Jimmy Carter was one of the most religious men to serve as President of the United States. He was a lifelong Southern Baptist.
But Carter has left the church. Like a growing number of Americans, he finds organized religion has “a twisted interpretation of the word of God.”
Writing in TheAge.Com, Carter says:
I have been a practicing 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.
Carter recognizes that organized religion has become too self-serving, too much focused on agendas based on biases and too removed from the mainstream of today’s society.
We see religious bias against women. We also see it against gays, minorities and anyone who challenges the self-declared “holy writ” of those who twist religious beliefs to bolster long-held biases and an inbred desire for intolerance and discrimination.
I met Jimmy Carter early in his run for President in 1976 in Springfield, Illinois. While I disagreed with some of his positions on political issues, I admired his willingness to speak out.
He has backed gay marriage and applauded the Supreme Court for overturning state laws that he agreed were unconstitutional.
“It should be a right nationwide,” he said in an interview with CNN in June 2013. “It’s coming.”
At Michigan’s Grand Rapids Community College in September 2014 Carter said, “I never knew of any word or action of Jesus Christ that discriminated against anyone. I think discrimination against anyone and depriving them of actual equal rights in the United States is a violation of the basic principles of the Constitution that all of us revere in this country.”
Those close to Carter says the rabid stance against gay marriage by the Southern Baptist Church was another reason why he had left the church. He was quoted in October 2014 that his membership with the church led him to support Texas in its stance against gays marrying but has since backed off that position.
In his opinion piece in TheAge.Com, the headline said: “Losing my religion for equality.”
Good for him.