Dirty Words

I have been doing a lot of thinking about gender language-- and maybe gender in general-- the last few weeks. It's a topic that's danced around my consciousness since high school, always waved away in favor of a problem I could quickly solve with brain or brawn (rather than heart). How we're expected to behave as men and women has been a topic of discussion since Mr. M and I had problems in January, and throughout this time of recovery together.

And then a couple of weeks ago I began to read Sue Monk Kidd's Dance of the Dissident Daughter. I felt more jarred than I have in car accidents. Kidd observes the obvious-- that the women of the Bible are certainly not primary characters, and that there are an awful lot of hymns that don't include women in any way. This was the first time I've let it soak in, let it be as painful as it really is.

I cringed through Mass on Sunday. My eyes welled up with relief and gratitude during a healing service on Wednesday when a kind and gentle friend altered the language of the Eucharist (as is his habit) to be inclusive.

Kidd had to leave Christianity to find the Feminine Divine. I hope I don't come to feel that's the only option I can live with-- but I can understand it. I can understand feeling betrayed and neglected by being institutionally ignored.

So, I'm trying like mad to remember the progressive book of liturgy that my good buddy Aaron uses as his source, and I'm scouting out other inclusive, healing, justice-oriented liturgy. Not just for women, but for all those people are meant to be raised up by the broad love of Jesus.


  1. Whenever I preach and I am speaking about a particular book of the bible, I make it a point to speak of the writer of the book and use he or she when referring to that writer. After all, some of the writers could have been women--we don't know.

    My Women In Ministry professor said that we can be thankful that any stories about women made it into the bible at all. The mere fact that we can read about Deborah, Ruth, Mary, etc. indicates that their stories have a lasting value behind them. After all, no one valued women very much in those days; but we can still read these stories.

    I have be aware of gender language since my freshman year of college (at a women's college). I cannot hear "fishers of men" without automatically thinking of men and not women. I prefer "fishers of people." Have you read from the TNIV before? I love it. It has opened doors and thoughts because the language is so inclusive. I am actually reading the bible more because of it.

    Thanks for posting. And thanks for letting me share, too.

  2. I have done - and still do - a lot of thinking on this subject too. I'm very careful when preaching and leading liturgy to use inclusive language. Actually, I'm not really careful anymore, because that's just how I talk. However, it becomes tricky when our hymnal is full of "men" and "He" and "brothers." Now I have to keep myself from cringing during worship. It's one thing to learn those things and begin to alter your own language, and yet another to be on that journey with a congregation. Anyway, good thoughts.

  3. Change is brought about by God using thoughtful, faithful persons such as yourself. Thanks so much for sharing.

  4. Thank you, ladies. It's a huge relief not to be alone in this.

  5. I'm with you too. And I agree with a.lin in recommending the TNIV (and also the NLT--New Living Translation. Both are gender inclusive (not not not gender neutral as some claim). The NLT is my Bible of choice for my blue collar congregation.

  6. Okay, I'm coming over, and I'm bringing the wine. Not of the boxed variety.


"So keep fightin' for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don't you forget to have fun doin' it. Lord, let your laughter ring forth. Be outrageous, ridicule the fraidy-cats, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce. And when you get through kickin' ass and celebratin' the sheer joy of a good fight, be sure to tell those who come after how much fun it was."
-Saint Molly Ivins