Teaching the Bible with President Jimmy Carter

The former President of the United States discusses the Bible and what it's like to teach Sunday school to people of all faiths.

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How has your view of the Bible changed since you were President?

Well I’ve learned a lot more! When you’ve studied several hours each weekend preparing for the lesson and you know that you’re going to have people in your class who are very knowledgeable about the Bible, Pastors and missionaries come, the Sunday school teachers come, people who are Jewish and Muslim come, people who are Mennonites and Amish and Quakers come, and all kinds of Protestants, I really have a give and take lesson and I like to be well prepared. So in studying the Bible in preparation for those sessions you’ve got to dig in deeper and try to analyze what the meanings of the Scriptures are. Also, for the last thirty five or more years my wife and I have read the Bible as the last thing every night. One night she reads aloud and then the next night I read aloud. Then we have discussions about what we read to each other. It’s just a probing and inquisitive attitude towards the Bible, and a desire to learn how those ancient Scriptures can affect our modern day, fast changing, technological world and life.

When people of other faiths come to your lessons, how do they react and what do you hope they take away?

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We have a lot of people tell me after church is over that they’d never been in church before in their lives and they came just to have a chance to see me and to have a conversation with a former President. So I know that I have many people in my Bible classes that don’t know much about my faith and don’t have any faith of their own. Then as I said we have people who are quite devout Jews who like to discuss elements of the Old Testament with me in a friendly way. I really don’t know what the overwhelming reaction is but a few people tell me that they enjoy the lessons and that they have a new concept of Christianity after I teach. Most of them don’t express a view because they leave after church, but they keep coming back. Like this Sunday we had a very large crowd. The church overflowed, we had people sitting in the choir loft, and had chairs in the aisles and so forth. I’m really enjoying the give and take of a free discussion of the Scriptures.

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