Thursday, September 7, 2017

Former President Jimmy Carter Speaks Out on Women, Religion, Violence, and Power

Jimmy Carter was born in Plains, Georgia, and served as thirty-ninth President of the United States. He and his wife, Rosalynn, founded The Carter Center, a nonprofit organization that prevents and resolves conflicts, enhances freedom and democracy, and improves health around the world. He is the author of numerous books, including Palestine Peace Not Apartheid, An Hour Before Daylight and Our Endangered Values. He received a "Best Spoken Word" Grammy Award for his recording of Our Endangered Values. 

In the highly acclaimed bestselling A Call to Action, President Jimmy Carter addresses the world’s most serious, pervasive, and ignored violation of basic human rights: the ongoing discrimination and violence against women and girls.
President Carter was encouraged to write this book by a wide coalition of leaders of all faiths. His urgent report covers a system of discrimination that extends to every nation. Women are deprived of equal opportunity in wealthier nations and “owned” by men in others, forced to suffer servitude, child marriage, and genital cutting. The most vulnerable and their children are trapped in war and violence.

A Call to Action addresses the suffering inflicted upon women by a false interpretation of carefully selected religious texts and a growing tolerance of violence and warfare. Key verses are often omitted or quoted out of context by male religious leaders to exalt the status of men and exclude women. And in nations that accept or even glorify violence, this perceived inequality becomes the basis for abuse. 

Carter draws upon his own experiences and the testimony of courageous women from all regions and all major religions to demonstrate that women around the world, more than half of all human beings, are being denied equal rights. This is an informed and passionate charge about a devastating effect on economic prosperity and unconscionable human suffering. It affects us all.


I bought this book for one primary reason... To verify that the United States had at least one president who tried to serve our country to the best of his ability...and to continue a life of service for people around the World that he had grown to care about...

We do not now have such a president as a majority of our country has noted again and again... The danger of this dramatic increase to incite violence, hatred, bigotry and prejudice, again, drew me to this book as Carter in his book shares not only his concern but actual statistics and factual information about how Women are now being seen/treated across the world.

Of particular interest was his personal story about religion and his ultimate decision, along with his wife, to leave the church he had been attending for years...

In his Introduction he began:

All the elements in this book concerning prejudice, discrimination, war, violence, distorted interpretations of religious texts, physical and mental abuse, poverty, and disease fall disproportionately on women and girls. 

I saw the ravages of racial prejudice as I grew up in the Deep South, when for a century the U.S. Supreme Court and all other political and social authorities accepted the premise that black people were, in some basic ways, inferior to white people. Even those in the dominant class who disagreed with this presumption remained relatively quiet and enjoyed the benefits of the prevailing system. Carefully selected Holy Scriptures were quoted to justify this discrimination in the 
name of God. 

There is a similar system of discrimination, extending far beyond a small geographical region to the entire globe; it touches every nation, perpetuating and expanding the trafficking in human slaves, body mutilation, and even legitimized murder on a massive scale. This system is based on the presumption that men and boys are superior to women and girls, and it is supported by some male religious leaders who distort the Holy Bible, the Koran, and other sacred texts to perpetuate their claim that females are, in some basic ways, inferior to them, unqualified to serve God on equal terms. Many men disagree but remain quiet in order to enjoy the benefits of their dominant status. This false premise provides a justification for sexual discrimination in almost every realm of secular and religious life. Some men even cite this premise to justify physical punishment of women and girls. Another factor contributing to the abuse of women and girls is an acceptance of violence, from unwarranted armed combat to excessive and biased punishment for those who violate the law. In too many cases, we use violence as a first rather than a last resort, so 
that even deadly violence has become commonplace. 

My own experiences and the testimony of courageous women from all regions and all major religions have made it clear to me that as a result of these two factors there is a pervasive denial of equal rights to women, more than half of all human beings, and this discrimination results in tangible harm to all of us, male and female. My wife, Rosalynn, and I have visited about 145 countries, and the nonprofit organization we founded, The Carter Center, has had active projects in more than half of them. We have had opportunities in recent years to interact directly among the people, often in remote villages in the jungles and deserts. We have learned a lot about their personal affairs, particularly that financial inequality has been growing more rapidly with each passing decade. This is true both between rich and poor countries and among citizens within them. In fact, the disparity in net worth and income in the United States has greatly increased since my time in the White House. 

By 2007 the income of the middle 60 percent of Americans had increased at a rate twice as high as that of the bottom 20 percent. And the rate of increase for the top 1 percent was over fifteen times higher, primarily because of the undue influence of wealthy people who invest in elections and later buy greater benefits for themselves in Washington and in state capitals. As the conservative columnist George Will writes, “Big government inevitably drives an upward distribution of wealth to those whose wealth, confidence and sophistication enable them to manipulate government.” Yet although economic disparity is a great and growing problem, I have become convinced that the most serious and unaddressed worldwide challenge is the deprivation and abuse of women and girls, largely caused by a false interpretation of carefully selected religious texts and a growing tolerance of violence and warfare, unfortunately following the example set during my lifetime by the United States. In addition to the unconscionable human suffering, almost embarrassing to acknowledge, there is a devastating effect on economic prosperity caused by the loss of contributions of at least half the human beings on earth. This is not just a women’s issue. It is not confined to the poorest countries. It affects us all. 

