NEW YORK (Christian Examiner) – In a new video interview with HuffPost Live's Mark Lamont Hill, Jimmy Carter says he believes Jesus is just fine with gay marriage. And the former president is, too.
Asked by Hill if Jesus would support the practice, Carter said:
"I believe Jesus would. I don't have any verse in Scripture. ... I believe Jesus would approve gay marriage, but that's just my own personal belief."
Carter is correct that Jesus did not directly address gay marriage, but he did describe God's design for marriage in Mark 10:7 and Matthew 19:5 while expressing God's displeasure with divorce. The apostles Paul and Peter and the biblical author Jude also specifically called attention to the sinfulness of the practice in Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, 2 Peter 2:6, and Jude 1:7.
I don't have any verse in Scripture. ... I believe Jesus would approve gay marriage, but that's just my own personal belief.
Still, Carter says he believes "Jesus would encourage any love affair if it was honest and sincere and was not damaging to anyone else, and I don't see that gay marriage damages anyone else."
Carter's progressive religious views and his support of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, a liberal breakaway group from the Southern Baptist Convention, are well known. He said in the interview religion has always played an important role in his life and he never really encountered an issue that caused serious conflict between his political obligations and faith – except abortion.
"I have had a problem with abortion. And this is a long time problem of mine. I have a hard time believing that, Jesus, for instance, would approve abortions unless it was because of rape or incest or the mother's life was in danger," Carter said.
"So I've had that struggle. But my oath of office was to obey the Constitution and the laws of this country as interpreted by the Supreme Court, so I went along with that. But that's been the only caveat."
In keeping with Carter's logic, it is important to note that Jesus also did not address abortion, which makes his interpretation of Jesus' silence on homosexuality all the more perplexing to religious conservatives.
The only thing Carter says he would object to with respect to gay marriage is a government grab on religious liberty.
"The only thing I would draw a line on ... I wouldn't be in favor of the government being able to force a local church congregation to perform gay marriages," Carter said. "But those two partners should be able to go to the courthouse or a different church and get married. That's no problem."
Carter discusses his religious viewpoints extensively in his new book, A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety. In it, he describes his religious upbringing in the Baptist tradition, but also claims to have attended regularly an African Methodist Episcopal Church.
"I'm a born again Christian – so called. I'm a Baptist. I taught Sunday School day before yesterday. I'll be teaching again next Sunday. I teach every Sunday that I'm home in Plains in a tiny church of about 30 members, but we have two, three, four, five, six, seven or 800 visitors that come to see the curiosity of politician teaching the Bible," Carter said during the interview with HuffPost Live.
"I'm deeply involved in our church and my faith has been the foundation of my encouragement when I was in trouble or failed on something and given me a new opportunity or motivation to reach for greater things in my own life. I never have really run across any really serious conflicts between my political obligations and my religious faith."