Former President Jimmy Carter returned to his Sunday school class in good humor, even as he pondered his own mortality less than two weeks after fracturing his pelvis in a fall.
Carter, 95, spoke for his usual 40 minutes Sunday at Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains. He entered the sanctuary using a walker and sat in a white chair behind the pulpit throughout his lesson. A livestream broadcast from the church cut away as Carter arrived and departed.
He appeared despite lingering pain from his fall, his third mishap in recent months.
“We did not want him to teach today,” Pastor Tony Lowden told congregants, who came from at least 23 states and two other countries. But Carter insisted, Lowden said, so “you might see Christ while he is suffering.”
On Sunday, he slipped in several sly jokes – praising the quality of local peanuts, for instance – as he explored the Christian concept of eternal life.
For much of his life, Carter said, he harbored doubts about the biblical promise of life after death for followers of Jesus Christ. But he said a cancer diagnosis in 2015 bolstered his faith.
Carter recounted falling ill while monitoring elections in Guyana, undergoing surgery for liver cancer at Emory Hospital in Atlanta, and then learning that melanoma disease had spread to his brain.
“I assumed, naturally, I was going to die very quickly,” Carter said. He prayed not for recovery, he said, but for a proper attitude about his fate.
“I found I was absolutely, completely at ease about death,” he said.
A groundbreaking cancer treatment called immunotherapy destroyed the four tumors in his brain, and Carter has been in remission since. The experience, he said, helped him overcome his doubts about eternal life:
“I’m going to live again.”
Carter, a Democrat who served in the White House from 1977 to 1981, said almost nothing about politics on Sunday. But he noted that three candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination have attended the Sunday school class. He asked them all to concentrate on peace, human rights, the environment and equality.
“That’s the way to make the United States become a superpower.”