Jimmy Carter -Letter of Resignation

The words of God do not justify cruelty to women

Discrimination and abuse wrongly backed by doctrine are damaging society, argues the former US president Jimmy Carter

"Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status …" (Article 2, Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

 

"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28)

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 th e 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 was in conflict with my belief – confirmed in the holy scriptures – that we are all equal in the eyes of God.

This view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or belief. It is widespread. 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. 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.


At their 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.

The impact of these religious beliefs touches every aspect of our lives. They help explain why in many countries boys are educated before girls; why girls are told when and whom they must marry; and why many face enormous and unacceptable risks in pregnancy and childbirth because their basic health needs are not met.

In some Islamic nations, women are restricted in their movements, punished for permitting the exposure of an arm or ankle, deprived of education, prohibited from driving a car or competing with men for a job. If a woman is raped, she is often most severely punished as the guilty party in the crime.

The same discriminatory thinking lies behind the continuing gender gap in pay and why there are still so few women in office in Britain and the United States. The root of this prejudice lies deep in our histories, but its impact is felt every day. It is not women and girls alone who suffer. It damages all of us. The evidence shows that investing in women and girls delivers major benefits for everyone in society. An educated woman has healthier children. She is more likely to send them to school. She earns more and invests what she earns in her family.

It is simply self-defeating for any community to discriminate against half its population. We need to challenge these self-serving and out-dated attitudes and practices – as we are seeing in Iran where women are at the forefront of the battle for democracy and freedom.

I understand, however, why many political leaders can be reluctant about stepping into this minefield. Religion, and tradition, are powerful and sensitive area to challenge.

But my fellow Elders and I, who come from many faiths and backgrounds, no longer need to worry about winning votes or avoiding controversy – and we are deeply committed to challenging injustice wherever we see it.

The Elders have decided to draw particular attention to the responsibility of religious and traditional leaders in ensuring equality and human rights. We have recently published a statement that declares: "The justification of discrimination against women and girls on grounds of religion or tradition, as if it were prescribed by a Higher Authority, is unacceptable."

 

We are calling on all leaders to challenge and change the harmful teachings and practices, no matter how ingrained, which justify discrimination against women. We ask, in particular, that leaders of all religions have the courage to acknowledge and emphasise the positive messages of dignity and equality that all the world's major faiths share.

Although not having training in religion or theology, I understand that the carefully selected verses found in the holy scriptures to justify the superiority of men owe more to time and place – and the determination of male leaders to hold onto their influence – than eternal truths. Similar Biblical excerpts could be found to support the approval of slavery and the timid acquiescence to oppressive rulers.


At the same time, I am also familiar with vivid descriptions in the same scriptures in which women are revered as pre-eminent leaders. During the years of the early Christian church women served as deacons, priests, bishops, apostles, teachers and prophets. It wasn't until the fourth century that dominant Christian leaders, all men, twisted and distorted holy scriptures to perpetuate their ascendant positions within the religious hierarchy.

I know, too, that Billy Graham, one of the most widely respected and revered Christians during my lifetime, did not understand why women were prevented from being priests and preachers. He said: "Women preach all over the world. It doesn't bother me from my study of the scriptures."

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.

Their continuing choice provides the foundation or justification for much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world. This is in clear violation not just of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but also the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, Moses and the prophets, Muhammad, and founders of other great religions – all of whom have called for proper and equitable treatment of all the children of God. It is time we had the courage to challenge these views.

• Jimmy Carter was US president from 1977-81. The Elders are an independent group of eminent global leaders, brought together by Nelson Mandela, who offer their influence and experience to support peace building, help address major causes of human suffering and promote the shared interests of humanity.

 

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In Light,

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What Motivates Me?

I admit I have, I have delved deeply into my comprehension of self in relation to the whole.  It has possessed me as much as any single question has been able to impress itself upon my brain cells.  This single question has gripped me for stretches of ten or more minutes and come up repeatedly in my urge for peace.

It seems to me that in my childhood I grasped a sense of the whole; it was a feeling that had no intellectual support.  And so I asked that age old question. Why?  Why does life look the way it does when everything in my heart tells me there is but one life.  The answers I got were weak even from a three year olds perspective but they always came with such authority there was no room left to explore.

It’s not that my parents were particularly authoritarian.  On the contrary, for their generation they were very open minded, I would never have become who I am if it hadn’t been for that openness.  They were just answering the subjective questions of a child objectively; they were addressing emotional queries empirically.  What I was looking for as a child were answers that addressed the stirrings of feeling in my heart.  I rarely got that, through no particular fault of anyone. As I said I was blessed with very open and inquisitive parents. They were still the product of their own parent’s persuasion.

So I forgot; I forgot my original perception that was based solely upon feelings and started to develop a style similar to my parents.   Slowly I began to understand their world; I saw the conflicts and witnessed first hand the challenges.  I came to know the fear of being alone, the need to be right and the importance of being successful.  I came to inherit the world view of my parents.

Slowly, by increments, the pattern seemed to shift.  I lost sight of the fields of energy that forever swirled around and played with me. I grew older and by those same tiny measures my world perception changed, completely, a hundred and eighty degrees.  I got lost in this outer world.  I became fascinated by shapes and sizes, by colours and smells; the things that caught the eyes of others became interesting to me.  I found myself constantly enamoured and ensnarled in the glittery little trinkets of the world around me, always seeking to possess them.

