Sunday, November 12, 2000
What took Jimmy Carter so long
to leave the SBC?
By Bob Foley
It took courage to do what President Jimmy
Carter and many others have already done leave the Southern
What took them so long?
For most of the 2,000 years of history since
the birth of our Lord, the Christian church has participated in
and supported the oppression of women.
I am amazed that given the knowledge revolution
of the last 600 years, anyone can still regard the Bible as the
dictated words of God, inerrant and eternal. These electronic
preachers of the Word offer their legions biblical
security, certainty in faith and even superiority in their sense
of salvation. In return, their supporters provide the evangelists
with a following that can be translated into political power and
enormous financial resources.
Yet, incredible though it is, the presentation
of this kind of biblical literalism continues to live today, being
regularly fed by the mass communications system called television.
That electronic power assures that religious
ignorance will continue to live for yet a while longer. Furthermore,
it guarantees that this level of ignorance will continue to define
many of the religious questions and the religious issues of our
time, to the ultimate loss of credibility for all religious systems.
One of the reasons President Carter left
the SBC was the inhumane treatment of women.
In separate ways, but with patriarchal consistency,
the various Christian leaders accepted a definition of women that
precluded the possibility that a woman could represent God at
The Apostle Paul drew in that same epistle
the conclusion that, therefore, the women should keep silent
in churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be
subordinate, as even the law says. If there is anything they (women)
desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is
shameful for a woman to speak in church (I Corinthians 14:34-35).
If this passage is taken literally, if the
Bible is regarded as the inerrant word of God, then
no woman can sing in a choir, participate in a liturgy, teach
Sunday school or be ordained as a pastor or priest. No woman I
know believes that today.
In 1991, the Vatican admitted to mistakes
in the Bible, one being that Galileo had been correct in proving
that the world was not flat, another that Copernicus proved that
the Earth revolves around the sun, not the sun around the Earth,
as Joshua thought. It would be quite difficult to order the sun
to stop in its journey across the sky.
Yet Joshua did precisely that, according
to the Bible, to enable Israel to win its battle before nightfall
Belief in the historic accuracy of these
texts no longer exists in academic circles, but still enjoys a
vigorous life in the pews of many of our churches.
How will the Church survive in this world
with that lack of scholarship among its leaders? A literalized
myth is a doomed myth. Its truth cannot be rescued. It is a belief
system built on ignorance.
Could it be that the Church, in its traditional
literalism, has been so wrong for so long?
Women are guilty if they feel desire; guilty
if they marry; guilty if they are not obedient to father, husband
or priest. For in this world, a male has always held the authority.
Even a convent that was under a mother superior had to answer
to a male bishop and a male warden, who guaranteed male control.
The Church, run by all-male hierarchy, has
spoken. Any attempt to challenge these assumptions or to suggest
some other possibilities are immediately condemned as a sin against
God, the Bible or the divine nature of creation. Any attempt to
open the ecclesiastical hierarchy to women is met by screams that
Gods will expressed through an unbroken, all-male
sacred tradition is being violated.
No wonder Jimmy Carter resigned. I wonder
how many more will follow suit.
Bob Foley of Abilene is a retired diving
coach at the University of Texas and New Mexico State University.
Reprinted from http://www.reporternews.com/2000/opinion/long1112.html