Keep Your Gender Neutrality out of my Hymnals


As many hymnals in Catholic Churches throughout the land moved to gender-neutral references to God and man, often in ridiculous machinations, I always sort of thought that this was simply a feminist-driven scourge.   And it probably was, for the most part.  From the first moment I saw lyrical rewrites that created clumsy text for no reason other than gender-neutrality my reaction was one of disgust.

Some of the worst offenses result in ridiculously clumsy sentences, referencing God.    Instead of “Bless the Lord, His mercy extends forever…”   (or something like that, I made that up) we now have to deal with “Bless the Lord, God’s mercy extends forever…”    Which may not seem horrible, but now add line after line with masculine pronouns getting substituted with “God” and anyone who argues that this is easier to sing, and more linguistically correct, is an idiot.   It’s not.

As I was thinking about this blog and fumbling around the internet, I actually found this ridiculous “how-to” site on how to be as inclusive as possible:    What a bunch of progressive poppycock.

I occasionally sing and play piano at Church.    I am NOT a person who demands nothing but old hymns and pipe organ, with Gregorian Chant and Latin leading the way.   I appreciate all that, but unlike folks of a more Traditionalist bent, I am perfectly fine with contemporary hymns and instruments.   In my opinion, the key questions are (1) is it done well, (2) does it detract in any way from Mass, or draw attention away from the true point of the Mass, and (3) are you “performing” for your own sake or are you assisting at Mass for the purpose of praising God?    These are fair questions to ask, and I think people have a flawed idea that if you play certain instruments or certain songs, it is impossible to answer some or all of the above in the right way.    I dismiss that as nonsense, but I can at least see the concern.

But just because I may be more flexible in this area than some of my devout friends, it doesn’t mean I’m a liberal progressivist with respect to Mass.    Music style certainly does have the question of sacredness around it, but ultimately it is still about preference.    Gender neutrality has an agenda behind it.

As I mentioned, I used to attribute the agenda to an overinflated reaction by feminists who aren’t smart enough to realize that God is, in fact, a Spirit and not a man or a woman.   But we follow the lead of Jesus by using the masculine pronoun.    I’m unaware of anyone on earth who knows God the Father (gasp!   Another masculine term!) than Jesus the Son.    If feminists want to get all worked up and be overly sensitive to how Jesus references God then goody for them, but leave that out of my Church.   Outside of references to God are masculine references to humankind (mankind, man, men, brothers, etc.).    Anyone with a brain should understand that general references in the masculine are, in fact, intended to be gender neutral and encompass all women as well.   In fact, I refuse to believe the majority of people “offended” by this non-inclusiveness don’t actually know that.   Which means that you’re either stupid or you are purposely finding offense where none intended for reasons of politics or some other agenda.   And that has no place in worship.

More diabolical is now the realization that it goes beyond a purely feminist response, and actually goes further to the idea that there should be no such thing as gender, period.   For any of us.   That it’s all a mindset and transcends our physical nature.   This is purely an abandonment of the goodness and purpose of creation itself.  This goes beyond mere politics, offense, and some agenda of a misplaced sense of what male/female equality means.   It is a direct challenge to God’s entire purpose in the creation of man ç (inclusive).    If for no other reason than to ensure that our church is in no way a part of this movement of evil, it is time to abandon gender-neutral hymnals and get back to the original lyrics.

Note:   I have no issue with writing well-phrased music lyrics that include feminine references where appropriate (e.g. brothers and sisters).   It’s not problematic when it flows well with the music and is natural.    My concern and issue is when we are doing this out of some overzealous and incorrect attitude of what it means to be inclusive, especially when it erodes the quality of the song.

And yes, I find the change from “let me walk with my brother” to “let us walk with each other” to be the epitome of stupidity.    Had it been written that way to begin with, no issue.   But to feel we needed to change it so nobody feels left out is moronic.

4 responses »

  1. Hello, this the the author of the “progressive poppycock” you linked to in the post above. I’m sorry you find my work “ridiculous.” Others have found it helpful for their congregations. I’m sorry it’s not relevant for you.

    I serve in Protestant settings and in progressive churches where God’s equal regard for all people regardless of their gender is important to us. Many of us come from churches that aggressively excluded women from leadership and other roles in the church. We find it important to validate the presence and leadership of women in our settings because their worth in the eyes of God has often been questioned in church. That may not be true in your religious setting, but it has been true in the upbringing of many folks in our churches. Inclusive language has an intellectual point to be more accurate and precise in our phrasing, but it is also a gesture of pastoral care. If that’s not relevant in your setting in your eyes, that’s fine, I guess.

