Let's say that you were once President of the United States, and during your presidency you had, at best, a checkered record when it came to denouncing inhumane dictatorships and standing up to tyrannical regimes.
Let's say that in the years following your exit from the White House, you built a dubious—nay, embarrassing—resumé filled with steady, overt pandering to the same or similar dictatorships and regimes. A list of leaders courted and countries defended include Castro and Cuba, China ("It's Wrong to Demonize China"), Tito ("a man who believes in human rights"), Kim Il Sung, Yasser Arafat and the PLO, Mengistu, Cédras, Assad, and, most recently, Hamas. The naivety you display about such men and regimes is so breathtaking that Casto's own daughter, Alina Fernandez, offers a public smack down.
Let's say that in addition to this troubling track record, you also offer a steady stream of criticism—much of it outlandish, unsubstantiated, and self-serving—aimed at your own country, a rather unprecedented and sorry thing to do as a former President.
And, finally, let's say you, after spending most of your public career describing yourself as a "born again Christian" and making much of your love of Jesus and the Bible, decide to write a pompous, self-righteous, historically-illiterate, theologically-ignorant piece, "The words of God do not justify cruelty to women," which states, in part:
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 [sic] 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.
If you did all of these things, and never blinked an eye about your incredibly obvious hypocrisy—praising and supporting murderous dictators and tyrants while condemning traditional Christian theology as the basis for "much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world"—your name is Jimmy Carter.
In all honesty, I wouldn't bother with all of the political stuff (as important as it is), except there is something deeply disturbing about a man of such importance and influence being so willing to verbally aid and abet thugs while trashing the motives and character of those who believe, as Catholics do, that only certain men are chosen by God to be priests. It's truly repulsive, intimating that women not being able to be Catholic (or Orthodox) priests is the same as beating, raping, torturing, and even killing women. I have long found Carter to hold views and say things that are deeply revolting (both morally and intellectually), but this tops it all. And since when did Billy Graham—a nice man but hardly a theological heavyweight—become the in-house theologian for the Magisterium of Jimmy Carter? The level of sheer arrogance in Carter's statement is mind-boggling.
An irony, of course, is that Carter is simply engaging in a crude form of sola scriptura, albeit one that is not fundamentalist Protestant in nature, but openly fundamentalist secularist. But Carter also resorts to the sort of unsubstantiated falsehoods (well, of course, since falsehoods cannot be substantiated!) that make both theologians and historians tear at their hair, as there were no female priests, bishops, or apostles in the early Church. But this form of argumentation is hardly new for Carter, who seems to enjoy misrepresenting the beliefs, motives, and actions of "conservative" Christians. One more quick example is found in part of a post I wrote in December of last year:
Given Carter's record of coddling the Castros and Kim Il Sungs of the world—men who treat their fellow humans like dirt, or worse—its hard to take the man seriously when he starts pontificating on the morality or immorality of Church doctrine, especially when it is obvious the man is incapable of addressing the actual doctrine in question. Carter would do well to speak with such righteous indignation against his tryannical buddies and despotic pals. After all, I don't think Billy Graham, one of the most widely respected and
revered Christians during my lifetime, is much of a supporter of communist killers and suicide bombers.
• UPDATE: A related story, "Evangelical Leaders Rebuke Carter for 'Reckless' Discrimination Claims", from The Christian Post (July 26, 2009).