Saturday, August 31, 2013

Jimmy Carter: Christianity Mistreats Women as much as Islam

Former president Jimmy Carter equates Islam's oppression of women (which Muslims believe is sanctioned by Allah as declared by Muhammad's "revelations" and as manifested by Muhammad's example as "the most beautiful pattern of conduct") with the transfigured personhood revealed by Jesus Christ through the Christian faith.

This is exactly the sort of "religious equivalency fallacy" and Western self-loathing of its Christian foundations that must be refuted as ably as possible. I'll intersperse my comments with the below article.

Jimmy Carter: Women's Plight Perpetuated By World Religions
By Bill Barrow - Huffington Post - 06/28/13

ATLANTA — Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter says religious leaders, including those in Christianity and Islam, share the blame for mistreatment of women across the world. 

The human rights activist said Friday religious authorities perpetuate misguided doctrines of male superiority, from the Catholic Church forbidding women from becoming priests to some African cultures mutilating the genitals of young girls.

[Right from the beginning we see deliberate misdirection and false equivalency by Mr. Carter. Taking the second one first: Although there certainly are "some African cultures" guilty of FGM (female genital mutilation, also called Female Genital Cutting, FGC), FGM is actually a pervasive phenomenon within the Muslim world, and is fully supported in traditional Islamic jurisprudence. Here is a good primer on FGM, and how it is on the rise in the U.S.

Regarding the Catholic Church "forbidding women from becoming priests," we see in the juxtaposition of this "issue" with the Muslim practice of genital mutilation of infant girls the confused and deceiving spirit of our age.  

FGM often causes toxic shock, infection and death, though if those poor little girls survive having their clitoris cut out, they are likely to suffer severe psychological trauma, pain, difficulty and complication in consummating their marriage, and increased risks when giving birth. But the notion that this is somehow equivalent to "forbidding" a woman from becoming a priest is one of the parlor tricks of the militant left, which never ceases to try to take down traditional Christianity.

As I am capable of only the most feeble Orthodox response on the “issue” of “forbidding women to become priests,” I will simply provide here an excerpt from an essay on the subject by Fr Alexander Schmemann, the full text of which is most highly recommended.]

The debate on women's ordination reveals something which we have suspected for a long time but which now is confirmed beyond any doubt: the total truly built-in indifference of the Christian West to anything beyond the sphere of its own problematics, of its own experience. I can only repeat here what I have said before: even the so-called "ecumenical movement," notwithstanding its claims to the contrary, has always been, and still is, a purely Western phenomenon, based on Western presuppositions and determined by a specifically Western agenda...  
The Christian West is almost obsessed with a guilt complex and enjoys nothing better than self-criticism and self condemnation. It is rather a total inability to transcend itself, to accept the simple idea that its own experience, problems, thought forms and priorities may not be universal, that they themselves may need to be evaluated and judged in the light of a truly universal, truly "Catholic" experience. Western Christians would almost enthusiastically judge and condemn themselves, but on their own terms, within their own hopelessly "Western" perspective. Thus when they decide -- on the basis of their own possibly limited and fragmented, specifically Western, "cultural situation" -- that they must "repair" injustices made to women, they plan to do it immediately without even asking what the "others" may think about it, and are sincerely amazed and even saddened by lack, on the part of these "others" of ecumenical spirit, sympathy and comprehension. 
Personally, I have often enough criticized the historical limitations of the Orthodox mentality not to have the right to say in all sincerity that to me the debate on women's ordination seems to be provincial, deeply marked, and even determined by Western self-centeredness and self-sufficiency, by a naive, almost childish, conviction that every "trend" in the Western culture justifies a radical rethinking of the entire Christian tradition. How many such "trends" we have witnessed during the last decades of our troubled century! How many corresponding "theologies"! The difference this time, however, is that one deals in this particular debate not with a passing intellectual and academic "fad" like "death of God," "secular city," "celebration of life," etc.-- which, after it has produced a couple of ephemeral best-sellers, simply disappears, but with the threat of an irreversible and irreparable act which, if it becomes reality, will produce a new, and this time, I am convinced, final division among Christians, and will signify, at least for the Orthodox, the end of all dialogues.
[Fr Schmemann wrote this several decades ago. Of course now, there have multiplied numerous “irreversible and irreparable acts”  going way beyond ordination of women yet stemming from the same proud, satanic assault on the unchanging Orthodox Catholic Faith — same-sex marriage, ordination of unrepentant homosexuals, polyamorous marriage, abortion, euthanasia, etc. — all of which immediately cut off from any semblance of Christian faith the advocates and practitioners of such blasphemous and repulsive, sinful deeds. We have now reached “the end of all dialogues.” 

