It is in my religious ethos to reject the singular pronoun They. The tentacles of ingrained passionate belief infused with only a peripheral understanding of the field of linguistics, a limited experience with challenges of accurate translations, and a high degree of contextual historical uncertainties is a recipe for potentially grave error with far reaching consequences.
We have a modern day Tower of Babel edifice before us. Stack original language of Adam and Eve, oral traditions, multiple transliterations, cultural and historical contexts, gender and identity science and human realities, and politics one upon the other for at least 2000 years and now tell me we are experts on our religious ethos with even the simplest challenge – use of one pronoun.
Genesis 11 (NIV) dependent on your view gives a mythological or historical account as follows:
In the very foundation of Jewish and Christian scripture we have acknowledgement that we, for whatever divine purpose, are incapable of understanding each other with something as simple as language, never mind content.
Language is mutable since the original Adamic language used by Adam and Eve. There is ambiguity there as well. Dante’s literary works have broad Jewish, Islamic, and Christian influences as an example of one Christian exploring the meaning of life and death through the longest poem I have ever read. His view was language is by its nature very mutable.
There is archeology supporting a historical site in Modern day Iraq. After that I leave the rest up to your inquiry and imagination.
However, I mentioned language and real consequences. The use of the singular “he” to represent both he and she has only recently become accepted as “they” due to acknowledgement that our language fundamentally is flawed and patriarchal – representative of a primitive time that does not account for spiritual, scientific, and overall human development.
As a white, Christian male it is easy for me to avoid this reality and self-serving as well. Now, let’s take the unfathomable leap to LGBTQ issues. The Washington post link at the end below discusses an actual legal case where the court refused to use a pronoun that most accurately represents the individuals identity. There are cases pending at every level of state and federal courts impacting the rights of LGBTQ in individuals today. This case has a central character that is hard to support as the primary charge is child sexual abuse – we are apt viscerally to use an all together new pronoun not listed below. However, there are countless cases of LGBTQ issues being fought in what amounts to a cultural war on people I do not understand, on people that can confuse me. I have a hard enough time understanding my wife and daughters perspective and the use of “they,” never mind the plethora of terms that can capture gender available today:
I like to believe I am open-minded and attuned to my ignorance and lack of definitive knowledge of complex human issues as well as divine certainties. The grammarian in me knows I can barely use pronouns appropriately and can often interpose the Nominative, Objective, or Reflexive terms accidentally, never mind use of Ze or Ey.
How can I objectively define another persons Gender Identity and do I have that judgement right to begin with anyhow? Even the term for “God” lacks uniformity amongst the worlds major religions and even within singular faiths.
I am dismayed at the rigidity of our use of language and its applications when used to dehumanize others, define others, and assign them a hierarchical order in our world based on our imperfect knowledge of each other and ultimately of divine will.
Philosophically and practically oriented we prefer as human beings prefer to define with certitude our understanding of the natural and spiritual laws of our universe. Historically we have ample evidence that we have been dead wrong in matters spiritual, philosophical, sociological, and scientifically time and again.
What is it about human nature that allows our religiosity to exceed its domain of seeking divine truths with humility to assuming we are God’s will with absolute certainty?
There are absolute truths known to mankind. They are fewer than we presume. Language and LGBTQ issues are not one of these absolute truths other than “they” are human and share equally with “us” all things within our human experience. In essence “they” and “us” are “we” – one and the same, no separation or individuation other than the artificial ones we impose on each other.
This is alarming to some. You could apply the same logic to immigration issues, nationalistic and globalization conflicts, and the way we govern the world – where does it end? What, are we to have no laws or social mores?
To the contrary, in our lack of certitude we would have greater wisdom and more cautious mutable laws ever evolving as more is revealed. Our minds and hearts would be eager and ready to embrace with weighty spiritual discernment and collective conscientious matters small and large without preconceived assumptions that go untested. The knee jerk political whims of current political leaders would not be used destructively against others by manipulating the passion of specific groups.
The individual would at once hold any issue both from there own self-vested position and from the position of others, for they know, they are one and the same.
The walls between Democrat and Republican collapse through dispassionate and honest dialogue. The same between interfaith and other artificial divisions.
For the Christian reader you are called to especially embrace the other more so than those you get along with – that is no effort at all. Perhaps the true expression of Divine will is how we engage with those we do not understand, with the strangers, the refuges, the faithless, the sinners, and the reviled, untouchable ones. Yes, we still have a society where we cast out people.
Sometimes we cast them out with a simple choice of pronouns.