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Redeemer: The Life of Jimmy Carter

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  148 ratings  ·  33 reviews
Whether rising to power or falling from grace, Jimmy Carter’s political fortunes were always tied to those of progressive Christianity. A former peanut farmer and born-again Christian, Carter won the presidency in 1976 thanks in large part to America’s evangelicals, who responded to Carter’s open religiosity and his rejection of the moral bankruptcy of the Nixon White Hous ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published May 13th 2014 by Basic Books
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“A fundamentalist is an evangelical who's mad about something.” - Jerry Falwell

Jimmy Carter was not a particularly great president, and author Randall Balmer does not intend to change your mind about this. This story of Carter's life is interwoven with the evolution of the role of religion (evangelical Christianity, if we're being specific) in American politics. It's the story of how the most effusively religious president we've had, one who sought to further the goals of progres
Russell Fox
Randal Balmer's book about Jimmy Carter and his presidency is a fine and thoughtful review of one very small--but Balmer thinks, and I agree, very important--part of it: the way in which Carter, both intentionally and unintentionally, became the ultimate transition figure in the transformation of American evangelical Protestantism, and perhaps therefore America's civil religion in general. (Balmer himself doesn't go that far, but that's the conclusion which seems most obvious to me in reading th ...more
Apr 09, 2021 rated it really liked it
I have a pro-Carter bias, so this isn’t a neutral review. Balmer’s book is a little repetitive in content and style, but that doesn’t take away from a feeling I’ve had for a long time: we would be a better, kinder, more just, better respected, and equitable society if we had followed the path laid out by Carter’s forward-looking goals. Energy independence (with renewable emphasis), universal health care access, robust public transportation infrastructure, strong public education, diplomacy over ...more
Alan  Marr
Nov 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This was an inspirational read. There is a quote on the book that said that Jimmy Carter "was the first President to use the White House as a stepping stone".This book is very well written with heaps of helpful footnotes. It is the story of a bloke who just wanted to live a Christian life doing what he was called to do. His commitment to baptist principles of liberty of conscience, religious freedom, separation of church and state etc made me proud to be a Baptist. However when I read of the dup ...more
Bryan Cebulski
Jul 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Short biographies--especially short presidential biographies--better pinpoint a thematic focus and stick to it. Otherwise you risk telling a light, piecemeal narrative that doesn't get to the heart of the person at its center. Which can be not only boring, but downright insincere. Thankfully that's not the case for Redeemer.

Randall Balmer is an historian whose focuses have always been on the intersection of evangelicalism and American history and who, graciously, understands his background in ap
Tommy Faris
Jul 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Randy Balmer's biography of President Jimmy Carter focuses on Carter's embodiment of the ideals of progressive evangelicalism, that rarest of animals these least as far as most people know. In fact, progressive evangelicalism is alive and well, but the movement gets much less popular attention than its more bellicose and belligerent sibling, conservative evangelicalism. While there are differences between conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists, in scholarly circles, in relation ...more
Jun 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
Redeemer by Randall Balmer is a biography of Jimmy Carter from childhood to receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. Balmer is a professor of American Religious History at Dartmouth University. Balmer appears to be reasonably adjective and unsentimental about Carters record as President. Balmer treats the details of Carter’s life succinctly and fairly. Balmer said Carter appointed an unprecedented number of women and minorities to his administration. The author points out that Carter was the only Presid ...more
Sep 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
In Redeemer: The Life of Jimmy Carter, author Randall Balmer does not set out to evaluate whether Jimmy Carter was a good or bad president. Rather, Balmer focuses on the maelstrom of politico-religious forces rising up and swirling behind the scenes, offering illuminating insights into the machinations related to both of Carter’s campaigns as well as his four-year term sandwiched in the middle.

