return to religion-onlineInclusive Language
The author considers the historical and current usage in religion of such terms as "Reverend," "Doctor," "Mister," "D.D.," Father," "Brother," "Sister," "Dame," "Mother," "Mr.," and "Pastor."
A case can be made that a female Holy Spirit represents an important early teaching of Jesus’ followers. For some early Christians, the baptismal initiation reversed the division of male and female, returning to the gender unity found in Adam.
The cross is a supremely ambiguous force in the life of every Christian. It is both bad and good, shameful and inspiring, a burden and a blessing, a curse and a cure. It is both condemnation and salvation. The cross uniquely symbolizes the complex theological content of the entire Christian faith.
The leading candidate to serve as an "ecumenical symbol" appears to be the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed of 381, with its understanding of the word "father." No other symbol is so widely used or recognized among Christians as a statement of the apostolic faith.
While acknowledging the dangers of dilution of language and depersonalization of God inherent in some inclusive language, Browne Barr goes on to laud the positive results not only of inclusive language in word and table, but of the appropriate and long-delayed inclusion of women, both clergy and laity, as full participants and leaders in the majority of Protestant churches in the United States.
If we were to empty the term "Father" of human experience, we might as well call God some nonsense term and fill it with any meaning we choose.
The most important way to redress the patriarchal imbalance of our faith is to refer to the deity as feminine. A balanced use of all types of imagery in both word and song can help us to achieve a more accurate -- though never definitive -- idea of who God is.
Language both reflects reality and shapes our ideas of reality. Linguists frequently acknowledge that the standard language reflects the usage and outlook of the group in power.
Our growing awareness of the sexist problems inherent in our language provides us with a valuable new hermeneutical tool. A change in speech habits is necessary if we are to change attitudes.
Every new version of the Bible brings controversy, this time over a "gender neutral" version. The author discusses the recently published New International Version (TNIV).
When it is insisted that only masculine pronouns be used for God, and that it is good to address God as Father but pagan and baalistic to address God as Mother, one begins to suspect that God is not believed to transcend sexuality at all but that, on the contrary, God is being used to legitimize patriarchalism.
When words like ‘father’ and ‘king’ are used to evoke the image of a personal God, at some level of consciousness a male image takes hold. As women free themselves to reflect on their own experiences and longings, they are creating new images and symbols that will bring into being not a "feminine" theology, but new, more inclusive ways of describing the indescribable.