ATLANTA (AP) — Jimmy Carter says the United States is experiencing a “resurgence of racism” and he’s calling on Baptist faith leaders to foster change in their churches and communities.
The former U.S. president spoke Thursday at a summit hosted by the New Baptist Covenant, which he convened in 2007 to unite Baptists of different races, ethnicities and theologies. Carter’s keynote address came during a three-day meeting in Atlanta aimed at creating partnerships between black and white churches to work together on pressing issues in their community.
Before Carter spoke, leaders of two Baptist churches in Macon, Georgia, located less than a block apart but split by race, discussed their congregations’ partnership. Carter called such relationships “a very powerful potential weapon to set an example not just among Baptists, not just among churches, but in communities.”
Carter said some white Americans stay quiet when they see discrimination or segregation, fearful of losing a “privileged” position in society. He said that amounts to acceptance of “discrimination and animosity and hatred and division.”
Carter, a lifelong Baptist, often spoke about his faith during his political career. Now 91, he continues to teach Sunday school several times a month at a church in his hometown of Plains, Georgia.
Carter said he wanted the event to stay nonpolitical, but described “some degree of embarrassment” about the ongoing presidential campaign between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. He said Americans’ multiple races, ethnicities and religions form “a beautiful mosaic” and said the country has been “resilient” following other periods of deep division, including the Civil War.
“I think there will be a positive reaction after this election,” Carter said. “I pray it will come out a certain way, but I think there will be a lot of lessons learned. And I think the average person in America now will be looking at how to do better things, how to have a superb American policy on peace and human rights and other aspects of life. I think we’ll raise our standards as a public and I believe our next president will accommodate that inclination.”
Carter said 22 members of his family are registered to vote, adding: “We’ll all vote the same way.”
“They have inherited some genes or something that causes them to look with favor on the New Baptist Covenant and on one of the parties,” Carter said with a smile, drawing laughter from the audience.