I tell my daughters all the time that they are just as good as everyone else and that they can be whoever or whatever they want to be. Isn’t that the mantra of all parents? To want the best for their children? But we all know that the statement is not completely true. It is full of ‘ifs’, contradictions and conditions. You can be what you want to be IF you do this… You are just as good BUT… Eventually our children, the same way as we did, will find out that real life and the way that they would have to navigate it is not always as simple.
Continuing on with my convoluted preamble…
Isn’t it a contradiction that when we try to teach our children to have faith in God, and to trust in his will, we are also teaching them to believe the interpretations religion preaches as to the treatment of women? That a woman must obey the man, that a woman is not as worthy as a man to serve in the church, that a woman must be long suffering. Are these lessons we really want our daughters to learn? When I was growing up, I stopped counting how many times I heard “It’s a woman’s lot”.
What does that mean exactly? Does it mean that we accept the unfairness? Does it mean that we should suffer through the betrayal? Should we then submit to the subjugation and resign ourselves to it? That it is just the way things are. That this is how it’s always been.
Should we pass on that type of thinking to our daughters? I don’t think so.
I’ve lost my religion a long time ago. I lost it because of the nagging feeling that I couldn’t put a definite finger on much less articulate. I just knew that organized religion was not for me even though I grew up going to Sunday school every week. As I grew older, I simply found less and less pleasure in church. When my parents divorced and heard murmurs about my mother going to hell for leaving her husband, I knew that could just not be true. And the God who loved all his children could not possibly want to harm any of them even when they made mistakes. Right?
Even as a child I could sense being manipulated and being subjected to scare tactics. I knew something has to be wrong with that kind of thinking. So when I was old enough I took God with me and left the church of men.
When ex-President Jimmy Carter declared that he’s lost his religion, he voiced one of the concerns that nagged me but couldn’t find the words for. I felt so connected, like someone finally said what I have been thinking. He declared:
Women and girls have been discriminated against for too long in a twisted interpretation of the word of God.
He continued on to say:
This view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or belief. Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths. Nor, tragically, does its influence stop at the walls of the church, mosque, synagogue or temple. This discrimination, unjustifiably attributed to a Higher Authority, has provided a reason or excuse for the deprivation of women’s equal rights across the world for centuries.
At its most repugnant, the belief that women must be subjugated to the wishes of men excuses slavery, violence, forced prostitution, genital mutilation and national laws that omit rape as a crime. But it also costs many millions of girls and women control over their own bodies and lives, and continues to deny them fair access to education, health, employment and influence within their own communities.
I have always admired the quiet strength and integrity of Jimmy Carter and with his recent move to renounce his lifelong membership in the Southern Baptist Convention, my esteem for him as a human being is further heightened. I can totally relate. He hasn’t given up on his faith in God; you can see that in the causes he espouses. His faith is probably stronger than ever because of this most recent move.
In his statement, he talks about the new group he is involved with called ‘the elders’. Their purpose:
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 the positive messages of dignity and equality that all the world’s major faiths share.
He says the same in the video below.
I am not saying that organized religion is wrong or that they are all the same; I won’t go as far to say that religion is the cause of most of the conflicts in the world today either. But I will say that religious fanaticism is a huge factor in the world’s conflicts. I like having my individual and private relationship with God. I think you can be a religious person without the walls of a church.
I think what is important is doing the right thing and treating all people equally with respect and without conditions. Any effort to improve the lot of any group cannot be a sin. I think our ex-president believes this too.