It’s the side of humanity that we pretend doesn’t exist, or we choose to ignore. In the 21st Century gender inequality, rape, and torture against women all over the world in the name of religion is largely unaddressed. At 89-years-old former President Jimmy Carter is working through political channels, with NPO’s to change inequality, and shows little signs of moving to a slow trot.
Last summer Carter called on scholars and religious leaders to meet and propose solutions regarding the abuse of women. His book A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power is a collaboration and reference guide from various religious leaders and human rights activists to find solutions on ending abuse, inequality, and murder worldwide.
Carter is poignant, and laughed off that he’s a trailblazer.
“There were a lot of people who came before me who championed human rights like Martin Luther King,” Carter said in his soft Georgia accent. “When I got to become President I made a short inaugural speech. I said that human rights would be at the foundation of our foreign policy, so we did some things that were unprecedented.”
Carter silently left the White House after losing to Ronald Regan in 1980, and has been anything, but quiet as he campaigns for women and human rights worldwide. He continues his work as a statesman at The Carter Center, which has monitored human right abuses, helped broker a cease-fire in Sudan and other conflict torn countries, monitored 96 elections in over 38 countries, and united NPO’s with governments of third world countries. The Plains, Georgia native has continued his work with Habitat for Humanity every year since 1984 with his wife Rosalynn.
Gender inequality has remained an issue in the church said Carter. Carter and Rosalynn left the Southern Baptist Convention over a decade ago when it was announced that women would not serve as deacons, pastors, or seen as equals. The couple joined Maranatha Baptist Church where the President teaches Sunday school.
“Many of the churches selectively choose one or two of the verses in the Bible and there 36,000 or so of them. And they carefully select the ones that ordain, or [how] women should be inferior to men in some way,” the Nobel Peace Prize laureate said.
“Some say women are inferior because Eve handed the apple to Adam or ridiculous things of that kind. Or they go back into the New Testament or Old Testament and get verses… that they shouldn’t speak in church or adorn themselves. But those are just lost in the shuffle as far as the overall concept of the Bible. As far Christianity is concerned, Jesus Christ never deviated in any possible way or [from] championing equal rights for women. When I get in a quandary about that I just try to see “What would Jesus do?”
Recently Carter worked to push legislation to remove the law that allows commanding officers extrajudicial authority over dispositions in rape prosecutions. It failed in the Senate by five votes. Over 700,000 girls are sold into sexual slavery with up to 300 girls in Atlanta are sold into slavery every month and rape on college campuses is another challenge for women in the US.
“We have a horrible situation in this country of rape on campuses,” he said. “Almost all college campuses, it doesn’t matter how distinguished the university is, the administrators of that university, the presidents, deans and so forth don’t want to have any allegations…of sexual assault so they minimized the number of rapes reported.”
Carter will turn 90 in the fall, and when asked if he was ready to give up the reins—the answer was quick.
“I make the basic decisions, my wife and I do, about what the Carter Center does. We have programs in about 80 countries in the world and we don’t want to see that all [flutter] away. We made careful preparations for The Carter Center to continue… I’m not planning on retiring anytime soon.”
Photo Credit right: Thomas S. England