I have great respect for President Carter and his commitment to integrating faith and public service. I enjoyed hearing about the experiences that shaped his character. This book makes some good points about social justice as a moral value that despite its strong roots in Christian theology has been undervalued (ignored?) by many politically active fundamentalist Christian leaders. As someone who, like Mr. Carter, grew up in a Southern Baptist church, I was especially interested in his descriptions of the movement of the SBC away from traditionally held Baptist beliefs.
Unfortunately, Mr. Carter's treatment of the Iraq war, torture allegations, and defense spending amount to a partisan attack on the Bush administration. If you dislike Bush you will probably be cheering along with these passages, but I found the lack of balance and constructive criticism on these and other issues disheartening. For more practical insight into foreign policy in the Middle East I would recommend reading Thomas Friedman; for a more balaced look at torture allegations, read Inside the Wire by Eric Saar. I was also disappointed by his treatment of economics in relation to moral values. For example, he criticises the low minimum wage in the US compared to European countries, but fails to mention Europe's high unemployment rate and relative economic inflexibility.
Mr. Carter's left-leaning foreign and domestic policy positions are no doubt deeply rooted in his understanding of Christianity and I agree with some of them in principle, but ultimately he proves his point that it is perilous to mix church and state. Unfortunately we live in a fallen world and positions that are morally justifiable for individual Christians do not always translate well into national policies that preserve and protect the prosperity of a pluralistic free society.
I consider myself a moderate republican, but I wanted to read this book to find out what Obama was about. In the book he presents a refreshingly honest account of how politics works and lays out a centrist vision for the relationship between government and its citizens. Far from demonstrating youthful inexperience, he shows that he has a firm grasp of both sides of the major issues facing the nation as well as a keen understanding of American history and government. While most of the book is about a domestic agenda with little emphasis on foreign policy, I found myself agreeing with the majority of his ideas. I have no doubt that if everybody read this book, Barack Obama would be the next president of the United States.
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