Jimmy Carter and My Grandmother
When Jimmy Carter left the Baptist Church in 2009, his announcement made the news. (See: http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/losing-my-religion-for-equality-2009071...). He had joined Nelson Mandela’s group of “Elders” and he took this assignment seriously. So when he severed ties to his fundamentalist heritage, it was an act of truth-seeking at the deepest level imaginable.
Jimmy Carter is in the news again, as MoveOn.org and other organizations recently have resurrected the reason for his Evangelical exodus. (see: http://front.moveon.org/the-awesome-jimmy-carter-quote-about-women-that-...). So why did President Carter break with Evangelical Christianity? He came to realize that Oracle’s Trickle-Down Deity Theory is true: Daddy Deism is dangerous to women:
“This view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or belief. Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths. Nor, tragically, does its influence stop at the walls of the church, mosque, synagogue or temple. This discrimination, unjustifiably attributed to a Higher Authority, has provided a reason or excuse for the deprivation of women's equal rights across the world for centuries. At its most repugnant, the belief that women must be subjugated to the wishes of men excuses slavery, violence, forced prostitution, genital mutilation and national laws that omit rape as a crime. But it also costs many millions of girls and women control over their own bodies and lives, and continues to deny them fair access to education, health, employment and influence within their own communities. … The truth is that male religious leaders have had – and still have – and 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.”
So what does Jimmy Carter have in common with my Grandmother? My Grandmother left her church – the Catholic Church – for the same reasons. In 1983, she composed this essay, which my mother found the week my Grandmother died. I now reprint my Grandmother’s essay for those women (and men) who still are struggling with a view of the Godhead that excludes the Sacred Feminine:
She Is a Spectator
By Priscilla “Ruby” Kacsmar
(September 23, 1917 – March 2, 2012)
She is millions of women who grew up with their legs crossed and their minds closed, by a culture that featured loud intimidating men and silent obedient women who wash, sew, and cook. She is in her early 60’s to late 80’s. She functions in a society that bewilders her with its change.
She went to church as a child, hat placed securely on her head, white gloves in place. She has stoically lived through the fighting forties, the developing sixties, and the exhausting seventies. She knows there are dirty movies, pot, teenage pregnancies, and people living together without the benefit of marriage, and she wonders when it will all end.
Her spirit has been smashed. It was smashed a long time ago, and she knows not how or when it happened. It was smashed by a father who was always working and never shared his feelings, by an impatient mother, and by a school system run by nuns who expected her to be more silent, more obedient, and more patient than the boys. It was smashed by folklore that for too long encouraged only boys, she not being able to do anything about it. She had to wait for an approach, never initiate one. Finally one day when a boy did give her attention, she was so flattered, so overwhelmed, that she grabbed him with both hands and, after being assured that her father liked him, married him, and has been sleepwalking ever since.
When she dies she will leave a society that had more than sixty years (sometimes a lot more) to take advantage of her talents, but failed to do so. Even sadder, she will have gone to her grave failing to realize most of her potential as a wonderful human being. Worse still, she herself will never even know the person she could have been.
It is killing our society because we are failing to realize the potential contributions of at least half of the people who live in it. The women of today should not be alone in wondering what symphony wasn’t composed, what medical breakthrough wasn’t realized, and what war wasn’t stopped because the woman’s role in life is to be passive – not a participant, but a spectator.
Can we blame the church or the nuns for being more concerned about the length of their habits than about the fact that they were teaching a generation of women to be obedient, silent, and passive? Why were we not taught the genuine value of that it means to be a woman? Why were we always told, “Men lead, women serve”?
When she asks these questions (but so few do ask), she may discover that the church not only is racist and sexist, it is a lot of other things …
Why do babies, who do not ask to be born, enter the world with the stain of “original sin”?
How could an all-knowing, all-loving God allow his son to be murdered on a cross in order to redeem my sins?
If God the Father is so “all-loving,” why didn’t he come down and go to Calvary? Then Jesus could have said, “This is my father in whom I am well pleased.”
If there is life on other planets, do those people need salvation too?
If sex is so beautiful, why did God circumvent it to bring his “only begotten” son into the world?
If God is all Love and all Forgiveness, why is there a Hell?
And if there is no Hell, then why do we need a crucifixion? From what are we redeemed?
Why is the Holy Roman Catholic Church so insecure about the loyalty of its members that it imposes everlasting damnation on those who choose to leave?
Why are all the starving poor still with us, when Jesus fed the multitude on the Mount and had food left over? Can we tolerate the millions of dollars collected from the poor to build cathedrals to house the Bishops and Pope who, when asked, give the inevitable answer, “The poor we will always have with us.”
God the Father, his Son, Peter, head of the church, and all those folks at the last supper were you-know-what sex. Who served the food?
If she asks these questions and attempts to answer them, is she not a heretic by the Church’s standard? Or is she a thinking person? Dare she think the Church is irrelevant? It is destructive. It is not a religion, but a social and political structure. For thousands of years it has retarded her growth, inhibited her free thinking, and encouraged her obedience through warnings from nuns and priests in confessional. My house of cards has collapsed. I have lost my faith …
If she has lost her faith, her obedience, her servitude to men, is she now free to be her own person? What goals will she set? What potential will she reach?
Did she lose her faith, or did she lose her church?
Which is more important: the self, the faith, the church? And in what order?
Shall I still dream of a world of grace and beauty:
Where right is might?
Where Theseus, not Hercules is king?
Where also heroines – Guinevere, Iseult, Grainne – are prototypes?
Where the philosophers, the artists, the strivers of Truth and Justice are our heroes and heroines?
Where the true gentleman and gentlewoman stand strong and tall, clothed in the armor of Light?
Where women are also wholly free, wholly conscious, and wholly responsible for all their gifts?
And where neither sex is behind, nor before the other, but “side by side”?