Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A world safe from male pronouns

Louis Markos, Professor of English at Houston Baptist University explains "Why I do not use Gender Neutral Language." Excerpts:
.... Most of the Bible translations that have been released over the last 15 years (from the New Revised Standard Version to the Contemporary English Version to the New Living Translation) have carefully and systematically eliminated “sexist” language from the pages of God’s Word. Simultaneous with this revamping of the Holy Scriptures, the mainline Protestant denominations have so retranslated and/or reworked their hymnals, prayer books, and creeds as to remove every trace of “gender-specific” language from the Sunday service. And they have been quite thorough in their gender-neutral overhaul. Where once the believer boldly proclaimed his belief that Jesus Christ “. . . for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became man,” he now is expected (well, forced) to proclaim that “for us and for our salvation . . . [Christ] . . . became human.” With astonishing speed and success, most liberal mainline denominations have constructed for their parishioners (whether they wanted it or not) a space that, if not particularly sacred, is at least blissfully free from all that “sexist” and “insensitive” language of the past: by which is meant the language of Homer, Plato, Virgil, Augustine, Dante, Chaucer, Luther, Shakespeare, Milton, and the Bible. ....

.... When Paul says, "if anyone be in Christ, he is a new creation," everyone (and I mean everyone) knows that the "he" does not refer to men only but to all humanity (men and women). ....

.... In the Preface to the Contemporary English Version, the editors (in an attempt to justify their censoring of all “sexist” language from their translation) make the following claim:
In everyday speech, “gender generic” or “inclusive” language is used, because it sounds most natural to people today. This means that where the biblical languages require [...] masculine nouns or pronouns when both men and women are intended, this intention must be reflected in translation, though the English form may be very different from that of the original. The Greek text of “Matthew 16:24 is literally, “If anyone wants to follow me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” The Contemporary English Version shifts to a form which is still accurate and at the same time more effective in English: “If any of you want to be my followers, you must forget about yourself. You must take up your cross and follow me.”
The assumption that underlies this paragraph is not only radically untrue; it is insincere, manipulative, and patronizing. The literal translation of Matthew 16:24 quoted above is neither unnatural nor ineffective. Even after two decades of gender-neutral brainwashing in our schools and universities, any teen (or even child) would recognize immediately the naturalness of the original verse and would understand that its invitation is made to all people, not just males. ....

....[T]ranslations like the CEV and TNIV have eliminated every single use of the inclusive he or of man/mankind in the Bible—even when they have to perform syntactical contortions to do so! Despite what they say in their prefaces, “naturalness” and “effectiveness” are not the foremost goals in the minds of such translators. Neither, I would argue, is accuracy! If I have to wonder constantly whether it is the Bible writers or the translators who are using second person/plural, then I can’t fully “trust” my Bible.

For heaven’s sake! Would anyone in academia dare to “translate” the poetry of Shakespeare or Milton in such a way as to eliminate all uses of the word man/mankind? Yet that is exactly what has been done to the poetic verses of David’s Psalms and Wesley’s hymns. .... Buoyed up on a wave of what C.S. Lewis called “chronological snobbery,” they feel no shame in blithely sweeping away three millennia of traditional syntactical structures that are shared alike by Hebrew, Greek, Latin, English, and the majority of other world languages. ....

.... Many who advocate gender-neutral translations of the Bible (and of the hymns, creeds, and prayer books) do so, so they claim, to avoid offending the more “sensitive” people in the pews. I can’t say I’ve met any of these hypothetical sensitive people, but, if they do exist, they are certainly vastly outnumbered by the people who are genuinely (if silently) disturbed by the co-opting of their scriptures and traditions. (Indeed, I would argue that the majority of those “sensitive” people are precisely the ones who are engaged in neutering the Bible and the prayer books!) And besides, even if there are a significant number of such “sensitive” people, how far are we to go in accommodating their sensitivity? Shall we cease to speak about sin and the need for confession? Such talk certainly offends more people than the types of pronouns used in the service. And how far, one may legitimately ask, is the revamping of traditional language to go? What is next? Gender-neutral translations of Augustine’s Confessions, the Imitation of Christ, and the Summa Theologica? Shall we build for these “sensitive” people a nice little insulated world safe from all male pronouns? .... [more]
Thanks to Lydia McGrew at What's Wrong with the World for the reference.

Why I do not use Gender Neutral Language | Houston Baptist University - HBU