A nonsexist paraphrase of Bible passages, about to be issued by the National Council of Churches, is a trial balloon for a linguistically intolerant rendering of the whole Bible.
Languages are like we are: they have a past, present, and (we hope) a future. Because the future is as yet undecided from a human perspective, it offers the most possibilities for change. As Christians we should move into the future with the intent of shaping our language so as to include both sexes and as many colors and races of persons as possible.
We will need to remember, however, that language is a human vehicle and, consequently, as limited as our perspectives and only as rich and multifarious as our experiences. We may discover that we have to accustom ourselves to the limitations of our language as we do the limitations of our bodies—they are not cars, much less planes or rockets, and scarcely to be compared with the elaborate and instant world of imagination. But if we try, we usually find they get us from one place to another.
The National Council of Churches says that no issue in its history has raised such a storm of protest as the proposed language changes in Scripture. Little wonder, for our sexuality is intimately wrapped up with who we are as persons. Tampering with gender sends shock waves to our identity. When the challenge involves also our faith, we find ourselves picking our way through a minefield of emotions, beliefs, feelings, misunderstandings, and fears.
Part of the storm over the language changes has been generated because of a misrepresentation by the news media of the original proposal by the NCC. The overtures of the Division of Education and Ministry (DEM) of the NCC, which date back to June 1978, include the following: ...1
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