Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A great ex-president

Once again, Jimmy Carter has distinguished himself as a great ex-president and human being.

I couldn't stand him as president. He ran and governed as a conservative, from running against the government itself, to his "zero-based budgeting" scheme, to the use of paraquat (capital punishment for pot smokers), to sheltering that moldering dictator Pahlavi. In other ways he was simply inept, as in his failure to pass for and achieve labor law reform which would have included federal contract debarment for labor law violators like J.P. Stevens, and failing to fill vacancies on the board of the Legal Services Corporation at the end of his term, leaving Reagan the opportunity to appoint a full board determined to dismantle the program.

He's been much better since he's been out of office, and here's another example. There may be room for debate if Christianity is essentially and inherently a sexist, male-supremacist institution. I think there is no room for debate when it comes to the Southern Baptist Convention. Carter has finally had enough, and has publicly split with them.

I 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.

I'm sure this wasn't an easy thing for him to do. He comes close to saying what I would say about religion, that it's merely a political institution organized to keep certain people in power and others out:

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.

We need this kind of voice for human rights.


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