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Excerpt: "Carter tackles a fundamental question of equality head-on: the subjugation of women in cultures around the world."

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter. (photo: Sara Saunders/The Carter Center)
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter. (photo: Sara Saunders/The Carter Center)

Jimmy Carter Issues 'Call to Action' Against Subjugation of Women

By National Public Radio

23 March 14


resident Jimmy Carter has written more than two dozen books over the course of his career, about everything from the art of aging to how to achieve peace in the Middle East. All his writing is anchored by a deep-seated belief in the equality of all people.

In his new book, A Call To Action, Carter tackles a fundamental question of equality head-on: the subjugation of women in cultures around the world. Carter joins NPR's Rachel Martin to talk about the state of human trafficking and whether religion can be a conduit for lasting change around gender.

Interview Highlights

On how the Bible is used to argue for both equality and the inferiority of women

There are some verses ... [that] can be interpreted either way. And, for instance, St. Paul, who's looked upon as the chief theologian in the Christian church, has differing points of view.

In one letter, to the Galatians, he says there's no difference between Jews and gentiles; there's no difference between male and female; there's no difference between slaves and masters. That all of us are equal in the eyes of God.

In another letter, written to Corinthians and others, he says that women should not adorn themselves, that women should not speak openly in church and that wives should be subservient to their husbands. But at the same time, in the same passage as the last one that I mentioned to you, it says that husbands and wives should respect each other on an equal basis and that the husbands should love the wives as Christ loved the church.

So you can pick out individual verses throughout the Bible that shows that the verse favors your particular preference, and the fact that the Catholic Church, for instance, prohibits women from serving as priests or even deacons gives a kind of a permission to male people all over the world, that well, if God thinks that women are inferior, I'll treat them as inferiors. If she's my wife, I can abuse her with impunity, or if I'm an employer, I can pay my female employees less salary.

On human trafficking

We have a terrible affliction here of slavery. There's a greater number of slaves sold now across international borders, according to annual reports by the U.S. State Department, than there was in the 18th and 19th centuries. And the total slavery income in these days, we call it human trafficking, is more than $32 billion.

On whether religion is a conduit for lasting change around gender

That seems to be the easiest answer, but I don't think it is the answer, because it's very difficult to get, for instance, the Catholic Church to change its policies. I've written to the pope, by the way, and I got an encouraging letter back from him saying that he believes that the status of women and the activity of women within the church needs to be increased, but there are some specific and very difficult things to overcome if the Catholic Church made that an ordained and official commitment. But at least the new pope is aware of it and is much more amenable, I think, to some changes than maybe most of his predecessors.

In the Southern Baptist Convention, from which my wife and I have resigned — we go to a more moderate Baptist church — I don't think that they are likely to change their policy that a woman must be not only inferior to her husband, but also deprived of an opportunity to be a pastor, or a missionary, or a chaplain in the Army, or to be even a deacon in the church. your social media marketing partner


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+32 # crowtower 2014-03-23 10:45
Way to go President Carter! Until all women are safe from the odds that one in three will be abused and until men and patriarchal cultures heal the soul fragmentation from valuing not just “yang”strength, doing, and aggression, but also the “yin” feminine values such as endurance, compassion, nurturing, and intuitivity, then we will not likely be able to achieve lasting progress on any of the challenges civilization faces.
+21 # Floe 2014-03-23 12:00
A great man. Thank you Jimmy Carter.
+10 # Floe 2014-03-23 12:00
Though I do wish we would get away from writings that are thousands of years old. Those writers could not have envisaged the world we are in today when they didn't even know about the atom.
+4 # Diane_Wilkinson_Trefethen_aka_tref 2014-03-23 12:57
I can understand President Carter’s reluctance to mention the level of debasement that Middle East Muslim men visit on their women but what held him back from mentioning that view as it exists here in the United States amongst non-Christian men? Consider Orthodox Judaism. Here is a miserable tale about a man no more God-fearing than a toad:

You can say that Lonna Kin is as responsible for her predicament as her husband because she won’t turn her back on an antiquated religious cult, the Orthodox Jewish faith. What a fool, you might think. But stop and ask if YOU could cheerfully discard a faith you’d lived by for over 50 years. Yes Orthodox Judaism is anachronistic. Yes it irresponsibly fosters male subjugation of women but it IS her faith. The people truly at fault here are those who are in charge. Ms Kin is not alone in her plight. What is truly reprehensible is that the Orthodox hierarchy condones forcing former wives to choose between abandoning their faith or remaining still “married,” thus denying them the same opportunity that their “husbands” have to move on with their lives.
+1 # bmiluski 2014-03-25 14:14
I have no sympathy for Lonna Kin. I was raised in a male monotheastic faith yet managed to come to my senses and discard a faith that saw me as second class. And believe me, there was nothing cheerful about it. But I did it. Western women were treated, by their men and society, exactly the same as middle-eastern women. They wore the same rags on their heads and the same sacks on their bodies. But the western women rebelled and fought even though they were burned and tortured to death by the millions. They kept on fighting. Are we totaly free of the male yoke? No...but we are still fighting. Middle-eastern and Orthodox Jewish women......DID NOT and...DO NOT......Freedo m is not free. You have to fight for it and keep fighting for it.
+1 # maryf 2014-04-02 22:14
So we blame the Muslims and various others whom Americans love to hate, without looking at the relentless assault on women's reproductive rights perpetrated by our very own religious crackpot Christians. It is well documented that women who have unfettered access to family planning and birth control benefit in other measures of gender equality as well (education in particular – and Iran is a good example of this), not to mention that a much lower population growth rate is essential for our survival on the planet.

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