For most of his life, Jimmy Carter has been an advocate for human rights. In 1982, one year after leaving the Oval Office, the former US President and his wife Rosalynn Carter, founded the Carter Center, dedicated to advancing peace and health worldwide. Still an activist at 90, Carter has authored 28 books, including a new book in 2014 called, A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power.
Over the years, Jimmy Carter, a devout Christian, has become a very strong proponent of women’s rights, to a point where he has spoken out against the falsehoods and extremism we see within the ‘religion’ of Christianity today. In 2009, he penned an open letter, severing ties with the mega SBC/Southern Baptist Convention, after being a member of the Convention for 60 years. Carter said the decision was difficult and painful, yet ‘unavoidable,’ after the Convention leaders chose to take bible verses out of context and claim ‘Eve’ was responsible to for ‘original sin,’ and thus all women must be subservient to men. In Carter’s aforementioned open letter, he expands on his reasons and concerns:
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 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 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 truthsI 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.
In his letter, Carter discusses the independent group of global leaders to which he belongs, called The Elders. Founded by the late Nelson Mandela, the members have come together on this issue and collectively published this statement to all religious leaders around the world:“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.” This discrimination can and must end says Carter. He believes it’s within our power:
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.
Thank you, Mr. Carter, not only for the work you do for the sake of our daughters, our granddaughters, and their daughters, but also for our sons, grandsons, and the whole of humanity. Thank you, to you and Rosalynn for creating The Carter Center. And thank you for living by example. You are a good and true man, and this world is a better place by your presence.