Blogs are subjective by definition, so I think I'll skip Christopher Hitchen's god is Not Great, which should be next on my list of my ten least-popular. This for two reasons: (a) We've had quite a few New Atheist books on the list already, and enough posts on that subject lately, too, and (b) I can't find it. I checked all the two-star reviews, and it wasn't there: was the book so bad, that it only deserved one star? 170 people thought so, and I don't think I'll wade through that stunted forest in search of my little alder tonight.
We have extra reviews to burn, anyway.
So here's one of the few political reviews that made either top ten or bottom ten. And the voting, in fact, was surprisingly close. This review is a few years old, which has the merit of showing, in retrospect, how absurd Carter's dire concerns really were.
Jimmy Carter, Our Endangered Values
(*) 75 + / 81 -
If you don't remember why Jimmy Carter was voted out of office so emphatically, read this book. It's not that he is wrong all the time. It's that he clearly thinks he's not only right, but righteous, and that those who disagree with him are unholy along with deluded. If Carter were not a politician, he would be the kind of preacher who says "we have sinned," when he really means "you."
One of Carter's chief bogeymen in this book is the people he calls "fundamentalists." Indeed, one reviewer implies that those who dislike this book will be mainly "fundamentalists" who "want our country to become a theocracy," along with "rabid Republicans who attack anything democratic." I am neither. In fact, in decades of working with conservative Christians of many denominations, I am not sure I have heard anyone advocate theocracy. Carter, however, argues that Christian theocrats were a key element in the coalition that voted Bush into power. Worse, it seems these wackos see it as their "personal responsibility" to instigate war leading to Armageddon in the Middle East!
I find it deeply irresponsible for a former president to represent his political opponents in such a uncharitable and divisive way (And he wonders where civility in politics went!) While it may be possible to find some nutty Republican who truly thinks like this -- though I haven't, so far -- so one can probably also find seedy characters who voted for Carter. (Not to mention among his friends, like that thug Yasser Arafat.) But to write a book that will be naively accepted as Gospel in many circles abroad "explaining" American foreign policy in this absurd manner is remarkably unstatesman and reckless. The fact is, regime change in Iraq was US policy already under Bill Clinton. Most leading Democrats spoke in favor of overthrowing Saddam. Carter is free to disagree, but to publicly accuse the opposing party of invading Iraq to bring about the end of the world, is not merely uncharitable, it is daft.
I know the image Carter paints of the "religious right" will be attractive to many readers -- looking at reviews on Amazon, it is obvious that is one of the book's great selling points. But ask yourself, on what evidence are you assuming the worst about so large a portion of your countrymen? As someone who not only grew up in that sub-culture, but has interacted with conservative Christians from dozens of denominations, I say he is wrong. And I challenge anyone to provide reliable demographic data to support his implied claim that a sizable percentage of Christians favor war in the Middle East in order to fulfill end times scenarios. I have heard NO ONE say that.
Carter also has the gall to blame Bush for the threat North Korea poses in East Asia. Actually, he admits that a "strong argument might be made on both sides." What two sides? On the one hand, the Kim family co-op, the communist regime that invaded the South, killing millions, tortured or murdered every Christian it got its hands on, blew up a civilian airplane in Burma, kidnapped people at random off beaches in Japan, tunnels under the DMZ, launches missiles over Japan, points others at Seoul, and easily fooled Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton into thinking it closed its nuke program down. Carter admits that a case might be made that this North Korea is to blame for the problems on the Korean peninsula! But he, himself, does not make that case.
Who stands in the opposite scale of Carter's moral equation? The US -- which spent blood and treasure to defend South Korea, allowing it its present freedom and prosperity? He refers instead it seems to the evil Bush administration. And what crime has Bush committed in Korea? He concluded that Carter's deal with the Kim regime was a sham. Kim accepted all the goodies we offered, but did not quite discontinue his nuclear program. Now that the shell game is doubtful, Bush insists that other countries in the area -- and in range of Kim's missiles -- be involved in talks on de-fanging the beast. It seems this president doesn't want a repeat of Carter's earlier possibly potemkin deal: for some strange reason, he is leery of gentlemen's agreements with tyrants and terrorists. While Carter was praising the intelligence of Kim and the beauty of his wife (who didn't vote for Bush, after all), Christians and other non-conformists were being used as human guinea pigs in North Korean prisons.
Pardon the sarcasm. Carter may intend well. But before he lectures the rest of us about morality, he badly needs to examine his own actions. As scholar Joshua Muravchik pointed out, Carter is habitually charitable towards despots like Kim, Arafat, Tito, Castro, and Ceausescu. He just draws the line at the GOP, it seems.
I am not in favor of theocracy, and will be happy to praise democrats for positive foreign policy ideas. (I studied at the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies, after all!) But I am so glad Jimmy Carter was voted out of office. It is no longer his job to conduct foreign policy. In fact, it is his job NOT to continue running his own amateur one-man state department, undermining official US policy, writing letters to foreign leaders telling them to oppose US policy, and creating misinformation and ill-will towards Americans abroad. Read this book, and find out why the American people had the good sense to send this ex-president packing; and why he should go packing again. Perhaps he should go to New Orleans and build houses.