[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next]

on Gender Language

Dec 01, 1996 06:13 PM
by Jim Meier

One of the front page stories in the local Sunday paper today here in
central New Jersey is on the experience of the Episcopal Church in its
efforts to "modernize" some of that Church's cannon and prayer book.

The current experiment was largely carried on only here in NJ, but the
previous national changes in 1979 led to succession of some traditionalists
and the creation of several splinter groups.  The proposed change which drew
the greatest number of comments was in the wording of The Lord's Prayer:
relying largely on a New Zealand revisionist text, the intent was to portray
God as other than the elderly white man in the clouds.  The traditional
prayer begins, "Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name."  The
experimental version began "O God in heaven, Mother and Father of us all,
hallowed be Your name."

Some churches were outraged, some were pleased, more than a few considered
the changes "inevitable" and most expressed reservations of some sort or
other.  The only real agreement, it seemed, was that all Episcopalians
questioned were glad for the opportunity to think about and discuss the
words used in their worship services.
                                   (S. Chambers writing in the Star Ledger)

There are similarities here, imo, to some things said in earlier posts on
theos-l.  The parallels are not exact, but The Lord's Prayer is probably the
closest thing in orthodox Protestant Christianity to the way Theosophists
view the Three Objects of our Society.

The idea of changing the wording of the Objects is very important to some,
less so to others, and quite likely a non-issue to the majority of TSA
members.  In the case of the Episcopalian prayer, one argument against any
change was that God Himself had chosen the wording and if "Father" was good
enough for Him, who can argue? [note: Christ reportedly gave The Lord's
Prayer to His disciples in response to the direct request, "Lord, teach us
to pray." Luke 11:2]

That sort of reasoning is where the similarity between the two events breaks
down.  Does the wording of the Objects reflect the IDEA that was first
expressed by the founders some 120 years ago?  Or has our language changed
in ways that mean the original idea is obscured by present day connotations
and meanings?

Personally, I'm in the this-is-no-big-deal category.  But since it is so
important to some, it makes for interesting reading on theos-l.  I wish
there was more thought given to the proper expression of the idea that was
once universally thought of as "Brotherhood".  English sounds are not based
upon mantric law, as those in Sanskrit alledgedly are, but there may still
be enough of this "idea:spoken word" connection to warrant careful
consideration before undertaking changes on words so fundamental to the
Society.  If the point is for "the nucleus" to become universal, then the
mission statement must express something which is universally admirable.

A question: when "Brotherhood" (as a gender neutral idea such as was
envisioned by the TS founders) is translated into other languages, does the
idea still take a masculine form?


[Back to Top]

Theosophy World: Dedicated to the Theosophical Philosophy and its Practical Application