Friday, August 28, 2009

Another Sign of Extremism: Jimmy Carter Leaves Church

[Former President Jimmy Carter is yet another Protestant abandoning the conservative Southern Baptists for a more liberal version of his own interpretation of Christianity. Essentially he is going from one extreme to another, but this extremism is exactly the type of spiritual confusion that is going on in America these days. It seems we have gone from Modernism to Postmodernism and now into Extremism. - J.S.]

Jimmy Carter Leaves Church

by Tommi Avicolli
Aug. 24‚ 2009
Beyond Chron

Former President Jimmy Carter has left the Southern Baptist Convention, a religion he belonged to for 60 years. Carter’s departure came as a result of his growing frustration over the Protestant denomination’s unbending sexism towards women and girls, according to an op-ed the former deacon and Bible teacher recently penned.

“It was, however, an unavoidable decision,” Carter wrote, “when the convention's leaders, quoting a few carefully selected Bible verses and claiming that Eve was created second to Adam and was responsible for original sin, ordained that women must be "subservient" to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service.”

It’s not the first time Carter has spoken out against the Christian right and its idiocy. In an interview with the gay publication, The Advocate, in 2006, Carter said: “The fundamentalists in religious circles believe that they have a unique relationship with God; therefore their beliefs are absolutely right, and anyone who disagrees with any aspect of their beliefs is wrong and inherently inferior.”

A couple weeks after resigning from Southern Baptist Convention, Carter gave a half-hour speech before the New Baptist Covenant, a more moderate religious group he helped found. At the gathering in Norman, Oklahoma recently, Carter posed a series of questions for the 1,000 people who came to hear him speak.

“How many of you believe women should serve as deacons, pastors and military chaplains or do you believe women are supposed to be submissive to their husbands and not allowed to be leaders and teachers of men?” he asked. “How many of you believe homosexual Christians should be treated with respect and accepted into our congregations or that the sin of homosexuality is paramount above all other sins and warrants their complete exclusion?”

Carter complained that the fighting within Christian denominations over such hot-button issues as homosexuality, abortion and the equality of women is “like a cancer that is metastasizing in the body of Christ.” He says he wants to unite Christians of all races and ideologies.

It’s no easy task.

Especially if Carter wants to unite them around a social and economic justice agenda. Christianity does not have a history of promoting human rights or economic justice for all. The Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S. with over 16 million members nationwide, actually broke off from the northern group in 1845 because of its (the southern convention’s) support for slavery and white supremacy.

It wasn’t until 1995 that the denomination officially repented for its racist history. Imagine how long it will take for the church to denounce its sexist and homophobic actions and beliefs? Not to mention its current opposition to single-payer healthcare.

Carter and his supporters have their work cut out for them.

Tommi Avicolli Mecca is co-editor of "Avanti Popolo: Italians Sailing Beyond Columbus", and editor of "Smash the Church, Smash the State: The Early Years of Gay Liberation", which has just been nominated for an American Library Association award. His website is
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