At long last, moderate political leaders of a religious stripe are beginning to fight back against the Christian right. John Danforth, the former Missouri senator who is an Episcopal priest, repeated earlier attacks on the fundamentalists at a talk in Little Rock. And Jimmy Carter went after the right-wing Christians on Larry King last Wednesday. "I'm a devout Christian," Carter said in the interview, where he was plugging his new book. "Ordinarily, most of us, whether we are Christians or Catholics or Protestants, whether we are Jews or whether we might be Muslims, we basically agree on justice, on service to others, on humility, on truthfulness, on peace . . . on forgiveness, and on compassion. So, there are a lot of things that bind us together."
And a fundamentalist, says Carter, "is a very strong male religious leader, always a man, who believes that he is completely wedded to God, has a special privilege and relationship to God above others. And therefore, since he speaks basically, in his opinion, for God, anyone who disagrees with him at all is inherently and by definition wrong and therefore inferior. And one of the first things that a male fundamentalist wants to do is to subjugate women to make them subservient and to subjugate others that don't believe as he does.
"The other thing they do . . . is that they don't believe that it's right to negotiate or to compromise with people who disagree with them because any deviation from their absolute beliefs is a derogation of their own faith."
But what happens when Carter runs into someone who doesn't believe what he believes, King asks.
Carter replies: "I don't condemn them and I communicate with them, and I openly try to let them know what I believe and listen to what they believe and live in peace with them. It's not a matter of domination or subjugation of others. It's a matter of humility and trying to serve others, yes."