Jimmy Carter in 2009 announced he was severing ties with the Southern Baptist Convention after six decades because the leadership clings to the doctrine that "women are subservient to their husbands, and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service."
"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," he wrote in a 2009 article, which was picked up by several newspapers.
It made me realize that if the Roman Catholic Church really wanted to set a new course in empathy for the poor, disenfranchised and persecuted, the next pope had to be a young, married lesbian mother from Africa — with facial deformities. She would be far more engaged in the vagaries of human suffering than a bus-riding Argentine who has never known real hardship, is against same-sex marriage and child rearing, contraception and abortion, and looks suspiciously like every other character in the old white man's buggery club.
Even with a billion followers around the world, the church is so out of touch with the modern world it is in danger of becoming obsolete in a few generations. Because what the church doesn't get is the importance of women in the world if we are to survive as a species.
Long before Christianity organized itself as a male bastion through inquisition and intimidation, women were the priests, prophets, healers, shamans, mystics and medicine women, with acute empathy and intuition for the healing powers of the natural world. The church pegged them as pagans, and women have endured a sentence of servitude ever since. What do we have to show for it? A highly fractious, avaricious and violent world racing toward its own demise.
If we are to survive the impending calamities of over-population and scarcity, it will be on the backs of those who do the heavy lifting and carry the sustenance in so many developing countries. The creators, nurturers, and sustainers of life. It's heartening to see women make gains, but for every story about a woman fighting for her dignity and rights in Arab, Asian, and African nations, there's a contravening story of a gang rape or torture.
Domestically we now have 20 women in the Senate. We have women running Facebook, Yahoo, Hewlett-Packard, Pepsi and Xerox. But sadly, just 5% of America's CEO's are women. In China it's 20%. In South Korea it's 30%!
So would the world work better with women in charge? It's safe to assume they would use less violent means to resolve conflict — Margaret Thatcher notwithstanding (no mother wants to send their child to war). Would there be an unquenchable thirst for dominion, exploitation, profit and growth? Would the most important attribute of a company be wealth? Or would it be to nurture satisfaction for all? Would winning be subordinated to good gamesmanship and fair play? And would communion with the earth and her natural healing properties be better integrated into our beings than drugs and invasive surgeries?
For his part, Jimmy Carter is working with The Elders, an eminent group of global leaders working toward peace and human rights (founded by Nelson Mandela). They recently released the following statement: "The justification of discrimination against women and girls on grounds of religion or tradition, as if it were prescribed by a Higher Authority, is unacceptable."
I hope in the next decade women regain the reverence they rightly deserve as equals with unrivaled instincts for goodness, compassion and life. It's time to acknowledge the divine feminine as the propagators of the planet, and their voices must be assimilated into ours.
BILLY FRIED is the chief paddling officer of La Vida Laguna.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times