What most fascinated me in this book is how those who most viciously excoriated Carter were the very p
Oct 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Randall Balmer’s Redeemer: The Life of Jimmy Carter is an examination of how evangelicals got Jimmy Carter elected President of the United States in 1976 and how those same evangelicals kept him from a second term in 1980. It is a fascinating look at political machinations done by men—supposedly—of God. The book painstakingly relates all the derring do of many famous preachers, Billy Graham among them, as they plot to dump Carter and get Ronald Reagan elected. Reagan, who claimed to be a born-ag ...more
Apr 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Next month, President Carter will be speaking at my daughter’s graduation and I when I heard that he was the commencement speaker, I realized that I don’t know much about him. This is the book I chose to begin to learn about the man. I have come away with much respect and admiration for his faith and his pursuit in applying his faith to all that he does. I am convicted by his boldness to stand up and advocate for what he believes.
I also found it so interesting to learn much about the beginnings
Rick Theule
Jan 20, 2019 rated it liked it
I’d like to give this book 3.5 stars. While a good writer, the author repeatedly repetitive. A story or fact from one chapter appears again in another chapter a number of times. The understand particular chapters may have been written years apart, but the author (and editors) should have caught these repetitions. Assume the reader can remember a fact or anecdote two chapters after the first mention.
What brought this book rating down significantly was the unfortunate epilogue. The author made as
Bekah Backman
May 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
I am not very invested in politics but picked up this book to have a better understanding of a well-known philanthropist. Despite the necessary writings on the political history of Carter and progressive evangelicalism, I could not stop reading this book. I really learned a lot about the evolution of right wing politics. I have an admiration for Carter's never-ending pursuit of peace and health for others in the world. He allowed others to misunderstand him in order to stay true to his convictio ...more
Mary Lou
Jan 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed the perspective Balmer used. I understand what progressive evangelism is and how Carter lives it out. I am shocked at the rise of the religious right and the way they used abortion to promote their bigotry. A great read.
Lisa Phillips
Dec 02, 2018 rated it liked it
The book reads like a textbook, so it was not as interesting as I had hoped it would be. I do love Jimmy Carter, and any knowledge gained about this wonderful man's life is a bonus. It is well worth the read. ...more
Zach Waldis
Oct 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
A better title might have been "Unredeemed: the rise of the American Religious Right". There is a fair amount about Carter here, and Balmer is deferential to him throughout, but a good chunk of the book is about Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, etc. ...more
Jul 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
Right after the 1980 presidential election in which Ronald Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter, I sent the outgoing president a note expressing my respect for him and his efforts in office, including the Camp David Accords, his efforts on behalf of human rights around the world, and his attempt to engage the American people in serious conversation about our dependence on fossil fuels and foreign sources of those fuels. I knew that his positions and policies reflected his strong faith. Though he came o ...more
May 03, 2019 rated it did not like it
I don’t feel the urge to give one star reviews often, as a wise woman once outlined to me why purely negative reviews like the one I am writing are not proper...maybe one day I’ll get off my high horse and take her advice. I’ll preface everything below with: blatant bias and arguments meant to appeal to emotion are my pet peeve. So perhaps this author is a very talented writer, I don’t mean to make judgment on his talents, but I was clearly not the audience he was targeting in this book.

If you a
Debbie Jacob
Feb 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Excellent writing. Framing a biography of Carter around his religion and what was going on with evangelicals was a perfect vehicle for examining Carter's life. It helped to create a vivid portrait of him. The Epilogue added a personal touch that was most welcome as well. The author manages to write this biography with remarkable objectivity even though he's dealing with the theme of religion, an emotionally charged subject. ...more
Russell J. Sanders
Sep 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Randall Balmer’s Redeemer: The Life of Jimmy Carter is an examination of how evangelicals got Jimmy Carter elected President of the United States in 1976 and how those same evangelicals kept him from a second term in 1980. It is a fascinating look at political machinations done by men—supposedly—of God. The book painstakingly relates all the derring do of many famous preachers, Billy Graham among them, as they plot to dump Carter and get Ronald Reagan elected. Reagan, who claimed to be a born-ag ...more
Jul 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book is a short, easy read on the public life of Jimmy Carter. This is not one of those comprehensive, 1,000-page, detailed presidential biographies. It puts the Carter presidency in historical context, highlighting his born-again Christianity. Ballmer pits Carter's brand of "progressive evangelicalism" against the right-wing fundamentalism of the Moral Majority. He also shows that it was the IRS vs. Bob Jones University (more or less), rather than abortion, that got the evangelical conserv ...more
Chris Burd
Jul 26, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: biographies, politics
I think it makes sense to start by talking about what this book is not. This is not a complete biography of Jimmy Carter. This is also not an unbiased look at his presidency. This is, instead, a look at Carter's faith - how it led him to the White House, how he brought similarly faithful Christians into politics, and how they turned on him in favor of a far more conservative movement.

