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Lutherans and Gender Neutrality: Was Gibt?

May 5th, 2006
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One thing I find myself thinking about with some frequency is the whole "gender neutral" language thing, or, as I’ve come to refer to it: "gender neutered language." What lies behind what appears to me to be an obsessive-compulsive disorder when it comes to using words regarded as "gender neutral." For instance, instead of "mankind" we now have "humankind." In the forthcoming new hymnal from one Lutheran publisher, we read the Gloria as follows: "Glory be to God on high and peace to God’s people on earth" instead of "peace to His people on earth." Was gibt? What gives? What is the reason for this intense desire to "neutralize" our language? I was speaking with a person the other day who observed astutely that one fallout from the gender-neutering going on in language today is that it casts a pall over all previous words and literature. Here is an interesting and thoughtful reflection on these issues from TOUCHSTONE magazine. Dare I suggest that if we replace "Evangelical" with "Lutheran in this piece, we may well have something quite close to the truth for our circles as well? In fact, let me do that and see what you think.

A Dog’s Life

With regard to a certain Lutheran publishing concern, a
Catholic friend wrote, “I don’t understand [its] fanaticism
on inclusive language. What do they get
from it? What gives? Do they also send Gloria Steinem a birthday card?  Why in the hell should they care what feminists think of
them? Or are they run by a bevy of
feminists themselves?” My answer was the old, and I think entirely correct, fundamentalist observation
that the inner dynamic of the main stream of the Lutheran intelligentsia has
from its beginnings in the forties rested upon the desire, both rabid and
unadmitted, to prove to the liberal establishment, to the Menckens and Fosdicks
and their progeny, that it is NOT fundamentalist–that it is, by the criteria that
establishment establishes, bright, learned, and urbane.  The upper portion
of Lutheranism has a permanent crick in its collective neck from looking
over its shoulder to see if the liberals approve, exulting over every crumb
thrown from their table.  When feminism came along as a central feature of
that confession, these Lutherans as one would expect, grabbed every bit of
it that they could possibly jam into the "biblical equality" bag,
dragged it home, and began stuffing it into their children.  What has this gained them from their masters?  By and
large, condescending tolerance, tolerance as one might tolerate a flatulent
spaniel that is, his aroma notwithstanding, an excellent retriever. Many in this same group of Lutherans now seem to have sensed that there is
also something in “ecumenical orthodoxy” they wish to get in on–not quite the Touchstone
variety, of course, which would be a bit, well, severe, but something
friendlier that they can join (or start) in a hail-fellow-well-met sort of
way–complete with their egalitarianism. How nice it would be to get validated not only by the liberals, but the
Catholics and Orthodox, too–to be admired not only by Wither, Frost, and
Devine, but by Hingest and Dimble as well. To be sure, the old C. S. Lewis figurehead may have to have some more
embarrassing parts cut away, as was necessary to make it presentable in
egalitarian company, but this is the sort of operation they are used to.  It reminds me of a dog I once knew who, knowing he wasn’t
allowed on the couch, would sidle up to it bottom first, place his rump
tentatively on one of its far corners, then by degrees push his whole body up
on the cushions, grinning ingratiatingly in Golden Retriever fashion at anyone
who happened to be watching. His owners
actually let him do this for company because it was so amusing, but once the
feat was accomplished, off he went with a resounding swat on his ever-wagging

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Categories: Lutheranism
  1. May 12th, 2006 at 10:55 | #1

    It works! BOY, does it work! Honestly, it fits so well, I could easily believe that Touchstone’s article was a spin off of yours, and not vice-versa.
    I remember back in the 80′s, when the young E?CA was going full-barrel with affirmative-action quotas in its assignment of bishops, etc. Somebody (wish I could remember who) referred to them as “The church of the trendier-than-thou.”
    They have certainly continued to live up to that moniker.

  2. Dan Halverson
    April 18th, 2007 at 19:04 | #2

    I have started attending the lutheran Church this past Month. I have been a catholic for 42 Years and have never felt welocme. The first time I to a Lutheran service I was greeted by a number of people Many of them knew me from others groups I belonged to. I have been in the same catholic parish for eight years and spoke the priest once he has no idea who I am. I have tried to talk with him but he seems stand offish.
    My fellow catholics put down anyone who is not catholic. They claim Martin luther left the Catholic church. Dr. luther was pushed out because he stood up to corupt practices. Others saw what he saw and followed him. I wonder if the church jesus had in mind would appear today much like the Lutheran church. Jesus did not take money to forgive sins. He knew the bible to be the word of God and not some man made idols and scripture.

  3. Christine
    April 19th, 2007 at 10:10 | #3

    Yes indeed, these references are to the new ELCA hymnal. This, of course, is directly related to the “full communion” relationships that the ELCA established several years ago. When one is in “full communion” with the Episcopal, Presbyterian Church USA, Reformed and United Church of Christ the language of worship must be neutered.
    The last ELCA congregation I belonged to in the mid-90′s has done a rapid fast forward in its emphasis on ecumenism, no matter how radically different the theology of its ecumenical partners might be. “Evangelical Lutheran Worship”, the new hymnal of the ELCA, is much more “inclusive” in its language than the former Lutheran Book of Worship was.
    Thank goodness we don’t have to fight those wars in the new LCMS Lutheran Service Book.
    Dan Halverson, it is hard in today’s huge Catholic parishes to connect with either clergy or laity. I know what you mean. I’m always struck by that whenever I attend weddings, etc. involving my Catholic relatives.
    Very few Catholics have a good grounding of why the Reformation occurred and the abuses that Martin Luther was addressing, but today even Catholic theologians acknowledge that there was much amiss in the Church of Luther’s time. I hope you will find that the LCMS is truly catholic in the historical sense, with its emphasis on the Word and the Sacraments of Holy Baptism and the true Body and Blood of our Lord in Holy Communion. Welcome !!

  4. Christine
    April 19th, 2007 at 10:14 | #4

    I just remember, interestingly, that in one Catholic parish I know of the Gloria was sung three different ways by three different cantors: (1) Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth (that was at the “traditional” early mass); (2) Glory to God in the highest and peace to God’s people on earth; and (3) Glory to God in the highest and peace to *ALL* people on earth.
    The liturgical wars are very much present in the Catholic Church, despite her claims to unity (which, of course, the papacy is supposed to guarantee). And I hear rumblings that they are beginning to make themselves felt in Orthodoxy, too.
    One Catholic parish in Florida has a culture that is more Charismatic than most mainstream Protestant Pentecostals.

  5. Rebellious Pastor’s Wife
    April 20th, 2007 at 16:09 | #5

    Dan wrote:
    They claim Martin luther left the Catholic church. Dr. luther was pushed out because he stood up to corupt practices.
    I heard that one. I also have been invited to “come home to Rome” because Luther, while he intended well, was merely a pawn of princes who wanted to take the power from the Holy Roman Emperor. He was misled.
    I’ve also been told that Luther’s complaints had been dealt with. I don’t think so when you read Pr. McCain’s comments on the compendium to their catechism.

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