Eventually the toys of the world started to lose their allure.  I began to wonder why all things seemed to be accompanied by some form of pain and suffering, I became wary of the pain that would inevitably come with the prize and I found myself less and less interested.


It was during this time of fading interest, a time which spanned many years, I was subjected to experiences that circumscribed my worldly experiences.  From time to time I saw things and heard things that were not physically tangible.  I had experiences occur that redefined my environment and relationships far beyond the capacity of normal coincidence.  I was the recipient of miraculous turns of events.  Those were the turning points for me.  They were the cause of a gradual turning of perspective inward.  These occurrences happened occasionally and often with years between them.  Still those anomalies were there and they led me to ask again and rephrase my question.  Now instead of asking why the world view did not align with my feelings and inner knowing I started asking why my feelings and experiences did not align with my world view.  I began to seriously explore those spiritual and religious philosophies my parents had long before introduced me to; Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism, Native Pantheism and so many others. Each of them gave me a glimmering of the truth.  I learned ever so slowly that there was a love beyond my reckoning that was always with me.  Still I didn’t understand this Divine intervention thing that happened so profoundly once in a long while.  Why did it only happen sometimes, when I was really desperate? I didn’t understand.

More study; A Course In Miracles, animal totems, the I Am and eventually New Thought and the Science of Mind.  It all came together; I finally understood that love was, and is, all there was.  I finally came to understand that Love is the law that binds the universe, that love is all there is; absolutely malleable and absolutely binding.  I realized that while love is all there is, love is a feeling.  I got it, finally I got it.  And yet still it wasn’t sticking, I seemed to have that intellectual comprehension yet I had lost touch with the feeling.  I have travelled a hundred and eighty degrees.  And now the remainder of my life is dedicated to rediscovering that feeling I found so natural when I was a young child.  This is what being conscious co-creator is all about.  I am now co-authoring my life; and when something doesn’t work the way I would have liked I know how to change it.  

When something doesn’t work in another person’s life I know what they must do to change.  The feeling, remember the feeling …love.  What does love feel like in this moment?  How can I bring love to this situation?  Or as a wonderful friend of mine likes to say; “What would love do now? 

Through love I am rediscovering the child in me.

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Choosing Happiness

I have also met others who always lived on the edge of depression.  Even when things appeared to be good in their lives they seemed to be waiting with baited breath for that proverbial shoe to come down.I have often said that depression is the result of a sense of ‘entitlement’ compounded with a lack of gratitude.  This may be technically correct; still it doesn’t help the one who feels depression.  A depressed person is bound in a cage for which only they have the key.  They must unlock their own door, they must decide to come out and play.  It would seem to be more complicated.  But is it?There is a profound human tendency to complicate the simple by presuming that our past defines our future, our present and who we are.  Nothing could be further from the truth; unless, of course we think it to be so.  If we believe it then it becomes our truth not because our past has any more power. Rather because our belief and conviction the only power; they are all powerful in our lives.  So we have a hypothesis; and on the human level it must always be a hypothesis because we can’t empirically prove it, stating that all our reality is the reflection of our belief and conviction.  And its implications are far reaching and almost impossible to comprehend.  It means very simply how we look at a situation completely determines our relation to, and our experience garnered from it.  So if you are a sad person who has been verging on depression all your life you are likely to remain a sad and depressed person for most of the remainder of your life.  Unless, of course you choose to change your belief from I can’t to a willingness to do whatever it takes to make that change.  Anyone can do it just like anyone can quit smoking, drinking or binge eating; it just seems to be really unlikely.  It just looks like no matter what ‘anyone’ says, they lack the inner resolve.  It is easier to remain stuck in an old belief than to let it go and establish a new belief.  Besides; the panel of advisors within ‘anyone’s’ head can always give more reasons to discredit the power of belief and the genuine will to change.


So if you plan to increase your level of happiness you must first find within yourself the conviction, to do whatever it takes, cut your hair, get help, find genuinely happy people who will share their time and company with you and find out how they think.  And did I say you have to show up?  Yes in order to change a person must show up consistently no matter how much that committee of naysayers within seeks to find reasons for you not to show.  And don’t expect those inner voices to ever quit.  That’s just another strategy to drain you of your resolve to change.You must learn to appreciate the qualities you like in others rather than envying them, you must practice gratitude for even the smallest of victories you have made.  You must resoundingly refuse every urge to compare yourself with them or them with each other.  It is important to enter every encounter actively looking for the gifts they bring you in awakening to your inner joy.  Finally in order to live happiness you must look in the right place, you must look within.  Meditate.  Yes sit down, close your eyes, stop talking and start listening (and you will find lots to listen to in your head).  And as you listen or when the chatter stops, actively search for that little whisper of happiness within you.  If you search enough you will find it.  When you do find it just enjoy it, that infant feeling, seeking life in your recognition.  By enjoying the feeling we nurture it and it grows.Happiness is available to all.  In order to have it we must claim it; no one can give it to us, they don’t owe us.  In fact no one out there owes us a thing.  The only ‘thing’ we are owed we already have; life.  The source has given us as much life as any other has.  It is up to us to do with that life as we choose, first with our thinking and feelings, then with our actions.  We all have just as many minutes in a day to discover our greatness.  The only difference between you and any other person is how you use those minutes.Today you can choose to be happy; if you want.Namaste,
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