Carter apologizes, kind of

Jimmy Carter apologized yesterday for a line in his recently released book, except that he didn't, at least according to the Associated Press. The CNN clip presented here shows that while broadcasters played up Carter's apology, most mainstream American media decided to play it down. Here is the passage for which Carter apologized:

It is imperative that the general Arab community and all significant Palestinian groups make it clear that they will end the suicide bombings and other acts of terrorism when international laws and the ultimate goals of the Roadmap for Peace are accepted by Israel.

People are upset over what seems to be an attempt by Carter to justify suicide bombings and other acts of terrorism as an acceptable method of achieving political goals. The Washington Post's Michael Powell picked up on the apology, but it was buried in the 13th paragraph:

"The sentence was worded in an absolutely improper and stupid way," Carter said. "I apologize to you and to everyone here . . . it was a mistake on my part."

One might call this a half apology. He's not apologizing for what he said, but for how he said it. As a fellow confessing evangelical Christian, I'd like to ask Carter if he is also seeking forgiveness from those his remarks have offended. Carter's lack of a genuine apology leads me to the excellent Sunday Washington Post piece by Alan Cooperman on the efforts of Carter and former President Clinton to launch a liberal counterpart to the Southern Baptist Convention.

The clear political significance of the move is not lost on Cooperman, and he summarizes the differences between the two sides in a nicely written paragraph that could make my religion writing hall of fame:

The leadership battle, which raged over issues such as biblical inerrancy, temperance, homosexuality, abortion and women's role in the church, culminated in 2000 with revisions to the "Baptist Faith and Message" that barred women from serving as pastors and called for wives to "submit graciously" to the leadership of their husbands.

But that's not all, at least according to the SBC's Richard Land:

"One of the areas where we would be in significant disagreement would be our view toward Israel, as highlighted by President Carter's new book," he said, referring to "Palestine Peace Not Apartheid," published in November by Simon & Schuster. Fourteen members of an advisory panel at the Carter Center have resigned over the book's depiction of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The establishment of this new counterweight to the SBC largely slipped under our radar, but it's worth mentioning if only because it continues to highlight the dividing lines among American Christians. While this is clearly not a new domination, it is the establishment of something that could be genuinely considered a function of the ever-evolving religious left.

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