Thursday, February 9, 2012

Gender Fluid Language not Inclusive Language in Liturgy

God has Gender. If nothing else God has attributes that humans will continue to frame in the context of Gender even if at some point we take up a mode of Gender that is completely fluid.

A lot of the hold up about God around issues of Gender comes about due to bad science. God is held as progenitor and it was not until the past five hundred years that science began to consider a different hypothesis than the male semen holds all things requisite for life. Science now has proven that human’s limited progenatorial act requires equally male and female biological aspects. This is of course not contrary to the earlier creation myth of Genesis where humanity is first made in the image of God and only then divided into to distinct sexes and it is only after the Edenic state that gender roles came into play.

So viably over a millennia bad science and societal habits enforced its understanding upon the earlier myth leaving us in the state of considering gender polarized and dualistic. There is Male, there is Female, and there is Neuter in between. Or in the case of language there is Male, there is Female, and there is Inclusive in between. What Inclusive language can quickly, and rather sadly, become is language that excludes any gender reference. And, because of how we conceptualize gender, this means that we quickly move from descriptive roles like “father” to descriptive gerunds like “creator”. Which force God out of an incarnational setting and into a remote abstract setting. 

What I want to suggest is that we start looking at Gender as a fluid dynamic in regards to God, and viably ourselves as well. We need to stop attempting to have “Inclusive Language Liturgy” and allow for “Gender Fluid Liturgy”. We need to stop making people worship a God that forces them to ritually neuter themselves. Instead we must create liturgy that allows each person to worship a God that reflects both that person’s gender identity but also makes an Icon out of the gender identity of others.

What does this actually mean in practice?

Any reference to the community that is worshiping needs to not limit itself to one gender. So references to “man” or “mankind” still need to go. Oddly this is an easier prospect with Episcopal Rite I services than Rite II. But do not go with stereotypical inclusive language abstracts like “people”. So “and to give thanks for all men” should NOT become “give thanks for all people” BUT “give thanks for all whom you have made” or “give thanks for all God’s children”. Strive always to use the option that is less remote and more experiential.

Reference to God should be gender fluid, all over the place, but not disharmonious within the context of a single liturgy. This means at times a whole liturgy can refer to God within the context of male roles. It also means that a whole service can be made that can refer to God within the context of female roles: God the Mother Hen who calls us to the protection of her bosom [Gospel Image], Jesus the Holy Wisdom [Haggia Sophia] who calls us to her marriage bed [Wisdom Literature], the Holy Spirit who is the sea that gives us both tempest and calm. Or in most cases a harmonious use of both as appropriate to some larger context of the service.

In the end it is a matter of approaching liturgy not with the idea of erasing Gender but with the idea of enfranchising the Mythic Truth that the Image of God is most truly reflected in spaces where Gender is fluid and dialectic and not ones where Gender is at odds, dualistic or removed.

1 comment:

  1. This has ALWAYS been my complaint with inclusive language at the seminary. As the policy is written, it encourages the use of ALL language for God, but in practice, we use NO language for God. I like the idea of "Gender-fluid" and have never thought about it that way before, so thank you!