Now it is only ours to confess and witness to the True Faith. To all who wish to know Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit and inherit eternal life, we simply say, “Come.”  “The Spirit and the Bride say ‘Come’.”  But the invitation to “Come” presumes and contains the call to “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Fr. Schmemann continues . . .]

It is well known that the advocates of women's ordination explain the Scriptural and the traditional exclusion of women from ministry by "cultural conditioning." If Christ did not include women into the Twelve, if the Church for centuries did not include them into priesthood, it is because of "culture" which would have made it impossible and unthinkable then...  What is truly amazing is that while absolutely convinced that they understand past "cultures," the advocates of women's ordination seem to be totally unaware of their own cultural "conditioning" of their own surrender to culture... 
The sad truth is that the very idea of women's ordination is the result of too many confusions and reductions. If its root is surrender to "culture", its pattern of development is shaped by a surrender to "clericalism." It is indeed almost entirely dominated by the old "clerical" view of the Church and the double "reduction" interest in it. The reduction on the one hand, of the Church to a "power structure," the reduction on the other hand, of that power structure to clergy. To the alleged "inferiority" of women within the secular power structure, corresponds their "inferiority," i.e., their exclusion from clergy, within the ecclesiastical power structure. To their "liberation" in the secular society must therefore correspond their "liberation," i.e., ordination, in the Church... 
I can confess that the non-ordination of women to priesthood has nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with whatever "inferiority" we can invent or imagine. In the essential reality which alone constitutes the content of our faith and shapes the entire life of the Church, in the reality of the Kingdom of God which is perfect communion, perfect knowledge, perfect love, and ultimately the "deification" of man, there is truly "neither male nor female." More than that, in this reality, of which we are made partakers here and now, we all, men and women, without any distinction, are "Kings and priests," for it is the essential priesthood of the human nature and vocation that Christ has restored to us. 
It is of this priestly life, it is of this ultimate reality, that the Church is both gift and acceptance. And that she may be this, that she may always and everywhere be the gift of the Spirit without any measure or limitations, the Son of God offered himself in a unique sacrifice, and made this unique sacrifice and this unique priesthood the very foundation, indeed the very "form" of the Church. 
This priesthood is Christ's, not ours. None of us, man or woman, has any "right" to it; it is emphatically not one of human vocations, analogous, even if superior, to all others. The priest in the Church is not "another" priest, and the sacrifice he offers is not "another" sacrifice. It is forever and only Christ's priesthood and Christ's sacrifice -- for, in the words of our Prayers of Offertory, it is "Thou who offerest and Thou who art offered, it is Thou who receivest and Thou who distributest...." And thus the "institutional" priest in the Church has no "ontology" of his own. It exists only to make Christ himself present, to make this unique Priesthood and this unique Sacrifice the source of the Church's life and the "acquisition" by men of the Holy Spirit. And if the bearer, the icon and the fulfiller of that unique priesthood, is man and not woman, it is because Christ is man and not woman... 
Why? This of course is the only important, the only relevant question. The one precisely that no "culture," no "sociology," no "history," and even no "exegesis" can answer. For it can be answered only by theology in the primordial and essential meaning of that word in the Church; as the contemplation and vision of the Truth itself, as communion with the uncreated Divine Light. It is only here, in this purified and restored vision that we might begin to understand why the ineffable mystery of the relationship between God and His Creation, between God and His chosen people, between God and His Church, are "essentially" revealed to us as a nuptial mystery, as fulfillment of a mystical marriage. Why in other terms, Creation itself, the Church herself, man and the world themselves, when contemplated in their ultimate truth and destiny, are revealed to us as Bride, as Woman clothed in sun; why in the very depth of her love and knowledge, of her joy and communion, the Church identifies herself with one Woman, whom she exalts as "more honorable than the Cherubim, and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim." 
Is it this mystery that has to be "understood" by means of our broken and fallen world, which knows and experiences itself only in its brokenness and fragmentation, its tensions and dichotomies and which, as such, is incapable of the ultimate vision? Or is it this vision and this unique experience that must again become to us the "means" of our understanding of the world, the starting point and the very possibility of a truly Divine victory over all that in this world is but human, historical and cultural?
[Thus Mr. Carter, in his choice of words concerning the “forbidding of women to become priests,” and in his equating this pseudo-abuse with the heinous atrocities of Islam, actually does nothing to advance the “Divine victory” over all that is fallen, but merely reveals his own enslavement to the worldview and mentality of our broken and fallen world.]

