Utne Blogs > Mind and Body

Is the Bible Sexist?

 by Bennett Gordon


Tags: spirituality, Christianity, sexism, prayer, Christian Century,

The Bible has many parts that ring sexist to modern ears. People are constantly trying to make prayers less sexist by saying, “Mother-Father,” when referring to God, instead of just “Father,” or substituting “reign” for the more gendered “kingdom.” Inevitably, there are those who buck against such efforts. Writing for Theoblog, the blog of the Christian Century magazine, Jason Byassee writes that it’s a mistake “to think Christian language can ever be scrubbed into safety.” Instead of changing the words of the prayer, Byassee writes that the faithful should change the way they live, because, “[w]ords themselves don’t abuse… people abuse with words.”

mtidwell
7/30/2008 11:59:16 AM

Yes, inclusive language can be clunky. But actually, that clunkiness just might be an occasion for spiritual growth. Many believers--of all faiths--find that we can get a little too comfortable in prayer, and mumble the words with half a heart and mind. Stumbling over that "debts" or "trespasses" in the Jesus prayer occasionally causes me to stop and think abut what I do need to be forgiven for and what I need to forgive. Striving to find a word that expresses my relationship to God makes me think abut the metaphors I use, what they imply, and what kind of relationship I truly have with the God who is my parent, and also my teacher, friend, creator, witness, my very breath. My experience of God has so many dimensions that sometimes I address her as "Sovereign Lord" and other times so close and intimate I have been known to pray to "Big Sweetie".


lisa_1
7/25/2008 11:05:47 AM

I agree with Byassee that inclusive language can be contorted. I don't think we should all refer to God as Heavenly Mother or "Breadmaker," as my pastor did during high school. Just look at all the trouble some of us have remembering to say "sins" instead of "transgressions" in the Lord's Prayer. At the same time, it's worth examining why we've become wedded to certain language--does it have spiritual significance, or is it just rote recitation? If changing words would make us uncomfortable because we'd actually have to *think* about what we're saying, I see only good in that. Plus, I think it's healthy to think about the divine as more complex and less gendered than an old man with a long beard sitting on a cloud. Ditto for reconsidering Jesus as the Anglo figure that Warner Sallman painted ( http://www.warnersallman.com/ ). -Lisa Gulya