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« Conservative women | Main | Teenage girls under pressure »

July 27, 2009



This kind of thing has never bothered me! I have often seen use of Man to mean both male and female. I think that as women we can get too hung up on this and even if the writer meant it or not to 'include' woment, I know that God views us as equal and has accepted me as a child and I am a forgiven Daugher.


Thanks Kat.. - Oddly as a man, I find myself performing a triple somersault in 'mental gymnastics' when I face this stuff in songs and hymns.

First stage, balk at language, which in my situation at work and with non-christians would be unacceptable. Stage two, understand the cultural meaning and intent of the song, cognitively comprehending what was meant. Stage three shaking myself off and working to be in place of worship and presence once more... until another line comes along (usually only a verse or two later). No wonder I often leave these things exhausted...

So it's not so much that I'm bothered by exclusive language, But it's just another sad example of how the church is out-of-touch with the culture(s) it swims in.


When I studied Biblical Studies at Uni, we were penalised if we used exclusive language ie mankind. At first, I thought it was over-the-top, political correctness gone mad etc etc, but my view changed. In fact, there is a bigger issue than song words, as some translations of the Bibles may prove difficult for people, due to an exclusive interpretation, which is why I like the TNIV - check out 1 Sam 16:7 as an example of the difference it makes. For me, people's use of language often reveals something about what a person thinks. Another one that annoys me is when youth workers talk about 'my young people,' as if they are our possession! I think language and use of words is very important, in everyday language as well as worship songs etc. Thanks for raising it as an issue


I agree, Kat, that it's easy to get hung up on this issue and I need to swallow my indignation in a service and not let it interfere with worship. But I do choose to challenge it, partly for the reason Jim identified - that it's not language that's used outside of church and it could be really off-putting to men and women who haven't grown up with the jargon. My church use an inclusive language Bible and have said they'll look at language in songs, but most weeks there's something like this!


There are many comments about the use of politically incorrect language (for want of a better expression; it isn't just about sexism) that I could write, so I will restrict myself to just the following:

a) It grates on me. Even if I know exactly what the writer intended, the language is still a distraction.

b) In British Sign Language the symbol for "man" is to run your hand over your chin to represent a beard. The designers of the language have made the quite reasonable assumption that an obvious distinguishing feature between men and women is the existence or absence of facial hair. But it means that it makes no sense to use the sign for "man" to mean "people in general". One year at Greenbelt I saw the sign language interpreters signing the hymn "Holy, holy, holy", which includes the line "Though the eye of sinful man thy glory may not see". They signed the word "man" with the beard symbol -- I wonder if they realised how ridiculous this looked?!

c) The hymn which really causes trouble is "Be thou my vision", not only because it contains a particularly awkward example of exclusive language, but also because it is so popular. (Of all the hymns I've heard at weddings, that is probably the one I have heard the most). My solution is simply to leave out the verse that contains the words "... and I thy true son", because it is the least important verse, but a couple who wanted to use the hymn at their wedding, and who regard sexist language as completely unacceptable, changed the words to "... and I like thy son". That gets rid of the exclusive language, but they have completely changed the meaning! There's a big difference between saying "I want to be your son/daughter", and saying "I want to be like Jesus".

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