Jimmy Carter Calls Christians to Return to Jesus’ Moral Agenda on Prisoners


In general, I’m not a fan of Jimmy Carter. He was a mediocre president and a meddlesome ex-president. However, over the last two weeks, I spent time in Ph.D. classes with a correctional chaplain from South Carolina. She informed the class of the dehumanizing effects of incarceration and encouraged us with examples of how Christian ministry can rehumanize inmates. What she said helped me cut Jimmy Carter a little slack and pay attention to his remarks.

Jesus’ moral agenda is summarized in Luke 4:18-19.

Unfortunately, U.S. Christians in general and Baptists in particular have neglected it, especially the part about prisoners.

That was the observation of former President Jimmy Carter in a video interview with EthicsDaily.com last week at the Carter Center.

“I don’t think there is any doubt but that Luke 4:18-19 describes Jesus’ moral agenda,” said Carter. “That part of Luke best encapsulates in a very brief way the entire thrust of Jesus’ ministry.”

“I think of all the several facets describing Jesus in Luke 4 about his own moral agenda, the one we have neglected most, and violated most, is the release of the captives, that is prisoners,” he said. “We’re going backward, not forward” in terms of the prison issue in the United States.

He lamented the nation’s “eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” approach to punishment.

“Unfortunately, led by some Christian leaders, our country has gone from a basic philosophy of rehabilitation of a prisoner to a punishment only – and the more severe and extended the punishment,” the better it is, he said.

“And this has resulted in the massive increase in America exclusively of the number of people serving prison sentences,” said Carter.

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