Dec 29

Losing my religion for equality


Losing my religion for equality

By Jimmy Carter | theage.com.au | July 15, 2009

Clementine Ford: Jimmy Carter was right

Carter’s message: the fight continues

Women and girls have been discriminated against for too long in a twisted interpretation of the word of God.

1428458125032I 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 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 emphasise 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.


Jimmy Carter was president of the United States from 1977 to 1981.



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  1. itiswhatitis

    Men and women are equal. Husbands and wives are equal. We have different roles that if worked well, run well. God made Eve from Adam’s side, not his foot or his back side. We, as women, should stand beside our husbands and yield to their headship as well. The problem comes when either side thinks their value is greater than the other’s.

  2. Patrick

    There is no ” real” inequality between men & women, spiritually.
    The Lord created all human beings equally. What is different, is the functionalities
    of males & females in our roles as it pertains to the Lord’s plan for us.
    The only real problem is in our inability to submit to his will, his way..
    We find it really to let him be Saviour, but struggle at making him Lord.
    And that’s an equal opportunity problem….

  3. marjai richmond

    God help us it seems the more women in power be it secular or church, the more men reject Christ, get divorced, turn gay, can find a job, sell drugs get killed in streets or in war……

  4. Jen

    Women and their positions
    Ephesians 5
    Titus 2
    1 Timothy 3
    1 Pet 3
    Colossians 3

    There were prophetess, but one thing is for certain they had no authority over men. The Lord made it this way because it was women who was deceived first not man. I honestly love my husband being the head, leading, protecting, having authority and our children seeing this and wanting the same when they get older. Men ruling and being in control is a wonderful thing, I don’t know about most women, but my husband is not and emotional reactor while I can be. and emotions can throw off your judgment at times. If we had more women to stop trying to be equal with men; just maybe this world would run a bit smoother.

    1. Jack

      Excellent comment Sis Jen, obviously you’re an Observer of God’s will, and not man’s. God Bless!

    2. Cedric

      Praise God sister! I agree with you. I love Ex Ministries but I do not agree with this one. Now I will say this. We do need more balance in the church in some areas…But in others we are going in the wrong direction on this one. So I will accept this post. I get the point. It is just the person that it is coming from as Kerry another person says below… and the direction that it is going… Nelson Mandela was also mentioned… Another not so good character…..

      But men are the head saith the Bible. The head of the woman. CHRIST is the head of the man and the church. And at the same time there is no male or female saith the Bible. I have seen to many hen pecked men and ministers who want you to be henpecked in your household. That is what I personally have seen. But the woman is extremely important because she was created to help the man. So if the woman will not submit she can cause many problems for a man. Thus causing problems for Gods ministry and knocking things off balance.

      1. exministries

        FYI And EX Ministries does not agree with this article either.

  5. Kerry

    This comes from s man who said Jesus would be ok with some abortions

    1. Cedric

      Amen! Exactly….

  6. Jack

    Hell is an equal opportunity destination for those that challenge God’s views, stand fast in the doctrine left to us.
    In these times, this is the most courageous thing you can do. Any heroes out there? ( Heroes is gender- neutral.)

    1. Jack

      Rom 16:17-18

      Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.

      For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches
      deceive the hearts of the simple.

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