Take former President Jimmy Carter (and someone should). Carter, who once attended and occasionally taught a Sunday school class in Washington, which I visited, then claimed to believe much of what Scripture teaches. In practice, though, he was pro-choice on abortion and recently announced his support for same-sex "civil unions." He says he sees nothing prohibitive in Scripture to such arrangements. Carter must have gotten hold of a Reader's Digest condensed version.
Carter has announced he is leaving the Southern Baptist Convention -- the nation's largest Protestant body -- because he claims it treats women as inferior to men. In a statement he said, "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."
Carter must have missed the passage about mutual submission between married couples and the requirement that a man love his wife "as Christ loved the church," a very high standard that implies such love be equal to the self-sacrifice demonstrated by Christ on the cross. Such sacrifice can hardly justify any of the sins against women that Carter unfairly ascribes to the Southern Baptist Convention.
If the church -- Episcopal, Baptist, or whatever -- is to be a beacon to an increasingly dark world, it must know not only what it believes but in Whom it has placed its faith. For these Episcopalians and the kinds of Baptists admired by Jimmy Carter, it is a church that has made its bed in the world, and it has as much power to illuminate as a burned-out bulb.
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