For about 3 years Julie and I attended an ecumenical bible study at By The Rivers in St Paul. We really enjoyed the experience and were sad when the group stopped meeting. The study was open to people of all faith and we would study scripture on a particular subject from the Old Testament, New Testament, and Koran. We had people from different Christian Denominations, Jewish Temples, and occasionally an Islam representative. One time we were studying a Psalm and I remember that the translation seemed to be a bit odd to my ears. As the group talked about the Psalm I continued to be bothered and kept looking at the text of the Psalm. It finally struck me what had made the Psalm sound different; All the male language for God had been changed to feminine language. This made me realize how the male-dominated language we use very frequently in our reading of scripture, church documents, homilies, liturgy, prayers, and songs is unfortunately what we consider “normal”.
Personally, for many years our patriarchal dominated language has been like fingernails on the chalkboard when I hear or read it. I have to wonder how many more years we will have to endure this degrading language which affects at least half of our Church membership. The use of this antiquated language bias continues to oppress and limit the female population of the Church.
With all the talk of inclusive language years ago, there was the hope of change, but the most recently revised translations of the New American Bible and liturgical texts were steps backward. The official line is that these revised translations are “truer” to the original texts. I would agree these revisions may be a more literal translation of the original texts, but we are talking about texts that find their origins in times when societies were overtly male-dominated and women were second class citizens with little to no rights. I have to believe that these most recent revisions were done intentionally to stress the dominance of one sex over the other and to support the continued male-dominated leadership of the Church
During Mass, I find a lot of discomfort over phrases like:
“Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth.”
“Through him all things were made. For us men”
“With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified.” (he is the Holy Spirit here)
“for the praise and glory of his name, for our good, and the good of all his Church.”
“It is right to give him thanks and praise.”
There are so many references to God as male in the liturgy and scriptures we hear at Mass that it can really become really upsetting. What would be wrong with using a more gender-neutral wording?
“Glory to God in the highest, and peace to God’s people on earth.”
“Through God, all things were made. For us” (just drop the men)
“With the Father and the Son the Spirit (maybe She or Sophia) is worshipped and glorified.”
“for the praise and glory of God’s name, for our good, and the good of all God’s Church.”
“It is right to give God thanks and praise.”
I will admit that removing the word Father from the texts and scripture could make God seem less personal, but what about a 50/50 split between Father and Mother? Do we change things like:
“Our Father, who art in heaven” to “Our Lord, who art in heaven” or to “Our Mother, who art in heaven”?
No matter what, the Church needs to take a long hard look at the translations and be honest about why they the way they are. We need a revision with a much more inclusive language.
If you look at current Church documents they are dominated with words like brotherhood, mankind, and so on. These words are used instead of more inclusive words like fellowship, humanity, etc. If the Church wants to show the world that it is serious about eliminating sexism and being more inclusive of women, it needs to change the language it uses every day to communicate to the world and the Catholic community. Until this happens the view the world and community will have of the Church is that it is business as usual and still a good old boys club.
As I mentioned last week, the words we use really do matter, and in this case, male-dominated words are a vehicle being used to put down, limit, and make second class citizens a large group of people.
I feel like I could go on forever about this subject, and I know this is my second rant in a row, but I hope this opens your eyes to the importance of words and how innocent-seeming wording can be discriminatory.
Peace, blessings, and prayers