Carter said the doctrines, which he described as theologically indefensible, contribute to a political, social and economic structure where political leaders passively accept violence against women, a worldwide sex slave trade and inequality in the workplace and classroom. 

[And here again, it is precisely in Islam that we see violence against women (childhood marriage, wife beating, sex trade, enforced inequality, and literally throwing acid in the face of girls trying to go to school.]

"There is a great aversion among men leaders and some women leaders to admit that this is something that exists, that it's serious and that it's it troubling and should be addressed courageously," Carter said at an international conference on women and religion. 

The 39th president is hosting representatives from 15 countries at The Carter Center, the human rights organization he launched in 1982 after leaving the White House.

The Mobilizing Faith for Women event emphasizes to world leaders that religious institutions can be forces for equality, he said. 

Nations represented at the Carter conference include Afghanistan, Botswana, Egypt, Iraq, Malaysia, Nigeria, Senegal and the Sudan. Carter mentioned widespread oppression in many of nations where iterations of Islam dominate, but also had criticism for the developed Western world where Christianity is the strongest cultural influence. 

A common thread, he said, are "gross abuses of religious texts in the Koran and in the Bible, Old Testament and New Testament. Singular verses can be extracted and extorted to assert the singular dominance of men." 

[And the religious equivalency alarm klaxons go off yet again.  The relentless self-loathing of Western Christians always results in condemnation of the Scriptures and their being equated with the book of hate, violence and tyranny, the Koran. The difference could not be more pronounced. Because the Koran is held by Muslims to be the literal words of Allah, therefore “interpreting” the Koran is blasphemy, and the verses denigrating women are thus explicit and irreversible, in force for all time.  A faithful Muslim may have four wives, plus sex slaves, and may beat them all to keep discipline in the house.  Whereas a Christian would have to cease to be a Christian in order to distort and apply the Scriptures in a way that demeans women.]

Referring to the Christian apostle Paul, credited with writing much of the New Testament outside the gospels, he said, "Paul said there is no difference between Jews and Gentiles, slaves or masters, man or woman." 

The former president noted that the early Christian Church included leaders of both sexes. It wasn't until a few centuries after Jesus Christ's time on earth, he said, that leaders of what would become the Roman Catholic Church established the exclusively male priesthood. Catholic doctrine justifies the practice by noting that Jesus, according to gospel texts, named only men among his apostles.

[Obviously Mr. Carter either knows nothing of early Church history, or is deliberately misrepresenting it.  The ecclesiastical structure of bishop, presbyter, deacon is traced all the way back to the New Testament writings and late first century Christian authors. Yes, there were women “leaders” (including the role of deaconess) in the early Church, just as there are today, but the specific ordained offices of the priesthood were always, after the example of Christ and the twelve apostles, held by men only.]

Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, were once members of the Southern Baptist Church. The couple recently disassociated from Southern Baptists, citing its prohibition on ordaining women or allowing them to serve as deacons or other leadership posts in local congregations.

[The Carters clearly think nothing of adding yet one more fragmented, renegade body to the 41,000 Protestant denominations.  This is the “way” of the “banquet style” Christianity of Protestantism: if you don’t like your church, vote with your feet, go down the street; or better still, start an entirely new 'church' which believes as you do — That way you’re sure to be right!]

Their independent Baptist church has a woman pastor and a man pastor and divides six deaconships equally between men and women, Carter said. "My wife is probably the most famous Baptist deacon in the world."

He noted that women in Saudi Arabia can't drive or vote. Girls in some cultures are forced to marry before they are 10 years old [again, we have to say it, these are predominantly Islamic practices] and women in the United States, he said, are paid about 70 percent of what men earn for the same work. Across the world, he said, prosecutions for rape are either rare or too often become a referendum on the victim.

[The double victimhood of rape is another predominantly Islamic plague. As specified in Islamic source texts, a woman cannot press charges of rape unless she has four male witnesses. In most cases of a Muslim woman claiming rape, the victim is charged with adultery under Islamic law, and in countries such as Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia may be stoned to death.

Regarding general inequality, Islam explicitly teaches that a woman’s testimony is worth half that of a man’s, and that a woman may inherit only half the share that a man may inherit.

Since Islam is based on Muhammad, who, according to Islamic source texts, either was married to or had sexual relations with over sixty women, many kept as sex-slave concubines, and many of the "revelations" in the Koran were produced to enable Muhammad's sexual predation, Islam is therefore severely warped and misogynistic at its core. I discuss many of these aspects at length in my book, FACING ISLAM.]

"The point is that the voices demanding these circumstances change are few and far between," Carter said.