While I did learn some basic biographical facts and got a little insight into President Carter, I was a little di
David Corleto-Bales
Aug 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014
Moving and interesting account of President Carter's life, from childhood in rural Georgia to life as a former president recounting the development of his deep religious faith, his ambitious drive to become governor of Georgia, ("you won't like my campaign, but you'll like my administration," he told prominent African-Americans) and his unlikely victory over Gerald Ford in 1976. Carter was one of the unique occupants of the White House being the first qualified evangelical Christian to gain a ma ...more
Kingsley Oteng
Mar 03, 2021 rated it really liked it
For the roots of American Evangelicalism or say it’s ordo naturalis according to Balmer, God remains the Church’s lense of the world despite many of its members ardent views on segregation; however, the very premise of American Evangelicalism made necessary a good argument for these otherwise discordant perspectives: ie the concept of God on one hand that is detached from biblical foundations and thereby slowly losing its fundamental unit of value - yet on the other hand, for Evangelicalism’s te ...more
Kevin Camp
May 21, 2014 rated it liked it
I expected this book to spend more time on the particulars of Evangelical Christianity, comparing its progressive strain from its conservative one. Instead, it's a textbook summary/retelling of Carter's public life and religious life. Coming in at less than 200 pages, the book is a quick read, but a disappointing one.

The book's author, Randall Balmer, writes with sympathy towards Carter, but is not a sycophant. Anyone versed in Carter's past will find precious few new insights. I would rate thi
Chris Lilly
Sep 12, 2014 rated it liked it
Interesting to read about the last genuinely Christian president of the USA getting trashed by the fundamentalist dullards who populate the 'christian' airwaves, in favour of .... Reagan, a right wing, stupid, conscienceless talking head. Which is really all you need to know about Christian politics in the USA, and pretty much all I took out of this exhaustingly argued book about those politics. If you care about the intersection of faith and hard-school politics, this is a well-argued and compe ...more
Aug 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
A good, well-research, accessible work that provides a helpful overview of Jimmy Carter's life and presidency in the context of his faith and the political climate of this time. I was surprised to learn how rapidly evangelicals became involved in politics in such a short time in the late 1970s, and the extent of their anxieties about the perceived moral decline of the nation. I also found myself disappointed that so many of Carter's ideas did not have long-term success in the United States, and ...more
Jean Kelly
Nov 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
If I had not read the Sadat, Begin, Carter Camp David Accords book I would never have read this one - written by an evangelical Christian who looks at Carter's career from that vantage point. I found it fascinating to see the role his 'own' people played in his fall from power, if you will. Jimmy Carter is shown as believing firmly in the 'old' evangelical positions of social justice, equality for women, separation between church and state. There were interesting sections about how evangelicals ...more
Jun 20, 2014 rated it liked it
A clear case of he who lives by the sword shall die by the sword, or as one of the pundits put it at the time, he who lives by the steeple shall die by the steeple.
I found this to be an enlightening and convincing explication of Carter's unexpected rise to the presidency and his equally unexpected ousting just 4 years later.
Jul 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
Glad to read this insightful biography of a great man. Kudos to the biographer too for including the complete text of the famous "Crisis of Confidence" speech - an insightful and neglected message - in an appendix. ...more
Peter Johnson
Oct 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Brief but telling biography from a Christian perspective. Correctly severe on some of the trends in American politics and the blindness to needs exhibited by so many in politics who claim to be Christian. Carter comes through well, however!
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Randall Herbert Balmer, Ph.D. (Princeton University, 1985), is an ordained Episcopal Priest and historian of American religion, and holds the John Phillips Chair in Religion at Dartmouth College. He also has taught at Barnard College; Columbia, Rutgers, Princeton, Drew, Emory, Yale and Northwestern universities; and at Union Theological Seminary. Balmer was nominated for an Emmy Award for the PBS ...more

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