Jimmy Carter spoke tonight in as the first president to ever speak to the American Academy of Religion or Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting. His topic? The Role of Religion in Mediating Conflicts and Imagining Futures: The Case of Climate Change and Equality for Women.
Without any pause or preamble or any sign of his 90 years behind him except for the wealth of knowledge President Carter spoke concisely and eloquently in great detail on the issues facing women and how the issues facing women will become even greater do to the consequences of climate change.
The statistics were galling:
60,000 americans are sold in to slavery every year, predominantly women.
160 million little girls are killed simply because they are women – mostly by their fathers and relatives.
Women still fight for equal pay, fair distribution in the market place. Carter himself noted that where women have been involved in the peace making process there has been a higher rate of success. He even asks that all conflicts being mediated bring along women for their insight and ideas.
Climate change will only exacerbate the problems that women and girls face around the world. When bread runs short and people are hungry, the food will get passed to the boys.
Carter speaks rightly that this behavior comes from Muslims and Christians and Jews and people of all faiths misreading and misrepresenting their sacred texts. When questioned on the particularity of the verses that he verifies this notion with, he first claimed that it was not his area of expertise – he was after all nothing but a “peanut farmer and sunday school teacher” – he still teaches Sunday School at his home church.
Then he noted that Genesis claims we are made male and female in the image of God, and only if we hold up Genesis 2’s account over Genesis 1’s account can we start to ignore the equality in which we are created and loved by God as female and male. Like wise he brings out the passage where Paul claims that neither Jew nor Greek, nor Slave nor Free, nor Male nor Female but all in Christ.
He may claim no scholarship, but his love for neighbor in abstract throngs spread across the globe as well as the person across the table surely sets Jimmy Carter up as a great lover of people. He even challenged the scholars in the room to teach themselves and their students to love the person in front of them and be wary of only loving in the abstract.
His talk on Climate Change and his commitment to peace alongside his friends and his center are more than inspiring. Even if you may disagree with him, respecting the man that made the speech tonight is just a simple choice of respecting someone who really lives out the two fold commandment to love God and neighbor.
Because of that, I had no problem waiting in line to get my book signed.