7.12.2009

jimmy carter: religion no excuse for inequality

Former US President Jimmy Carter has an excellent piece in today's Guardian, decrying the use of religion as a smokescreen for inequality.

Carter broke with his church over its adherence to a view of women as subservient, and its prohibition against female clergy. He calls on religious leaders everywhere to stop hiding behind sexist interpretations of ancient texts, and recognize the essential equality of all human beings.

This is about as strong a condemnation of the evils of sexism and patriarchy as you'll find in the mainstream. I applaud Carter - a devout Christian - for writing it.
"Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status ..." (Article 2, Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28)

I have been a practising 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 was in conflict with my belief - confirmed in the holy scriptures - that we are all equal in the eyes of God.

This view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or belief. It is widespread. 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. The male interpretations of religious texts and the way they interact with, and reinforce, traditional practices justify some of the most pervasive, persistent, flagrant and damaging examples of human rights abuses.

At their 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 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.

Read it here.

5 comments:

Nigel Patel said...

I still have no idea how someone as ethical as Jimmy Carter rose to highest office in the U.S.
In his time out of office he has been nothing short of a beautiful person.

Cornelia said...

Great stuff! He really has been doing a lot for human rights and he was also the very one who pardoned Vietnam resisters.

Cornelia said...

Good for him for not putting up with those sexist fundamentalist bullies!!!

Cornelia said...

And for taking a stand and speaking out...

Cornelia said...

Yeah, this sexist fundamentalist criminal interpretation of religious texts is all about patriarchy, plain and simple.