Now THAT'S a good question...

One good reader noticed I'd been gauche, using the male inclusive in the title of the post, "Three cheers for the men of Wisconsin...". So he commented, asking "Did all the women vote for the recall?! Sorry, a bit of snark." To which I responded:

Dear sibling/person/human,

You should congratulate me for maintaining Biblical usage in the face of the whole world. When I was a child, I spoke as a child. My girlfriend (now my wife) carefully instructed me never ever to use the word 'girl,' and being the son of an author and editor, I was careful to appear sufficiently progressive in all other matters. Thus repudiation of the male inclusive was what I did best. When I was a child.

But now I've put away childish things. It's become clear to me that language is a battleground, and thus that anguage is one of the most vital places to confess our faith. So I make a point of using the male inclusive in the face of all the snickers because... I believe Scripture is a better source for our usage and words than the style guides of men who know not God.

"But we know God," you say, "and we believe it's polite to avoid offending others by giving up the male inclusive "brothers," "man," and "mankind."

Really? Polite? As Christians, will we really argue that giving up any concept of male representation--"in Adam we all died" for instance--is polite? Will we really argue that the Holy Spirit was in bondage to His ancient patriarchal culture when He Himself named the race for that male representative, "Adam?" Will we really argue that language is meaningless in confessing our faith and leaving that ancient patriarchal construction behind is part of becoming all things to all people? Will we really cover our cowardice with such high principles?

If Scripture calls it "adultery," we should call it "adultery"--not "having an affair."

If Scripture calls it "shedding innocent blood" and "murder," we should call it "shedding innocent blood" and "murder"--not "having an abortion."

If Scripture calls it "fornication," we should call it "fornication"--not "premarital sex" or "petting" or "hooking up."

If Scripture commands us to address God as "Father," we should not despise this glorious privilege by addressing our prayers solely to "Jesus" and "God."

If Scripture presents the Apostolic preaching of the Cross as calls to "repent" and "believe," we should call men to "repent" and "believe"--not "believe and believe" or "trust God's grace and be graceful."

If Scripture presents the sexual perversion of the Sodomites as "going after strange flesh" and "gross immorality" and "degrading passions" and "unnatural functions" and "indecent acts," we should speak of "Sodom" and "sodomy" and "sodomites" and "going after strange flesh" and "gross immorality" and "degrading passions" and "unnatural functions" and "indecent acts"--not "queer" or "lesbian" or "homosexuality" or "same-sex intimacy" or "gay."

And thus if the Holy Spirit names the race "adam" or "man"; if the Word of God addresses the assembly of believers as "adelphoi" or "brothers"; we should do the same. It is how we confess our faith. Which is to say there are good reasons slaves to Satan hate such usage. It reminds them of God's Order of Creation, and that in that one man, Adam, we all died.

Do I think these Biblical words and constructions should bind us--that we should always use them? No. There are times to use 'gay' and 'affair'; to pray to "God" and to say "trust God's grace and believe." There are times to speak to our "brothers and sisters in Christ." 

Maybe just tip our hat to the new constitution to keep the dogs from barking at us all and all the time, you know? Demonstrate that though we're Biblicists and Christians, we're not unaware of the world's ideological bondage and the fear its produced among men. Keep them off balance, you know? Just enough newspeak to let them know we're alive and kicking while a whole lot of Biblespeak to warn them of the coming Judge.

I think growing in godliness usually means bearing more reproach for our faith--not less. But I fear most of us think growing in godliness means making our faith more invisible to the world; doing a better job of fitting in and not causing a fuss. Poor world. Poor us.

So, to your question, I wrote the headline "Three cheers for the men of Wisconsin..." with every one of my facial tics at red alert. I went sleepless last night. I was convulsed by horror in the face of my wicked deed. Then I remembered that life is short and I ought to make some contribution to this sad world.

So now that I got that off my chest, smiling, I move on to less important things...

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and fifteen grandchildren.

Comments

I've noticed a very annoying trend in books and articles in the last few years.  That is to use "her", "she", etc. in places where in the past it would have been "he" and "him" because all of us understood that it was inclusive of both sexes.   I find it more than irritating to read books, even by publishers who should know better, doing this.   Why are they so afraid of feminists?  

Blessings,

Nancy

 

  

<<And thus if the Holy Spirit names the race "adam" or "man"; if the Word of God addresses the assembly of believers as "adelphoi" or "brothers"; we should do the same.>>

I've mentioned this before, but this is one of my beefs with the ESV.  Pretty much every place the word "brothers" (adelphoi) is used (which is often in the N.T.) we're reminded at the bottom of the page that it really means "brothers and sisters".   I seriously feel like taking my white out pen to their continual notations on that!  

Blessings,

Nancy

Nancy,

Just use the NASB.

Kamilla

Hi Kamilla,

Thanks for reminding me that I really need to order an NASB.  I was hoping our local Christian book store would get some in stock some day, but they never do. 

Blessings,

Nancy

Technical writing at a large defense contractor was a large part of my job about 20 years ago. I was part of a three-woman team writing technical manuals for database administration, systems programming, and system administration for a large computer system.

The gender-neutral debate came up. One woman argued that we should  her, she, and hers in at least every other chapter in each manual.

The other two thought that was over the top, but we did think mention of our female readers would be appropriate.

So we compromised. In the foreword of each manual and at the beginning of each chapter, we included a footnote that read:

"The words him, he, and his refer to both men and women."

I have also noticed the trend that Nancy mentioned of using she, her, and hers for an indeterminate person. 

It has seemed to me to primarily in the context of discussing children, but the child doing something bad is invariably he.  Having raised both, I know troublemaking seems more common in my boys than my girl, but it is hardly exclusively boys getting in trouble.  Thus we see another front in the war on men.

Excellent, Sue; it's how we should handle this today, and how I've handled it in some of my present work.

Love,

I was just kidding!!!!

Dear Roger,

So I'm an idiot, but even had you been serious, it's a good question.

Love,

Thanks, Tim.

When the subject came up the project manager told us to find a compromise quickly, because she wanted us writing, not fooling around with a style point.

During the writing of these manuals one of my subject-matter experts was a woman, and she suggested something that we could also use from time -- using the role of the person who was the audience for the manual instead of exclusively he, him, or his. For example:

The database administrator establishes a schedule for full and incremental database backups. The current schedule is ....

The procedure for changing this schedule is:

  1. Step beginning with action verb
  2. Step beginning with action verb
  3. Step beginning with action verb

etc.

So we also tried to use this wording 2-3 times in each chapter when it would flow smoothly.

Sue, the insomniac tonight

From what I've observed (mostly in nieces, nephews, friends, neighbors, and young people at church), it seems like that boys seem to get into trouble in a more physical way, but girls drive the knife into each into a more emotional and hurtful way. Sometimes the girls seem to cut each other out of a group very viciously, gossip, probably text, for the silliest reasons these days. 

But you are right, Doug. Maybe there needs to be "affirmative action" about girls misbehaving in children's books.

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