “family planning” services and embryonic stem cell research, which involves the taking of innocent human life. In other words, he takes the same side on these debates as the most hardened, radical atheist imaginable. Just what kind of Christianity does Carter believe in?

You won’t easily find this kind of muddled thinking and sheer inconsistency matched with moral self-righteousness anywhere else. And if that’s the kind of “Christian” president who can get elected, I’d prefer to vote for a politician who’s quiet about his faith but who’s on the right side of these extremely important non-negotiable issues. Oh, and we know how Carter’s foreign policy and economics worked out, don’t we? What a sham.

Kishore Jayabalan Kishore Jayabalan is director of Istituto Acton, the Acton Institute's Rome office. Formerly, he worked for the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace as the lead policy analyst on sustainable development and arms control. Kishore Jayabalan earned a B.A. in political science and economics from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. In college, he was executive editor of The Michigan Review and an economic policy intern for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He worked as an international economist for the Bureau of Labor Statistics in Washington, D.C. and then graduated with an M.A. in political science from the University of Toronto. While in Toronto, Kishore interned in the university's Newman Centre, which led to his appointment to the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations in New York. Two years later, he returned to Rome to work for the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace as the Holy See's lead policy analyst on sustainable development and arms control. As director of Istituto Acton, Kishore organizes the institute's educational and outreach efforts in Rome and throughout Europe.


  • RayNothstine

    Worst ex – president ever! 

  • Gmoney267

    If I couldbe allowed to addre for some people that kind of thinking is called thinking differently ss the question as to: What kind of Christianity does jimmy carter beleive in?,I would summarily respond not knowing otherweise that he is a liberated Christian. A liberated Christian is a Christian who comes to the great issues of our times and ponders the outcome based on the cultural conditions of our times. To some, this kind of thinking is considered radical while to others like myself it makes perfectly good sense. To be totally liberated from the bondage that history and native traditionalism places on us allows us dream and expereince the total breath of possibilities and thereby offers us the best hope of reaching a solution to the great problems facing us a nation. if traditional problem solving is no longer solving the problem, why should we have a problem with trying something different? Greg Moohn

    • RogerMcKinney

       Carter liberated himself from Christianity, so he has no reason to call himself a Christian.

    • So “liberated Christian” means a Christian liberated from all the things that define what a Christian is?

      So what you mean to say is that he wasn’t a Christian? I’m confused.

  • Ashrielbrian

    Rubbish article. Search Jimmy Carter on Wikipedia – under the abortion sub-topic. And before saying that Wikipedia’s unreliable, realise that there are 151 references alone in his article – and 3 for the abortion part. All this while Mr. Jayabalan references nothing on Carter’s “quotes”. What sort of columnists is Acton Institute taking in now?

    • Kishore Jayabalan

      Not sure which article you read.  I didn’t say anything about Carter’s position on abortion, but I could have.  He does support taxpayer funding of “family planning” services, which officially don’t include abortion service but do often include contraception, sterilization, and abortofacients (sounds a lot like the Obamacare HHS mandate, doesn’t it?). 

      According to Wikipedia, Carter was also one of many “personally opposed but…”-types who may have been very opposed to the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision in 1973, as were Catholic Senators like Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd.  Over time, they all came to accept abortion as a fact and did nothing to overturn this horrible decision.

      If you want to know more about Carter’s role in the Democratic Party’s acceptance of legalized abortion, I recommend George McKenna’s “Criss Cross: Democrats, Republicans and Abortion” from the Summer 2006 issue of The Human Life Review.  Here’s the link:

      I challenge anyone to defend Carter’s record on abortion or any of the other issues mentioned as anything remotely close to what a Christian should do.  My main point, however, is how absurd it is for Carter to lecture the Pope on what the Catholic Church teaches, and especially on liberation theology.  Who does he think he is?

  • Ddwm

    Dear Mr. Moohn, Say What? Liberation for a Christian is to be free from sin in order to be free to love…. wanting for the other what is in their best interest. This is a liberated Christian and this is accomplished only in Jesus Christ through His body- the Church. Old problem – same solution. The ‘great problem’ facing our nation is sin.  The more secularized – the less Christianized we become the more base we will be.  You want to approach the solution – think evangelization man!   Happy Easter. 

  • Patrick

    Poor Rosalynn Carter, consider a long suffering woman in need of liberation.

  • RogerMcKinney

    Carter never fooled the majority of Southern Baptists. We kicked his kind out in the early 1990’s. His amazing arrogance proves we were right to do so.  

    • Psburress

      If that be the case, why is that Dr. Land and others were so very cozy with the now dormant “Catholics and Evangelicals Together” efforts in a very strained ecumenical moment. Fickle Protestants and others wish to believe that a great moment in Western history, the Reformation, was in fact fraudulent! Recent abuses in the Church of Rome indicate that the blessed Pope John the 23rd and his attempts at reform may have been in vain!

  • Carter may be better understood as an illustration of how good intentions are not enough. Let us first understand, however, that good intentions usually do have good outcomes when done voluntarily on an individual basis. When Jim gives away some of his time or money to a person in need it usually has some good outcome. But when President X gives away some of the taxpayers’ money the outcome is less likely to be good. Among elements lacking are the essential knowledge regarding time and place, and the feedback mechanisms which discipline future giving.
    His Christian thought on mercy was right on. His belief that the state could be the mechanism by which mercy was distributed was confused.

  • It is indeed pretty shocking that an American liberal Baptist would have much to disagree with the Pope of Rome about!

  • Joe DeVet

    Carter may just be a worse ex-president than he was a president.  That’s not easy to accomplish for the man whom Michael Medved accurately names The Worthless One.  Imagine someone going to Venezuela and certifying The Thug’s re-election balloting valid.  Imagine his going to N Korea to “negotiate” God knows what.  And just look at this muddled set of conflicting ideas.