In his commencement address to Liberty University’s graduating class, former President Jimmy Carter stressed the need for unity among believers.
Throughout the course of his speech the Christian and longtime Baptist teacher pushed for Christians to search for areas of commonality.
“Jerry (Falwell Jr.) and I talked about the possibility, that he and I, and all of you I hope, will work together to unify Christians in the world,” said Carter.
He lamented the divide between political parties and the divide between Christians.
“And particularly Baptists ought to come together as friends and not be alienated one from another,” he said.
Perhaps, there is no greater testament to this call for unity than Carter’s presence at Liberty in the first place.
Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr., a staunch conservative, says he met Carter during a private worship service on the day of President Trump’s inauguration.
“I was so impressed with the President’s kind demeanor, humility and warmth to me on that cold day in January,” said Falwell Jr.
“It struck me on that inaugural morning in DC that President and Mrs. Carter were the only former presidents to attend that service,” Falwell Jr recalled.
In a statement, Falwell Jr. elaborated on the decision to invite Carter.
“While Christians may disagree about what role government should play in serving those in need, the Liberty University community along with all Christians worldwide are united in the belief that we, as individuals, should provide food and shelter to the poor,” Falwell Jr said in a statement.
“President Carter, both during his time in office and since, has followed the teachings of Christ by serving the poor and loving his neighbors. I am thrilled that he will be sharing the story of his life of faith in action to our graduates and their families,” he continued.
Carter talked about the need for unity in an interview with CBN News last week.
“God gives us life and freedom and a chance to live a successful life as measured by God and that we should be reaching out to people with whom we disagree with love and care and respect and not hold grudges against other people and that we should follow the mandates that were laid down by Jesus Christ, who is the Prince of Peace," he told CBN's Faith Nation hosts David Brody and Jenna Browder.
During the address Carter created a media stir with his call to protect women from the “human rights” issues of abortion, sex-trafficking and rape.
“There are about 160 million girls and women who are not living today. Because their parents, in order to comply with laws of customs to have just male sons, either killed their daughters by strangling them at birth or they have the modern day ability to decide before the baby is born what it’s going to be,” Carter said.
“If the fetus is female, then they abort the child,” he continued.
This isn’t new territory for Carter. During his time in office he vehemently opposed federal funding for abortion.
In the past, however Mr. Carter stated he believes in exemptions in the case of rape, incest or when the life of the mother was at stake.
“I have had a hard time believing that Jesus, for instance, would approve abortion – unless it was because of rape or incest or if the mother's life was in danger,” Carter said on HuffPost Live in 2015.
“So, I've had that struggle,” he said, “but that's been the only caveat.”
During the speech he also addressed the scourge of rape in the US military and the abundance of sex-trafficking in the US, particularly in his home state of Georgia.
Carter is the third president to speak at Liberty's commencement, following George H.W. Bush in 1990 and President Trump last year.
Watch the entire address here.