Former President Jimmy Carter has declared in an article called “Losing My Religion for Equality” that a group of men called The Elders have determined that women are misused and abused due to tradition and religious viewpoints:
"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 emphasize the positive messages of dignity and equality that all the world's major faiths share.
In order not to confuse religion with faith, let’s clarify that neither Jimmy Carter nor any other person is being asked to disavow his or her faith in God in whichever name one knows Him. Religion is, after all, man’s view of God. Faith is a gift from God that allows us to believe in that which is not seen.
The subject of woman’s image in the eyes of man has taken many convoluted turns throughout the centuries. Only literature, and now other forms of entertainment, can give us an accurate measure of how women are or have been perceived. Literature, especially the Bible, has been instrumental in forging the foundation of men’s opinions about woman’s place in life. One work that had such a strong influence was Dante’s Inferno. Even the Church itself could not have prevented such lively and ingenious images from becoming part of man’s concept of woman and of her place in causing so much sorrow. But not many people read Dante today, so why are the concepts so prevalent?
Ian Fleming wrote some spy thriller books back in the 50s which became movies in the early 60s. About the only name more familiar than James Bond is John Wayne. John Wayne was sure to treat a woman with respect, but the James Bond woman played only an ancillary part to preen the male ego and purpose. Death for a James Bond woman provides realistic, if merely collateral, damage. The same is true in a later movie called The Bourne Supremacy. About the only movie that shows respect between a woman and a man in modern times is the new Walt Disney movie UP.
Most people today who have the luxury of belief, faith, and any concept of a higher power have heard of the Christ. The story of His life and the repetition of the things He said have been the basis for many of the traditions that men have created concerning their place in the world and its order. Two important stories from His life are quite often ignored. During the lifetime of Jesus Christ, the people of Samaria were considered less than illegal aliens and squatters upon the land of Jacob. No Jewish man would even speak to a Samaritan, much less a woman of Samaria. But Christ did. He first revealed Himself to the Gentiles through a woman. He flat out told her that he was the Christ for whom they watched. Oh, the men of the village came to see Him because of her report, but they were quick to tell her that they believed because of HIM, not because of her part in the revelation. They missed the point. HE had shown her respect.
Finally, the woman who loved Jesus was the first to see Him after He arose from the tomb. And it was the women who went by themselves to wrap in spices the body they expected to find in the tomb. No man went with them to help in any way. The women served Him to the bitter end. And it was their voices which brought the good news of His resurrection.
Oh, no one has to believe in one man’s version of the creation or the names of a creator if that belief can be avoided, but we are all the result of an ongoing process of becoming something other than individuals or egos. We share this planet and its destiny. The final result for all lives can be much more than ideas, beliefs, and determinations if we treat each other with dignity and respect.