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Redeemer: The Life of Jimmy Carterby Randall Balmer
Synopses & Reviews
Evangelical Christianity and conservative politics are today seen as inseparable. But when Jimmy Carter, a Democrat and a born-again Christian, won the presidency in 1976, he owed his victory in part to American evangelicals, who responded to his open religiosity and his rejection of the moral bankruptcy of the Nixon Administration. Carter, running as a representative of the New South, articulated a progressive strand of American Christianity that championed liberal ideals, racial equality, and social justice—one that has almost been forgotten since.
In Redeemer, acclaimed religious historian Randall Balmer reveals how the rise and fall of Jimmy Carters political fortunes mirrored the transformation of American religious politics. From his beginnings as a humble peanut farmer to the galvanizing politician who rode a reenergized religious movement into the White House, Carters life and career mark him as the last great figure in Americas long and venerable history of progressive evangelicalism. Although he stumbled early in his career—courting segregationists during his second campaign for Georgia governor—Carters run for president marked a return to the progressive principles of his faith and helped reenergize the evangelical movement. Responding to his message of racial justice, womens rights, and concern for the plight of the poor, evangelicals across the country helped propel Carter to office. Yet four years later, those very same voters abandoned him for Ronald Reagan and the Republican Party. Carters defeat signaled the eclipse of progressive evangelicalism and the rise of the Religious Right, which popularized a dramatically different understanding of the faith, one rooted in nationalism, individualism, and free-market capitalism.
An illuminating biography of our 39th president, Redeemer presents Jimmy Carter as the last great standard-bearer of an important strand of American Christianity, and provides an original and riveting account of the moments that transformed our political landscape in the 1970s and 1980s.
"A religious historian, Balmer (Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory) attempts to situate the 39th president within the larger framework of American evangelicalism. He posits that Jimmy Carter is part of the progressive evangelical movement that had its heyday in the 19th century and agitated for reforms that led to the abolition of slavery and women's suffrage, among other things. Carter's loss to Ronald Reagan in the 1980 presidential elections, Balmer argues, signals the eclipse of progressive evangelicalism and the rise of the religious right. But history is not that neat, and progressive evangelicalism was likely a minority movement among Carter's fellow Southerners. Indeed, as Balmer notes, even in Carter's winning 1976 presidential race, he lost the evangelical vote to his opponent, Gerald Ford. That doesn't make Carter any less interesting, and the role of faith in his life is undoubtedly profound. What this volume lacks is original source material and interviews. Apart from one or two meetings with his subject, Balmer's biography leans heavily on Carter's two dozen published books as well as newspaper and journal accounts. Agent: Jill Kneerim, Kneerim, Williams & Bloom. (May)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Whether rising to power or falling from grace, Jimmy Carters political fortunes were always tied to those of progressive Christianity. A former peanut farmer and born-again Christian, Carter won the presidency in 1976 thanks in large part to Americas evangelicals, who responded to Carters open religiosity and his rejection of the moral bankruptcy of the Nixon White House. But in 1980 evangelical voters overwhelmingly abandoned him in favor of Ronald Reagan, and in doing so rejected the long and noble tradition of progressive evangelicalism Carter represented.
Esteemed religious historian Randall Balmer presents a compelling new biography of the 39th President, showing how Carters defeat signaled the eclipse of progressive evangelicalism and the rise of the Religious Right, a political force that continues to reign today. In this fresh, insightful look at Carters life and career, Balmer reveals Carter as the embodiment of a liberal evangelical tradition, now sadly overshadowed by right-wing militancy.
About the Author
Randall Balmer is Mandel Family Professor of Arts and Sciences at Dartmouth College. An Episcopal priest and the author of more than a dozen books, Balmer lives in White River Junction, Vermont.
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