Thursday, February 08, 2018

Language Matters

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"In all thy sons command"

"In all of us command"

Federal Conservative leader Andrew Scheer is an evasive dope. When asked whether he would sing the revised, inclusive words for our national anthem, O Canada, he intoned that he respects the rule of law and will sing them when they receive assent from the Governor General. These are such silly weasel words obviously offered to appease those who don't get that we aren't singing the original lyrics of the anthem anyway, not to mention that we've entered the 21st century. Take a look sometime at other verses of the anthem as it was first written. Lots of us have been singing "in all of us command" for years (when we remember) and we still tear up when we commit this anthemic blasphemy.

Prime Minister Trudeau is an earnest dope -- see, I'm non-partisan! A few days ago he stopped a young woman speaking at a town hall to correct her use of the term "mankind." He suggested that we should use "peoplekind" in order to be inclusive. What the hell? Who uses peoplekind, ever? Now, if he had responded politely, using "humankind" in his response I'd get it, and I'll be a retired pastor dope and say that language does matter and so does inclusivity.

Early in my ministry I chose to use the New Revised Standard Version of the bible. It is an accurate translation (rather than paraphrase) which uses gender-neutral pronouns wherever the original languages warrant this. I have watched my words in liturgy as well, rarely using male imagery or language to describe God. Even though I continued to employ the form of the Lord's Prayer which begins "Our Father" I used other paraphrases from time to time which were more inclusive. The same with the Trinitarian formula in the baptismal liturgy. As the years went on I attempted to be more balanced in quoting authors and theologians within sermons, so that both men and women were represented. The same with hymns, whenever possible.

I never made a fuss over this commitment because I figured that as soon as I identified it some would role their eyes or be up in arms. Some did notice and were supportive. Others may have been wondered why we were tinkering with the Lord's Prayer or the Prayer Which Jesus Taught. They never came after me with torches.

I suppose we'll never get it just right, but language evolves and so does our sense of how to use it to make room for all. It's up to all personkind to try. I'm pleased that Canadian athletes will be encouraged to sing the tweaked lyrics at the upcoming Olympics as they win a slew of gold medals.

What do you think about anthems and God-talk and all that good stuff?

1 comment:

Judy said...

This change in our national anthem's wording has been long overdue. I have been singing the non- gender version for over a decade now - it just makes great sense on today's world, where all genders are considered to bee "persons", legally !