Sunday, July 12, 2009
Male leaders twist texts to subjugate women
Jimmy Carter, in The Guardian: I have been a practicing Christian all my life... My faith is a source of strength and comfort to me... 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... 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... 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 their 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...
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. The truth is that male religious leaders have had -- and still have -- an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or to subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter.