Stapleton, Ruth Carter (1929–1983)
Evangelist, healer, and sister of U.S. president Jimmy Carter.
She was born August 7, 1929, in Plains, Georgia. After two
years of the Georgia State College for Women, she married
Robert Stapleton, a veterinarian, and they settled in North Carolina.
She became the mother of four children.
Her career as a healer dates from her own recovery from periods
of deep depression. She combined attendance at group
therapy sessions with an interdenominational retreat at a
North Carolina hotel and ‘‘experienced God as a God of love.’’
Some three months later she attended a second retreat and
came in contact with Pentecostalism. She received the baptism
of the Holy Spirit in a Pentecostal meeting and experienced its
definitive manifestation, speaking in tongues.
She subsequently developed her own kind of healing technique,
which might be described as a spiritually-based psychotherapy.
She combined prayer with a probing of the unhappy
memories of the individuals who sought her help. She taught
them to recreate painful past experiences in a ‘‘guided daydream’’
in which the figure of Jesus is introduced to neutralize
emotional difficulties by love and forgiveness.
In her book The Gift of Inner Healing (1976), she describes
her work over nine years with various Christian groups. She
preached and prayed for Roman Catholics as well as Protestants
at her spiritual workshops in over 70 American cities and
abroad in Indonesia, Malaysia, Japan, and Britain. She rejected
the label of ‘‘faith healer,’’ since she claimed God is the healer,
but was also involved in more traditional healing of physical ailments
by means of prayer.
In 1977, Stapleton hit the headlines when she was instrumental
in bringing religious conviction to Larry C. Flynt, editor
of the pornographic Hustler magazine. On February 8, 1977,
Flynt was been found guilty of engaging in organized crime
and pandering to obscenity. CBS News producer Joe Wershba
introduced Flynt to Stapleton, and after a discussion on religion
and sexual repression, Flynt claims a religious conversion
was set in motion. According to his own account, Flynt discovered
God at 40,000 feet while on a flight from Denver to Houston.
Subsequently, both Stapleton and Flynt appeared together
on the Today program on November 23, 1977, when Flynt publicly
acknowledged that God had entered his life and that
henceforth his magazine would introduce a religious element.
Hustler would be transformed into a religious magazine, and
Flynt’s multimillion-dollar empire would be turned into a nonprofit
religious foundation. At a Pentecostal congregation in
Houston, Flynt stated ‘‘I owe every woman in America an apology.’’
Flynt did not carry through, and Hustler remains a pornographic
publication.
Stapleton was plunged into the spotlight by the election of
her brother to the presidency in 1976. Through those years she
wrote three more books and continued an active life of traveling
and speaking. Then in 1983 she discovered that she had
cancer, but refused standard medical treatment, turning inStanford
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stead to a macrobiotic diet, meditation, and reliance on God’s
healing power. She died September 26, 1983, at Fayetteville,
North Carolina.
Sources
Stapleton, Ruth Carter. The Experience of Inner Healing.
Waco, Tex. Word Books, 1977.
———. The Gift of Inner Healing. Waco, Tex. Word Books,
1976.
———. In His Footsteps. San Francisco Harper & Row, 1979