Thursday, July 31, 2014

Inclusive language…it really does matter

A.Hanson, NYC 2014
In my freshman year of college, in my first religion class, I remember raising the issue that perhaps we should not always refer to God in the masculine. This was raised in an online discussion and my classmates went wild.  Some responses raised included outright denial that God was anything but a man, as well as a dismissal of the conversation saying, "It's not important.  Just let it go."

I have held on to those comments for all these years because I think my classmates were very wrong.  I have had many conversations with people of faith throughout this intervening time.  I have had conversations with women who feel excluded, I have had conversations with people who don't believe that God is male and do not want to hear that in worship, and most recently I have had an entirely unexpected conversation.

Throughout this year I had many conversations with an elderly gentleman who has been a lifelong Lutheran.  He is in his eighties and confessed to me once last fall that he had been struggling with something his whole life.  He struggled with the idea that he did not believe that God was a man.  He thought that limited the fullness of God. He also was ashamed to confess this, because he thought he was the only one that struggled with this.

We worship at a congregation that makes an effort to use inclusive language whenever possible, but this gentleman was troubled by the Lord's prayer and the creeds.  Together he and I looked through the Bible to determine different metaphors for God.  My personal favorite is God as a mother hen (Matthew 23:37), I just love the visual of God as a puffed up hen gathering chicks under her wings, a sort of fierce love.  This gentleman particularly appreciated this metaphor, because he raises chickens.

This conversation has been ongoing this year, and just yesterday he brought in an article from this month's edition of the Lutheran that talked about the use of inclusive language for God.

It gives me so much joy and hope that one of our church elders is still finding joy in discovery and conversation and daring to consider and reconsider all of the ways that imagine God. Thanks be to God!

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