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Susan Campbell: Jimmy Carter Knows That Women Are More Than Just Help-Meets

Today's post is from Susan Campbell, author of Dating Jesus: A Story of Fundamentalism, Feminism, and the American Girl. Campbell's writing has been recognized by the American Association of Sunday and Features Editors; National Women's Political Caucus; the Sunday Magazine Editors Association, and the Connecticut chapter of Society of Professional Journalists. She was also a member of the Hartford Courant's 1999 Pulitzer Prize-winning team for breaking news. Be sure to check out her Dating Jesus blog.

Dating Jesus: link to Beacon Press page for the bookI want to take a moment-- belatedly so-- to thank Bro. Jimmy Carter.

Let me first say that former Pres. Carter is not of my particular theological tribe. I was raised non-denominational/ fundamentalist Christian, while Carter is maybe the world's most famous Southern Baptist Sunday school teacher Growing up, we thought Southern Baptists were in gross scriptural error-- but then, we thought everyone else was, too. I have since come to understand that we were wrong on that and on several other matters of faith, including our view of the role of women in society. In my church-- and in Carter's-- women were told to keep silent. They could and can hold no positions of authority (lest they usurp authority over a man), and their highest calling was/is to be someone's submissive partner. My highest calling at my church was to be what we called "help-meets."

Please don't tell me this is God's plan. There is no good reason-- scriptural or otherwise-- to assign to more than half the population the role of "help-meet." Do men really need that much help?

Enter Bro. Carter, who-- love or hate his politics-- continues to strike a blow for a reasoned approach to the holy text.

As part of an international group of men and women leaders known as The Elders, last month Carter wrote an essay that included this: " 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."

In rebuttal, certain highly-placed Baptists sniffed that the Bible does, indeed, assign different roles to women, and anyone who believes differently is outside the grace of God.

But haters? Not to get all scriptural on you, but what do you do with verses like Galatians 3:28? Jesus made no distinction between gender, ethnicity, any of it. Instead, he brought the disenfranchised to the table time and time again-- much to the distress of some of his followers, who found themselves dining with avowed sinners-- as opposed to secret ones like themselves.

The point is this mentality carries over far beyond the pew. If you can't see the correlation between standing in the way of women at church, and lost and denied opportunities for women in the secular world, I urge you to think on it a little longer. Go ahead. Think. We'll wait, but not much longer.