Friday, 26 July 2013

On Inclusive/Exclusive Language

I was discussing this topic with Father Dickson this afternoon and he pointed out a post on Catholic and Loving It which I found very amusing and full of common sense. James’ cartoons on the subject are a great way of showing how ridiculous the rejection of inclusive language really is. My favourites are the woman who wanted to get out of the rain but couldn’t because her husband had brought a two-man tent, and the lady swimming safely in the sea because the warning only notified her of man-eating sharks...  I suppose we need to alter our language to say “Two-person Tent” and “People-eating sharks”. But that would be as daft as changing ‘manhole’ into ‘person-hole’. After all, we are not talking of ‘male’ when we say ‘man’ –though even if we were, God has seen to it that the male determines the sex of our offspring in that only the male carries both Y (male) and X (female) chromosomes, meaning the male can stand in for both sexes of humanity -perhaps that is one factor for God determining that the Incarnation be in the male sex?

Personally, I am tired of hearing language manipulated in the liturgy by politically correct clergy. One of the most grating things I ever heard was a changing of the Beatitudes to “You shall be called daughters and sons of God”. What is wrong with “Children of God” –or “sons of God” for that matter? Are women so easily offended? Most, I think, are not. Why are we subjugating Christ and the Gospel to politically correct contemporary language that arose because secular feminists of both sexes felt hurt at not having the female sex explicitly identified? It seems like we are telling God He ought to have been wiser in His use of words when He walked the earth. We then have the heretical idea of “God the Mother, God the Daughter and God the Holy Spirit”.  Those who won’t go that far say “God the Creator, God the Redeemer and God the Sanctifier”. Whichever phrase is preferred, there is an intrinsic rejection of Divine Revelation since Father and Son is how God chose to reveal Himself.

While we know God does not simply encompass both genders but transcends them, we can have no part with the idea that His Self-revelation was constrained by human culture; indeed the culture in which the Incarnation took place was specifically chosen by God (“At the appointed time...” Gal.4v4)  and as such must have been suitable as a vehicle for His Self-revelation. We, in our turn, are not at liberty to change Divine Revelation just to avoid hurting the sensibilities of those who are emotionally charged (challenged?) and easily hurt.  I don’t see the use of “sisters and brothers” as a ‘justice’ thing, simply because the phrase divides the sexes which, if we take it too far, could end with the proposition that only males are saved...

I am not sure the secular feminists have it right anyway. Inclusivity is better expressed by use of the words “man”, “humanity”, “mankind”  etc., since they include both sexes; phrases such as “sisters and brothers”, “men and women”; “girls and boys” discriminate; they are therefore not inclusive but exclusive since they intrinsically delineate one sex from the other. Truly inclusive language is to be found in the terms “humanity”, “man”, “mankind”, even “brethren”. Perhaps our clergy need to revisit not only the nature of these words but help those who are offended by them to a more  broad, more open understanding of language, and a less emotional reaction.


  1. That God is revealed in the Christian Gospels as Father is true. That women and girls are not offended by patriarchy is not always true. How might your posts nurture faith? They certainly add little in the way of catechesis.

    1. Hi, and thanks for your comments.
      That girls and women are sometimes offended by patriarchy is true, and it is noted in the post. I just think it is a manufactured offence in that for generations it was accepted by women and girls without offence; it only became offensive when secular feminists told women they should be offended.
      I hope the post adds to catechesis by moving people away from emotions to the intellect.

    2. I think Gregory James has missed the point of this post. I can clearly see where you are coming from. Has a raw nerve been touched? Or are you just an angry person as I find the posts on this blog very good for catechises.

    3. Thanks for the comment...and thanks for the support of this little blog!

  2. Please do tell me where you get this nonsense from: "God has seen to it that the male determines the sex of our offspring in that only the male carries both X (male) and Y (female) chromosomes, meaning the male can stand in for both sexes of humanity". God help the parish you work in if you or Fr Gary Dickson believe this.

    1. First, OK, "stand in" may be an odd phrase, but gender is determined only by the male, so males do have an aspect to their biological nature that encompasses the possibility of generating both sexes, which females do not.
      Second, "God has seen to it" in that God created human nature God.


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