A highly personal reflection on faith—in God, in humanity, and in oneself.
In his latest, Carter (A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety, 2015, etc.), well-known for his Christian beliefs and lifelong involvement in his local church, continues to investigate his faith. Though the narrative tends to ramble, the author provides ample wisdom and fascinating insights into his past. While mostly about the divine, faith, he writes, touches on other aspects of life as well: “There is another kind of faith, perhaps more difficult to sustain: having a firm belief in yourself and in other people, or in a seemingly impossible dream.” He stresses the importance of having faith in our neighbor and, when warranted, in government. Nevertheless, it is religious faith to which the former president most often refers, and in the book’s most meaningful passages, he explores the story of his own struggles with faith and with doubt. While he was in the Navy, immersed in the new science of nuclear energy, Carter turned to the writings of liberal contemporary theologians such as Rudolf Bultmann and the Niebuhr brothers to reconcile his traditional Christian background with the modern world in which he was living and working. Carter’s father’s death, election losses, and his own struggle with cancer all further shaped his faith. “To me, ‘faith’ is not just a noun but also a verb,” he notes, meaning that a life lived in faith brings about answers to questions and guidance along life’s path. Of course, politics feature prominently in the book, as well; throughout, the former president discusses domestic and foreign policy as he lived it and as it stands today. There are curmudgeonly moments, unfortunately, when Carter dwells on how everything in America seems to have worsened over time, but overall the tone is positive. “My faith is the key to my optimism,” he writes.
Intimate insights from one of America’s most prolific presidential authors.