Carter’s Progress

From the October 2014 Print Edition

Redeemer: The Life of Jimmy Carter?
by randall balmer?
basic, 304 pages, $27.99

Historians generally agree that the best that can be said for the presidency of Jimmy Carter is that it was a mixed bag. The common (and I think correct) view is that the one-term Carter administration, unfocused in purpose and inept and unlucky in practice, concluded short of disaster but far from success. The same unenthusiastic judgment, it turns out, applies to Randall Balmer’s new biography of the nation’s thirty-ninth President. His lukewarm defense of his subject, Redeemer: The Life of Jimmy Carter, is at best workmanlike and for the most part pedestrian. More important, Balmer gets wrong the matter that concerns him most: Carter’s tangled relations with the Evangelical Christian community. Carter was born on October 1, 1924, in modest but not impoverished circumstances in rural Georgia. His father Earl was a cotton farmer, but declining prices during the Depression prompted a switch to the more profitable peanut crop. A talented student, Jimmy enrolled in the Naval Academy and graduated in 1946. He married Rosalynn Smith that year and began a promising career as a naval officer.
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America’s Crusades

From the January 2013 Print Edition

Sword of the Spirit, Shield of ?Faith: Religion in American War and Diplomacy by Andrew Preston Knopf, 832 pages, $37.50 America, G. K. Chesterton famously observed, is “a nation with the soul of a church.” In his masterful new survey Sword of the Spirit, Shield of Faith , Cambridge . . . . Continue Reading »

Radical Revelries

From the March 2012 Print Edition

American Dreamers: How the Left Changed a Nation ? by Michael Kazin Knopf, 329 pages, $27.95 Radical historians are notoriously untrustworthy analysts of the American experience because their ideological commitments so often distort their critical assessments. Frustrated by the disconnect between . . . . Continue Reading »

Ideology and Transcendence

From the May 2011 Print Edition

Everyone thinks ideologically, but no one wants to admit it. Most of our responses to events in public life are immediate, firm, and quite untouched by reflection. When I react to a particular political development with enthusiasm or dismay, or to someone’s political judgment with Yes, that is . . . . Continue Reading »

Living with Inequality

From the April 2011 Print Edition

Inequality is, always and everywhere, a fact of economic life. It is also, always and everywhere, a recurring subject of moral controversy. Americans have for the most part avoided preoccupation with the topic”they have generally worried more about equality of opportunity than of . . . . Continue Reading »

RJN and First Things

From the March 2011 Print Edition

This issue marks the beginning of First Things ’ twenty-second year of publication, and every new publishing cycle invites reflection on what it is that we are about. And to think about First Things is to think, inevitably, about its founding editor, Richard John Neuhaus. I’ve been . . . . Continue Reading »

Race Matters

From the February 2011 Print Edition

Americans like to think of their history as a success story. And so, by most measures, and for most people most of the time, it has been. Except, of course, for the matter of race. That issue has cursed the nation from the beginning, and we have never gotten it right, or even close to right. It is . . . . Continue Reading »

America, America

From the January 2011 Print Edition

Americans have always been an intensely patriotic people. Most of them love their country without reserve and without need for reflection. Devotion to the nation and its symbols is a cultural given, one that politicians ignore at risk of prompt return to private life. Our national parties stage a . . . . Continue Reading »

Apocalypse No

From the December 2010 Print Edition

A habit of pessimism, it seems, comes with the conservative territory. It’s been more than half a century since Clinton Rossiter described American conservatism as the “thankless persuasion,” but the label seems as appropriate now, at least in indicating a prevailing mood, as it did . . . . Continue Reading »

Lutheran in Limbo

From the October 2010 Print Edition

Because of Christ: Memoirs of a Lutheran Theologian By Carl E. Braaten Eerdmans, 210 Pages, $18 Lutherans are a theologically odd lot. They started the Reformation, but they have never felt entirely comfortable with the Protestant label. They don’t doubt that Rome was wrong, but they have . . . . Continue Reading »