Former US President Jimmy Carter is a Baptist who spent many years teaching Sunday School and who takes his faith seriously. To help promote his new book, NIV Lessons from Life Bible: Personal Reflections with Jimmy Carter, he recently answered several challenging questions posed by Paul Brandeis Raushenbush for a Huffington Post article. When asked about what the Bible has to say about gay people’s role in church and society Carter responded:
Homosexuality was well known in the ancient world, well before Christ was born and Jesus never said a word about homosexuality. In all of his teachings about multiple things -– he never said that gay people should be condemned. I personally think it is very fine for gay people to be married in civil ceremonies.
I draw the line, maybe arbitrarily, in requiring by law that churches must marry people. I’m a Baptist, and I believe that each congregation is autonomous and can govern its own affairs. So if a local Baptist church wants to accept gay members on an equal basis, which my church does by the way, then that is fine. If a church decides not to, then government laws shouldn’t require them to.
Cater has long identified as being Baptist; Baptists are not known for being progressive on any topic related to marriage or family. In responding to a different question Carter provided additional insight into his general approach:
I separated from the Southern Baptists when they adopted the discriminatory attitude towards women, because I believe what Paul taught in Galatians that there is no distinction in God’s eyes between men and women, slaves and masters, Jews and non-Jews -– everybody is created equally in the eyes of God.
Perhaps no issue has been as divisive within Protestant Christianity as marriage equality. Several denominations have split or smaller groups have left the denomination primarily over this issue.
- Why do you think this has been and remains so divisive in Protestant Christianity in the United States? How do you think that will change as increasing numbers of Americans support marriage equality? (Polling data shows support has been growing for some time and is especially strong among younger adults.)
- What is your congregation and/or denomination’s view? Does your view differ? If so, how?