Sunday, July 12, 2009

Jimmy Carter on Religion as it Affects Women

Former President Jimmy Carter has an article in the Guardian called, "The words of God do not justify cruelty to women." It's a fascinating look at how liberal Christians prefer to deceive themselves about their own religion. Carter essentially argues that religious doctrine advocating subjection of women is based on incorrect interpretation of scripture and "a few carefully selected Bible verses."
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.

There's one big problem with Carter's argument -- he has things exactly backward. One doesn't need to rely on selective interpretation to understand that women have second-class status in the Bible.  Instead, creative interpretation is necessary to pretend otherwise. This is typical of liberal Christians. Rather than accept that their religion, the scriptures, and their God are horribly flawed, and that the Bible promotes many things that are repulsive to moral and ethical people, they just pick and choose which parts of the Bible they want to accept. The rest is dismissed out of hand or interpreted away as no longer relevant.

In some ways this is similar to liberal interpretations of the Constitution. The Constitution doesn't really mean what it says; it means whatever they think it should mean. But with Christianity the Bible is supposedly the holy word of God. If it means whatever you think it should mean, and you can discard any unpleasant parts, what good is it? Why not just admit that it isn't the word of God, just a collection of ancient writings that you are cynically using to support your own particular ideas?


  1. I agree with you. He specifically mentions creation, saying that he disagreed with what the Baptist Convention was teaching, that women are responsible for the Fall and should be subjugated to men.

    The problem is, that his church was right: that is exactly what the Bible says. Carter can choose to only read the first creation account (sans Fall) if he so chooses, but it's he who's picking and choosing. The Bible is largely misogynistic, with very rare verses that support women's rights.

    So while I understand that he wants to try to convince people of faith that they shouldn't repress or discriminate against women, I'm not sure I agree with his twisting of the facts to make the Bible and other holy texts sound better than they actually are.

  2. Yeah, I'm not sure how you read the Bible, disagree with much of what's in it, yet still think: hey, this is great religion for me to believe in.

    It's nice that liberal Christians have a more tolerant version of the religion, but it really has little basis other than wishful thinking (even more than the usual amount required for religious belief).