Cover image for Redeemer : the life of Jimmy Carter
Redeemer : the life of Jimmy Carter
Balmer, Randall Herbert, author.
Physical Description:
273 pages ; 25 cm
Personal Subject:


Call Number
Material Type
1 B CARTER Adult NonFiction Book
1 B CARTER Adult NonFiction Book

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A religious biography of Jimmy Carter, the controversial president whose political rise and fall coincided with the eclipse of Christian progressivism and the emergence of the Religious Right.
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 Carter's 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, Carter's life and career mark him as the last great figure in America's long and venerable history of progressive evangelicalism. Although he stumbled early in his career-courting segregationists during his second campaign for Georgia governor--Carter's 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, women's 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. Carter's 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.

Author Notes

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.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

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) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* The ambitions of a Georgia governor and former peanut farmer aligned with the reemergence of evangelicals on the political scene in 1976. Horrified by the immorality of the Nixon administration and enamored of the overt religiosity of candidate Carter, evangelicals rushed to support their kindred Christian. But four years later, embracing social conservatism and capitalism, they'd moved on to Ronald Reagan's brand of religion. Religious historian Balmer, a college student during Carter's presidential campaign, has maintained his fascination with Carter's political rise and fall as a reflection of changes among evangelicals themselves as they morphed into the Religious Right. Balmer looks at Carter's life through the prism of his faith. Carter learned the importance of faith and progressive ideals from his parents and the works of Reinhold Niebuhr, Paul Tillich, and others. Balmer explores the paradoxes of a man balancing faith and ideals against the pragmatics of politics and the evangelical tide that favored him and later turned so vehemently against him. He also explores how Carter fits into the long history of progressive evangelicalism in the U.S. as he offers readers a new perspective on Carter's faith journey and a religious sector that has come to be reduced and simplified in the nation's social and political landscape.--Bush, Vanessa Copyright 2014 Booklist

Library Journal Review

Balmer (religion, Dartmouth Coll., co-author, First Freedom) offers the first biography of President Jimmy Carter (b. 1924) framed in the context of Carter's progressive evangelicalism. Carter's presidential advocacy for women's and gay rights, pro-choice legislation, and programs for the poor inspired a resurgent progressive evangelical movement that helped elect him in 1976. Four years later, evangelicals, along with many Americans, had become disenchanted with Carter and deserted him for Ronald Reagan. According to the author, evangelicals were also angered by Carter revoking tax exemptions for discriminatory schools, notably Bob Jones University, several years before Carter's pro-choice politics resulted in the impassioned migration to the religious right. Balmer concludes that by restoring morality to the presidency, which was diminished by the Richard Nixon administration, Carter became a redeemer president. -VERDICT Although details about Carter's presidency are sketchy, Balmer provides an engaging religious-centric interpretation of his subject. This work can be complemented by Betty Glad's An Outsider in the White House and Frye Gallard's Prophet from Plains: Jimmy Carter and His Legacy, which provide the political narrative of this man's life.-Karl Helicher, Upper Merion Twp. Lib., King of Prussia, PA (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Preface Jimmy Carter and Mep. xi
1 The Household of Faithp. 1
2 From Peanuts to Politicsp. 15
3 New South Governorp. 33
4 He Came unto His Ownp. 51
5 Redeemer Presidentp. 75
6 Endangered Evangelicalp. 93
7 His Own Received Him Notp. 119
8 Election Year of the Evangelicalp. 137
9 Stepping Stonep. 159
Epilogue Sunday Morning in Plainsp. 185
Appendix 1 Life and Times of Jimmy Carterp. 193
Appendix 2 "Crisis of Confidence " July 15,1979p. 201
Acknowledgmentsp. 211
Notesp. 215
About the Authorp. 259
Indexp. 261