Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Living where 'words mean what we want them to mean'!

Were I to be living in the world of  Humpty Dumpty (HD), Lewis Carroll's wonderful character from his gem of a novel, 'Through the looking glass', then the desire, and ability, of some to make words mean whatever the wish them to mean. 

Humpty Dumpty (a hero of mine) explains it thus:
'When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean; nothing more nor less!'

The trouble is that I feel that somehow I have become Alice in this little play for increasingly when encountering the many HDs of this world I find myself asking the question:
'Is it possible to make words mean so many different things?

Now in the book, the retort from HD is to ask 'which is to be master' - and nothing has changed in either of the worlds I inhabit for in the secular society and the supposedly sacred society that is church (note the small 'c' for in this case it is not the universal Church but one denomination: And even then within that denomination it it not the majority view either).

So having swapped the usage such that things no longer have an 'impact on something else'' and having decided that 'sex' and 'gender' mean the same (which of course they most definitely do not as the former is about the sexual attributes possessed at birth whilst the later is merely a sociological construct) the latest word change escapade should perhaps have come as no surprise at all.

Living in a world where I am told that gender is merely a matter of choice - the outworking of a desire to be something other than perhaps one was - the tide, it seems (in a rather Jasper Ffordian manner), has risen such that it now washes over words too!

Yesterday I received an email with the banner: Church of England women call for an end to God as 'He' and want to use the generic 'She' as this is more inclusive! 

The email went on to say that with the demise of 'man' referring to 'mankind' as the generic term for people and with the rise of women in the church, there was a move to use 'the more  inclusive word 'she' to refer to God'. 

It was about now that I stopped and checked the date on the email - no it wasn't the first of April - so I continued reading and soon found that, 'God being male makes women feel 'less holy' and that using the masculine for Him makes some feel second class citizens because they're not male and so are not made in His image!' But of course God as female might bring some salve to those who feel marginalised and less holy but what to the men, does not the same apply to the when god becomes a 'she'?

Now I need to point out that the person who sent the mail is a male. Not only that but they are quite destuffed with the whole 'priestess' thing and the reason for this is all about sexism' but the sexism has not all been on their side of the line as (I hope) the two examples that follow might demonstrate:

i. During this person's training there had been the argument that the Church needed more women in ministry because, 'Women are more naturally pastoral!' But they weren't saying we needed to stop ordaining men because they were better at the building and admin and other practical stuff!

ii. The 'all men are rapists (and/or paedophiles  conversation) where the propensity for men to be one (or other or both) was used as grounds to confirm the need for more women to redress the balance and minister to the many people who had been broken by men. This bled into the area of language and the 'fact' (odd how often this fact is local and HD like) that use of the masculine gender with regard to God caused some women to find themselves unable to come to God or a place of peace within the Christian faith.

Yesterday the largest number of people who engaged me regarding this issue were women who thought that this was just another step in the CofE 'being bonkers!' 

One of the lovely ladies I spoke to said that, having been deserted by her mother as a young child she found the male God, as Father, something that made her feel safe.

A man I know pointed out that it wouldn't be long before I was wearing pink and laughed at the fact that whilst he considered the Church to irrelevant to him, he did enjoy all the rubbish that we spoke (actually it was a stronger word, but I don't like to be in the business of expletives, I leave that some of my other colleagues!). 'The way you're going there will soon be a 'women only' sign on your doors,' he said as I climbed into my car.

So let's try and make sense of this silliness - and that is, I am sad to say, exactly what it is - and get some substance into the froth before us.

Genesis 1.27 tells us:
'So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.'
Now, that doesn't seem to be unclear in any way: male and female are created in the image of God. The predominant language of the OT has the 'G' word as male. It could have been feminine and it could have been a neuter but there it is, God is referred to as male.

'Oh yes, " I hear some cry, 'But that's because we have lived in a male dominated world but things are different and that is no longer the case!' And as my friend would rapidly point out, the reality is that this is not about comfort zones but about sexual politics - it is (as a female priest friend has it) about 'redressing the balance and about seizing power from those who have wielded it for so long and empowering the women!' But she's a bit aggressive and so it's better to wrap such thoughts up in the cloak of invisibility that is 'pastoral concern' it seems.

The lovely person on the radio yesterday told me that, 'Using the word 'she' for God is much more inclusive!' Doh! How have I missed that change in the use of the word I asked myself?

Some time back I heard a sermon on the radio. The speaker was an American and she referred to God as 'She, He or it' before I changed the channel! The Episcopalian church the other side of the pond has led the way with this and a number of other unorthodox (in the proper sense) 'progressions' and it seems to me that without going too deep or pointing too many fingers at the assembled gatherings (for or against) what we have here is a move to make the church (of England) just a little more irrelevant and just a little more ridiculous to this outside of our walls -  and just a bit more divided within them.

Once again we are appearing to be just a more excited and passionate about anything, and everything, other than the Gospel of Jesus, the Christ, which is just a little sad as that is what will cause Church to grow - not playing with genders (physical, linguistically or spiritual).

I don't care what sex a person is - I respect, care and embrace them.
I don't care what colour a person is - I respect, care and embrace them
I don't care what a person's sexual orientation (real or perceived) is - I respect, care and embrace them.
I don't care what a person's faith history is - I respect, care and embrace them.
(Are you getting the picture yet?)

I am called to minister the love of God with whom by the act of Jesus, the Christ, I have been reconciled in the power of His Holy Spirit and to assist others to be  able to say that same.

I am called to minister in an inclusive, not a permissive, Church

I welcome ALL to come to Church exactly as they are - with the expectation that they will leave changed!

Now how flipping difficult can we make something that is so very simple I wonder?

Now why don't we get out there and show someone the love of God?


Anonymous said...

So it's OK be sensitive to one gender but not the other?

Sexual politics are about more than power this is an issue of overcoming everything that has gone and taking control for those who have never before had it. Very disappointing blog entry.

Andrew Godsall said...

Dear Vic

The issue I think you miss is that the text says: "So God created human beings in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them."

God is not a gender. God is God. As another blogger put it: "If we think that the male more truly represents the ‘image and likeness’ of God than the female, we are contradicting a central claim of the biblical revelation about God."

Hope you are well!

Vic Van Den Bergh said...

Hi both,

No not missing it but decided that I wasn't going to press too many button in a 'five minute rant' (as a friend calls it) post :-)

God is surely God and the Genesis passage, for me, squares it away nicely The graphic was merely a marker for a later return - which due to so much work appearing from all angles hasn't be developed.

Hopefully I will,

Noce to hear from you Andrew,