Stephen Colbert boosted Jimmy Carter's new book on Tuesday's Colbert Report – a mere day after the former president blamed Catholicism, as well as the Southern Baptist Convention, for the abuse of women across the globe. Carter offered a toned-down version of this eyebrow-raising argument: "If you're a male religious leader, and you want to stay in unchallenged power and not have women challengers, then you can pick some of those things that...St. Paul said."
The Democrat also claimed that he would consider joining the Catholic Church if they would ordain women: [MP3 audio available here; video below the jump]
JIMMY CARTER: I'm thinking about it. You know, if pope – I have two provisions to be a Catholic: if Pope Francis stays on in office, and when a female Catholic priest asks me to join her church. (audience cheers, applauds, and chants "Jimmy!")
STEPHEN COLBERT: Well, those are your demands; those are your demands. (Carter and Colbert laugh) Okay. Jimmy Carter has drawn a line in the sand. (audience laughs)
Colbert "interviewed" Carter with his usual half-joking/sarcastic schtick. Moments before the former president's call for women's ordination in the Catholic Church, the Comedy Central host asked, "Are you a Christian, sir?" The liberal politician gave his two "provisions" after a short banter about how Colbert wasn't Baptist, and how Carter wasn't Catholic.
The host then wondered if his guest had talked to Pope Francis on the subject. Carter claimed that he got a favorable reply from the pontiff:
CARTER: I wrote the Pope a letter about this book and about the problem with women's abuse, and he sent me a very wonderful letter back. And he said that he agreed with many things that I told him about – which he already knew, I'm sure – and he said that, in his opinion, in the future years, women needed to play a much greater role in the Catholic Church than they were playing now or have played in the past.
Colbert followed-up by wondering, "What's the negative side of religion?" The former president replied by offering his theological vision:
CARTER: Well, if you read just the words and actions of Jesus Christ, he exalted women. He never made any insinuation that women were inferior in any way to men-
COLBERT: No. But he only picked 12 male apostles-
CARTER: Yes, but-
COLBERT: And that's not me – that's Jesus, so don't criticize Jesus- (audience laughs)
CARTER: I understand-
COLBERT: Watch it.
CARTER: But when Paul wrote his letters to the many little churches around Asia and so far – Asia Minor – he wrote to the individual tiny churches about their problems, and some of the words of Paul, who's our chief religious theologian for Christians, can be interpreted either way. If you're a male religious leader, and you want to stay in unchallenged power and not have women challengers, then you can pick some of those things that Paul – St. Paul said.
COLBERT: Men – husbands love your wives, wives obey your husbands-
CARTER: That's right-
COLBERT: That's Colossians (sic) I believe-
CARTER: And the beginning of that says husbands and wives should respect each other and then, it goes on to the other-
COLBERT: Right, right-
CARTER: But Paul also wrote to the Galatians and said there's no difference, in the eyes of God, between a woman and man; between a slave and a master; or between a Gentile and a Jew. Everybody's equal in the eyes of God. So, that's another thing that Paul wrote. So, the point is there are 36,000 or so verses in the Bible, and you can really choose one or the other ones if you want to-
COLBERT: That's what's great about America is that- (audience laughs)
CARTER: That's what's great about America?
COLBERT: Our freedom of religion allows me to interpret the Bible exactly how fits my world view already- (audience laughs)