Since leaving the presidency in 1981, Jimmy Carter has been the most important model for former presidents. He has been a leader in making the world a better place. The Jimmy Carter Center fights to eradicate or prevent 6 diseases: Guinea worm, river blindness, schistosomiasis, trachoma, malaria, and lymphatic filariasis. Carter has also led the way in improving maternal and child health in Nigeria and Sudan. He has also improved global access to mental healthcare.
Jimmy Carter is an important example of a man with power who has used his influence for boundless good in the world.
We need more Jimmy Carters, especially in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein and Donald Trump sexual assaults. These are men who have used their power in abusive ways that harm others, particularly women. Even more tragically, they come from realms where men abusing women is far too common. Politics and Hollywood are full of powerful men who either don’t care about the consequences of their actions, or don’t think those consequences will affect them.
Maureen Dowd of the New York Times quotes Hollywood actor Tim Robbins as stating, “It’s not just in show business, it’s every business. It’s about men who use power to get an advantage over women. It’s gross, it’s unacceptable, but unfortunately, it’s pretty persistent.”
“I’ve looked on a lot of women with lust. I’ve committed adultery in my heart many times. This is something that God recognizes I will do–and I have done it—and God forgives me for it.” – Jimmy Carter
This problem is everywhere, which should tell us something about our hyper-sexualized culture. Sex is everywhere in our culture. But do you know what isn’t everywhere in our culture? Virtually nowhere in are men taught how to control our sexual impulses in healthy ways.
In no way am I trying to get Harvey Weinstein off the hook. Weinstein is experiencing the consequences of his actions. The attention directed at him is well deserved, but this desire for power that’s entangled with sexuality infects almost all men. At the very least, I know it infects me.
And so, what should men do about it? Once again, I think we need to look to Jimmy Carter as our model. He was honest about his sexuality, which helped him take responsibility for it. He once stated,
I try not to commit a deliberate sin. I recognize that I’m going to do it anyhow, because I’m human and I’m tempted. And Christ set some almost impossible standard for us. Christ said, ‘I tell you that anyone who looks on a woman with lust has in his heart already committed adultery.’
I’ve looked on a lot of women with lust. I’ve committed adultery in my heart many times. This is something that God recognizes I will do–and I have done it—and God forgives me for it.
I want to be clear again that there is no excuse for sexual assault. Weinstein’s actions were horrendous and traumatic for so many people. His actions condemn himself and he is experiencing the consequences.
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As we talk about Weinstein, we must also talk about what men can do to manage ourselves while living in a hypersexualize culture that glorifies power. Because, as I see it, there’s one way that we can scapegoat Weinstein. If we continue to blame him, to say that he is the problem, it can prevent us from taking responsibility for our sexuality and desire for power.
I think it starts with being honest about our sexuality as Jimmy Carter was honest about his.
Jimmy Carter says that God forgives him for his lust. Forgiveness is good, but to truly receive forgiveness means that we must also repent. The word “repent” means “change your mind.” We live in a male dominated world that continues to devalue women. From the workplace to politics to Hollywood to the church, women are seen as less than human. And once men see women as less than human, we begin to think that their bodies are there for the taking.
But men need to be more than just honest. We need to repent from a culture that dehumanizes women. We men were not made to be evil and abusive creatures, but I suspect that most of us need to continually change our minds when it comes to women. To be honest, like Jimmy Carter was honest, means naming the demonic forces within our culture, and within ourselves, that devalues and dehumanizes women.
And then we need to repent from those demonic forces so that, like Jimmy Carter, we can use our sexual energy and power to make the world a better place. As we listen to the countless women posting #metoo, our conscience should be pricked.
Yes, we need to take personal responsibility to repent, but we also need to take social responsibility for cultural repentance. Men need to work towards transforming a culture that objectifies women. Sex sells, but we don’t have to buy into the lie that women are only there for our sexual gratification and lust for power. In fact, we can speak up when we see women being objectified. We can teach our boys to respect and honor women in their full humanity.
So many of our sisters are crying out. It’s opening our eyes to just how pervasive this is. Whether a man is Harvey Weinstein or Jimmy Carter, we have work to do.