Duke & Vandy Refer To God In Gender Neutral Language

Duke and Vanderbilt University divinity schools instruct professors to “start using more inclusive language when referring to God” according to National Review, though it conflicts with the God of the bible.

In an attempt to enact a form of social justice, Vanderbilt asks that its professors “give consistent attention to the use of inclusive language, especially in relation to the divine, because the school commits to include gender as an analyzed category and to mitigate sexism.”

According to Law Newz, the two schools seek to “balance what they feel are sexist institutions in the church’s history.”  To do this, they are “pushing for gender-neutral terms and pronouns to be used, especially in reference to the divine” in an attempt to “counteract gender bias.”  For, according to Vanderbilt, “male privilege in a patriarchal society stems from sexism.”

It goes on to say that Duke believes “that the language can be harmful and exclusionary,” and gives “a plethora of examples of gender-specific terms that can be replaced with neutral ones.”  Further, “When referring to God, Duke says that people shouldn’t exclusively use male or female pronouns.”

Referencing Vanderbilt’s 2016-2017 catalog, Heat Street says, in an attempt to mitigate sexism in its teachings, the school is asking its professors to include “consistent attention to the use of inclusive language, especially in relation to the divine.”

In an emailed statement sent by Melissa Snarr, the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at Vanderbilt’s Divinity School, she says, “Masculine titles, pronouns, and imagery for God have served as a cornerstone for the patriarchy,” and an “exploration of fresh language for God” is recommended.   She says that the faculty’s views on the expression of the divine vary, and, “it is up to the individual professor’s interpretation for their classes and is suggestive rather than mandatory.”

Duke suggests that the divine be expressed without gender-specific pronouns like “God” and “Godself,” and instead of saying, “God is a father to us all,”  say, “God is a parent to us all.”  Mixing gender in metaphors is another option given to professors.  For example, “God is the father who welcomes his son, but she is also the woman searching for the lost coin.”

Duke’s guidelines state that it is “in a transitional period with our use of language,” and “imagination, patience, and diligence are required to use language that expands and enriches our understanding of God.”

National Review points out that the idea “may sound fair, but in many cases, it’s really not up to the professor.”  It goes on to say that when speaking about the “Christian God, every single reference to Him in the bible uses masculine pronoun,” indicating that their God is male.  Lastly, it says, “Teaching anything else would be giving inaccurate information…”

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