Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Carter on Christianity

Crazy what can happen while you're away on business.

Walter Cronkite passed to the Great Newsroom in the Sky on Friday. He was not a ground-breaker the way that Murrow was, and he perpetuated the myth of media objectivity, but he was about as good as his school of journalism gets, and I don't think we'll see his like again any time soon (if for no other reason than that TV news has suffered a severe butterslide of credibility from which it will be tough to recover.)

Not sure why, but I especially like this item from the Times obit:

When he was 16, Mr. Cronkite went with friends to Chicago for the 1933 World’s Fair. He volunteered to help demonstrate an experimental version of television.

“I could honestly say to all of my colleagues, ‘I was in television long before you were,’ ” he said in an interview with CBS News in 1996.

It was poignant to me how close Cronkite's death was to yesterday's 40th anniversary of the moon landing. It still makes me kind of giddy to think of him getting overwhelmed by the immensity of that achievement: this most articulate journalist blown away by the event to the point where he was "Oh jeez! Oh boy!" about it.

But I just found out about something that happened earlier last week that didn't get nearly as much attention. Jimmy Carter (remember him? President of the U.S. for a while?) separated himself from the Southern Baptist Convention because of its reaffirmation that women must be treated like second-class citizens.

A few excerpts from his statement:

I have been a practising Christian all my life and a deacon and Bible teacher for many years. My faith is a source of strength and comfort to me, as religious beliefs are to hundreds of millions of people around the world.

So my decision to sever my ties with the Southern Baptist Convention, after six decades, was painful and difficult. It was, however, an unavoidable decision 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. This was in conflict with my belief - confirmed in the holy scriptures - that we are all equal in the eyes of God.

This view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or belief. It is widespread. Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths...

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...

The truth is that male religious leaders have had - and still have - an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter...

I don't often praise politicians (although I suppose that Carter could more fairly be described as a former politician) but I gotta give credit where it's due: thanks, President Carter. Hope people listen.

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