Review

Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis

by Jimmy Carter



The intersection of politics and religion in America has been both
a fascinating and frustrating mystery to those who care about our
nation. Despite the contention of some contemporary political
commentators, the role of religion in our nation is a debate as old
as America itself. Conservatives have had the upper hand in this
battle for the past several years and their success has been
reflected in electoral gains across the land. Recently, however,
several observers from the liberal side of the political spectrum
have argued that there is ample room for religious values in a
progressive political agenda.

OUR ENDANGERED VALUES: America's Moral Crisis, by former President
Jimmy Carter, is a passionate and provocative defense of the true
meaning of religious value in political life. While many Americans
were disappointed in Carter's White House tenure, there is no
denying that since leaving the presidency, he has lived an
exemplary life that fully embodies a man comfortable with his
religious life and willing to practice and spread his moral values
throughout the world. Unlike many politicians and commentators who
espouse religious values while practicing hedonistic, self-absorbed
lives, President Carter has lived a life that exemplifies the
ultimate combination of faith, politics and leadership.

In the 25 years since leaving the White House, Carter has written,
spoken and labored in support of human rights, the poor and issues
consistent with his fundamental religious beliefs. OUR ENDANGERED
VALUES calls into question the commitment of many religious
fundamentalists to important religious core values. He questions
why many politically conservative religious fundamentalists show a
lack of concern for the poor in our nation, for human rights around
the world, for torture of political prisoners, and for countless
other issues. It is Carter's belief that fundamentalist religious
values made America the moral leader of the free world. Our nation
has strayed from the ethical path provided by religious belief and
we need to return to that road.

In concise and simply written chapters, OUR ENDANGERED VALUES sets
forth President Carter's view of the role of religion in our
society and contrasts that position with a fundamentalist viewpoint
that he considers dangerous. Carter contends that a dangerous
branch of fundamentalism can be characterized by three concepts:
rigidity, domination and exclusion. For his part, Carter believes
in a more inclusive goal for religion because "...those 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." Having
documented the differing philosophies, the remainder of OUR
ENDANGERED VALUES applies those rules to critical political issues
of our time.

Carter sets forth his view of the proper role of religious belief
in a pluralist society and then proceeds to specific discussions of
critical issues in contemporary life. From abortion to the death
penalty, to the role of women in society, to the recognition of
same-sex relationships and even to protecting the environment, the
proper role of religious belief is examined. In one interesting
example Carter points out the folly of proposals to amend the
constitution to prevent same-sex marriage. In a Gulliver-like
suggestion, he proposes a constitutional amendment to provide:
"Adultery and Divorce are condemned, and marriage is defined as a
legal and spiritual union between a man and a woman until they are
parted by death."

There is an important place for religion in America. The pendulum
however may have swung too far, and prominent men of faith such as
Carter and former United States Senator John Danforth have begun to
voice their concern over the divisive role that many are causing
religion to play in American life. There was a time in America when
religion supported values of humility and charity. Carter reminds
us that we can return to such an era and still remain true to our
nation and to our God in a manner that strengthens our relation to
both.

Reviewed by Stuart Shiffman on January 14, 2011

Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis
by Jimmy Carter

  • Publication Date: September 26, 2006
  • Genres: Current Affairs, Nonfiction
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • ISBN-10: 0743285018
  • ISBN-13: 9780743285018