President Carter & The Fight for Women’s Rights

By Kristen Johnson

I grew up in the Reagan years, so my memories of the Carter Administration are basically non-existent. I was alive when he was President, but too little to remember. However, after reading his book I am most definitely his biggest fan and I think he’s the best President we’ve ever had. Perhaps his Administration wasn’t the most effective (always subject to historical opinion), but he is definitely the most “Christian” President we’ve ever had and he has spent his many decades after his Presidency serving the world, and by doing so, serving Jesus.

A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power by President Jimmy Carter, is exactly a call to action for all of us to empower women around the globe. This fabulously comprehensive book details the discrimination, lack of equal opportunity, and outright abuse and suffering of women worldwide. Get ready to be shocked, because the U.S. government is a big part of the problem, and as usual, I find it embarrassing to be an American at times (and this is one of those times).

The work that the Carter Center is doing (and has done for several decades) on behalf of women around the globe is truly inspiring. I can’t wait to sign up to be a supporter of this truly amazing organization and to participate in whatever ways I can possible. What is extra amazing is that President Carter is a committed Baptist and he insists on working through his lens of Christianity, while insisting on the human rights of every human being regardless of their religious beliefs. Reading about how he incorporates his faith in his work, while still valuing the beliefs of all the other religions gave me goosebumps. I was particularly impressed when I read that he essentially “dumped” his Baptist denomination a few years ago because of their views on women in the pulpit! Considering his commitment to the denomination for 70+ years, that is certainly saying something about his absolute commitment to women’s rights! He doesn’t just preach it – he lives it.

I was particularly impressed by President Carter’s detailed discussion of Holy Scriptures from all the major religions, including my own. Of course, Christians worldwide continue to distort Holy Scriptures to infringe on the rights of women, and they do it in my own country on a wide and disgusting scale. Sadly, politicians point the finger at radical Muslims for their treatment of women, but they aren’t “doing it” any better here. Interestingly, President Carter feels that all the major religions have Holy Scriptures which clearly point to equality of the sexes, but it is culture and tradition that distort the message (my own culture being no exception). The discussion in the book on this subject is both fascinating and educational and I couldn’t put it down!

The book also goes into great detail about the work of the Carter Center on issues around the globe such as domestic violence, genital cutting, slavery and prostitution, femicide, maternal health, and equality for all. Many things I knew about from previous reading, but I learned a great deal of new things on a wide variety of feminist subjects. Clearly, there is a great deal of work to be done on behalf of women and girls worldwide, but the progress of the past decades is not to be dismissed. Unfortunately, my own government is complicit in causing many of the problems throughout the world because they support oppressive regimes and refuse to participate in family planning efforts and other maternal health issues because of the abortion issue. However, as usual, these majority male politicians are the biggest hypocrites of all. They insist on “saving babies” but will do nothing to alleviate their poverty and suffering once they are born. If you claim to be “pro-life” then you need to be “pro-social-services” or you’re not saving lives.

The book is beautifully written, incredibly educational, and utterly inspiring. I believe it should be required reading for all Americans, particularly Christians in America. In particular, it should be required reading for politicians who claim to be Christians. I’m a big, big fan of President Carter and, frankly, I wish we could dump the current Administration in favor of a new Carter Administration!

Thank you to President Carter and the Carter Center for inspiring me and educating me on a great many women’s issues throughout the world. I admire your work and I hope to continue to support it for many years in the future.

John 16:33 (NRSV):  I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!”

Serve all with love.

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