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Writing In Non-sexist Language
(Maurice A. Williams)

Using masculine pronouns applied to God offends some people.  I wrote a commentary on Revelation and tried not to use masculine pronouns for God.  What a challenge!  I soon realized that the whole issue of non-sexist language really stems from inadequate grammar and not from human thinking.  We all know God is a spirit--no physical body. No physical body means (in English) that God is neither male nor female.

The few languages I know have only three genders: masculine, feminine, and neuter.  English, unlike German and Spanish, uses masculine and feminine only for living, physical beings that reproduce sexually.  All non-living physical beings are neuter.  No matter what language we speak, we all know that God, angels, devils are living, non-physical beings that do not reproduce sexually.  Therefore, we all recognize that masculine and feminine pronouns are not correct for spiritual beings.  Neuter pronouns are totally incorrect.

English, and most other languages, needs a fourth gender that provides pronouns other than masculine, feminine, and neuter.  We cannot imagine such pronouns--try inventing some--but that is what we need: pronouns for spiritual beings.  I later learned that some languages in India do have genders for spiritual beings.  I was told that translating from those languages into English presents some unique difficulties.

Try speaking about God or spirits without using pronouns.  It's almost impossible, so ingrained is the habit to use pronouns rather than repeat nouns over and over again.  I come close, but I can't completely eliminate pronouns referring to God, when speaking.  I can avoid pronouns when I write.  It required some practice.  I sought substitute nouns so I would not overwork any single noun.

I think, since there are no adequate pronouns, that English-speaking people use masculine pronouns only because long-standing tradition always used masculine pronouns.  We can read into masculine pronouns whatever we like.  Most of these insights are not relevant.  If the English language had a fourth gender for spiritual beings, all English-speaking people would use that gender.  Then, all concern about maleness applied to God would disappear.

I think I am the only author who wrote a commentary in English devoid of sexist language.  Now I'm working on non-sexist spoken conversation.  Wish me luck!

May God keep you in the palm of ..... Whoops!  There I go again.                                                                                                                

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