Jimmy Carter – still the man to admire

Dr. Weeks Comment:  perhaps he was a disappointing president because he was a good man and as we know, he has walked the talk in the years since his elected and become perhaps our best public example of a man doing good.

Losing my religion for equality

Jimmy Carter

 

July 15, 2009

 

http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/losing-my-religion-for-equality-20090714-dk0v.html?page=-1

 

 

Women and girls have been discriminated against for too long in a twisted

interpretation of the word of God.

 

I HAVE been a practicing Christian all my life and a deacon and Bible

teacher for many years. My faith is a source of strength and comfort to

me, as religious beliefs are to hundreds of millions of people around the

world. So my decision to sever my ties with the Southern Baptist

Convention, after six decades, was painful and difficult. It was, however,

an unavoidable decision when the convention’s leaders, quoting a few

carefully selected Bible verses and claiming that Eve was created second

to Adam and was responsible for original sin, ordained that women must be

“subservient” to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons,

pastors or chaplains in the military service.

 

This view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one

religion or belief. Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role

in many faiths. Nor, tragically, does its influence stop at the walls of

the church, mosque, synagogue or temple. This discrimination,

unjustifiably attributed to a Higher Authority, has provided a reason or

excuse for the deprivation of women’s equal rights across the world for

centuries.

 

At its most repugnant, the belief that women must be subjugated to the

wishes of men excuses slavery, violence, forced prostitution, genital

mutilation and national laws that omit rape as a crime. But it also costs

many millions of girls and women control over their own bodies and lives,

and continues to deny them fair access to education, health, employment

and influence within their own communities.

 

The impact of these religious beliefs touches every aspect of our lives.

They help explain why in many countries boys are educated before girls;

why girls are told when and whom they must marry; and why many face

enormous and unacceptable risks in pregnancy and childbirth because their

basic health needs are not met.

 

In some Islamic nations, women are restricted in their movements, punished

for permitting the exposure of an arm or ankle, deprived of education,

prohibited from driving a car or competing with men for a job. If a woman

is raped, she is often most severely punished as the guilty party in the

crime.

 

The same discriminatory thinking lies behind the continuing gender gap in

pay and why there are still so few women in office in the West. The root

of this prejudice lies deep in our histories, but its impact is felt every

day. It is not women and girls alone who suffer. It damages all of us. The

evidence shows that investing in women and girls delivers major benefits

for society. An educated woman has healthier children. She is more likely

to send them to school. She earns more and invests what she earns in her

family.

 

It is simply self-defeating for any community to discriminate against half

its population. We need to challenge these self-serving and outdated

attitudes and practices – as we are seeing in Iran where women are at the

forefront of the battle for democracy and freedom.

 

I understand, however, why many political leaders can be reluctant about

stepping into this minefield. Religion, and tradition, are powerful and

sensitive areas to challenge. But my fellow Elders and I, who come from

many faiths and backgrounds, no longer need to worry about winning votes

or avoiding controversy – and we are deeply committed to challenging

injustice wherever we see it.

 

The Elders are an independent group of eminent global leaders, brought

together by former South African president Nelson Mandela, who offer their

influence and experience to support peace building, help address major

causes of human suffering and promote the shared interests of humanity. We

have decided to draw particular attention to the responsibility of

religious and traditional leaders in ensuring equality and human rights

and have recently published a statement that declares: “The justification

of discrimination against women and girls on grounds of religion or

tradition, as if it were prescribed by a Higher Authority, is

unacceptable.”

 

We are calling on all leaders to challenge and change the harmful

teachings and practices, no matter how ingrained, which justify

discrimination against women. We ask, in particular, that leaders of all

religions have the courage to acknowledge and emphasize the positive

messages of dignity and equality that all the world’s major faiths share.

 

The carefully selected verses found in the Holy Scriptures to justify the

superiority of men owe more to time and place – and the determination of

male leaders to hold onto their influence – than eternal truths. Similar

biblical excerpts could be found to support the approval of slavery and

the timid acquiescence to oppressive rulers.

 

I am also familiar with vivid descriptions in the same Scriptures in which

women are revered as pre-eminent leaders. During the years of the early

Christian church women served as deacons, priests, bishops, apostles,

teachers and prophets. It wasn’t until the fourth century that dominant

Christian leaders, all men, twisted and distorted Holy Scriptures to

perpetuate their ascendant positions within the religious hierarchy.

 

The truth is that male religious leaders have had – and still have – an

option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women.

They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter.

Their continuing choice provides the foundation or justification for much

of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world. This

is in clear violation not just of the Universal Declaration of Human

Rights but also the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, Moses and

the prophets, Muhammad, and founders of other great religions – all of

whom have called for proper and equitable treatment of all the children of

God. It is time we had the courage to challenge these views.

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