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Stephen Carter is the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law at Yale Law School. He has taught at Yale since 1982. Carter is known for his legal and social policy[…]

What does it mean to be a good Christian?

Question: What inspires you?

Stephen Carter: I’m first and foremost a Christian, and that means not only that I draw my inspiration from the Bible, but also for me I’m an Orthodox Christian. So it’s also in the great creeds – the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicaean Creed and so on. And that is a bedrock for my life. And I wouldn’t say that I’m a great Christian in the sense that I always do what I think I ought to do; but I tend to . . . I once read a book by an Episcopal nun – yes there are Episcopal nuns. I once read a book from an Episcopal nun who said that you can’t see the future. And you can’t tell what God wants to do five years from now; but if you look carefully and take the time, you can generally tell what you’re supposed to do right now. And I try to think of things that way. I try to think about what I should do right now. I tend to be a thoughtful person. I tend to be someone . . . I don’t make snap judgments. I like to take time to think things over. And then when I make decisions I tend to stick to them; but they tend to be decisions I made over a period of time. We live in a world that encourages snap judgments, that rewards thinking fast. And I don’t think that makes for very good decision making.

My wife, I should say, is also a great inspiration to me. My wife is not only a Christian, but someone who tries to live her faith and really thinks very hard about the right thing to do. She currently is involved in issues that I think are of great importance. She is trained as a lawyer as I am. She’s with the Children’s Defense Fund as well as being in corporate law before that. She’s now affiliated with a couple of think tanks, and she’s interested in the future of mothering in America and in the world; and she’s interested in the co-modification of children in two senses – both the sense of which we might say the commercialization of childhood – advertising aimed at children, trying to create little consumers; and also co-modification in a different sense – the notion of designer babies and what does that say about humanity, about us, and about our future? She doesn’t go into these things as a shrill advocate. She goes into these things to try to understand the direction we’re moving and to try to encourage conversations about these directions. What I like about her approach is exactly that; that she wants to encourage conversation. What she wants to do is create a world in which people think about issues and then talk about them as opposed to go on television and rant and rave about them. I think that’s the kind of work that I wish more advocates would do. It’s the kind of work that I used to try to do.

Recorded on: 7/25/07