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…”

Image via MorgansLists


UNCG Students Must Commit To Social Justice Part III

A piece on the required reading list for Zilonka’s class is from Native Appropriations called “Defeating The Stone Man:  PMDD, menstruation, and healing,” the author talks about her struggle with Premenstrual Dysmorphic Disorder and how it relates to the “power attributed to menstruating women” in the myth about the Stone Man.  The story is about how a cannibal named Stone Man became weak while stationed around menstruating women, so much so that he was able to be killed by the tribe’s medicine man.

Following his death, the Stone Man was burned.  Afterwards, near where his body had lain, the people found “red paint, which they believed brought success.”  The moral of the story was “through the power of menstruating women, therefore, great tragedy was averted and good fortune brought to the people.”

The author talks about how she began to think more deeply about her “own relationship” with her body, hormones, and “their power” after reading the section in the book about “traditional beliefs around menstruation, and the misinterpretation of those beliefs.”  She says, “Power is something that can be both negative and positive—evil can be powerful, but good can also be powerful.”

She talks about how the piece was “nearly impossible to write” but that she writes because she has “seen how little women (and all people who menstruate) openly talk about these issues, and how stigmatized talking about moon times and monthly bleeding has become in Indian Country.”

Further, she states that she writes the piece “by way of explanation to the many missed deadlines, unanswered emails, unanswered texts, broken plans, the resentful subtweets, and Facebook posts from colleagues and friends.”  She concludes with, “I’m sorry,” and a GIF that she felt illustrated “a line of menstruating women stopping the Stone Man.”

Image via Native Appropriations

UNCG Students Must Commit To Social Justice Part II

The following is a partial list of the required readings and viewings from Zilonka’s class:

  • “Excerpt from Pedagogy of the Oppressed” by Paulo Freire
  • “Education is Politics” by Ira Shor
  • Gloria Steinem and Bell Hooks in a conversation. (Schalin says, “Bell Hooks is a radical feminist and race theorist” who “cites Freire as an important influence”).
  • “Raising Penelope, My Transgender Son” by Jodie Patterson
  • “Recitatif” by Toni Morrison. (Schalin says this is a “short story that has nothing to do with education but is instead focused on racial privilege”).
  • “White Privilege” by Peggy McIntosh

One of the Facebook pages that students are encouraged to like is TRAP-The Real Art of Protest, which recently posted the article Anarchism Could Help Save The World.

Another Facebook page is Million Hoodies.  It states on its page that they are “building a racial justice movement committed to creating a democracy where all black and brown people have social, political, cultural, and economic freedom, and the right to be safe.”

Zilonka states in an abstract for her paper “My Accent, Myself:  Transforming Liabilities Related to Otherness into Assets” that she “is reflecting on her relationships with her privileged status back home, as well as her evolving ongoing struggles with her otherness while living, studying, and teaching in the United States.”

According to NC Act Empower, Ms. Zilonka is an Israeli who has been living in the US for the past 4.5 years.  Her BA is in Social Justice Education and Peace Studies, and she is an “activist feminist educator” focusing on “liberatory pedagogy” and “critical feminist pedagogy.”

Holistic Educator says, “Liberatory pedagogy is a pedagogy of liberation centered around the principles of social change and transformation through education based on consciousness raising engagement with oppressive forces.”

Liberatory pedagody education for liberation or ‘critical pedagogy’ is what “fosters rational thinking by demythologizing…demythisizing reality and transforming it.”

The website quotes Freire’s “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” regarding this.

“An act of violence is any situation in which some men prevent others from the process of inquiry…any attempt to prevent human freedom is an ‘act of violence.’ Any system which deliberately tries to discourage critical consciousness is guilty of oppressive violence.  Any school which does not foster students’ capacity for critical inquiry is guilty of violent oppression.”

It goes on to say, “Liberatory pedagogy recognizes the politics of education,” for “education is a matter of politics, as well as pedagogy,” with a goal of “self-actualization or ‘humanization.'”

According to Gender and Education, feminist pedagogy is a way of thinking about teaching and learning,” which includes an aim for class participants (students and teachers) not just to acquire new knowledge, but for their thinking to shift in new directions.”

Image via Revital Zilonka’s Facebook Page

UNCG Students Must Commit To Social Justice Part I


A University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) professor last semester had her students write an eight-page “commitment to social justice” in a class required for graduation with a K-12 teaching degree, according to The College Fix

Revital Zilonka’s syllabus for her Instruction of Education class details the assignment which has students demonstrate their “commitment” to social justice, including how they “plan to advance social justice.”  In their analyses, students must respond to a set of questions including, “What prejudices came up on your mind while interviewing/thinking about the interview?” This assignment comes at the end of the course after the students have gained “a new understanding” of “society and education.”

Additionally, the required reading list includes “feminist and Marxist” publications.  The syllabus also “tells students to like on Facebook a slate of secular-progressive pages, such as the pro-LGBTQ Human Rights Campaign, Feministing, Million Hoodies, and the Brown Girl Collective.” 

The College Fix emailed the university for clarification, as well as to see if students could request an alternative assignment.  However, those emails went unanswered.

The syllabus was first reported by John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.  Pope Center writer Jay Schalin says, “A public university cannot permit a professor to demand that its students ‘commit’ to a specific political perspective.”  Further, he says, “’Social justice,’ as it is used in this case, is precisely that, a term that implies a leftwing ideology,” which is part of the “critical pedagogy” of Brazilian, Maoist-inspired writer Paolo Freire.

Schalin states that this is not simply “a school or professor exercising his or her academic freedom,” but that it is a clear violation of “most accepted definitions of academic freedom.”

He cites the “1915 Declaration of Principles on Academic Freedom and Academic Tenure” which states that an instructor’s “business is not to provide his students with ready-made opinions, but to train them to think for themselves.”  He says that the instructor is to “especially be on his guard against taking advantage of the students’ immaturity by indoctrinating him with the teacher’s own opinions before the student has had an opportunity to fairly examine other opinions upon the matters in question.”

Schalin says that the course is “openly intended to push prospective teachers to adopt left-wing ideas.”

Image via Million Hoodies