Jimmy Carter says much of the discrimination and abuse suffered by women around the world is attributable to a belief “that women are inferior in the eyes of God.” Carter called mistreatment of women “the most serious and all pervasive and damaging human rights abuse on Earth.”
I heard a spot on the national news on my local NPR station quoting a couple of comments from former president Jimmy Carter that caught my interest. When I searched for the speech, I found that Pres. Carter is considered a prominent feminist (at least, he is called that online in some places) and frequently makes similar points during some high prestige speeches. I respect someone who uses their bully pulpit to tell the Parliament of World Religions:
This view that the Almighty considers women to be inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or tradition. Its influence does not stop at the walls of the church, mosque, synagogue, or temple. Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths, creating an environment in which violations against women are justified.
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.
Pres. Carter describes his experiences in the Southern Baptist denomination, which match exactly what I experienced growing up in several other denominations and nondenominational churches. He quotes and summarizes the Bible, and talks about how you can argue the interpretation and the examples either way, and ultimately it comes down to how you want to interpret it – and the fact that it is interpreted in a way that justifies and perpetuates harm to women is a matter of laziness and selfishness and fear, just as the interpretations that justify and cause harm to children, LGBT oriented people, etc. And while Pres. Carter in his speech to the Parliament of World Religions speaks at length about Christianity and touches only briefly on other religions (apparently because his knowledge and experience is on Christianity), he makes it clear he feels all the major religious traditions contribute to the problem, and can contribute to the solution if desired.
He says, “Having served as local, state, national, and world leaders, we understand why many public officials can be reluctant to question ancient religious and traditional premises – an arena of great power and sensitivity.” My natural cynicism about those with power and what they really want says many may not really care one way or the other, or may wish for little more than stability so they can maintain their power – but I think the point is an interesting one nonetheless, coming as it does from someone who has had that power, and still has a lot of power, and chooses to use it this way.