    All theological language in song or liturgy has an agenda — particularly in that it meets the needs and requirements of a given setting. This article was for use for those whose settings have similar requirements as mine. If that’s not your setting, that’s fine. The article obviously isn’t for you. I’m sorry if it offended you.

    • Thank you for taking the time to reply. I am appreciative of an honest response. It doesn’t in any way change my view, and I consider the whole thing to be a problematic diversion from what’s actually important at the expense of appropriate liturgy and musical elements of the Mass. I am sure you would get many people claiming similar misogyny within the Catholic Church as well, which is exactly why I see this same intrusion of political correctness in our hymnals.

      To be sure, not all such claims are unfounded, while many such claims are misrepresentations. In either case, there are appropriate corrections and there are silly ones that are, in my opinion, a disservice to what our true aim needs to be. I find the gender correction to be, at best, misguided and silly. At worst, it’s an intrusion of secular humanistic progressivism into the Liturgy.

      I’m not offended by it by its substance. And I can respect good intentions if that is truly all is meant by it. But I can’t accept its goodness, because I think it’s just the opposite, regardless of its appeal to some.

      • Of course, I didn’t assume it would change your view, but perhaps just your posture might be amenable to change. We come from completely different traditions — the point of a Protestant service isn’t always exactly the same as the point of the Mass. What is problematic in one may just not be problematic in the other. I’d be interested to know what in your view is this “true aim” and “what’s actually important,” because these are important things in my tradition and community and — I don’t believe — should be dismissed out of hand even if they aren’t applicable to your tradition and community. I think that’s where the question of goodness actually resides: what’s the point?

        I’d also like to just encourage a little shift on a general issue. Pervading the entire writing you’ve done on this post and some of the other posts I’ve scanned, there seems to be a unifying assumption that the religious folks you deem progressive or liberal are simply sort of mirrors of liberal and progressive politics inside a church. Put another way, the assumption is that external political positions dictate the liturgical, theological, and ethical positions of these religious folks. I’d invite you to consider that for many of us, it’s the other way around. Our religious convictions lead us to certain liturgical, theological, and ethical positions and these positions in turn influence our political perspective. To characterize many of us as you have would be similar to my claim that conservative religious folks are really just dressing their political convictions with religious language and have no religious core convictions whatsoever. I think there is some of that on both progressive and conservative sides of things, but I think we also need to take seriously each other’s religious motivations. We need to understand that many of our opinions are matters of faith not just politics in religious trappings. I think we could go a long way with empathizing with each other (something our country sorely needs) if we took each other seriously in that respect. Does that make sense?

  2. Yes, I am no fan of liberal progressivism whether in politics or in liturgy. I do not doubt for a moment that it is a mindset or approach borne of experience and good intentions, and I do not doubt that the influence can go one direction or another (bringing politics into church or a more liberal theology into politics). The truth about me is that I have fairly strong convictions and I’m pretty blunt with my approach. That can be both a strength and a weakness, and admittedly I realize there are times it does not bleed “in all things, charity.” Believe it or not, I’ve tried to work on that, but there are just times I go back into “diatribe” mode and let my unfettered stream of consciousness prevail.

    You seem like a reasonable person and I don’t doubt at all that you feel strongly that there are really good reasons for doing this. I won’t particularly buy into the fact that it may be OK over here, but not necessary over there. I view it as intrinsically flawed. I also have no issues with accepting that a religious view is the driving influence of political leanings whether it’s on the left or the right. I would have my opinions on the value of a theological position that allows one to look past certain issues that I would consider absolutely disqualifying in a politician, but that’s another column. In the past, when I have written of the Christians who I believe tilt their theology to conform to their politics, I was talking about people I know personally who have absolutely done that. People who are my same religion, taught the same things, clearly instructed that according to Church teachings certain issues are not equivalent to others, and yet because of some other secular reason they start yapping about things that are false equivalents even though they should know better. And I don’t even thing they believe it. I have little patience for them because it’s not my gift.

    In my admonishment of them, I probably have generalized a bit too much.

    Now having said all that, I think there’s nothing wrong with calling people out. I rarely apologize for it if I think the point needs to be made. I probably, though, don’t balance it out with the aspect of charity I should. The flip side is that way too many other people never challenge anything. The idea that all dissension and conflict is an intrinsically bad thing is wrong. Admonishment is biblical. We should all strive for the right balance. We’d probably disagree on where that balance lies. Which is fine. It’s what makes the world interesting.

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