It had been a long time since I read this piece but it was forwarded to me by a friend after being re-posted this past January. It originally aired in 2009. Surely something could have changed by now?! (I placed just a portion of the letter below, for the full version follow the link.)
My new thought in reading this is less about the actual content and more about the fact that someone (it just happens to be President Carter) was pushed to the point of leaving his lifelong faith community over a theological stance that has real world implications.
I am repeatedly having the conversation with godly, faithful followers of Jesus who are lost. Lost in that they don’t know where to go for church, for community, for service or for education and training. They entered adulthood excited about the possibilities they considered as an adolescent and feel lied to or let down as they learn of the deception and discrimination perpetuated in the name of orthodoxy and orthopraxy.
One dear friend described the church this way…”It’s like having one of your best friends marrying a woman you don’t like and trying to figure out how to maintain the relationship. The bride of Christ, she can be a bitch and yet, she’s still the one Jesus chose so we’ve got to figure out how to love her too.”
I am curious what pushes you to continue loving the church and how this might mean seeking a different community in which to serve God? I am curious what would push you to sever ties? Many lament the consumer culture around churches and dismiss it as shallow on the part of those who “church shop”. I get that and I can get on board to an extent. But maybe, just maybe we see movement or even more the dropping away for many from church not because of disinterest or being shallow but because they actually care and cannot stand to be a part of the distortion and mutilation of what God intended.
I am also curious what we are teaching our young people that leads to such damaging faith fractures as they mature and enter a season of life where they are more apt to question what is taught and to put together the ramifications of narrow boundaries. How do we do better youth ministry, honestly and actually keep our jobs?
I am concerned both about the faith of leaders as well as that of those they are leading when we no longer feel we have space to speak up and ask questions and choose instead to depart to an isolated wandering world of Christians looking for others who also feel they can no longer be a part of their tradition.
One final note of hope, I do love the repeated metaphor of adoption. Perhaps it is in realizing that we have been abandoned, orphaned so to speak that we can find the true family of God. Perhaps.
Women and girls have been discriminated against for too long in a twisted interpretation of the word of God.
I HAVE been a practicing 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…
The carefully selected verses found in the Holy Scriptures to justify the superiority of men owe more to time and place - and the determination of male leaders to hold onto their influence - than eternal truths. Similar biblical excerpts could be found to support the approval of slavery and the timid acquiescence to oppressive rulers.
I am also familiar with vivid descriptions in the same Scriptures in which women are revered as pre-eminent leaders. During the years of the early Christian church women served as deacons, priests, bishops, apostles, teachers and prophets. It wasn’t until the fourth century that dominant Christian leaders, all men, twisted and distorted Holy Scriptures to perpetuate their ascendant positions within the religious hierarchy.
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. Their continuing choice provides the foundation or justification for much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world. This is in clear violation not just of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but also the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, Moses and the prophets, Muhammad, and founders of other great religions - all of whom have called for proper and equitable treatment of all the children of God. It is time we had the courage to challenge these views.