By Nathan Barton
It is appropriate that this happened on Thanksgiving Day here in the Fifty States. As reported by the Daily Telegraph, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sweden has called on its clergy to stop calling “God” (we presume, like other Lutherans, that they are still referring to YHWH, the Creator) “Lord” or referring to Him as “He.” Instead, to promote “gender inclusivity” the Swedish priests are just to call the Creator “God” and not use pronouns.
There was nothing to indicate whether or not the priests were encouraged to find different words to address Jesus, since it seems that both “Lord” and “Son of God” are very exclusionary.
Now, none of this would be particularly of interest to most readers, except for one fact. The “Evangelical Lutheran Church” of Sweden is actually the State Church of Sweden. Even though it officially stopped being the “State Church” in 2000, after 474 years, it in effect still is. For in Sweden, there was indeed a union of State and Church. The Archbishop of Sweden did not report to God, but instead to the Monarch. (No word on whether the priests are still speaking of the Swedish Monarch as “kong” (king) or “drottning” (queen) or something else.) And since it was officially made separate from the State, in 2000, the church STILL does not report to God but to the members of the church – it is “democratic.”
This means, of course, that this church’s annual general assembly (or whatever it might be called) is not just a religious meeting, like the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod’s annual gathering, or even the LDS Annual and Semi-annual General Conferences. No, it is ALSO a political meeting and decision-making body.
Apparently 6.1 million of 10 million Swedish subjects are also members of this church. So theoretically, the other 3.9 million Swedes (plus however many foreigners, especially Muslims) are not subject to this church. But it seems that is not really the case. As I understand it, once the state church decided that it was okay to be a homosexual (or a homosexual priest or bishop or whatever) it became a crime to say that homosexuality was a sin, and apparently, that is the point at which freedom of speech stops. Unless, of course, you are a Muslim. After all, there has to be some limit to tyranny, right?
So, despite all the errors the Founding Fathers made 241 (and 230) years ago, they did one thing right: said the state had NO business in the religion business. That is definitely a blessing for which we can be thankful (to God and the Founding Fathers), even in 2017.
(Of course, that was then – today, more and more people in the Fifty States seem to think that the state can get into the church’s business just about every way it wants – or that the state has become the religion.)
Too bad we can’t get the state out of a whole lot of other things it has no business in – and keep the state out of the religious business also.
(Just as a side note: one person noticed that if someone who is (or was) a man wants everyone around to consider him/her/it a woman, in today’s world, we are obligated to do so. It is rude, and in some places illegal, and can get you fired or kicked out for not using the gender that person prefers. Yet, somehow, the Creator of the Universe is not allowed to choose their “gender preference” – even by those who claim to be His followers. Funny, huh?)
Mama’s Note: I’d say “funny” was not the right word… whether you mean funny ha ha, or funny peculiar. I’d call it all insane myself, and that’s no laughing matter. Just glad I live in Wyoming. So far, no gender snowflakes here, and no gender police.
I think it was Mark Twain who noted that God created man in his image and we’ve been returning the favor ever since. Sometimes it’s been a male God, sometimes it’s been a female Goddess, sometimes it’s been one or more of both, and sometimes (as in some forms of Buddhism) it’s been a genderless super or collective consciousness.
The trend toward gender neutrality in thinking of deity seems reasonably humble to me. Why assume that a deity would necessarily fit into the current set of social conventions?
No problem with that myself, Thomas. I just refuse to allow anyone to make that determination for me. 🙂
Well, of course not — these are things that every individual has to decide (or discover) individually, and every individual should be left un-threatened in doing so.
For the record, though, I know there is at least one church in Wyoming (Cheyenne, I think) that prefers gender-neutral terms for deity. I don’t know that that makes them “gender snowflakes,” though (it’s a congregation of my denomination, and I consider myself very non-snowflaky).
I don’t associate with any organized religion these days, but have a hard time even imagining the gender neutral thing in churches – having spent much of my life as a traditional Catholic. I’m glad if the gender neutral folks are happy, associating freely with like minded people, and that’s all that counts for me. People being free to associate, or NOT associate as they will in any situation.
Just wonder what their god thinks of being called, “it.” 🙂 Isn’t that the bottom line of gender neutral?
No, “it” isn’t the bottom line of gender neutral. In my church, they tend to refer to “God” or “Jehova” or “el-Shaddai” or whatever, e.g. directly by name rather than by any pronoun, or else by a descriptor that doesn’t necessarily imply gender, e.g. “the deity,” “the almighty,” etc.
Frankly, my local congregation doesn’t seem especially hung up on it. The “gender-inclusive deity” policy emanated from the denomination’s periodic convention not very long ago, and most of the congregants are older. They’re also mostly gay, lesbian and bi-sexual, but the recent trends in gender identity are as new and confusing to them as to everyone else. I suspect that most of them will continue referring to God as “he” for the foreseeable future. The policy will mostly affect the pastor’s sermon-writing, I’m guessing.
I see. I just can’t imagine how that would work, especially in a sermon. Seems contrived and superficial to me.
But more power to them if that’s what they want. 🙂
Well, I try not to lecture on religion too much (even though I’m an ordained minister), but here’s my view:
God is something we should spend our lives trying to understand (if we care one way or another), not something we should spend our lives pretending to understand.
It seems a bit immodest to me to assume that a Supreme Being or Beings is limited to being like us as regards gender, hair color, eye color, skin tone, height, weight, or favorite rock’n’roll band.
I’m assuming one of two things (or perhaps a bit of both) on the part of writers of the scriptures of various religions, assuming that the experiences they describe did in fact take place and/or that the things they claim were revealed to them actually were:
1) That in trying to make incomprehensible experience comprehensible, they resorted to the descriptors the human eye and mind are comfortable with; and/or that
2) The deity or deities intentionally but probably temporarily put themselves in visual/physical containers that we can experience with reasonable comprehension for the purpose of interacting with us.
I think there’s some support for the latter idea in the Bible, for those who consider it an accurate record of divine interaction. Exodus 33:20-23:
“And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live. And the LORD said, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock: And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by: And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen.”
Yes indeed, Thomas. All religions and religious writings are by and for human beings. I studied religion and religious literature for much of my life. I found that the more I studied, the less I believed any of it as anything but allegory and supposition – and in far too many cases, brutal dictatorship. I accept a “creator,” but don’t pretend to understand much. Seems to me that an entity capable of creating the universe from thin non-air… is far above my ability to understand – even less than a bacteria understands global geography. In the meantime, I have life, thought, conscience, self awareness and so much more. It is what it is, and I don’t need to explain it. 🙂