MELBOURNE, December 11, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) - In an address to a gathering sponsored by the World Parliament of Religions (PWR) last Friday, former US President Jimmy Carter has once again blamed traditional religion, particularly Southern Baptists and Roman Catholics, for "creating an environment where violations against women are justified."
It is a theme that Carter has successfully used to garner media attention for several years.
Although in a July column in The Observer Carter admits to "not having training in religion or theology," in his address to the PWR Carter appeals to his authority as someone who has "taught Bible lessons for more than 65 years."
In opposition to the vast majority of authentic scholars and historians, Carter asserted: "It's clear that during the early Christian era women served as deacons, priests, bishops, apostles, teachers and prophets." He added: "It wasn't until the 4th century or the 3rd at the earliest that dominant Christian leaders, all men, twisted and distorted Holy Scriptures to perpetuate their ascendant position within the religious hierarchy."
Contrary to the theorizing of Carter, Pope John Paul II taught, "The Lord Jesus chose men to form the college of the twelve apostles, and the apostles did the same when they chose collaborators to succeed them in their ministry." He added: "the Church recognizes herself to be bound by this choice made by the Lord himself. For this reason the ordination of women is not possible." (Catechism of the Catholic Church; 1577)
Carter singled out the Southern Baptist Convention and Roman Catholic Church, claiming that they "view that the Almighty considers women to be inferior to men." However, both Christian faiths hold to the Scriptural truth that God created men and women equal.
Carter suggests that only in permitting women to become priests and pastors could male religious leaders choose to interpret teachings to exalt rather than subjugate women. "They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter, subjugation," he said.
"Their continuing choice provides a foundation or justification for much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world," said Carter. Carter goes on to list horrific violations against women such as rape, genital mutilation, abortion of female embryos and spousal battery.
Responding to Carter's nearly identical points in July, John Paul Meenan, Professor of Theology at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy in Barry's Bay, Ontario characterized Carter's points as "ridiculous," noting that there was no evidence of the ordination of women in the early Church.
Moreover, Meenan stressed that historically Christianity ought to be credited for promoting the dignity of women. "It is the Church that invariably improved the lot of women in the lands that were converted and Christianized," he said.
Of course the obvious criticism of Carter's statement is his usual failure to criticise Islam, under which the position of women is truly hopeless. However, I think there is quite a bit of evidence that Jesus' attitude toward women was far ahead of his time and if not for the influence of Paul and others in the early Church, women under Christianity would have risen to equality much earlier. As it is, because our status was so hard won, we should cherish it all the more and insist that practises degrading to women such as polygamy and forced marriage be banished forever from our land.
I can understand why Muslims wouldn't want Carter to convert and have done with it. He's too valuable as he is, where he is. . He's the voice of the self-righteous, but with a twist. These "self-righteous" are convinced, self-righteously convinced not that they -- that is, self-satisfied members of the advanced West -- -- are right, but that they are wrong, or at least always wronger than the other side. And that other side right now is Islam. Robert Frost once joked that a liberal is "someone who always takes the other fellow's side in a quarrel." Carter is that Frostian "liberal" on stilts. And his resentments, of all kinds, his Schelerian ressentiment, including his obvious antisemitism, surely play a role in this.
I'd be quite a lot harder on Jimmy Carter, though: he is claiming the mantle of justice, and when you do that selectively, as Rosa Luxemburg reminds us, you are pimping, not loving, the cause.