After focusing for a few years on the problem of gender discrimination through our human rights program at The Carter Center, I began to speak out more forcefully about it. Because of this, I was asked to address the Parliament of the World’s Religions, an audience of several thousand assembled in Australia in December 2009, about the vital role of religion in providing a foundation for countering the global scourge of gender abuse. My remarks represented the personal views of a Christian layman, a Bible teacher for more than seventy years, a former political leader. I reminded the audience that in dealing with each other, we are guided by international agreements as well as our own moral values, most often derived from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Bible, the Koran, and other cherished texts that proclaim a commitment to justice and mercy, equality of treatment between men and women, and a duty to alleviate suffering. 

However, some selected scriptures are interpreted, almost exclusively by powerful male leaders within the Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and other faiths, to proclaim the lower status of women and girls. This claim that women are inferior before God spreads to the secular world to justify gross and sustained acts of discrimination and violence against them. This includes unpunished rape and other sexual abuse, infanticide of newborn girls and abortion of female fetuses, a worldwide trafficking in women and girls, and so-called honor killings of innocent women who are raped, as well as the less violent but harmful practices of lower pay and fewer promotions for women and greater political advantages for men. 

I mentioned some notable achievements of women despite these handicaps and described struggles within my own religious faith. I called on believers, whether Protestant, Catholic, Coptic, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, or tribal, to study these violations of our basic moral values and to take corrective action... 

Interestingly, one woman, Angelina Jolie, took the route of creating a movie showing the sexual abuse of women during wars. I wanted to at least share the trailer for the movie, but found that most information has been taken off due to content... Isn't that the reality of it all...a movie that shows the reality of war is not allowed to be showed because of how horrendous the activities "in the movie" was...but we've done nothing much to speak out to stop these atrocities actually happening within any war zone...

Carter shares his personal experiences as he became aware of what was happening in the world. For instance, during the 1963 speech of Martin Luther King, he was struck by his son being in Vietnam, as King condemned the government for being the biggest purveyor of violence, noting that he had to condemn that before he could condemn the spreading violence in the ghetto... King went on to say that we could not look at freedom without the concurrent commitment to peace and non-violence.

Carter went on to tell of his realization that women, who were disproportionately affected, could not have equal rights without the recognition of how violence has placed women in that unequal position. Quoting Pope Francis in 2013: "Faith and violence are incompatible," Carter points out that violence may not be more than there was in the past, but the key thing is that we know better and globally, we have sought to improve human rights in every possible way.

Moving forward into the book, Carter covers Spousal Abuse, for instance, by noting that many men use Matthew 5:39 about turning the other cheek, by stating that Christian women are required to just take it... That is quickly turned into the third choice (taking it or returning the violence) by going to a women's shelter...

Why are we still failing? That's what I wanted to know...

This is not an easy book to read, especially for women. Men? Some will agree but will they have the strength of characters to speak out when misinformation about some religious practice is used to commit violence? There are many people and groups speaking out more and more, with specifics, such as those by Ritu Sharma, Cofounder and President, Women Thrive Worldwide, who openly states "There is no religion that despises women. Hatred cannot come from the Heart of God..."

There is no religion that despises women. Hatred cannot come from the heart of God. If there is hatred, its source is not the Creator. Only humans have the capacity to see and treat others as less than they truly are. It is our minds and hearts that must change to release women, girls, men, and boys from the bondage of gender-based limitations or violence. That change is happening, right now in this very moment, in thousands of homes, schools, synagogues, chapels, mosques, and centers of power around the world. That change is coming. Have faith. It will be here soon. 

There is much to learn in this book. The primary confirmation for me was that God, in no way, wants women or men to be objects of violence... and that anybody who uses religion to justify violence is doing it based upon his own will not God's!

Frankly that was worth reading the book for me; however, there is much more powerful material that needs to be read, some of it perhaps new to those men who are willing to listen and, then, be strong enough to speak out against what has and is happening to women, children, and men across the world.

Note that the United States is only 23rd in the world as a country who absolutely treats women and men with equal status... and that, further, they had improved and then dropped again. Violence has indeed increased and it's coming from all sectors of the United States as well as across the world... It is especially reprehensible to know that many use the Bible and other religious texts to justify the treatment of women, rather than to strive to understand what is actually being said...

In one way or another I have fought for betterment of the way women have been treated for all of my adult life...Admittedly it was my own personal battle in the professional arena mostly. Now, I can see what is happening across the nation and the world on a much broader scale. Reading this book has expanded greatly my base of knowledge and awareness...An important contribution of the book. This is highly recommended to women and men...Stop what has and is happening to women, children, and men around the world!


NOTE: I have included the book description and more than normal excerpts because of the diversity and complexity...and importance...of the material.

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