I <3 Jimmy Carter

Wednesday, July 22, 2009
I've long been an admirer of former President Jimmy Carter. While I think he was singularly ineffective as the leader of the free world, I believe him to be the best former president we've ever had.

He's had a few missteps, but his reputation as a man of impeccable integrity, intelligence and generosity has led to his participation in events that have changed the course of communities and nations. He's made a real difference to many, many people, and stands in my mind as one of the true moral leaders of our country.

He's also a member of a group called The Elders. The brainchild of Nelson Mandela, their ranks include Kofi Annan, Ela Bhatt, Lakhdar Brahimi, Gro Brundtland, Fernando H. Cardoso, Jimmy Carter, Garca Machel, Mary Robinson, Desmond Tutu and Muhammad Yunus. Their mission:
The Elders are an independent group of eminent global leaders, brought together by Nelson Mandela, who offer their collective influence and experience to support peace building, help address major causes of human suffering and promote the shared interests of humanity.
As part of their mission, The Elders have recently called for an end to discrimination against women on the basis of religion. As part of that call to action, Jimmy Carter wrote an article for The Guardian. In it, he severed his ties with the Southern Baptist Convention because his continued support of the organization would indicate an approval of gender discrimination on the basis of religion.

To me, this is simply stunning. Jimmy Carter is a man of profound faith, one who has spent his entire life self-identifying as an obedient Christian. Yet here he is, severing his relationship with the earthly organization he's identified with for 60 years because he feels their interpretation of the scripture is immoral.

I know there are many feminists out there who view Mr. Carter's announcement with rolled eyes and a proclamation of "duh!" The revelation that religion oppresses women is not new, they say - you're only just now coming to this conclusion?

To them I say - quit being bitchy, because it's preventing you from getting the point.

This man has spent his entire life in service - to his God, to his country, to his fellow man. During that time, he has seen the fall of Jim Crow, the spread of Democracy, the evolution of human rights. He's contributed to those events in a positive way, and now, in the last part of his life, he's discovered something new - that religion doesn't have to be a yoke around your neck, forcing you to passively condone immoral policies on the basis of some institution's interpretation of the Bible. He's learned you can retain your faith and your integrity, and he's not afraid to publicly share his new learning with the world in a way that may lead to change.

Jimmy Carter is demonstrating leadership. He's proving that individuals don't have to be "products of their generation," they can learn, and grow, and recognize that part of being a well-rounded and moral individual is examining your assumptions and your values for hypocrisy. He's hitting this ideal out of the park, and gives me something to aspire to.

Thank you, Mr. Carter.

7 comments:

Steve Buchheit said...

To be fair, President Carter started severing his ties with the Southern Baptist Church since they made the ruling that scriptures can only be interpreted by the leadership. He felt this was a reversal of basic Protestant tenements (that between a person and their God there are no middle-men). I believe he resigned from a control body of the Church at the time.

Wendy said...

Me too.

This is why I worked on his presidential campaign in 1976 then stood on 2 feet of packed snow and froze my ass off one very cold January morning in 1977 to see him sworn in as President. Simply put, the gentleman thinks for himself.

And can you imagine being in the room with all that brain power?? Swoon!! Too bad The Elders don't get the attention they so richly deserve. The world might learn something from them.

WendyB_09

Nathan said...

I've always admired Jimmy Carter. There's no question his Presidency was more or less a failure, but that was as much a product of circumstances when he took office as his own political naivete. His heart was always in the right place, and since leaving office (and having no-one to answer to), he's been very impressive.

neurondoc said...

I met him once. I was in a college class with Amy Carter, and we were somewhat friendly. When her father visited the campus to give a lecture, I bumped into them, and she introduced us. I was tongue-tied and didn't say much, unfortunately.

The Mechanicky Gal said...

BRA-VO.

Jerry Critter said...

Well said!

We would be much better country if we had more leaders with the integrity and morality of Jimmy Carter.

Jim Wright said...

Damn, too busy and missed this post too. Well said, Janiece, and let me add well done Mr. Carter.