Changing our religious language in the name of gender neutrality

January 12th, 2012 10:52 am

The next WSCF Europe Gender conference is “Communicating Gender” 24-28 October in Løgumkloster, Denmark. This is a very interesting topic and being part of the PrepCom I’ve thought a lot about it lately. We’ve crammed the conference with diverse angles on this topic.

Looking for a headline in a Christian context a while ago I suggested using part of the Lords prayer: “the kingdom, the power and the glory”. But I was told that that was not an option because using the word “kingdom” is non-inclusive.The word “kingdom” has been an issue I have heard raised several times at WSCF events. In defence of using it, someone said, that somewhere a woman had been given the title of “king” so now it would be okay to use the words “king” and “kingdom” because the word was moving towards gender neutrality. But to problematise talk of “Christ the King” and his “kingdom” seems strange to me. Jesus was human and he was a man. A male monarch is called a “king” and the scope of his rule is a “kingdom”. I agree that this term is not gender inclusive. A female monarch, a queen, can rule a kingdom (like Queen Elisabeth in the United Kingdom) but the word “kingdom” takes for granted, that the ruler is male – a “king”. So calling the UK a “kingdom” doesn’t fit the times in which a woman can rule it.

But “the kingdom” in the Lords prayer will never be ruled by a woman. Never. Not because God doesn’t like women, but because Christ is a man. He is a man and he “shall reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 11:15).

In Paul’s letters new translations have often added “and sisters” to places where Paul in earlier translations only adressed “brothers”. As far as I’ve understood that is a more accurate translation, and then I’m all for it.

But how should the Bible be translated? No one can read anything without interpreting it. Not even a translator.

But should the translator first and foremost be linguistically accurate, try to reproduce what the author was trying to write – and maybe update it so that people can relate to it more easily?

I think a central question is: Do we believe that scripture was inspired by the Holy Spirit? And what consequence should that have for our view on scripture?

I look forward to meeting you at the conference where we can explore these issues and many others. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions on mariebohnolsen@gmail.com. I look forward to your comments and discussions both before and at the conference.

-Marie Bohn Olsen
HostCom/PrepCom member WSCF Europe Communicating Gender Conference
Supported by the Council of Europe

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