Saturday, April 9, 2011

Words, Women, and Jimmy Carter

Suzanne gives the fuller quotations of President Carter from his VOA interview this week and, with that context, provides a good analysis of what he did and did not say.  This is important.  For example, President "Carter is explicitly saying that it is the selection of [Bible] passages which discrminates against women."  What he is not saying is that the whole Bible discriminates against women by any stretch or that religious leaders can say that.  Suzanne explains the issue:
It is not the Bible per se, or relgion itself, but it is the way the Bible is used. It is the choice that people make to focus on two verses at the expense of other verses, verses which state that both men and women will prophecy, that say both men and women proclaim the good news.
Reading in context and interpreting openly and richly and fully is most important!

Speaking of reading...

Jay, at Suzanne's blogpost, reads what President Carter says about Catholics and women.  Jay interprets that this way and credits Carter for helping him see things differently:  "That is good. I have never thought of it in this way."  The quote, as Jay excerpts it directly, is this one:

"in] the Catholic Church, they practically worship the Virgin Mary, but won’t let a woman be a priest,”

Rod has read these very same words in a much different way.  So he writes an entire post to complain.  Now, to be sure, he praises President Carter first.  But then he presumes a peculiar logic and sets about to dismantle and deconstruct it.  Let me quote Rod quoting the President and, with that, let me provide Rod's initial premise to his own logic; finally, let's come back to what President Carter might be saying and not saying here.  Here's Rod:
“But, as you know, [in] the Catholic Church, they practically worship the Virgin Mary, but won’t let a woman be a priest”

This logic is so flawed and feels like an appeal to emotion and theological ignorance. No where in the Cathecism is Mary “worshipped.”
The major premise in Rod's logic is the faulty one, perhaps. It's a fallacy of begging the question. The question is whether Carter is claiming here that "Mary is 'worshipped' by Catholics" or is referring to "Catholic Cathecism" or is referencing in any way any documented practice of all Catholics or any official dogma of the Roman Catholic Church today. Rod's syllogism jumps the gun, gets off on the wrong foot, and runs on with a couple of other premises before breaking the finish line tape of its would-be conclusion.

We might go with Rod's argument, nonetheless, and just say,
"Come on, we all know the rhetoric of politicians. Look, Carter is slick. His phrase 'practically worship' is just hedging and cloaking what he really means. And he really means to be mean to Catholics. I mean, isn't he still sore from their opposition to the ERA? Wasn't he disappointed with The National Council of Catholic Women when they announced that the proposed Equal Rights Ammendment was, 'a threat to the nature of woman which individuates her from man in God's plan for His creation'?  His "practically" word is just his cover-up of his presumption 'Mariology' and his distaste for that.  Clearly, Carter must have 'a problem with Mary the Theoktos' and probably hates 'the Gospel of Luke'"
Or, maybe we could back up again, get in our lanes, and be patient here without jumpstarting anything. 

Maybe Carter himself loves the Bible; likes the gospels including Luke; appreciates Mary himself; and especially finds himself grateful to Catholics for their general and Catholic admiration of this woman.  Nonetheless, maybe the politician really is disappointed with how the Catholic church in America opposed the ERA.  Likewise, maybe this same man is disappointed that the Roman Catholic church forbids women from being priests.  Therefore, is it much of a stretch for him to conclude there is a contradition here that needs to be overcome?  If one can practically worship the woman Mary, then why can't one respect the equal rights of women in America and why can't one allow women also to be priests?

Let's read the Bible, the President, Suzanne, and Rod in context.  Let's make our inevitable interpretations.  Let's do it with good logic if we must; or if we're not so keen on air-tight logic all the time, then let's give women and men equally the benefit of the doubt too.


G said...

Wow, never imagined Carter was taking a shot at Catholicism when I read his statement either. I would have almost interpreted his word in the opposite, that it is admirable that the Catholics elevate Mary, a woman to such a status, that all the male priests pray to her for her intersession, but they still can't honor their mothers and sisters to even equal status here on earth.

Rod said...

Thank you Jay.


growing up baptist (and still being one), I know exactly the "logic" that Carter, a deacon is using. I am so sick of anti-catholicism and baptist demogoguary against the Catholic church. It is not good logic, and it has a long history. I stand by my statements.

Bob MacDonald said...

'air-tight' logic! (nice word image) is this a way out of a narrow space, or logic 'without spirit' to stay within the constrictions? Getting to the right place is a non-Aristotelian walk yet it has its logic.

J. K. Gayle said...

Thank you fellas!

Jay - I confess I initially read Carter's statement in it's context as you did.

Rod - I respect you and how you read this in your context. And with you I share a familiarity, literally, with Baptist logic. My father is a Southern Baptist minister like Jimmy Carter and my father-in-law is too. The racist, sexist roots of the separationist logic of the denomination run deep. My wife, when she was a girl, was not allowed to have Catholic friends and some of my Sunday School teachers taught me that Catholics are going to Hell. Carter is indeed bashing those who would teach the bible says women are lesser than men. Elsewhere he has not been kind to Catholicism. But I'm less certain than you are that he's being so mean here.

Bob - you ask the questions I do about logic. I'm probably too prone to see Aristotle's intentions for inventing it. And still and so, I think we in the west who use it so often without thinking would do well more to question it more often.