When we distort God, we distort ourselves.

Nations have a way of rewriting history to make their past look good, and to undergird what they are doing in the present. So do political parties and ethnic groups, universities and church councils: particularly church councils, it would seem, as in National Council of Churches. In October the council published a lectionary designed to rectify what it terms a “male bias” in Holy Scripture. (A lectionary is a compilation of Bible passages to be read in public worship.) This new age publication, Inclusive Language Lectionary: Readings for Year A, promises to enable Christians to offer their praise to God in nonsexist language. For the generic “man” it substitutes the more generic “humankind” or “human race.” Better yet, no masculine pronouns refer to God; as a matter of fact, no pronouns at all refer to God, since all personal pronouns are specific in terms of gender. God will be called God. Jesus, his “Son,” is now Jesus, his “Child.” The title “Lord” has been replaced with the title “Sovereign.” The “kingdom of God” is now the “realm of God.” Where God was once called “King,” he is now called “Ruler,” or “Monarch.”

But I save the best for last. In its zeal to declare its solidarity with its feminist sisters everywhere, the National Council of Churches’ lectionary will no longer call God “Father” but rather “Father and Mother.” It should be pointed out, however, that the lectionary has not yet begun the Lord’s Prayer with “Our Father and Mother in heaven.” Acknowledging that that may be a bit too much for pious ears to bear, it will delay such a move, if it makes it at all, until the 1984 or 1985 volumes in this expanding series of lectionaries.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld the Word’s glory, glory as of the only Child from [God] the Father [and Mother]. (John bore witness to the Child, and cried, “This was the one of whom I said, ‘The one who comes after me ranks before me, for that one was before me.’ ”) And from the fulness of the Child have we all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only Child, who is in the bosom of [God] the [Mother and] Father, that one has made God known.

—John 1:14–17, An Inclusive Language Lectionary

Tim Stafford is a free-lance writer living in Santa Rosa, California. He is a distinguished contributor to several magazines. His latest book is Do You Sometimes Feel Like a Nobody? (Zondervan, 1980).

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