Jimmy Carter: feminist. While I have many reasons for being a fan of the 39th President, I gained another this week, and not one I fully expected. The former president has parted ways with the Southern Baptist Church over their treatment of women.
We have been hearing for awhile now about the church prohibiting women from being ordained. It was this and the continued insistence that women be subservient to their husbands. That last part is from the Bible – and was brought up in an episode of The West Wing. I admire Carter for staying there knowing there is disagreement, and working to change the Church. He has stood up for women when we seem to still be finding out feet to speak out for ourselves.
Carter has put himself out there in the last few years, speaking up for marriage equality, the environment and women. His battle with the Church over women began years ago, which he shared in detail in an essay in The Age, where he says:
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.
Carter has a way with words that makes you want to take action. He makes you want to know more. And reading an old essay fired me up! After months of reading about the War on Women, the lack of women in STEM careers or public office, the constant battle to close the pay gap, and the fight in Congress to get the Violence Against Women Act reauthorized, I was worth out, and tired of fighting.
While his words have fired me up, I know it’s important to look more broadly at the root of these issues. Change is possible, despite having been set up to accept these issues as a part of life. These are battles we have been fighting forever though.
I’m not really one to ask about religious topics, and speak with no authority or great knowledge. However I do believe anything written that long ago needs to be taken with a grain of salt, and acknowledge that our modern world could never have been imagine, nor could the way the human race and society has advanced. We can no longer expect to people to go along with these views, despite their personal belief to the contrary. I admire Carter for standing up to an organization he has been heavily involved with and a part of for more of his life.
I also admire him for sharing his feelings so broadly, and looking at the world as a whole, and regions and religions differently. His comparisons among them should help you see how we got to where we are today. Carter goes on in the essay to say:
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.
His knowledge of history is makes the most important point in this battle of all. “During the years of the early Christian church women served as deacons, priests, bishops, apostles, teachers and prophets,” and yet today we do not qualify.
This may not start a fire under you about women’s role in religion in this country, but I hope it gets you thinking about that issue you do care about, that may be (most likely is) under attack right now. It’s time we qualify to live lives equal to men.
*Photo via Creative Commons License by Talk News Radio